Queer Masculinity Embracing It’s Feminist Side, An Interview With The Turnback Boyz, Part Two

By Sossity Chiricuzio, PQ Monthly

Last year Max Voltage brought us the radical queer musical theater piece, “Homomentum,” and now the boy band concept from that production is a spin-off project that just made their big Portland debut! We continue our conversation with the Turnback Boyz in part two of the interview, with more back story and future plans, as well as favorite moments from their premier show.


PQ:  Let’s get into a bit more of the camp and character of it all. Who is your favorite boy band, and why?

Max (aka Peter): N’Sync, because their choreography is so iconic. Runner up is New Kids on the Block because each member had such a defined sense of style and personality.

Che (aka Oliver): BoyzIIMen, simply because they have so much integrity and tight vocals. They were probably the best vocalists of all the boy bands out there. Plus, they fully committed to creating meaningful love songs and break up songs.

Ruth (aka Tommy): The Backstreet Boys. Mostly because I have so many memories singing into hair brushes at slumber parties and choreographing dances “As Long as You Love Me.”

PQ: What was the inspiration for your boy band character and era, and how do you workshop where your stories overlap?

Che: Oliver Gold was my Queer Porn handle, inspired by my complexion and mild obsession with the color gold, and a comfortable lead in being an “1840’s cowboy turned gold prospector.” Inspired by a really crappy EX, who took me for granted, Oliver’s backstory has one too (ART AS THERAPY FOR THE WIN!), which got him up and movin’ to the Gold Rush, to find himself surrounded by fags in early SF. Jackpot!

Ruth: Growing up there was quite a variety of music playing in the household. One of my favorite genres was always doo-wop.

Max: My character is from a post-apocalyptic future. Personally, I’ve always felt like a weirdo, so setting my character in the future seems somehow fitting. And it gives me space to think way outside the box, create a new fashion, genders and literally invent a world around my character. I also wear the playwright hat and tend to drive the big-picture story pieces (with lots of input from the boyz).

PQ: What are your plans for the boyband for the next year, and what is your collective process for moving those ideas forward?

Max:  This first year has been about developing the concept and learning to work together This next year we’re gonna write more songs, make our first music video, further develop our back-stories, ramp up our choreography, and collaborate with other artists.

Che: I’d like to see us do a bit of a PNW tour From PDX to Olympia to Seattle and back!

Ruth: One dream includes appearing on Ellen – we want to challenge her to a dance off.

PQ: I hear that you are always working on new songs—what are some upcoming topics you want to cover, and why?

Turnback Boyz 1
Turnback Boyz: L-R: Tommy Tugguns, Oliver Gold, Peter Pansy, and audience participant. Photo by photography-naturally.com

Che: We are working on a Femme Visibility song, and I personally want to write a Daddy themed song and a hanky code line dance. Pop country for the win!

Max: Plus then we get to geek-out about the origins of the Hankie Code! We all agree that femme is such an important, powerful gender, and Y’all deserve a song that reflects how sexy and amazing you are. I think Pan needs a glam-rock genderfuck song about the fate of the world at the hands of capitalists.

Ruth: I/Tommy would love a dancier number with the theme: “I don’t care what’s in your pants, I just want to fucking dance.”

PQ: What is your favorite thing about being in a boyband?

Ruth: Singing, and collaborating with some fantastic and incredibly creative people.

Max: Getting to be shiny on-stage, connecting and collaborating, Ruth/Tommy’s dirty and clever puns, Che/Oliver’s ridiculous lyric brainstorming tangents, the contagious joyfulness of Kim (our director/theatrical coach/honorary boy band member.)

Che: I love having the opportunity to sing/jam/write music. Plus, the reactions I get by simply TELLING people I’m in a boy band, ain’t too shabby either.

PQ: Tell me about a character in or era of history that you are excited to visit and interact with.

Ruth: I would love to go to the 1920’s – really just to pick up some sweet swing moves!

Che: I really want to visit Atlantis. As a super woo nerd, I would love to explore what their technology was all about and learn from why/how their civilization fell.

Max: I’m stoked to use time travel as a way to celebrate and explore queer history! I think we should definitely witness Stonewall, and the birth of 70’s Glam Rock to get in on some of that genderfuck. I’m also excited about Ancient Greece and creating a sci-fi backstory so we can explore and interact with their mythical figures. The piece I collaborated on with local dancer Lauren for our PDX debut is a great example of how we can mix our present day skills and experience with mythology for a new take on an old story.

PQ: That number was incredible–it was great to see some fantastic local femme talent like Lauren and Fanny Fuller on the stage with you–and all your audience participation pieces were so fun! What were some personal highlights from this show?

Ruth: Oh snap, so hard to pick! How about, looking out and seeing so many supportive people there, and the energy before the show–I swear the room was buzzing! And the laugh when Pansy stuffed the hanky in my mouth!

Che: It was such a fun show! I’d have to say when our Joan of Arc volunteer came on stage and danced with us during “Self Made Man.”  Also, the Backstreet meow cover! Also the sailor suits! It was a blast!

Max: I always love the organic, stay quick on your feet moments of live performance! When Oliver’s guitar cord fell out during “Fool’s Gold” and we made it into a sexy/dirty/silly moment with Tommy on his knees sticking it in… Rising to the challenge of an audience member’s song request and busting out some Vivaldi, and narrowly avoiding a sword to the face during “Self Made Man”.

PQ: Now that you’ve broken onto the scene, what’s next?

Max: We have a show coming up April 9 with Canadian genderqueer artist Rae Spoon! We’re looking forward to hearing songs from Rae’s new album, Armour, and mixing their romantic electro style with our boy band magic for some unique, campy fun. We’re also making a guest appearance at Pink Hanky Presents night of queer performance on March 26. We’re really excited to collaborate with more artists, and keep pushing our own artistic edges.

See for yourself at their upcoming performances–March 26, 8 pm, Disjecta, and April 9, 7 pm, Panic Room–and on turnbackboyz.com!


End note: If you have questions or topics you’d like me to cover, products you’d like me to review, people you’d like to hear from, or resources to share, please get in touch! sossity@pqmonthly.com