Despite only being birthed back in 2017, Scouse five-piece Queen Zee and the Sasstones have caused quite the commotion on the Liverpool scene with their fluid expression of brash queer punk that’s as arresting on the eyes as it is on the ears. In the best way possible.
Image: Ian Cheek Press
Queen Zee are a projectile vomit of wackiness. To be fair, you've got to be pretty bloody out there for Iggy Pop to call you “Strange, weird and crazy”. I speak to the leader of the motley crew, the Queen herself Zee, who tell me, “It’s bizarre, this guy hung around with Jim Morrison and David Bowie and he’s saying that I’m strange and weird? So it’s a great feeling, you know I feel like we’ve done our job if we cross the threshold into Iggy Pop’s weirdness.”
And cross this threshold they have; with an aesthetic that's pop-art in motion, combining the brashness of queer culture with the anarchic ‘do it yourself’ spirit of punk. Even the album art came from an organic accidental process after Zee painted the back of a leather jacket and the band grabbed it as the cover. The arresting neon pink encapsulates Zee’s spirit, which is provocative yet endlessly intriguing; something which has garnered them a cult following, as they continuously sell out their notorious live shows. Their raw energy has been fed straight into their debut album, beginning with the misfit call to arms ‘Loner’, and ending with the biting closer ‘I Hate Your New Boyfriend’.
“I think we kind of just wanted it to be honest, you know there’s a lot of music out there that feels very manufactured and forced - whereas Queen Zee - it’s genuine," Zee says. "Like, one of the tracks was recorded in a bedroom, with lone microphone, so I think we just wanted to create something that was on one hand glam and kind of like an escape from the everyday mundane, but then at the same time showing that everyone can be that. You don’t have to be like KISS to have that bit of glamour in your life, you can just do it yourself.”
Liverpool has always been a strange scene, but with the emergence of young, emboldened artists like Queen Zee and Zuzu, who reflect on their personal and political experiences, it is evident there is something quite special happening at the moment. Finally, a rebellion against the ‘four-men with guitars’ trope. Speaking on the Liverpool scene, Zee says “On one hand it’s this sort of microcosm away from the rest of the UK, which is more influenced by Captain Beefheart and The Black Angels and we have Liverpool International Psych fest which is the biggest psych festival in the country, and that just sums up Liverpool, it loves its left-field weird music.""And then on the other hand, there’s a big massive part of the city that’s never really got over The Beatles, you know I love The Beatles and you know I love the music, but at the same time it’s almost just like firth, sixth, seventh generation lads in leather jackets with bowl cuts and it’s a bit rubbish.”
As the head-honchos of their DIY label Sasstone Records, the band have the creative freedom they need to cross over into that branch of Iggy Pop-approved weirdness. Their self-titled debut is an amalgamation of tongue in cheek humour on the current social and cultural climate and wicked, grassroots instrumentals; something that has propelled bands like IDLES to international recognition. And in doing so, Zee and her band have created a community for social outcasts and renegades a like. Although many bands forcibly express a sort of pseudo political rage, Zee expresses “We’re not Rage Against The Machine, we’re not out there to be like fuck capitalism or whatever.”
Their own approach is an authentic reflection of the social issues around them; some of which the band hold very close, “I think we’re always politicised accidentally because of me existing as an LGBT member at the moment is very politicised, it’s been talked about by the president of the United States quite regularly, it’s been talked about by massive media outlets in the UK and so on [...] But at the same time I do think if you’re writing music at the moment and what’s going on isn’t affecting you, I think you’re writing it wrong.”
Zee has experienced firsthand the dark side of existing as an LGBT artist, after being subject to an assault in Liverpool’s gay town back in 2018. Zee tells us, that despite moving towards a progressively liberal society, even just by existing as an LGBT person it is a political statement, “I think if you exist as an LGBT person there’s no such thing as a safe space, as long as publications exist that are saying you’re wrong, you’re evil, you’re a pervert then obviously this is going to affect people. It’s going to affect how people approach you, it’s going to create dangerous individuals like the person who attacked me who obviously felt like my existence was dangerous or a threat, or something that should be punished.”
Although their streams haven’t sky-rocketed to the millions just yet, Queen Zee’s fan base exist as active listeners that engage hugely with artists through their live shows. Zee’s gig reviews are peppered with tales of them stage climbing on top of speakers, stage diving and smashing instruments. It just goes to show how much energy this outfit put into their output for their listeners, “Queen Zee is all about the live show. I don’t think you have to break absolutely everything on stage, but I think if you do that, something has definitely proved how far you’re willing to take it, and I don’t think there’s much that Queen Zee wouldn’t do to ourselves on stage for the show.”
So they’ve released their album, they’ve gained the seal of weirdness from Iggy Pop and they’re in the midst of a headline tour, what could possibly be next for Queen Zee? Zee tells me they are “going to be trying to be anywhere and everywhere. We’ve got loads of great festivals yet to announce, we’ve got some support tours coming up and then I think we’re trying to be all over the world by the end of the year."
If you want to experience one of the best live acts in the country right now, make sue you catch them on the rest of their UK tour (tickets on sale here), or catch them at one of their many festival appearances this summer.