Insight from a boy who fronts a girl group
by Gregg Shapiro
Led by Hunx (a.k.a. Seth Bogart), formerly of queer dance unit Gravy Train!!!!, Hunx & His Punx puts the gay back into garage rock on Too Young to Be in Love (Hardly Art). Described as the first “proper” studio album by the band, the 10 songs smell like black-leather motorcycle jackets and boots, Brylcreem and Final Net, cigarettes and Dentyne. The band’s girl-group grind is filtered through Hunx’s distinctly queer perspective that is revved up on songs such as “He’s Coming Back,” “Keep Away from Johnny,” “The Curse of Being Young,” “If You’re Not Here (I Don’t Know Where You Are),” and “Tonite Tonite.” This interview took place shortly before Hunx
and the band embarked on tour.
Gregg Shapiro: Your moniker Hunx [taken from the band’s name Hunx & His Punx] stems from your time in the band Gravy Train!!!!. How did you come up with it?
Hunx: That’s a good question. It rhymes with the other names in the band? [Laughs] It was kind of a nickname that my friend Chunx [from Gravy Train!!!!] used to call me.
A term of endearment?
When you were going through the process of coming up with a name for your own band, were there other band names under consideration before you selected Hunx & His Punx?
I don’t know why I decided that, actually. It seemed appropriate, to bust out on my own. [Laughs]
Does your retaining the name indicate that you consider there to be a connection between Gravy Train!!!! and Hunx & His Punx?
I don’t think so, no. I think that it was never my intention, so I don’t know why I picked that name. I just think Hunx is a cool name. [Laughs]
Like Gravy Train!!!!, Hunx & His Punx is a mixed-gender band. How important is that mix to you?
Well, I love being in bands with girls, number one. But I guess that’s all I really know. So I have to say highly important.
Could you ever see yourself in an all-male band, or would you really rather be in a mixed band?
It’d have to be like an all-gay super group. [Laughs]
Who would be in the super group?
My friend Cody from The Sun, Myles Cooper, the guys from Limp Wrist, and maybe Jonny Make-Up? Like a really obnoxious, over-the-top, gay group. [Laughs]
Okay. Did you grow up listening to the girl groups of the ’60s, or did you seek out the music on your own?
My parents listened to some of them, like the Supremes. And this is like really embarrassing, but I think that I was really into [the movie] Sister Act [laughs], and like men’s versions of girl groups. I got like really into that as a kid.
So you would count the movie Sister Act as an influence among all the other influences?
A huge influence.
Well, I bet Whoopi Goldberg would be happy to hear that.
I mean like a really early influence.
Many of the girl-group hits were written by songwriting duos such as Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill, Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry. Do you have a favorite among those songwriting teams and a favorite song from that time as well?
I can’t even think of who wrote what right now. I know Ellie Greenwich strikes a bell with me.
She wrote “Leader of the Pack.”
Yeah, yeah, yeah, her for sure. Didn’t Ellie Greenwich write “Be My Baby”?
Yes, she co-wrote that with Phil Spector and Jeff Barry, her other songwriting partner.
That’s a good team!
Yes, in spite of Phil Spector being a little touched.
Oh my God, have you read the Ronnie Spector book?
Oh my God, it’s crazy.
Did you hear her newest Christmas CD?
No. I was totally not in a Christmas mode this year. But my friend saw her do a Christmas show a few years ago and said it was the best thing ever and [that] I was such a fool for not going.
The songs on your album swing back and forth between the exhilaration of “He’s Coming Back” to the sadness of “Too Young to Be in Love” and “If You’re Not Here (I Don’t Know Where You Are),” which has that great line about teardrops on your telephone. Is that an honest reflection of your outlook on life, highs and lows?
It kind of is, yeah. It’s a very honest look, and especially like musically, because I guess I started writing about stuff more as like an outlet, you know? If I was feeling really sad or like heartbroken, writing songs made me feel better. So yeah, it totally is.
You have referred to Hunx & His Punx’s music as “young oldies,” and youth and being young figure prominently in songs such as “The Curse of Being Young” and the title cut “Too Young to Be in Love.” What age do you think is the right age to be in love? [Laughs] There’s no right age to be in love. I mean, I actually think being young and in love is really sweet. It’s just kind of a reflection on looking back at being in love when I was really young and thinking it’s weird.
What was weird about it?
It’s just intense, I think. And it’s uncontrollable, something you can’t help, and it’s kind of tragic, but also really amazing.
Was it unrequited love?
No, it wasn’t unrequited love. I guess I was in a super long relationship, like eight years or some-thing, from when I was like 18…looking back on it just seems like really intense.
Do you still speak with this ex?
Yeah, we’re friends now.
Bad boys also play a significant role in the songs “Keep Away from Johnny” and “Bad Boy.” Do you think it’s better to be a bad boy or to be in love with one?
I think it’s better to be in love with a bad boy. Because they’re really hot, and at the end of the day you’re not as troubled as them, even if you’re sad about it.
Have you ever been in love with a bad boy?
I’ve never been in love with bad boys, but I’ve had many crushes—but they end up straight, so it doesn’t really go that far. Gay bad boys are kind of hard to come by. They’re not the kind I like. I mean I like gay boys a lot, don’t get me wrong, but gay bad boys kind of take on a different look in my mind, and the meaning of what’s bad. Like crystal meth, I’m not really that into it.
That’s good to hear. You’re going to be embarking on a tour in April and May. What are you most looking forward to about that tour?
Well, I love playing in the South. I can’t wait to go to Nashville, because I’ve never been there.
Why do you like playing in the South?
I feel like people just get crazy. I don’t like stopping in the South, like at truck stops. Gravy Train!!!! almost got killed a couple of times. I enjoy small-town gays. The South is really amazing. They’re almost crazier than people I know here. They come to the show and get all dressed up; they’re so cute. I’m excited to go to New Orleans. We’re playing at Quintron’s house, who I really love and I haven’t seen in a long time. I’m just excited to go on our own tour. We’ve never done that in the United States. We’ve opened for bands here and there, but we’ve never gone on like a major tour. So I’m really excited to do that.
Hunx & His Punx perform on April 13 in Houston at Fitzgerald’s, 2706 White Oak Dr. Info: fitzlivemusic.com or 713/862-3838.
Gregg Shapiro is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.