Released in October last year, Sam Quealy’s debut album Blonde Venus demands attention. Taking inspiration from queer and audacious icons like Madonna and Gwen Stefani, Quealy’s album is nothing short of magnetic. Possessing an edgy and fearless sound, you can’t help but be entranced by her techno-electronic-pop-rock-infused energy.
After talking to her, it's obvious she has the passion and ambition needed to become a true star. With an ‘of course I can do this’ attitude, her inspiring personality comes through in the album. Unapologetically herself, Quealy’s record celebrates empowerment and self-expression, creating the perfect balance between rebellious and pulsative. Flashy and (slightly) chaotic, tracks like Seven Swords and Watch Me Now bring a certain hype that’s sure to make you feel equally as legendary as Quealy.
About to embark on a Europe and UK tour, stopping in Barcelona’s Razzmatazz on February 24th, Quealy is determined to bring excitement to her adoring crowd, saying every one of her fans has “main character energy”. Born to share her music, she thrives on stage and knows that she is “fucking insane” live. This album and tour mark her as a bona fide badass in the industry and if there is one word to sum up the whole project, it would be: iconic.
Blonde Venus is your debut album. How are feeling about completing it after releasing EPs and singles before?
OMG, it was an amazing feeling to finally get the album out! It’s good to have something physical that you can hold as well – when you hold the vinyl you’re like, yes! It’s finally in one piece of work. But I’m already starting to work on the second album.
Yeah, I can imagine. I, personally, really enjoyed the album. It gave strong Gwen Stefani, ‘90s or 2000s pop princess vibes. Has that sort of genre or time period influenced you? I know Madonna had a big influence on you and your album.
Gwen Stefani as well, yeah. I love that whole indie sleaze kind of era. It’s very ‘90s, early 2000s. Even AFI and Peaches with the kind of rapping over the top and electronic beat, and that’s why I think it sounds nostalgic but also futuristic at the same time. There are some songs that sound like they could be early 2000s or late ‘90s, but then there are other songs like Seven Swords, which sounds so video game or Zelda, kind of chaotic music, like, what the fuck is this? It’s both past and future come together in one. But I love that you said Gwen Stefani because I love her as well!
You mentioned pop and electronic music. So, are those your two main genres? I noticed on your Spotify, your description says “genre blending.” Are you drawn to any one genre? Have you got a core sound?
It's a mixture of different genres. I think it's just all the music that I like, like Italio-disco, Eurodance, etc. – I love Eurodance, I was always at raves and stuff. That's why it's purposefully not trashy and tacky. A beat that's very Eurodance intentionally. And then there's some songs that are also a bit cold-wave electronic, very 2010 kind of vibe as well. Just a mixture of everything I love, really, into one album.
In a previous interview with METAL, you mentioned that Klepto was about stealing cans of tuna from the supermarket, whereas Follow the Night is more about substance abuse. Is there any linear path that you follow, or any theme that you gravitate towards?
It’s a mixture, some stuff comes from personal experience, obviously. But then, even Klepto, stealing the cans of tuna, the thing that first made me think about it was the story of Winona Ryder. She was was obviously successful and had money but she was still stealing stuff. I thought it was crazy! She didn’t need it, it was more for the rush of it. But yeah, the songs are just inspired from everything – a painting, a book, a poem, personal experience, a character.
It's very chaotic, but that's also why the music is chaotic as well. Maybe it's even just a word that I think of, and then that will drive the story after. Blood, for example – I just imagined this sort of goddess-vampire person that kept not just sucking blood but also sucking life from people. And it makes sense if you really read the lyrics, but to me, it made sense because I was just imagining this story when I was writing it.
So what goes into your creative process, then, of choosing the titles for these songs? Because you mentioned Seven Swords. To me, that was about tarot cards, future reading, deception, etc.
Some stuff comes up when I’m making the music with my collaborator, Marlon Magnée, who’s producing the album. It's just the thing we think in the moment and then it develops from there. I planned out some of the concepts while others are spontaneous. Big Cat, for example, I just started saying that when we were writing the song. It’s more of an initial feeling and then from there, it develops.
How was it working with Marlon?
It’s really good. He’s super talented, easy to work with, and a great collaborator.
You’ve just come back from Australia after performing at the Sydney Festival. How was that, first of all?
So good! It was great to go back home and see where I came from and play this festival. My live show is honestly the best element about this whole project, I really am fucking insane on stage if I do say so myself. That’s why I also wanted to do music, I really wanted to bring back that very dramatic pop star, over-the-top type thing. Even if it’s on a very underground level, it's got this sort of punk, rock energy but in a pop show with really sexy songs. Yeah, it’s rock energy in a queer pop kind of way.
How are you generally feeling about starting your tour, about embarking on this new journey?
I feel good about it; I feel like I was born to do this. I’ve been dancing and performing since I was three and also doing music for a long time now, and I feel really good on stage. For me, doing music needs to be shared in real life. It’s obviously amazing to listen to music when you’re at home and stuff, but when you're sharing it, singing the songs that you wrote live with a live audience, you can really connect with that and you can’t compare it. So that’s why I’m feeling really good about it. I’m starting rehearsals tomorrow with new dancers because I'm adding new numbers and trying to elevate the show as much as I can.
What goes into the preparation that you're talking about?
I choreograph my whole show and I style it. I don’t have a manager or anything. That’s why I’m a very DIY, techno-pop princess.
I’m going to go there tomorrow to teach the new dancers the choreography for each thing. And normally when I choreograph, I always tell my dancers not to look like they’re dancing if that makes sense. Because I'm like, I don't want “five, six, seven, eight, we’re doing these steps”; it’s more that I tell them, okay, someone’s stabbed you in the stomach, and now you’re feeling drunk and you need to open your tongue and make this *opens mouth*. It’s more of trying to make the music come to life through performance art as opposed to dance, necessarily.
Is there any song in particular that you feel is the best for that? A song that you're like, wow, I'm so excited to put a dance together for this!
Yeah, Seven Swords live is insane for sure. That’s my favourite thing to do! And I love doing Watch Me Now as well just because it's the new song and it's really fun – the cowgirl choreography that I did for it.
Let’s talk music videos. You have many!  Follow Night and also Not a Dream, for example. Will you incorporate, or do you incorporate, those visuals into your set?
It depends on the venue because not all of them have screens. But I would try to incorporate this kind of stuff as well. But I really want it to be more focused on what I’m doing with dancers in the space as well.
How do you adapt your songs for a live audience compared to the studio?
It’s completely different. There’s something so different about being in front of a live audience, you can really connect with people. I don’t like to have it too planned either. I enjoy that each show is different. I always try to speak a little bit of the language, probably fake, but I try. It's just great to be able to travel and do something different each time.
With the travelling, you mentioned before we started that you’re very jet lagged. So obviously touring comes with its own set of challenges. What are the challenges you anticipated for the tour and how are you getting over them?
I’m trying to rest as much as I can now and do all the boring stuff – drink water, exercise, and try to keep my body ready. I used to be very rock and roll and just drink heaps and be like, blah. And now I definitely can't do that for a long period of time. So, I'm just trying to take care of my physical and mental health and be in good form to do well.
Are there any rituals that you have or must-have items that kind of keep you grounded or keep your mental health in check during these times?
My pre-show is so funny because I’m always stretching and doing sit-ups. I do my makeup first while we listen to music with the dancers, and then as I’m doing stretching and sit-ups I’ll have one gin and tonic at the same time. So, my dancers are always laughing at me because I’ll be doing push-ups while drinking from a straw. In the splits I tell them to get over it and tell them what to do like I’m the stage mom.
That’s so iconic (laughs)! Is there anywhere in particular that you’re excited to go to on this tour? I know you're visiting Spain, Germany, and France.
I’m excited to go everywhere, to be honest, because each city is so different in its own way. I'm thrilled to go everywhere and share my new little baby album. It’s just the beginning for me, you know what I mean? I only started the project two years ago, so it’s already so stimulating that I can do a big tour and meet new people. I always talk to them after the shows as well, I hang around at the merch. It’s really nice in that aspect – you meet so many people that have similar tastes to you because I think if they like my music, it’s probably because they like the things that I like as well, or they like the universe that I’m making. I always say that everyone at my show has main character energy. I’m proud of them, everyone here is iconic and it doesn’t surprise me because they like my music. It’s always super fun.
How do you connect with your audience on the stage?
I kind of mix it up, I love to jump into the crowd and always dance with people. It all just changes up.
Do you like to surprise your audience? Have you got any surprises in store?
Yeah, I love to surprise, but I also love to surprise myself! That’s why I also say to the technicians or my dancers, expect the unexpected because I never know what I'm going to do. Sometimes I end up doing a high kick or jumping off into the audience or doing whatever.
Yeah, it keeps the excitement going!
Yeah. And even for me, I surprise myself half of the time. I never know what’s going to happen, but it makes it fun.
Is there anywhere that's not on your tour list that in the future with your other albums that you really want to go? Even any festivals specifically?
I want to do Coachella, Primavera Sound, Glastonbury… all the big ones! And I want a headline. I’m very ambitious, so I hope that someone will read this interview and then in two or three years, when I'm headlining, they're going to be like, oh my God, how funny!