Rocker Justin Tranter believes he and his band Semi Precious Weapons is on the verge of the first “real scene” since Seattle Grunge. Alone that might seem like a mighty bold statement for four boys from New York, but when you add Lady Gaga and DJ Starlight to the mix, it perhaps isn’t so bold after all.
Continuing as the opening act for pop sensation Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball tour, Semi Precious Weapons’ front man Justin Tranter really does believe that while his glam rock band might not have much in common musically with the pop diva, there is what he calls a “scene of aesthetic” that is working to bring about this new movement.
Ironically it wasn’t long ago that Lady Gaga opened for Semi Precious Weapons and despite having the tables turned, so to speak, it is apparent that Tranter is just as happy to be opening for her.
“Back in 2007/2008 she was like our little filthy sister,” said Tranter of Lady Gaga opening for their shows in NYC. “Now she is like our fairy godmother. When she opened for us she was over-the-top and visually exciting and insane. That hasn’t really changed with us opening for her”.
What did change though, and speaks to this new “scene” Tranter describes, is in the decision for Gaga to bring Semi Precious Weapons along for the ride.
“It was an interesting choice to insist she bring this filthy rock and roll band along with her,” said Tranter. And now with the addition of DJ Lady Starlight, who used to work with them both in NYC, to the Monster Ball line-up, the group now appears to have come full circle.
Part of Tranter’s plan for this new scene is to bring back those heady days of rock and roll where rock bands were on the cover of all kinds of magazines and not, as he says, those “no-talent reality stars”. But of course, given Semi Precious Weapons proclivity for satire, we’re not sure how serious he is or if it’s just perhaps his own riff on the Shel Sherman classic “The Cover of the Rolling Stone”.
In fact it’s hard to know when Tranter is being serious, period. Take the cover of their newest album “You Love You” as an example. With all four band members appearing on it, it is only Tranter’s face that actually appears.
“Not even Madonna would have the balls to do that,” laughed Tranter. “It’s really absurd, a fun shocking thing.”
But more than just fun and shocking, it also speaks to the satirical nature of the band with Tranter explaining that it is also a bold statement about the perception of rock bands and how no one is interested in anyone other than the front man. (Mea culpa I suppose, although to be honest it was the record label that set-up our interview specifically with Tranter).
With the release of the band’s new album “You Love You” in June, Tranter and the band are enjoying not only their new found fame in their association with Lady Gaga, but they are also holding their own with their fans for their music too.
“Our fans are so fucking happy and we are so glad the record is out,” said Tranter. “It is a rock and roll album that people can party and dance to but also allowed our sensitive, vulnerable side to come out.”
And making their fans happy and connecting with them appears to be a driving force, with Tranter personally claiming responsibility for all the Tweets and Facebook updates. “We learn so much about what people want out of the band, what they love, what it is about us that they love. Kids expect a lot and they deserve it. There is such a big focus on social networks and we must give our fans what they are expecting.”
In fact that fan connection through social networking is so big for the band they started what they call a “Semi Precious Street Corner” for each night of a show, where fans are alerted to a specific location via Twitter and have an opportunity to meet them and even win tickets to that night’s show. Tranter tells us that they will be doing it in Vancouver too so if you’re not already following SPW on Twitter you can find them at @preciousweapons.
Not surprisingly, our conversation eventually moved to a discussion of Tranter’s sexuality. But perhaps what was surprising was the candidness of his response, which did not come across as some sexual double-speak that sounds like record label PR.
“When I was young I identified as gay. When I moved to New York I got a girlfriend and everyone got mad at me. It was so hypocritical.” In response Tranter realized he didn’t fit into a box and today he sees himself as gender neutral. “Some days I am feminine and some days not so much,” he explained. “Labels are so 90s. Besides, labels get me into trouble”
Tranter says he and the band are looking for their return to Vancouver having played here last year with Lady Gaga. “I remember the Vancouver audience last year was ready to party with us five notes in, not like some of the larger cities we play where they are simply too cool to party”.
And while partying will definitely be on the minds of concert goers next week as Semi Precious Weapons, Gaga and Starlight take to the stage at Rogers Arena, we’re more interested in knowing if Tranter and Lady Gaga will make out on stage.
For the record, Tranter says although it is nothing new, she is still a “fantastic” kisser.
Visit Semi Precious Weapons online at http://www.semipreciousweapons.com