Jake Shears is perhaps one of the most improbable of modern musical heroes. Indeed, emerging from the post-millennial NYC gay club scene, when his band Scissor Sisters’ eponymous debut was released in 2004, it stood athwart a zeitgeist that was otherwise in thrall to post-punk revivalism, and busy worshipping citymates the likes of Interpol and Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
Yet Scissor Sisters made a spectacular thing of celebrating their love of disco, while also kind of weirding it out – even grooving up Pink Floyd’s somber classic “Comfortably Numb.” They would go on to sell several million copies that first record, as well as its utterly glorious follow up, Ta-Dah.
It didn’t hurt that Shears was veritably born a star, with his expressive good looks and inimitable iconoclasm. And long-awaited, his first, self-titled solo album at last arrived this month – and it truly does not disappoint. Tracks like “Big Bushy Mustache,” which, with its cool, funkified grooves recalls the best of the Pointer Sisters, and the bluesy “Sad Song Backwards,” remind that he can always be relied upon for shattering expectations – yet never without a great hook or three.
But surely our fave is “Creep City,” with its retro cabaret vibe and its dazzlingly flamboyant accompanying video.
Fittingly, he had decamped to New Orleans to write the album (it was recorded in Louisville) – and the city’s honky tonk idiosyncrasies haunt the proceedings throughout. So, naturally, we asked him to take us to his fave places around The Big Easy, so we could get deep down into his creative inspiration.
“The album began and was written in New Orleans, a place I felt simply called me,” he explains. “And I am so glad that I answered. This city, through its crafty ways, facilitated one of the most creative and fulfilling moments of my life. I still haven’t left and never plan to….come on down and experience your own epiphanies!”
Images by Greg Gorman
Whether you’re alone or with friends, there’s nothing like a NOLA wander – it’s just a great place to stroll around and have a think. There’s beauty to be found everywhere, surprises all over the place, and at any given moment a ton of stuff going on. The city also rewards exploration. When visiting, do your best to support hotels, or Airbnbs that are hosted by someone that lives on site, keeping in mind that short term rentals have really hurt the residential neighborhoods. Dance to jazz, eat delicious food, laugh with strangers, have the time of your life. Before you get there look up WWOZ, the local radio station: it’ll get you in the mood, which will remain for you once you’ve left.
Okay, I know that a zoo makes a lot of people sad – but trust me on this one. It’s one of my favorite spots in town, and the climate of the city makes it ideal for the wide variety of animals they steward. The design feels open and airy, it’s big and beautiful. And the albino alligator in the swamp section is from another planet. Grab a frozen margarita to-go from Juan’s Flying Burrito, slip it in a big purse, head in and have a leisurely afternoon.
This is a swamp tour, which may sound like a dumb tourist thing – but it’s really not to be missed. The terrain you cover on the tour is staggeringly beautiful. You see wild pigs, gators, tons of different birds, and snakes. And also on the trip out there, you get to see what it looks like outside the city. I’ve been all over the place and I truly believe there ain’t nothing prettier than Louisiana.
This place just opened down the street from me, and I’m so happy about it. The wonderful furniture store that was in there moved out, and I was hoping something lame wasn’t moving in. But an actual voodoo practitioner setting up in the neighborhood is exactly what one wants. Its a beautiful shop, and he’ll make you oils and cast a love spell if you’re in need.
With an entrance in my neighborhood, the Marigny, and one in the Bywater, you walk up and over the levee and are suddenly right on the edge of the Mississippi. It’s kind of New Orleans’ version of The High Line in New York City. It’s peaceful and grounding, and if you just stand there for a second and look, with the massive ships passing by and the river’s majestic presence, you can really see hundreds of years back in time.
One of the oldest bars in America. Check it out from across the street, it’s quite a sight. Head inside for their amazing piano sing-alongs, and the wild smell of 300 year old barf. DO NOT MISS the best tipple in town: go for the Purple Drink, and you will discover true magic. It is a dark, slightly acrid grape-ish daiquiri that’s not too sweet, has mysterious notes and is a beautiful color that resembles a four-day-old New York slush puddle. I have no idea what’s in it, but…it just makes you feel good, and really nips a hangover in the bud.
It’s one of the main gay bars in the Quarter. It has one of the best balconies in town, very sweet bartenders, and the formidable Separator drink (a big delicious liquored up milkshake). There’s just something comforting about the place on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I liked it so much, the opening song on my record is about it.
The Preservation Hall Jazz Band is an absolute treasure of the city, and its residence is a temple. There’s usually two or three shows a night that run about 45 minutes. With some of the greatest jazz musicians in the world, just let it wash over you. It’s a shower of goodness that will stay with you long after you leave the city.