The Queerty Interview

Cocaine Cabaret: An Interview with Escort’s Adeline Michele

Like their cover of “A Sailboat in the Moonlight,” NYC disco outfit Escort started quirky and built into something epic. Began as a house music project Vassar College in the early 2000s by Eugene Cho and Dan Balis, Escort grew organically into a 17-piece funky orchestra that’s counted among the Big Apple’s best live act.

Their self-titled debut album came out in late 2011, cementing the band as an impeccably tight ass-shaking disco machine. Against a staggeringly precise wall of horns, synths and strings, frontwoman Adeline Michele anchors each song with a voice like a chiffon waterfall. She takes all the raunch of out Dillinger‘s frat-favorite “Cocaine Blues,” transforming into a goofy floor-filling album highlight. “All Through The Night” predates “Get Lucky” by seven years and is seven times less annoying.

Escort plays DC’s own Black Cat tonight to bring the noise and funk (Savion Glover not included) and wrap up their US tour tomorrow in Brooklyn. Michele was nice enough to give Queerty some of her Escort services in priming our expectations for the show.

Are you bringing the entire Escort crew down to DC?

We’re going to have the backup singers and a seven-piece band. It’s a good size band and the girls are there to bring the sexiness.

How do they bring the sexiness?

They’re girls.  They don’t do it, they are sexy.

Tell me how Escort grew from something two guys started in school to the well-oiled machine it is now?

The guys started making music together, then it became “Oh wow, this could be a band, let’s write these songs. Now we need a singer. Now we’ll put out a single, so let’s do a live show. Let’s take on Europe.”  What I love about this band is that it started from the genius idea of these really talented guys  but they let everybody bring their own touch. They were OK with the band evolving and changing.

After really playing a lot of shows together it’s fun to put the emphasis on us being a live band, Everything happens with the magic of the night. We weren’t prepared when things skyrocketed after the first album came out. We’ve been riding that wave and it’s been so much fun.

What does Escort bring to disco that differentiates it from all the other revival bands?

We’re not trying to bring anything to disco — that’s what it is. Disco is the mother of dance music;  you can’t change that. You can’t try. You can’t have the pretensions to say we’re being in something new. We’re just bold enough to try our own version of disco dance music with our own sound, letting our own sound add a modern twist to it.

What is that process like?

 A bunch of nerdy adults who happen to play instruments. Kidding. I wouldn’t describe myself as that, but some of the guys are. I say it with the most admiration possible. It’s very technical, very cosmopolitan. I’m from Paris, born and raised. Our percussionist is half-Indian. We have members from Boston and DC.

We all come from different angles and when we get together we just laugh so much, we just have fun. A lot of our songs are from jokes, and when the moment comes to be onstage and play we try not to laugh so much. It’s a big deal for me onstage. What I like the most — and one of the highlights of my career — is putting on the fancy outfits. That’s a huge part of it for me.

What was it like to take a chestnut like “Cocaine Blues” and make it something so different?

I was not in the band when the guys wrote that, it was a very initial stage of the band. They were loving that baseline so much. They were trying to make it fit with our own sound, taking elements, finding the groove first. Once the groove was set in terms of the baseline and drums everything was set from there. We called our buddies, whoever played drums and horns, and layered the cake.

Disco has such a long history with the gay community. Do you find yourselves having a significant gay fan base?

 Yes. Totally. Huge. It’s a huge portion of our following and on a personal level its my favorite crowd. I’m not afraid to say it. The first thing I worry about before I start performing is “Where are my gays?” It makes a huge difference to me.  They’re the best audience. Most of my friends are gay and they help me put on my outfits and it’s a huge part of my life and our audience. We don’t try to cater to that — it’s just a natural thing, a natural bond with my gay audience. The shows are not the same without them.

What got you into music? I’m guessing you have a lot of experience. 

I have three brothers and a sister who sing and play instruments and they’re all older than me — it was second nature. “You’re in this family, you’re singing.” I started singing professionally when I was five and joined the choir that my older brother was in. Then we joined a children’s group and were on TV all the time. It’s been my job for my entire existence. I decided to move to New York to learn at the root of the music I love and to be honest, to try and become a star. To try and make it. I’ve wanted to since I was six. It was never a question. I had the opportunity and went for it. It’s been a great journey and I’ve been learning ever since.

What’s your favorite song to play live?

“Barbarians” has been a lot of fun – people put their hands together and shout “Barbarians!” You’ll see this 23-year-old blonde girl who weighs 115 pounds and then this super flamboyant cutie gay guy screaming “Barbarians!” together. That’s pretty amazing.

What songs most makes the audience freak out?

“Cocaine Blues.” No hesitation.

Is your audience all coked up when you play that song?

I hope not! This is a public interview, right? Cocaine flows over and we find some left on the ground and people hand it to me and we get so high. It doesn’t happen that way.

What are your plans for the future?

We are finishing up the last stretch of our Fall tour, then Europe in December, then planning on the new album in the spring.

Can you tell me anything about it?

You heard “Barbarians” and “Cabaret.” That’s two songs. That’s telling you a lot. I can’t say too much but it’s going to be good. Thats all I can say.