Sabrina Chap tour preview

Sabrina Chap is in the UK throughout November, touring her new album We Are The Parade! at a series of gigs and burlesque shows, along with the second edition of her edited book, Live Through This: On Creativity and Self-Destruction, at a series of book readings and multi-media lectures. Melanie Maddison interviews Sabrina and gives an overview of the tour.

Cover of Sabrina Chap's <em/>We are the Parade!. This shows Sabrina looking jubilant, in marching band gear and red lipstick, holding a drumstick. The album/single title and her name are on the front-facing drum on her right. The first item is written in large blue, pink and yellow letters, while the second is written in black joined-up sentence case” width=”500″ height=”500″ /></p>
<p><em>We Are the Parade!</em> (ERT Records) is described as sounding “like Regina Spektor met a marching band and took them to a vaudeville show” and features storytelling lyrics that touch on politics, queer identity and the ridiculous. With the album taking shape in various riotous styles, from dixie to vaudeville, doo-wop and big band, Sabrina’s solo interpretations at her upcoming UK shows are going to be something to behold.</p>
<p>Sabrina’s own take on her new music is that “It sounds like a marching band just finished watching, <em>But I’m a Cheerleader</em> and then decided to see if they could take their sexual frustration out on the trumpet. It’s got so many horns in it- is super bouncy, like a motivational soundtrack to get active; personally, publicly, or politically. I hope it makes people feel loved, righteous and inspired.”</p>
<p>A lot of the new album was written by Sabrina in the ragtime and big band tradition. This led Sabrina to fall in love with the burlesque scene and she is harnessing this by playing a lot of burlesque and cabaret dates in the UK on this tour. She explains, “The styles I’ve tended to write call back to the era of when burlesque was first putting on it’s garters. To me, there is no greater, vibrant, feminist scene than burlesque, where women are not only taking charge of their own sexuality and images, but also producing them as well. (About 98% of the producers I’ve worked with have been women who’ve performed themselves.) The more I[‘ve] ended up playing in burlesque, the more it’s affected my music. I feel lucky to perform in this scene and inspired by all the hot and sassy geniuses I get to perform with.”</p>
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Mustard yellow cover of the second edition of Live Through This, showing a drawing of a three-faced figure reaching into a heart shape in the chest area with the right hand and holding up a red heart with the left

Speaking to me in 2008 about the first edition of her book, Sabrina said “Live Through This is an anthology of women and trans artists talking about how they’ve used art to deal with self-destructive tendencies. That’s how it started out. However, it also became a study between self-destruction and creation and the necessity and the balance of the two.” The book (now updated and in its second edition) explores the use of art to survive mental illness, abuse, incest, depression and the impulse toward self-destruction. Crucially, the book allows the individuals collected within it to speak about and give voice to these things honestly and inspiringly. It collects essays, artwork, photography and stories by a series of talented contributors from fields including poetry, comix, photography and burlesque performance. It includes work by bell hooks, Nan Goldin, Inga Muscio, Diane DiMassa and Kate Bornstein, amongst many more. New to the second edition are Swoon, Margaret Cho and an introduction by Amanda Palmer (Dresden Dolls).

The book tour will help to further share how the authors explore manageable ways of dealing with and owning the more prickly emotions and parts of ourselves, instead of us being consumed by their seduction. Like Cristy Road writes in the book, “here finally came creativity to thoroughly get in [self-destruction’s] way”, the book is full of such examples of how creativity can motivate our survival and how internal struggle can create enlightened artistic and creative work. As Sabrina has said, “One of the most important things I’ve learned in doing this book has been that our internal and personal struggles, once we survive them, shape the way we move and think through the world. Once we survive our personal injustices, we are able to bring that to our worldview and help others. Once our warbled cries are controlled, and refined, and considered, it is a very precious weapon that has the power to change the thing that began the tears.”

Yes, all the contributors to Live Through This are established artists and writers, but there’s nothing to stop each and every one of us utilizing and harnessing our everyday creativities to manage and assess our self-destructive thoughts and behaviours. Sabrina’s readings and lecture tour explores how the book is geared to helping individuals understand, assess and manage the magnitude of their own power. Because all of us have power and potential within us, no matter what demons we’re fighting.

You can check out Sabrina in her many guises this November; she’s calling at venues in London, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Leeds, Brighton and Oxford, amongst others, 10-30 November.

For more info and the full set of tour dates, visit her website.

Addendum: We are the Parade! is out now. If you would like to review it for The F-Word, please contact Holly at Holly DOT Combe AT thefword DOT org DOT UK.