Chicks On Speed: Speed Freaks
By Nathaniel G. Moore


“I’ve searched the world over, for a Euro-Trash Girl.” “Love her breasts and forget the rest.” Lyrics from “Euro Trash Girl” and “Glamour Girl” seem like lines spoken in drunken mumbles at some frat party. But they are actually a part of a giant fluorescent headband empire known as Chicks On Speed.

Three former students of Munich’s School of Art in southern Germany - New Yorker Melissa Logan, Sydney, Australia’s Alex Murray-Leslie, and Munich’s own Kiki Morse - have invented a darling potent femme music enterprise.

It’s that daring paranoid confluence of the audience member having an Eighties flashback while feeling completely in the year 2002 that makes catching the Chicks On Speed in concert a real trip. It leaves the audience practicing cutesy weirdo dance moves all the way home, hopping around to anything with a beat. The Chicks On Speed who bring their stylish mix of music, video art and tarty venom (and cleverly unsubtle sales pitches everywhere they go).

Originally conceived as an art installation project, Chicks On Speed have hair-sprayed themselves beyond academia into a seemingly unlimited statement of fashion and social criticism. But how serious are they taking this movement?

According to Melissa Logan, “Euro Trash Girl” is a complex narrative with a comedic storyline. “David Leurie, more precisely Camper Van Bethoven’s track, is about a Euro bumming-around guy and is totally self pitying. This wasn’t written for girls to find each other, but then we had to turn the poor me-ness into toughness so we would want to listen to it, so we could have a cool anthem.”

The band actually started out as a “fake-band” (this motif is ever present in their t-shirts which read The Fake Chicks On Speed) and a merchandising project in 1997. They sell paper dresses on their website for $86.

The shaking aerobics is part of the fun, and although second-hand smoke does deter from an actual healthy exercise, the event itself is pure visual and oral stimulus. Video projections, re-enforced infomercial video art, and pushing the product, which is of course the women themselves: all a calculated flecking of the loud paint-brush of the Chicks On Speed Empire.

An empire that consists of a record label, t-shirts, vinyls, bumper stickers and, of course, cotton undies. “The fashion we make derives from the stage outfits, but if we find a good pattern we are likely to screenprint a batch of t-shirts for the producers, then some scarves for the web shop and the shops we sell to. We don’t do seasons, we do outfits: Birmingham, white leather, Bic Camra, Le bon marche. As for what we wear, we each have an airplane outfit, and it’s not from H&M,” Logan muses from their Berlin headquarters.

It seems at worst the Chicks On Speed emulate an Eighties fashion frivolity minced with the occasionally predictable early Nineties C&C Music Factory monotony. However, their live presence distorts all the possible musical criticism; they are so rabid with colours, movement and eclectically distorted energy you can’t help but enjoy every minute of it. Wardrobe is a big part of the Chicks On Speed live shows. “I bought a washing machine last week; I made my friends come and try to bargain down the price from $220 to $200 with delivery. Not bad, huh? And yes, when we come back from tour first thing is to get it all washed so hopefully it’s dry by the time we have to pack again.”

The Chicks On Speed are as much entrepreneurs as kareoke media darlings. They have a record company, and recently put out Feminist Sweepstakes, the new album by the New York-based band Le Tigre.

Logan says the recording process doesn’t change their improvised approach to making noise. “It’s still spontaneous in the studio, one is just projecting in a different way, one is not reaching to the back of the concert hall, one is reaching the listener on the other side.”

They’re articulating their idiosyncratic language by merging performance, graphic design and feminist/consumerist politics with the seemingly disparate sounds of early Eighties New Wave/New York CIty, electronica, DIY punk, disco, pop and Digital Hardcore. And as far as fashion goes, the Chicks On Speed are trend-setters as much as they are the fluorescent jesters of indie rock.

In 1999, the NME voted their first release “Single of the Week”, but does their fashion speak louder than their sound? “We write a lot about marketing strategies, about commercialism; sometimes we want it to sound commercial like in “Sell-Out”. At the same time it’s a political song (it’s about systems of ripping off and being ripped off). At the deep-down basis of politics is freedom, and we are very conscious of freedom and sometimes the lack of it, and the respect for those who put out their necks, and revulsion to puppets and sheep, the sneechers and leachers… we know who you are.”

Judging by their last two releases, they take stock in their content just as much as their image. At nearly seventy-two minutes in length via thirty-three tracks, The Re-releases of the Un-releases claims its plastic throne as the definitive Chicks On Speed document. Whether it’s in a live capacity, a silkscreen reproduction or the sound itself, the Chicks are keeping things fresh and relevant. Their newest “new” release is the EP Fashion Rules. “It’s a track that is bitching about snobby high fashion persons and at the same time is created for them to use for the shows; it’s got a beat that the models love to swing their bodies down the catwalk to,” says Mews Logan. The EP, which is available on EFA Distribution, precedes their next full-length album due out in the Fall. For more on shows, new releases and merchandising check out the Chicks On Speed website and on-line empire at www.chicksonspeed.com.

 

 


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