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Mixing their blend of hip hop, pop and soul, God-Des & She (comprised of Alicia Smith and Tina Gassen) take the Bud Light Main Stage at PrideFest on Saturday, June 28 at 5 p.m.

 

Avid watchers of The L Word will recognize the duo from the Season 3 finale of the Showtime hit. The singer/songwriters have since sold more than 30,000 albums and toured the world. We recently caught up with the long-time band mates to talk about PrideFest, their unique sound and advocacy.

 

What do you have in store for PrideFest audiences this summer?

 

G: You know, we’re just going to rock their faces off. We’re gonna give them a show. I think She was going to do a lot of crowd surfing and I was planning on doing some back flips off the speakers.

 

S: We’re bringing out trapeze equipment this year! [Laughs] I wish I was as cool as Pink but I’m not quite that cool.

 

So how does performing at a PrideFest –performing in front of the home crowd, the family differ from other venues?

 

G: Well, we can’t swear. For an extreme potty mouth like me, I have to be very conscious of my words. Which I don’t mind doing, but it’s something I have to be very conscious of because I swear like a sailor. We really prefer it, though. The energy around Prides is just so positive and happy and people finally feel like, Oh my God, I can completely be who I am for this one day, right? Our favorite shows have almost always been Prides because people are just so happy in general to celebrate that and to perform and kind of share in that kind of space is so much fun.

 

It’s amazing how they’ve changed. I guess I’ve been going to Prides for almost 25 years now and it’s striking to see the difference between the late 80s and 90s to today where you see families and children and every imaginable makeup of our community. It’s really empowering.

 

G: It really is. A lot of times what’s great for us to see is a mother and daughter coming together – and I mean like 17 year old with her mom and sometimes even the grandparent. Just to see that support – it’s humbling and it makes you feel hope.

 

As an out-lesbian hip hop group – I imagine you’ve encountered your share of critics. How does that impact your art?

 

G: Yeah, It’s funny, I think a lot of people would think that and we certainly worried about that coming into this. But really, we haven’t had a lot of resistance from the hip hop community, per se. I think people just want to hear honesty and I think people get more volatile when they think that someone is kind of posing or not being authentic in their words. We’ve played a lot of odd places where maybe at first a lot of people look at us like we’re crazy when we gear up and then hear the honesty and the hard work that goes behind what we do and it opens them up and they’re like, you know what – I can’t be mad at that because you’re preaching the truth. So it’s been more of a resistance from the music business – you know people in power not knowing what to do with us. The funniest thing about it is it was the gay people who were the most worried and like, well this can’t work. And it was always the straight white guy who was like, this is awesome! Let’s do it! It was just very interesting to see the opposite of what I thought would happen.

 

S: It was like the opposite, it was so funny.

 

G: I just think there was just so much internalized homophobia and I think people sometimes are just so scared to take a risk when they think their job is in jeopardy or fear for themselves to kind of go out on a limb for us. Yeah, it’s been surprising that the people who we thought would be advocates for us say no and the people we thought would hate us said yes.

 

You’ve been friends and band mates for years – how would you describe your collaborative, creative relationship?

 

S: I guess it’s like we started out doing everything really separately. Even the music was like: I did the choruses and she did mostly the verses and maybe I did a bridge. And I think throughout the years we’ve just kind of merged together stylistically. Instead of it being a hip hop singing verse there were all kinds of ways to use vocals and to write songs together. We hold each other accountable for being the best and we really expect the best from each other. I think that means a lot when you feel like you have to bring you’re A-game to work in order to get everything done and I think over the years it’s gotten more and more natural.

 

Your album The United States of God des and She is certainly not lacking in political message. Could you talk a bit about your activism/advocacy on and off the stage?

 

G: When we started performing, for me especially, I felt like I was walking around the world as an openly gay woman and I had a lot of things that I felt were unfair and unjust and personal experiences that were happening to me just because of the way I looked with different peoples families or friends. I just needed an outlet and I wanted to express myself. I’ve always been very outspoken – I wrote a pro-choice paper in my very conservative school when I was in the 8th grade and I’ve always been very much a feminist and felt that inequality was wrong. So both She and I – we want fairness and we want equality in general so a lot of things that we write about are things that we feel. She’s obsessed with finding out these stories about all of these horrible things and then tells us on tour all the time and I’m just trying to shut my ears because I don’t know how much more I can take about fracking.

 

We try to bring awareness to stuff. We try not to keep it too heavy because we don’t want to make people hopeless, right? So a lot of times we’ll paint a picture of inequality but then we’re trying to leave this message of hope and inspiration at the end. Even if stuff is this way, these are the things we can do to change. And even though you might be hated for who you are, hold your head up high and stay strong in your conviction of who you are and that’s going to elevate you further.

 

S: We went to LPAC, which is the Lesbian Super Pac in Washington, D.C. and we performed at their event and we’re really down for them and want to bring awareness to lesbians empowered together. Because it is all about money and people with money that get together and pay for these lobbyists to talk about laws that affect gay people. That’s just the way it works so we’re really behind them and I think that it’s a really great organization trying to bring awareness to bullying issues and equal rights issues and trans issues and all these things. We actually put our money where our mouth is. We go perform and we try to inspire those ladies to do more.

 

Who or what inspires you?

 

S: For me, I guess I’m inspired by how we get to affect people with our music. I’m inspired by the countless fan letters I get that I helped somebody with my song or I sang to somebody with my song. I’m inspired that I get to do that for my job. To just make people feel and to do something that I love so much is just the best and I’m so grateful: Our fans.

 

G: I think for me I’m just always inspired by everyday life and human interactions and really beautiful things and really sad things. For sure, the energy that we feel when we perform and the stories that we hear after meeting our fans really keeps you going and makes you feel like you’re doing something good.

 

What does Pride mean to God des & She?

 

G: Fun gay times! I want so much fun we can fly across the room.

 

S: We’ve played Pride’s all over and it’s great seeing everybody and we make connections. It’s like going home – It’s just like so awesome. We love it.

 

 



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