“Being queer is an integral part of who we are, there’s nowhere to hide for us.”
If there’s one thing Lucy Niles and Josée Caron drive home with the absurdist pop-punk they make as Partner, it’s that laughter can be key to survival. The Ontario rock band’s discography includes rambunctious, Ween-inspired odes to actress and queer icon Ellen Page, weed-induced ice cream binges, and stories of faking sick to watch Judge Judy.
Niles and Caro have been friends since college, and describe their music as an “exploration of intimacy, friendship, sexuality, drugs, and the existential predicament of being a lesbian barista in the year 2017.” They are both queer, and frequently get asked if they are together. In response, they wrote a song called “We’re Gay, But Not For Each Other.”
Ahead of their show at Silent Barn on April 13, we talked with the band about queer visibility, the subversive possibilities of humor, and Blink-182.
AdHoc: How did the band start?
Lucy Niles: We all met at university.
Josée Caron: We hung out a lot at the meal hall…we had a lot of good times. [Laughs.]
Was there a specific moment when you knew that you wanted to start a band together?
Lucy: [When we first met], we knew that we wanted to start a band together, but we didn’t start this band until like seven years later. We were in other bands together before that.
You were able to get Chris Shaw, a producer with Ween, to work with you guys on your record.
Lucy: He mixed our record.
Josée: After we were done, I cold-emailed him and asked him if he would mix the record. He said yes, and we did it all over email, which is crazy. It’s wild that it was so easy. It was pretty cool.
You wrote a song about Ellen Page, which the actress posted on her social media. How did you feel when she posted “The Ellen Page” on Twitter and Facebook? How does it feel to have a viral music video?
Lucy: Yeah, [when Ellen Page posted the video,] we flipped. We were in the car coming back from a trip.
Josée: Weren’t we at McDonald’s?
Lucy: Yeah—and someone was like, “Ellen Page retweeted our video!” It feels good [to have a viral music video]: You forget about it for a while, and every now and then you got to still check [how many views it has]. It’s fun.
Are you guys big Ellen Page fans?
Lucy: Oh for sure, for sure, yeah. We were so happy when she came out; we’ve been calling it for years.
Queer musicians are becoming increasingly visible in the media. How has that affected you?
Lucy: It’s cool. I feel like we’ve kind of been concurrently rising [with other queer bands], and there’s been more queer musicians. So it’s good. It makes the shows feel safe; it’s really good to see and feel.
Do you specifically identify your band as a queer band?
Lucy: I can see how some people wouldn’t want their sexuality to define them. But I feel like [Partner’s music] is lyrical, and it comes from real life.
Josée: I think for us, the way the band even started, was that we wanted to say things that we thought were true. All the things that are true for us are related to our queerness; it’s woven in life. Being queer is an integral part of who we are, there’s nowhere to hide for us.
Queer musicians—and more broadly, musicians working from the margins—are often expected to have a serious, politicized message, but your songs are really funny.
Lucy: That was kind of a thing that we figured out when we started writing songs. There’s obviously a lot of serious and political elements about being a lesbian, but there’s also a lot of funny things.
Josée: Laughing is a statement. It goes along with what you were saying about how there’s more representation of queer people in the media. I don’t know—I feel like in the media, queer people always have to be sad, because their lives suck and because they’re gay. But laughing is a statement. In like the 90s, we had to be serious, but now, there’s figures like Pussy Riot. I believe that you can be angry, sad, and funny at the same time.
What inspires you?
Lucy: Like so much—always. Lately, we’ve inspired by ’70s stuff and Celine Dion. And we’re always inspired by the bands who give us their music.
What’s next for you?
Lucy: We have a prog song we’re working on. It’s very mystical. It probably won’t come out for a few years. [Laughs].
We’ve also got a lot of touring. We just got a new camera, so we’ll probably just make a lot of videos of tour—whatever pops into our brains, whatever’s going on. We’re inspired by The Urethra Chronicles by Blink-182. I am a huge Blink-182 fan. I mean, I don’t listen to them right now…I grew up listening to them. They taught me that good music is supposed to be funny.