Review of Orchids by Pamela DeGroff
Reviews of Orchids
Review of Changeling

TG Forum Interview with Jessy and Nancy
Jessica is a name that is familiar to readers of this column.  She has been featured twice before, in November 2000 and April 2003.  This time around, she is part of the band Femme Messiah, and has a new CD release, "Orchids In The Arctic.  The band consists of Jessica (vocals, bass, keyboards, and drum programming), Nancy (vocals, acoustic guitar, bass, and keyboards), Mellissa (guitar), David (guitar and vocals), and Angela (guitar).  Guest musicians include Josie of the Renaissance band Minstrosity on recorder (she, too, was previously featured in this column in January 2002 and February 2004).  Backing vocals are provided by Lori and Susan.  The project was produced by Gwyneth for Gallae Records.  Both Jessica and Nancy agreed to answer some questions in regard to the new project, so what follows is their interview with TGForum.
TGForum:  You've been working on getting this particular project out for a while.  How long of a process was it, and what do you hope to accomplish with it?
Nancy:  Yes—four years to record!  I suppose you could say that it took us a long time to complete the project!
Jessica:  Originally, I had intended to do another solo CD as a follow-up to my first solo, "Changeling," plus some newer tunes—I'm always writing songs.  Some of the songs on "Orchids In The Arctic" date back to when I was in The Cherrys, my quartet in 1991 and 1992.  I also wanted to record some of my friend Dave's songs, two of which appear on "Orchids.
Nancy:  For me, it was simply for the fun of doing it.
TGForum:  I noticed that stylistically, the music ranges from almost punk ("Gender") to some instrumentals.  Was this a conscious decision or did you just work with the material on hand?
Nancy:  The variation in styles is a reflection of the different individuals involved with the project.  As an acoustic guitarist, I prefer a more acoustic approach to the music, and so I didn't even play on "Gender.
Jessica: As the primary songwriter, I was very conscious of working with the musicians in Femme Messiah who were in the band at various times, and tried to arrange my tunes according to their strengths.  Since Nancy was in the band the longest with me, the sound of "Orchids" is based around her acoustic guitar playing.  "Gender" is an expression of pure tranny rage—you could say I got deeply in touch with my inner Johnny Rotten!
TGForum:  Any plans to tour or otherwise perform this music live?
Jessica:  Unfortunately, we are on an extended holiday.  We [played] the Capital Pride Festival on June 12, 2005, but we probably will not play too many other gigs—unless people beg us to!
Nancy:  We just take it one day at a time and we will see what presents itself and how we each feel.
TGForum:  Jessica, you've been a musician and an activist for a long time.  Transgender musicians are finding more acceptance now than ever before.  Any comments on this?  Do you see it as a trend?
Jessica:  Well, I'm not sure it's a trend, but there does seem to be a lot more of us playing out as openly trans these days.  The Tranny Roadshow is a great way of showcasing the trans performing arts and I applaud its organizers.  As creative spirits, we have a long legacy to fall back on, following the trails blazed by pioneers like Wendy Carlos and the godmother of tranny rock, Jayne County.
TGForum:  What do you see as a future for transgender musicians? Ever envision any mainstream support by way of major labels or better media exposure?
Nancy:  I think major acceptance is not likely something that transgendered musicians will find, unless, of course, they have some gimmick.  And Femme Messiah is not about gimmicks!
Jessica:  I agree—we are not a one trick pony.— I am a singer-songwriter who happens to be openly transsexual, but that's just a point of departure.  Certainly my life experience informs my art, but more importantly, I'm about crafting a good song that tells a story.  I doubt I'd ever be comfortable with a major label deal since there would be so many strings attached.  I love indie music and that's where I plan to stay.  I think the old business music model of a major label recording deal is becoming a dinosaur.
TGForum:  I see that you brought Josie Thane in to play on the project.  I think it's great that transgender musicians are supporting each other this way.  Any comments on this?  How long have you known each other and do you plan to work with her again?
Nancy:  Yes—it is nice to see that lots of transgendered musicians can come together and work on something like this.  Although, I am not sure that we sought out musicians to help us based solely on the fact that they were transgendered.  It just sort of worked out that way.  We just enjoy playing with friends—whatever flavor they might be!
Jessica:  I met Josie at an IFGE convention and we hit it off.  I love her band Minstrosity.  When I was a music major at the University of Maryland, I used to write melodic lines for lots of different orchestral instruments.  Josie's recorder adds a lot to "Agony In The Garden" and "The Rainbow Song.  I hope to get her to record with me again on my next CD.
TGForum:  So, what are your future recording plans?
Jessica:  My next project will be a collection of spiritually inclined songs, tentatively entitled "Summerland.  Many of the songs are already written, so it's a matter of finding the time and musicians to record them.  I hope Nancy will be able to play on it.
Nancy:  I haven't yet decided whether I'll play a major role or simply be a guest musician on one or two songs on "Summerland.  I would like, at some point, to put together a collection of some of my other acoustic songs.
TGForum:  Any final thoughts, or anything you'd really like to say in closing?
Nancy:  I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to help create, play, and record some pretty amazing music on "Orchids.  To be able to point to this collection of songs and say, "Look what I did.  Wow! Thanks for your interest in our music!  It is much appreciated!
Jessica:  Absolutely.  And I'd like to ask TGForum readers to support trans artists.  Go see our shows, buy our CDs, and talk us up with your friends.  We are celebrating our shared culture and showing the world our pride, so join us.  Listen to our words and find yourselves in our songs.  And get up and dance!
[Author's Note:  The production values on "Orchids In The Arctic" are excellent and there literarily is something for everyone on this CD.  It can be ordered through Gallae Records.]

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