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Pushy Power

[whitespace] Pushy
Makeup: Angela Huff Car: Michael Sakfakhoury Photo: Christopher Brown

Can't get too much Pushy: 'We want radio hits. I don't believe in being a "true artist." Like, why not market a few good songs and make some money? Why not make one album and really PUSH it.'

Poptronic supergroup Pushy aims for more than 15 minutes of fame

By Michael Stabile

A local music sensation and self-proclaimed purveyor of "poptronica," Pushy is as much about performance art as it is about performing music. Don't worry, though: there's nothing overwrought, no bloodletting or die-ins, no wrapping-themselves-in-the-New-York-Times-while-singing-the-Internationale about the presence of Pushy. It's a more attention-grabbing, Warholian kind of drama done in their off hours for fun and documented by a photographer. Sitting with Noemi Zeigler, Steve Moon and Reid Maxwell, the three current members of the wannabe-superstars band, I hear about future stunts as if they were real events and promoted without the slightest bit of irony. I hear about possible disappearances in the coming months, kidnappings, car crashes and a litany of other events discussed as dryly as if it were a weekend on Stinson Beach.

Sometimes flippant about the music itself and other times intensely focused on it, Pushy embodies contradiction as much as it craves MTV recognition. Unlike current doyens of Top 40--Britney Spears, Fatboy Slim, Sixpence None the Richer, for examples--Pushy cannot sell out because they've got no attitude to betray. They may be pure unabashed product, but it's a product of which they're fiercely proud. For each moment I hear dedicated to the intricate overlays of electronica and vocal, there is another in which Pushy demands to be put on Metropolitan's cover. If their upcoming debut CD is as well-received as their inventive live performances--and if they don't stop hounding me about it--they just may get their wish.

How integral is Pushy music to the idea of Pushy as a group?

Noemi: You sound like my mother. I call her the other morning because I was worried about her and she twists it into "What are you doing with your life? What is this Pushy/San Francisco thing? Is this a band? Is this something that you're in? What's your role in all of this?" and I say, "I'm the singer" and she says, "I wouldn't call you a singer ... an entertainer, maybe" [laughs].

Steven: But in the end, being an entertainer is what it's all about.

Maybe I should have had your mother interview the group.

Noemi: Oh, yeah. My mother always tells me, "Madonna got respectable. You're behind the times. Madonna's not crass anymore, Madonna got with the program--what are you doing going onstage and doing all this 'humping the matzo ball' stuff?" I mean, I'm embarrassed when my mother tells me I'm "behind the times" [laughs], when she's more up on what Madonna is doing than I am.

Tell me about the concept of the band.

Noemi: The concept of Pushy is that it's a huge tent for all kinds of things. We came up with the idea for Pushy at a Ween show in 1995. We decided that Pushy should be a state of mind and a philosophy as well as a band that would let us comment on the whole idea of the pop icon. We were like, "We need to start a band and make music video and get on the radio." We actually did everything sort of backwards. I mean, we made the music video before we even had the music.

How do you make a video with no song?

Steven: Noemi and Kelly [the now departed and pregnant band member once known as "Less Pushy"] hit up a producer friend of mine to do a song. Out of that song came some of the music for "Suck It Up," our first video. Slowly but surely, we got the rest of stuff together, got Reid into the picture, because he's got all the electronic waste.

Noemi: We knew we needed something fresh and new and cutting-edge and we thought, "Hmmm ... 'electronica' seems to be the phrase, so we had to add that kind of thing" [laughs]. No, actually, we were headed in that direction to begin with.

Maybe you should add something Latin to your sound. It is all the rage this summer.

Noemi: We did think about doing something with my name, Noemi, since it sounds kind of Spanish.

Reid: We like to think we're doing things a little bit different, of course. We take a lot of classical influences and filter them through noise.

Noemi: When we first started doing it we really were just having fun, and Reid could play almost anything with the synthesizer, and suddenly everybody was coming up to us and saying, "Oh, you guys are so electronica." But really it's "poptronica," because I like catchy pop songs.

Steven: And there's definitely a big pop influence. Noemi's as pop as Reid is electronic. We try to have some of the songs have a real pop, defined structure.

Noemi: We want radio hits. I don't believe in being a "true artist." Like, why not market a few good songs and make some money? ... Why not make one album and really PUSH it.

And yet the work you're doing on this upcoming album isn't merely a collection of potential singles.

Steven: The funny thing is that it's a true album. There's a lot of continuous flow, more sound segues and breakdowns than breaks. We've created an album in which the songs are embedded within the sound of the album.

Reid: And I think personality is really important to the album, because today anyone can promote themselves on a mass level through the Internet. I find it at once really sad and really liberating. You can get so much mileage out of relatively little.

Noemi: We lost so much ground culturally in the '90s with the passage of the Telecommunications Act that now there's so little flexibility in media. So more and more people get on the Internet where the playing ground is somewhat more equal .

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From the August 2, 1999 issue of the Metropolitan.

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