Special Delivery

Brontez Purnell talks to Alli Logout about their new music video

AN ETERNITY AGO, the death of Little Richard reignited some debate around the Black queer image in contemporary music. In terms of visibility, we’ve certainly come leaps and bounds since the early days of Queen Richard. Survival is another story. But at that cultural nexus emerging from the Homocore movement of the ’90s, punk rock, and queer Black radicalism, a certain confluence of musicians, filmmakers, writers, and authors continue to find loud, destructive ways to make a living. One of those people is Alli Logout. A Texas-born twenty-seven-year-old musician and filmmaker based in New Orleans, Logout splits their time touring and recording as the frontperson for glam/no-wave punk outfit Special Interest and is also the cofounder of Studio LaLaLa, a Black- and trans-led production studio. I first became familiar with Logout’s underground films while hanging out with them at a punk festival in Chicago some years back, and was later reacquainted at a renegade rave thrown in a U-Haul during San Francisco’s Gay Pride not long after. We eventually conspired to shoot an homage to Maria Maggenti’s 1995 coming-of-age teen lesbian film, The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love.

BP: How did you get into punk rock, Alli?

Alli Logout: I wasn’t raised on rock, or what I used to call guitar music. I was raised deeply on funk and hip-hop and rap, specifically Houston hip-hop. A lot of Swishahouse. But I was kind of interested in guitar music, and I had a girl from my soccer team make me an awful mixtape, like Fallout Boy and stuff. Then I met my first punk, Punk Patrick. We were at a Christian rock show at a church, and he was like, “Why do you like this shit?” And I’m like, “I don’t like it, but I like headbanging. And I like slamming. I just wish that there were more Black people.” And his jaw dropped. And he was like, “Um, did you know the founders of hardcore punk were all Black?” And I was like, “What?” And the next day he made me go over to his house, where he put on Bad Brains. And then it was over for me. I was sixteen.

When did the DIY bug hit you? When did you start going from a witness and a spectator to being like, Okay, punk is something I definitely want to participate in?

I was motivated out of spite. Once I started getting involved in the local scene, everybody was really white except for this one boy, who I ended up dating at one point. He was in a really sick band called Allah’s Infinite Justice. AIJ. And I knew that I could do it a lot better than all the white boys. I’m like, “What are they screaming about?”

I come from a really small town called Belton, where the older punk kids would rent out this old one-room schoolhouse in the middle of the woods and have these punk shows there. It was all an array of different kinds of punk and people, like the rednecks in Pantera, and the weird scene kids, and the spiky punks, and the nonracist skins who were actually racist, but you know . . . It was a small town and we were young. It was everybody weird coming into one place, and that’s always what punk was for me.

Did your queer identity and your punk identity start to unfold at the same time? Did they flow into one another? Or how did you reconcile these two identities?

For a minute, I felt like I really couldn’t be gay and punk at the same time. I was raised really religious, so I was quite repressed. In high school, everybody was being bisexual, and it would make me really frustrated because I knew I couldn’t participate. I guess it started with me and my punk friends going to raves for the first time. Big, massive raves where I could be gay, and we would go around and play this game where we would take a bunch of ecstasy and see how many people we could hook up with in a night. But punk became gayer for me once I finally started a band and I was out of my house for the first time, and it was like, “I am gay. I want the world to know I’m gay. I’m in this punk band and I’m fucking gay.” Like, somebody talk to me, please. I’m so alone.

Oh my god, I can completely and totally relate. So, you shot my band, the Younger Lovers, for the video for “What Are You Wanting For.” I was really impressed with it because it was just so lush and so evocative and also just representative of a lot of countercultural POC, specifically Black people. What was your vision for this project going into it, and what was special to you about shooting? Generally, punk is about locality, and the Younger Lovers are a very Oakland band whose videos are being shot in New Orleans with an all-New Orleans crew. How did that idea begin to float in your head and where did you want to take it? Was it successful for you? I think the video is beautiful, by the way.

Brontez Purnell’s “What Are You Wanting For.” Directed by Alli Logout.

You’re an incredible musician, but an even more incredible lyricist, in how you describe our reality and disillusionment. There’s something extremely beautiful and whimsical about the song, but also something a little bit sad about it. I kept getting the line stuck in my head, “Cause I’m the only one who can turn you off and turn you on.” I was just sitting and thinking about it and the whimsicalness of it. In a lot of my work, I really like to show us just living our best lives. Being in love, being around friends, dancing, being joyous, feeling shit. The little things about life that are extremely gorgeous and—it’s something that a lot of people don’t have, friendships like that and to be able to love one another like that. And I always just wanted to show our lives like that, unabashedly.

I’m a bit older than you—I was kind of like that last little kid that peaked his head into the Homocore movement as it crested and began to reach the Bay. And I didn’t know there were so many lush examples of gay punk bands that didn’t give a fuck. There were always plenty of Black people around, but never in this super bold or weighted way. I grew up in Alabama. The South was so different then, and it’s really interesting watching things change.

I thrive deeply in chaos, and New Orleans is that. The city is so incredible and beautiful and there’s so much life to be celebrated, but there’s also so much degradation and pain. The legacies of Black resistance in this city are so incredible and inspiring. This city is so naturally anti-state. We show up for one another, it is truly magic.

I don’t think all of the incredible artists in the video identify specifically as punk, per se. I think the younger generation isn’t worrying about naming things like that, even though they are so punk. We’re watching the world crumble in real time, and we’re all on the same wavelength that everything needs to shift and we will fight till our knuckles bleed for it. We with our whole hearts we strive for Black liberation and in the midst of doing so, we are going to live our lives decadently and unabashedly because those are the simple joys of life that are stripped from us.

What would be your dream film project, and what do you need to do it?

I’m working on a feature that would need around ten million if it’s going to be absolutely everything. I have a story that I’m really excited about. I recently won the Barbara Hammer Lesbian Experimental Filmmaking Grant, which I’m really thrilled about. I think that has people excited about this project, whose working title is Sis, is this the end of the world? It’s about a band who lives in a shotgun house and the life they live and the love they have for one another, all during the most intense time in American history where they are learning to organize and show up for one another and ultimately bring America to a breaking point. Interpret that as you will. It’s a fantasy that’s deeply rooted in reality. It’s about longing for something more in the midst of having everything you need from the people around you. It’s about our rage and frustration, but mainly it’s about our love. And the sick bands we play in.