These Girls Don't Do Diva

Scissor Sisters aim for dancefloor transcendence

In the past two years, the Scissor Sisters have had the kind of roller coaster ride most bands dream about. When the New York-based group's indie single, a Bee Gees-style reworking of Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb," got noticed in London underground clubs, Polydor U.K. signed them. In Britain, the major label re-release of "Numb" went Top 10, and their eponymous debut album is currently 10X Platinum, the best-selling British album of 2004, and the 10th best-selling album of the 21st century. The Sisters went from obscurity to co-headlining Live 8, the biggest concert of all time, in less than a year. Their blend of new wave rock and disco beats made them superstars all over Europe, while in the U.S. they're still able to play intimate venues like the Warfield.

"It's nice being home, but we feel a bit disconnected from our daily lives," says Ana Matronic, the band's female lead singer and former San Francisco resident. "[In England] every moment is hyperstructured. People are always telling you where to go and what to do. In my Brooklyn neighborhood no one has a clue about the Scissor Sisters. It's like being a superhero. I have a Clark Kent daily life and then I go [to Europe] and put on my cape and tights and save the day."

Scissor Sisters are known for their theatrical shows. They've dressed as clowns and splattered themselves with fake blood, anything to get the crowd excited. Matronic traces her ability to hold her own in a crew full of colorful personalities to her San Francisco years. "My performing style and personality were affected by the time I spent at Trannyshack [the Stud's long-running, free-form drag/transvestite cabaret]," she explains. "I was the first real woman to enter the Miss Trannyshack Pageant and I should have won, damn it! Trannyshack is amazing because no one cares who you are or who you sleep with. If you can capture people the first minute you go onstage, you have fans for life. If you're not any good, they'll throw a drink at you. Every night there's a theme, from Abba to Neo Tokyo Noir, and you can interpret the theme any way you choose. It really sparked my creativity."

The band's creativity was put to the test while writing their second album, Ta-Dah!, which drops this week in the U.S. "Spending time overseas made us nostalgic for America and the American music we grew up with," Matronic says. "It's a more American album and it's darker. We experienced some death in the Scissor Sisters family, and I've been thinking about death since I was 15 and my father died. Death is something everyone deals with at one point or another; it's the one thing we're all gonna do."

Ta-Dah! includes the current U.K. smash "I Don't Feel Like Dancin,'" another Bee GeesÐflavored tune co-written with Elton John, but most of the album, while dance-ready, is harder, with more rock and hints of glam, '60s garage noise, even honky-tonk country. "This album will be confusing to people who program radio 'cause there isn't a convenient box it fits into," Matronic says. "One big influence for us is Beck, who takes country and hip hop and mashes them together. That's our approach, and if it hinders our success in the U.S. that's OK. My favorite bands are under the radar and don't sell a ton of records. We didn't get into this to breathe rarified air of celebrity, but out of love of music. So many people seem to be doing music to be famous; that's empty and broken and it's not us."

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