Perth's Alter Boy Are Spotlighting Common Misconceptions By Creating Music For Everyone To Consume

Alter Boy is a queerlectro pop band from Perth. Alter Boy is a queerlectro pop band from Perth. Image © Matt Sav

Alter Boy are a queerlectro, pop band from Perth, who've been creating ripples of excitement in the local music scene for the better part of the past two years.

With three of their members deaf, hard of hearing and all their songs performed in Auslan (Australian sign language), Alter Boy's brand of indie dance-pop is unlike anything you've heard previously... at times they channel Die Antwoord or a poppier-version of The Prodigy, while there are hints of BANKS, London Grammar and Empire Of The Sun throughout.

It's mash of modern R&B, dark electronic-pop with production quality that sounds world-class and vocals-lyrics that defy the group's relative youth – it would seem the future is very bright for Alter Boy.

2020 has seen the group release two cracker singles – 'Bad Dream Break In' and 'Glitter' – and with upcoming appearances at Western Australian festivals Nannup Music Festival and Fairbridge Festival, Alter Boy are creating a platform inclusive to all.

The group's singer, Molly, sat down for a quick chat.

What's the most common misconception about deaf and hard of hearing people, and their relationship with music that you encounter?
One of the most common misconceptions is that there is only one way to have a relationship with music and that's simply untrue.

We use lots of sub and bass tones so that deaf folks can feel the beat, as well as visual performance and Australian sign language (Auslan). Another common misconception is that deaf people can't play instruments or sing. We are just as talented and as untalented as the rest of you.

The two songs Alter Boy have released in 2020 ('Bad Dream Break In' and 'Glitter') are all class; seriously top-notch and worthy of any music lover's full attention; the next six months, what is the plan?
The plan is to keep being hot. We also have a number of tracks in the works, some short film concepts in development, and we are planning for a light show in the future.

For those new to Alter Boy what's your elevator pitch for what the band sounds like, and stands for?
Alter Boy is a queerlectro pop band from Perth. Three of its members are deaf and all songs are performed in Australian sign language. Expect shiny, dark pop with chaotic performance and trans, disabled bodies.

Influences, inspirations – where does that aspect of Alter Boy lean given there's six members involved?
The six of us come from vastly different backgrounds and carry various influences and inspirations so we have a lot of cooks.

We are made up of classically trained musicians and metal heads, neuro-diverse babes and neuro-typicals, deafies and hearing allies, trans cuties and cis associates – tops and bottoms.

A major inspiration for us comes from all of the other deaf folks who have come before us who have had their own passionate relationships with music, from wanting to challenge the music industry and to denounce traditional ideas of what it means to be a band, and from our fierce passion for activism within disability spaces.

And the onstage exorcism; that actually happened? What's the story behind it?
So the exorcism was a nod to the historical disability injustice within the Catholic church scene. Historically, deaf people were considered to be devoid of thought, unable to comprehend religious discourse, and hence un-savable.

In response, one of our signers who is totally deaf is exorcised (by trans Jesus) on stage, then removes their hearing aids and is 'cured of deafness'. Tis merely a jest.

Do you envisage a future where concerts feature Auslan interpreters as standard onstage?
Great question! This is a good opportunity for us to clarify that setting the access standard with Auslan interpreters is not actually what we are envisioning. We have a lot of respect for our interpreters, but what we really want to see on stage are deaf and disabled people, sharing their stories, language, culture, history and art.

You're playing Nannup Music Festival again in 2021; that must be a honour to be invited back to perform on such a platform?
We are hugely obsessed with Nannup and it's a huge honour to be invited back a second year to play alongside some incredible artists – particularly First Nations artists like Lois Olney, Archie Roach and Olive Knight.

In 2020 we sort of debuted our show and tossed dirty undies into the audience. This year the undies will be clean, and we have the opportunity to show the audience how we have grown our sound and image. Nannup in general is a great vibe, a supportive community and forever a special place for Alter Boy.

Given the lack of performance opportunities this year 'cause it's been 2020, how hyped is the group to return to regular live shows?
We are pretty hyped about it. Like Tinkerbell, we literally feed off applause and therefore are very close to death.

Do you all tend to hang with each other away from the stage, studio?
Gareth, please! We don't even know each other's names.

Three people you'd like to invite around for a dinner party?
Judy Heumann, Drew Gurza and Chella Mann. And the repulsive Alexander Graham Bell (we just need to talk to him).

What's the one chore you dislike the most?
Putting the dishes away is pretty crap to be honest. Do we just keep eating and doing the dishes and putting them away forever? Gareth?

Do you have any phobias?
The entire band is terrified of capitalism. For obvious reasons.

Would you ever partake in a reality show? If so, what type?
A lumbering, six-bodied love interest that is introduced in the ninth season in attempt to spice things up after all of the viewers have totally checked out. That's who we are at the core.

Alter Boy play Nannup Music Festival which runs 26 February to 1 March and Fairbridge Festival which runs 9-11 April.



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