“Bring yourself,” croon THEESatisfaction’s Catherine Harris-White and Stasia Irons on their 2012 hit single “QueenS.”
The Seattle-based pair has done just that throughout their impressive music career thus far. Best described by the artists themselves in their biography, THEESatisfaction’s sound consists of “funk-psychedelic feminista sci-fi epics with the warmth and depth of Black Jazz and Sunday morning soul, frosted with icy raps that evoke equal parts Elaine Brown, Ursula Rucker and Q-Tip.” A mouthful? Certainly. But this eclectic dubbing does encapsulate the unique, yet familiar artistry that takes place on their seven self-released albums and on awE naturalE, their 2012 debut album with Sub Pop Records.
“I think it’s all a vibe, something that crosses many genres and descriptions,” Cat told EBONY.com. “It’s always up to the listener to define, but I don’t think it stops anyone from liking us.”
Since their first meeting as undergraduate students in 2005 through now, Cat and Stas have built a loyal following of listeners, while their magnetic blend of rap, song, and infinite groove remained candid and uninhibited. As new to the industry as they may be, these two artists have a fresh perspective to share. THEESatisfaction communicated telepathically (it might have been by email) with EBONY.com recently to speak about being self-made artists, embracing their inner “queerdoes” as queer Black women, and mixing politics and art.
EBONY: What advice would you give to aspiring music artists who are going the same self-produced, self-released route that you both pursued?
Stas: I would tell aspiring artist to use every resource that they have around them to help build a foundation of support. It's important to ask for help and develop relationships with people who are knowledgeable about the industry. Being self-produced and self-managed is lovely and freeing because the possibilities are endless.
EBONY: In an interview with The Quietus, Stas said, "Being weird, being called 'weirdoes' and 'queerdoes' and all kinds of things…It's something we embrace." What advice would you give to young queer Black women coming of age today and struggling to embrace their identity?
Stas: It takes time to come into your own and to know truly who you really are. I'm hopeful that the labels and branding of sexuality will soon fade. I think a struggling, young Black queer women should find creative ways to express themselves. Heteronormative society makes it difficult for us to feel comfortable at times. I've found my comfort in reading, drawing, writing, exercising, cooking, and watching people create.
EBONY: Images of queer Black women in the media and other influential fields are few and far between. Would you say that you have had professional and personal role models from within that community?
Cat: Yes and no. I have been more inspired by those who are very fluid in their creativity [but] who I am not sure of their sexuality. So women like Queen Latifah, Monie Love, Ella Fitzgerald stood out to me. There were also women who were open with their sexuality that I really adore like Bessie Smith and Storme Webber. It's really a mixed bag.
EBONY: As artists whose work is deemed conscious, where do you stand in the art versus politics debate? Do you believe that Black music artists have an obligation to advance their community through their art?
Stas: I feel like politics are artistic. Art should make you feel something. I enjoy the diversity of Black music. I love how much it changes. I’m not in a position to say what people should and shouldn't do with their art, but you can definitely feel when music is coming from a real place and when it is appropriated.
EBONY: What is next for THEESatisfaction?
Cat: Currently working on our next album, as well as more mixtapes. We also just started Black Weirdo Apparel, which is [a line of] accessories and fashion. Right now we are selling handmade earrings and hats with necklaces and more to come. We're always moving and creating.
Patrice Peck explores the complex intersection of culture, entertainment, race and gender as a multimedia journalist. Follow her musings at Twitter and Facebook, and visit her at www.speakpatrice.tumblr.com for more writing and video.