It’s a time-honored tradition for New York bands: Make it big in England while you plug away in anonymity in the States. THE STROKES and the YEAH YEAH YEAHS were the most recent beneficiaries of the British hype machine—now, it’s the SCISSOR SISTERS. The quintet have been spending the better part of the year overseas, most of it in the Queen’s country, where they are bona fide rock stars. They had a Top 10 single with their campy cover of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb,” earlier this year, and then this month their debut album hit the No. 1 spot on the British charts. So far, they’ve shipped 750,000 records. It’s hard to believe this is the same act that once played Luxx during the LARRY TEE electroclash era with just two members.
JASON SELLARDS, my friend from Seattle (he used to order Jolt colas all day long at the café where I worked), is the singer, otherwise known as JAKE SHEARS. A few weeks ago, when he called me from Norway just two hours before they were due to go onstage, he sounded exhausted. Just how weird is his current reality? “Our dressing room is a boat. And we’re playing on an island,” he says. “I’m really happy, but I have no perspective. There’s no time to stop and think about anything. We are sleeping every other day, finishing shows and then just getting to the airport.”
The Scissor Sisters are set to go into the studio with that superfamous, pint-sized pop icon KYLIE MINOGUE. ELTON JOHN is one of their biggest fans, and the Sisters’ ’70s-style piano-rock number “Laura,”—inspired by Elton—is said to have in turn inspired Elton to return to the keys. “What a cool guy! He’s great,” says Sellards of one of his musical idols. “I was so excited and happy that he turned out to be so nice.”
In London, the band is well-known enough to be recognized on the street—though so far, the paparazzi leave them alone. “I couldn’t walk 20 feet without someone wanting to take a picture with me,” says the grateful singer. They played Glastonbury, the massive annual festival that draws over 100,000 fans—not once, but twice. And the press goes ape over the group: rave reviews in papers like NME, and BBC Radio took note of Sellards’s own “wardrobe malfunction.” “My dick popped out of my trousers on the show that my mom was videotaping,” he says. “I went through one whole half song with my penis exposed. The audience was all grandmas and grandchildren. I gave ’em a thrill. Glastonbury was one of the best weekends of my life. It was magical and incredible. It was like a rock and roll blissful summer-of-love weekend.”
And to think it was all supposed to end after the release of “Comfortably Numb.” That was the only Top 10 single but, says Sellards, “people are buying the album instead of the singles, which is what you really want.” In October, they’re even slated to play London’s legendary Royal Albert Hall.
“People in America don’t really have a concept about what is going on,” says Sellards. “It’s hard to have a concept about it if you don’t see it.” But when a friend saw a tiny write-up in People, he says, “she started screaming.”
Here at home, things are starting to pick up. A January Bowery Ballroom show suggested they’ve got a dedicated cult following. VH1 has placed their video for “Take Your Mama” (a song actually about Sellards’s mom, Frida) on heavy rotation. And last week in Seattle, which is where Sellards grew up, they played a sold-out show at Neumo’s to an adoring crowd who knew every single word to every single song. After the gig, BABYDADDY (né SCOTT HOFFMAN) told me that every date on their U.S. tour except Portland was sold out, and I said that would probably change by the time they arrived there the next evening.
When the band plays at P.S.1’s Warm Up series on Saturday, they’ll probably have a captive, if jaded audience. But it’s not the hip crowd they want, anyway. “You gotta get to the housewives,” Sellards laughs. “That’s what we were saying the whole time. It fucking worked! Like crazy!”