UR Chicago - 14 February 2002
New Sensation: O PIONEERS!
Suran Song in Stag have something to say about Cowboys and Indians
By Meghan Callaghan
Performance art band Suran Song in Stag like to play Cowboys and Indians, but not for fun.
"I want to talk about bullyism and any sort of arrogance, which is the first act of war and aggression," says artist/vocalist Suran Song.
Song and her bassist husband William Weis released their third album, Cowboys and Indians, last spring on their Cruel Music record label (www.cruelmusic.com). Since the events of 9/11, the New Jersey duo's anti-bully message has taken on a new level of meaning: "I can't do anything about the bombings," says Song, "but I can at least offer ideas about how you can address aggression and maybe diffuse it in your dailey life."
The couple met in 1995, when Song was doing slide-projections on body art in fine art galleries around New York and L.A. and Weis was performing in drag at rock clubs. By 1996 they decided to combine their performance art into three-minute rock songs in order to reach a larger audience.
"I really like performing live in bars and clubs because it's an immediate reaction that you get, whereas if you have a piece in a gallery, you're more removed from the audience," Song explains.
The band draws from punk rock and performance artists like Paul McCarthy and Joan Jonas (who Song calls the "momma of performance art"), and covers artist like David Bowie, Gang of Four, Lords of the New Church, and 10,000 Maniacs, who Song says touch on similar political and economic issues.
Suran Song in Stag is currently touring with drummer Doug McEachern (other collaborators include Ween drummer Claude Coleman, Jr., and have always been male - hence "in Stag"), and will use store-bought Cowboy and Indian costumes and toys in their performance. Slide projections in conjunction with their song narritives will also be used.
Best of all is their "Agit-Stage," a reproduction of a horse-drawn performance kiosk. Based on blueprints used by 1920's Russian constructivists, the stage is portable and self-contained, allowing the band to do outdoor concerts and "Guerrilla Shows," where they set up behind art museums and on college campuses. While the current tour deals with the issue of "bullyism," Suran Song in Stag - who've also made art about sweatshops, suburban dystopia, and uranium weapons - is more interested in the larger topic of "how we treat one another and what the root of it is."
Says Song: "[It starts] with thinking about how kids treat one another on the playground and what's permissible and what's not."