'Our band blends the fuck-it-and-just-play mentality of punk with the theatrics of cabaret," says Tragic Tantrum Cabaret singer/guitarist Zeph. The performance-art duo composes songs around a melodica and a toy xylophone. "There's a lot of unexplored territory there. With punk music, you can perform and entertain and deliver a message whether or not you have a wealth of musical know-how. In a way, it's sort of an underground music for the people, though not necessarily music for the masses."
"I think there's also an element of circus to our act," says singer/lyricist ZöE. "There's something about painting your face that allows your true self to come out. With both Zeph and myself having a background in theater, it was a very natural thing to fall into. If our show were a dessert, I think it would be Red Hots mixed with chocolate, strawberries, and licorice. Hot, sweet, tart, and manufactured."
Tragic Tantrum's occasional third member, Meagan Widdes, handles drums, while a fourth performer, Zaza, sometime dances and sings with the group. "She studied ballet when she was younger, and she's a talented painter," says Zeph. "Some of her art is on display at Pokez in downtown San Diego."
Core members Zeph and ZöE answered our "lists" queries jointly.
WHAT'S IN YOUR MUSIC PLAYER?
1. Björk, "Hyperballad": "Everything Björk does feels like it comes from another world. Every breath and utterance has intention and conviction. No sound is wasted. Plus, she's a fairy."
2. Rasputina, "Why Don't You Do Right": "What Rasputina does with that Peggy Lee song is magic. Dark, slinky, fun, and refreshing -- it's a great song to blast in your car and sing at the top of your lungs."
3. Humanwine, "Script Language": "When a song makes you stop and think, makes you forget your reality, makes you want to get up and waltz even if you don't know what a waltz is, and when it crawls into your brain and makes itself at home for weeks at a time, you know it's something special."
4. My Chemical Romance, "The Black Parade": "This is a song about hope and persevering. It's an anthem for those of us who ever felt lost, scared, or misplaced, which is everyone, we think. It's a very inspiring piece that empowers artists and fans alike."
5. The Dresden Dolls, "Shores of California": "When we hear the Dresden Dolls, we're always blown away. They're truly limitless, and the world and mood they shape around their music is the best thing that's happened to the audience-performer experience in a very long time."
1. Waking Life: "Brilliant, and ZöE's favorite movie. She fell asleep to it every night for about six months and had the most amazing dreams. It explores the idea of our perceived reality and other crazy philosophical stuff that we can't get enough of."
2. Pulp Fiction: "It has so much style, pizzazz, whiz-bang, mojo, and gumption that it would have otherwise been a futile, nonauthentic exercise in great movie lists not to include this masterwork."
3. Arrested Development, Complete First Season: "The writing is clever, and the characters are hysterical. We never laugh so hard as when we watch it. It's tragic how underappreciated this show really was."
4. Amélie: "Funny, clever, adorable, and perfect. This movie has some of the best writing captured on film, in any language. What a lovely fairy tale."
5. Fight Club: "When a movie actually comes out being better than the book it's based on, that's scary. There's so much wit and layers to this movie."
FAVORITE TV SHOW THEME SONGS?
1. Fraggle Rock: "Who doesn't want to dance their cares away?"
2. X-Files: "Back in its heyday, Zeph used to watch X-Files religiously. The theme song had such an impact on him that it actually changed the tone of his music for about a week. Everything he wrote sounded like it should accompany weird, creepy sci-fi shows."
"Rebecca's Café. We were running late, and when we got to play, the sound was terrible. The vocals were too loud and then too soft, and we couldn't hear ourselves at all. ZöE forgot her lyrics, Zeph lost his place in the song, and we were too busy trying to figure out what the heck was going on with the sound. The energy was off, and although the audience was paying attention, it was more like they were staring at a bad car wreck you can't help but look at. In the end, though, no bones were broken or lives lost, so it was a learning experience."
WORST PICKUP LINE?
"So, do you like, uh, stuff?"
ADVICE TO COURTNEY LOVE?
"Take care of your child. Get back to your art. Keep coming back."
DALí OR PICASSO?
"Picasso. We love his light paintings."
BIGGEST POLITICAL CONCERN?
"At the risk of being too obvious, the war in Iraq is huge. We've gotten ourselves in a situation where we need to get out, but how? It's a fight that can never be won. How can you wage a war against a concept or thought? And here we are, duking it out, not against a nation, or a people, but against 'terrorism.' It seems as impossible as trying to win a war against the word the."
SOMETHING ABOUT YOU FEW WOULD KNOW OR GUESS?
"One night, in another city far, far away, ZöE spray painted characters all over the town. No reason other than she wanted to know what the big deal was with graffiti. She succeeded, and her characters still lurk in some alleys and side streets there. People talked about these images, but the culprit was kept secret. She never did it again; once was enough. But she did prove her prowess, and she enjoyed the experience. Zeph is an old-school Nintendo fan. We even have a Wii. It's how Zeph gets his news and weather."