It felt a little poetic to shoot Special Interest for my first print editorial. We have a bit of history together, and this was like a natural step up from where we had last left off. I’ve been buddies with the band for years, and interviewed them for my own self-published online zine in 2019. At the time, we all thought it was insane that they were opening up for bands like Limpwrist and Boyharsher. We wondered what was possible for a group of gays from New Orleans, carving out their own genre of no-wave future music in this post-modern world. Now they have shared bills with the Strokes and Megan Thee Stallion. They’re signed to Rough Trade, one of the biggest indie rock labels in the land.
So what happens next for the band? Special Interest are on the verge of…what? What do they like to do? What kind of art can they make when they can bill the tab? What is tiresome or unfulfilling? How will they manage to gain popularity while remaining honest about the realities of being an emerging punk band breaking into an indie scene, when they are often fetishized for being POC, trans and queer, yet shit on for the same reasons? Why did they have to play the Turnstile gig at 7:30 p.m. when the doors were opening and the lines were still slowly emptying into the room, because of overzealous security? We discussed that a lot on our triborough adventure to Coney Island, Brooklyn from fancy lower Manhattan. So much potential, and so many potential setbacks.
How will they manage to gain popularity while they remain honest about the realities of being an emerging punk band, breaking into an indie scene when they are often fetishized for being POC, trans and queer, yet shit on for the same reasons?
For the (new) CREEM issue #1 shoot, we took the train from their label office to Coney Island. I started the shoot by spilling my entire matcha on a rush hour F train while trying to steal a candid shot. It did not feel like a great omen. The band did not laugh at me, and even graciously helped me mop it up with a bag. We shamelessly pivoted into posed group shots, as the weary eyed train passengers wondered who they were. We already set the scene, even though we shortly realized it was unscripted.
The internet told me that Coney Island’s attractions were already open, but that turned out to be a lie. My heart sank as our train crawled up to the amusement park with no flashing lights. I snapped a photo of the band looking out the window for the disappointing reveal. They said it was okay the park was closed, as long as I made them look hot. I promised to fulfill that wish, confidently knowing I had made an easy contract for myself. They know how to pose for photographs. Most bands don’t.
I wanted to push for skinny dipping in the toxic sludge water and acts of defiant trespass, but we had some label heads in tow. We walked into the stale and salty air aimlessly, and I asked them to lean on anything that looked half decent. The only attraction running was “Bump Your Ass Off,” a bumper car rink that blares Pop Smoke in a club-like mini race track. Low lighting, with strobes, high speeds, it’s every film photographer's nightmare. I took a couple of shots of the band standing in the bumper car track. Then the next riders were ushered into the shot, and one of my flashes broke.