“When they see the tracklisting some people will think, ‘Oh, that’s a novelty thing’,” LA’s experimental pop practitioner Dorian Electra says via Zoom, a giant decapitated stuffed toy rabbit head perched next to them. “But to me it just takes a few seconds to think about the significance of it.”
Electra is talking about their new, collab-heavy, 11-track project (please don’t call it an album) My Agenda, and specifically its frenetic title track, which pairs queer disco legends Village People with political anarchists Pussy Riot. At one point, the YMCA hitmakers croon “Out here flexing in my rainbow suspenders” over the crack of a whip.
As with Electra’s debut, 2019’s Flamboyant, My Agenda toys with the edges of pop while dismantling societal structures. Though that album weaved dissections of the stereotypes surrounding sex and gender around distorted chamber pop, My Agenda feels altogether murkier, with lyrics exploring the crisis of masculinity, internet trolls, incels and the manosphere. Its list of collaborators – from Faris Badwan to Rebecca Black to Electra’s mum, Paula – is nearly as long as the genres it careens between, with songs streaked in happy hardcore, metal, rap, punk, pop and, yes, “monkstep”.
Below, Electra talks through the album’s roll-call of collaborators and how they pulled off 2020’s most audacious musical statement.
F The World
Californian twins Wyatt and Fletcher Shears whose most recent album of experimental art-rock was called Kiss My Super Bowl Ring.
“F The World is about being so lonely and horny that you’re angrily saying ‘Fuck the world’, but also you literally want to fuck the world. I have always loved The Garden’s positive vibes, even though they are channelled through a very aggressive emotion like anger. So much of punk and rock music is just regular dudes being like, ‘Fuck the system’, when actually they benefit from that system. The Garden have so much more social awareness.”
16-year-old singer-songwriter and producer Electra discovered on SoundCloud.
“The music really stood out to me. I feel like so much of their music is very emotional. I just sent them the track and then within an hour and 45 minutes they sent their part back fully produced. I’ve been working with them more on some other upcoming stuff of mine, too.”
Black trans rapper from New York whose elastic 2017 banger Queen of this Shit was produced by SOPHIE.
“I don’t use the word badass very often because it can be overused, but for her that really fits. Just the power she exudes in her vocal. She is so raw and real on her verse. This song deals with violence and suicide and her verse just lays all that out super clearly. People are going through really dark shit right now. Not to mention all the stuff she and other [trans] people have been going through. So it’s highly personal but also political too.”
Village People and Pussy Riot
Two game-changing queer bands together on a song at last.
“I’ve known Pussy Riot since 2017 and I toured with them in 2018. With the Village People, basically we have the same booking agent, and me and my creative director Weston Allen were always joking about how I could collaborate with them on something. I didn’t think they’d ever agree to doing something because they’re so iconic. Then six months later, my agent reached out and they were super excited about the track. They were also really excited about working with Pussy Riot too, and vice versa, of course. I can’t believe we pulled it off. The coolest thing about the Village People is that you can look at them as a queer band but you can also look at them as an iconic American group who bridged the mainstream on a global scale. They were exporting queer culture in a way that helps normalise it. To put them side by side with someone as explicitly political as Pussy Riot is so amazing.”
Frontman of goth-rock uberlords The Horrors.
“I was a huge Horrors fan when I was about 14. I would make them gifts and I even started making my own music videos to their songs. In November last year, Faris came to my show and I hadn’t seen him in over 12 years. We decided to do a session together and it was just so cool to think about how influential he had been on me. He’s such a perfect fit for this song, which is about the BDSM implications of submissiveness and dominance, both personally and on a political level. It’s really just about sex.”
Aka Glasgow-born, London-based producer Salvador Navarrete who’s worked with the likes of ShyGirl and Zebra Katz.
“This song is very shiny. I was feeling like something was missing from it for ages, and then I was like, ‘Wait, do you want to feature on this?’ The song is a reference to Barbie Girl by Aqua, and this idea of perfection and looking like a Barbie, but flipping it and having it transposed to a man who has to be the perfect Chad, you know, with toned muscles. To have somebody who is a masculine-identifying person on the song helped me feel comfortable with how feminine this song is.”
London-based thrash metal project fronted by Richard “Pope Richard” Weeks, aka Olivia Neutered John.
“I came across Gaylord via an interview on Vice. The headline was something like, ‘Meet the anti-facist leftist queer non-binary blackmetal artist’ and I was like, oh my God. I’ve always loved the sound of blackmetal but I had to stop listening to some of it because of the heinous politics that surrounds some of it. That song was made fully in quarantine. I had this idea of wanting to have a song that was a mix of what I call – and this is embarrassing – ‘monkstep’, which is dubstep with Gregorian monk chants and black metal energy. It’s basically an interlude, but I have ADHD so I love short songs. You get the idea, you move on, then you can listen to it on replay.”
Dorian’s mother, Paula
Literally their mum.
“My mum’s secret feature was inspired by this weird YouTube video where somebody’s screaming ‘Normies get out!’ and then in the background you hear somebody say, ‘Are you OK?’ It’s clearly their mum. So in quarantine I had my mum put her phone down, go out the room and then knock on the door and be like, ‘What is going on in here?’ She nailed it.”
The viral hitmaker turned YouTuber who received death threats after releasing her 2011 debut single, Friday, aged just 13.
“Rebecca Black is somebody who had so much internet hate and the entire world laughing at her, including adults and people on talk shows. With Edgelord, I’d gone through a list of possible features and it was my creative director Weston Allen who encouraged me to reach out to Rebecca. This song is about this idea of a classic edgelord who goes online to post extremely offensive shit in order to get a rise out of people. In the video and artwork, I wanted to play with this idea of the Joker – who was originally seen as an anarchist outsider to many – being an incel, and to play with the ‘Why so serious?’ meme. Just to take the power back. To have Rebecca on this song is so powerful because she’s somebody who has similarly taken back her own narrative. She’s also self-aware and one of the strongest things you can do when someone is being a troll is show self-awareness. It takes the power away.”
Ram it Down
Makes similarly anarchic alt-pop. Merch for recent single Strap On, which features Pussy Riot, included the titular sex toy.
“They’re one of my favourite artists right now in the experimental pop scene. I wanted this song to be a crazy genre mashing of hardcore guitars with this epic chorus but also this big pirate energy. This song came from that notion of ‘Yeah, I’m fine with gay people but just don’t ram it down my throat’. There’s so much homoerotic imagery that goes with that. It’s like, wow, someone’s obsessed with homosexual sex.”
A tatted up cowboy who makes brain-melting hardcore dance music.
“He’s in the hardcore scene, and he’s doing so much to push the boundaries in terms of genre. He explained to me about the community and how they were like, ‘If this track is over this BPM you’re not in this genre’. I was blown away by that because I never even think about the BPM when I’m making music. He’s doing so well because he’s actually innovating in the genre.”
Aka Kat Zhang, whose recent slice of sickly sweet scream-core, Shiny, features the line: “I got glitter on my clit because I’m a shiny bitch”.
“I am just so obsessed with her. I first heard about her when she and Full Tac, who co-produced Edgelord, did this viral TikTok song together called Where’s My Juul? Her voice is so powerful, as is how she presents this really feminine cute girl who then starts screaming. I love the contrast.”
My Agenda is released Friday 16th October