“Schmekel’s bespectacled transsexual singer-songwriters are guitarist Lucian Kahn and keyboardist Ricky Riot. Mohawked bassist Nogga Schwartz yells loudly, and genderqueer drummer Simcha Halpert-Hanson carries two big sticks.” (Read more about ’em here.)
And they were kind enough to hold forth on the vital topics in our Seven Questions:
1) How would you describe what you do to someone from the 19th Century?
Lucian: Oscar Wilde has written a farcical, yet appreciative, song-cycle about the polymorphous perverse. He’s a Jew from Bukovinia, and he’s got a Dynamophone.
Ricky: We are a band of openly Jewish inverts who play magical loud instruments. Three of us are short gentlemen who are rumoured to have even shorter organs. One of us is neither man nor woman. Our songs are gay and jolly yet not suitable for the faint of heart.
2) What did you want to be when you grew up?
Lucian: A rock star! Or possibly a Ninja Turtle.
Ricky: Some kind of performer.
Simcha: Well, it varied. From ages 3-7 I wanted to be a painter; ages 8-12, I desperately wanted to be a famous actor, like Claire Danes. And then from age 13 onward, I passionately devoted myself to the quest of *indie* (I abhored corporate rock) pacific-northwest stardom (I abhored the east coast). Thankfully, I no longer find the east coast an abhorrence.
3) Is there a book you’re embarrassed to admit you’ve never read?
Lucian: I spend a lot of time singing about penises. It’s hard to embarrass me.
Ricky: Lucian, I actually gave you a book about penises once. Did you read it? I hope you’re not embarrassed. Someone once lent me Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, insisting that it’ll change my life and help me understand her better. It was really dumb and I want those few hours of my life back.
Simcha: There are a lot of trashy teens-dying-of-cancer-while-falling-in-love books I am embarrassed to admit I’ve devoured. Unless I am trying to prove my academic prowess or qualify my halachic knowledge base, I can’t think of any basic books I ought to have read by now and haven’t.
4) Woody Allen, Pro or Con?
Lucian: Pro early Woody Allen. He understands the importance of a good egg salad recipe.
Ricky: Also pro early Woody Allen. Biased opinion though because I have an uncle who looks exactly like him.
Simcha: A natural anti-depressant.
5) What’s your favorite non-English word?
Lucian: I identify strongly with the word feygele.
Simcha: I really love the Yiddish language. I guess of all the words and names I’ve learned thus far, my favorite would be Faraynikte Shtaten [Ed.: United States] because it’s so long and intimidating to read in Yiddish.
Ricky: Shlemazal is a funny word and a funny concept. It’s a person with really bad luck. Also Abra Cadabra is in Aramaic. It means, “as it is said, it shall be created”. And how ‘bout some Hebrew slang: “Lefasbek” is to add someone on Facebook. And I’ll conjugate it for you. Hoo mefasbek, hee mefasbeket, anachnu mefasbekim…
6) What issue do you wish other people knew more about?
Lucian: I wish more people knew and cared about the problems facing queer homeless teenagers and trans people seeking medical care.
Simcha: I agree with Lucian. I also wish people had more sensitivity to gender-identity and the bathroom. Stress is a powerfully debilitating force.
Ricky: I wish that more people including myself knew more about the process by which a capitalist economic system makes people poor.
7) Historical figure, living or not, that you’d want to share a bagel with, and what kind of bagel?
Lucian: I would like to share an everything bagel with Paul Celan.
Simcha: I’d share a garlic bagel with Rebbe Schneerson and find out whether he is actually Mashiach.😉
Ricky: Thelonious Monk, because that dude was nuts and probably really interesting, and might have taught me a few things about music. Onion bagel, toasted, with olive cream cheese and lox.
Read all of the Seven Questions interviews.