A Q&A with Princess

Discussing Their Performance Out There

"a sci-fi feminist rock opera"

As a fanatic of all things moody and colorful - it was no surprise that I jumped on the opportunity to experience the performance Out There when it came to tour in my town of Oklahoma City. The creation by performance art duo Princess is a sci-fi genre bending sensation that is as visually stimulating as it is thought-provoking. My multimedia addicted personality got sucked into the live narrative. Their video album accompanied by the visual projection had me in a hypnosis of creative fever. Alexis Gideon and Michael O’Neill have collaborated with the forces of TEEN, JD Samson and visual artist Jennifer Meridian to explore the gender roles of men in today’s society. Anyone who enjoys themes of culture, LGBTQ+, space exploration, experimental music and vibrant colorful energy is encouraged to visit the website and social media pages of Princess. You will be all the better for it. Princess fills us in on their creative process and the touring 411.

Photos provided by Princess
Still shots | Alexis Gideon and Michael O’Neill | Photos provided by Princess

Out There was performed on 40 stages all over the U.S. We were lucky enough to see your performance here in Oklahoma at 21C Museum Hotel. Welcome! First we have to ask, what did you think of OKC? (Always glad to have thought-provoking performance art come through here!) We loved OKC!! We were very enamored with the plains in general. We drove from Nebraska and through Kansas to get to Oklahoma City. It was super chill and peaceful to drive through all that open space. But OKC left an impression on us, as did other tour stops like Omaha and Baton Rouge, that our coastal perceptions of middle America are a bit narrow. Of course the politics can be pretty bad in red states, but its refreshing to see awesome art scenes and counter culture everywhere. We have so much respect for the people in these alternative scenes who have a harder fight but are such a strong part of the resistance.

It’s obvious that you two work very well together. Tell us a little about the origin of Princess. During our time at Hampshire College (MA) and Wesleyan University (CT) we came to know each other through a mutual friend and instantly found a musical connection. But since we lived in different states .. we never rehearsed! We would book performances at one of our colleges and then improvise them around a conceptual idea. For example, we did one based on the TV show “Saved By the Bell” where all we came up with before the show was a list of song titles like “See you later AC Slater”, “Chillin’ at the Max” or “Zack Morris Wrecked His Dad’s Ford Taurus”. As we performed them live we made up the song on the spot. It was a bit nutty and immature but it was a lot of fun! From there we moved to Chicago in 2003 and that’s when we formed Princess - a cross-dressing performance art band that melded musical genres and questioned masculinity. It was the first time we began working with composed material. We performed until 2006 when we moved to separate coasts and pursued different projects. Michael moved to NYC and joined the indie-pop band Ladybug Transistor and then formed MEN with JD Samson. Alexis moved to Portland and began working on a series of animated video operas, which would lay the foundation for how we created Out There.

How did Out There come to be? What’s the creative history here? Well .. after a brief 12 year hiatus .. we began working together on an informal instrumental music project. Again, living in separate cities we had to get creative with how we work together. This time we sent each other tracks back and forth over email, composing the music instrument by instrument. It was a unique recording experience. Since the other person is not physically there you don’t have anyone’s critical ears on your part and you learn to work through your own stubbornness through a process of acceptance. Of course, some tracks come in and you think “This is amazing!” and you are immediately inspired to add the next instrument, but other times you have to move past your own vision for what something ought to have been and work with what you were given. After the “Instrumentals” project, we decided Princess was officially back and we began working on a bigger project that would eventually become Out There.