Chicago After Dark

Chicago After Dark: Chemise Cagoule

Chicago After Dark

Chicago After Dark: Chemise Cagoule

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Photo courtesy Foto by Mateo

Chicago artist Jack Collier has dreamt up a twisted pop star whose lo-fi music treads with the quality of a heartbreaking, fuzzy nightmare. Like the final scene of a grainy horror film where the seductive protagonist gets murdered during a foggy, strobe-lit disco, Chemise Cagoule builds a bridge between terror and glamour, pop aesthetics and punk intentions.

“A ‘chemise cagoule’ was a medieval nightdress perpetuated by the Catholic Church to prevent pleasure during sex,” Collier said. “It was basically this heavy sack with the necessary holes to allow penetration. As a history geek, fashion geek, religion-hater and someone who has sex with all genders, but never for procreation, I was attracted to this idea.”

Chemise Cagoule’s sophomore single, “Violet Pt II,” which we’re premiering exclusively on Bullett, is a collision of pop production with something more eerie and aloof. Amidst a web of Gregorian and Arabian chants, Collier murderously coos the lyrics, “I’m calling devil on a holy ghost who betrays my name and incinerates my love.” The track erupts wildly with spastic, bone-chilling climaxes, only to revel in ghostly silence seconds later like an updated soundtrack to Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” We caught up with Collier to talk about making pop music, performing for 15-person audiences and being a musician in Chicago.

On making pop music: 

“I don’t think that any longer the word ‘pop’ stands for a genre as much as an approach to music. You can use the word ‘pop’ and be referring to Elvis or Paris Hilton. The Supremes didn’t sound like the Spice Girls. That’s why I call Chemise Cagoule ‘dream-pop’ or ‘lo-fi pop’ because it’s that prefix that gives you a hint of the sound. The word, ‘pop,’ gives you a hint about the approach. When I write a pop song, I’m picturing what I’m gonna wear when I perform it on stage, I’m imagining how the music video will look, I’m gauging who I sound like and making sure the melody is pretty. Pop music also isn’t afraid to reveal that it’s theatrical.”

On his live show: 

“Sometimes I struggle just to shove the notes out of my mouth and sometimes I’m a fucking pop star. I just have to remind myself that what I’m doing is Rock ‘N’ Roll—it’s punk, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Usually the show is just me singing to live versions of my tracks on stage, but preferably I have at least my backup singer with me. Sometimes it’s me, my backup singer, a dancer and a fake DJ. Sometimes there are 15 people in the crowd and sometimes there are hundreds. I’ve heard the vibe is kind of glamorous but also dirty and sad.”

On living in Chicago:

“Chicago is like a blank canvas with lots of room to paint. People here are hungry for new shit. In my first act, Spider to the Fly, we were fostered first by Chicago’s hip-hop community. They were always like, ‘Yeah, this shit is hot, go for it, play my show,’ even with my faggot ass up there and my bandmate Sid with her otherworldly antics. People here seem to be less concerned with competition and the voice that says, ‘This isn’t as good as that, they’re gonna think this about me.’ You can just do your shit.”

On the new single, “Violet Pt. II:”

“I wrote it a couple years ago after I wrote, ‘Violet.’ They’re both about the same person. It’s like a chronological addition to this sort of dream or ghost story that still might not be over. There’s a whole collection of songs about ‘Violet’ and that’s why I’m calling my upcoming tour, ‘The Violet Tour.’ I have a full catalogue of songs at this point, but I’m picky to a fault about what I release. ‘Violet Pt. II’ is my second release as Chemise Cagoule.”

On the development of Chemise Cagoule:

“I’ve only been ‘out’ as Chemise Cagoule for a little over a year. Before that, I spent a year or two existing strictly as an anonymous live act. I’ve always performed in a sort of ’70s cult look with a long wig and my face obscured by a creepy mask. At the beginning, I was distancing my ‘self’ from the project, but that stopped feeling right. When I released the first single and revealed that it was me behind the mask, it felt better. In a way Chemise Cagoule is one world I want to inhabit, but not all the time.”