You rap about queer chicks and ’80s kitsch over laptop beats and Casio keyboards. How did your performance art project begin? (Gina Genius, left) We met at a show in Olympia in 2006 and bonded over musical theater and Bob Fosse, and immediately began planning Team Gina. It all started with jazz hands. (Gina Bling, right) We were originally imagining ourselves as backup dancers, so it was all about the outfits.
So your style is just as important as your sound? (Genius) Image is central to what we do. We used to joke that we had more costumes than we had songs—but it wasn’t really a joke.
And what about the whole matching thing? Do you always rock the same candy-colored retro gear? (Bling) Once we started working with 3 Articles, local designers who made the dresses we’re wearing today, our look became a lot more polished. The matching just sort of evolved. (Genius) We bought turquoise, yellow, and white sneakers together, we bought character shoes together.
Character shoes? (Genius) You really only see them on stage; they’re those high heels with a strap. Theoretically, any character could wear them—from a harlot to a nun.
Or from a brainy wordsmith to a glam rapper. What’s the official Team Gina look? (Genius) We made a costuming decision this year to always dress like we’re going to or coming from a Broadway audition. Fame is the movie that made me want to sing. (Bling) For me it was A Chorus Line. I loved those really high-cut leotards.
Bling, you grew up performing in the Seattle Children’s Theatre. Did the local music scene in the ’80s and ’90s influence you? Any time we do something that has a melody, I think of the more melodic grunge stuff—some Alice in Chains, and this all-girl band called Juned who did this surf guitar thing. Those songs are in my head when I’m writing. I was in middle school when the grunge thing was happening, and it made everything seem possible.
And Genius, you’re from the other Washington. As a kid discovering music, you imagined the Northwest as a sort of promised land. I grew up thinking Kill Rock Stars, K Records, and Sub Pop were the coolest things, and we totally owe a huge debt to the riot grrrl movement. They’re our foremothers; they created a framework and a fan base for what we do. Even the look—I think of Bikini Kill especially; thrift-store fashion was part of what they did, and that made what I was doing anyway, because we didn’t have a ton of money, suddenly cool. But really, it was all about the defiance of traditional channels, complete self-expression.