Jake Shears, the 26-year-old lead singer of Scissor Sisters, whose hometown is Seattle, has traveled plenty lately: He's been touring with his queer-tinged, hyperglam New York-based band throughout the United States and Europe over the past year and a half in support of their self-titled debut album. Time on the road has paid off, with the out singer and his bandmates racking up a Grammy nomination as well as three Brit Awards (the United Kingdom's top music honors) in the past few months. On the last day of their U.S. tour, just before Scissor Sisters took on Australia and Japan, The Out Traveler sat down with Jake in Los Angeles to talk luxury, creature comforts while touring, and how having a boyfriend changes traveling like a rock star.
Touring must be difficult and hectic. Are there any joys being on the road?
Yes--hooking up with friends and making different families in different cities. It starts to get that no matter where you go, you start to look forward to going because you know there are people there you care about seeing.
It seems that you might have a hard time getting to know people because you're in a place for such a short period of time before moving on to the next gig.
Yes and no. If I didn't have a boyfriend.... It's different when you're single. It can be really frustrating. You can meet somebody and have to say goodbye to them hours later, and you never know if you're going to see them again. Oftentimes you end up making friends with fans too, that you meet at the shows. They'll always be there in that town, and you know they'll be there for you when you get there. There's a gaggle of Detroit ladies that are all in their late 30s. They're moms. They're married. I love them! They'll never miss a Detroit show, and they'll usually come around to one or two shows [in] the area, and I really like hanging out with them.
What other inconveniences does touring entail aside from being away from your boyfriend [a Yale art student named Chris] and your own bed?
There's a loss of location. It becomes like Groundhog Day, although you're doing the same thing every day in a different place. And there's so much time spent in this nowhere space. Either you're on a plane--nowhere, just floating--or you're on a bus, in no particular space. And this bus--we've had it for three tours now, and it is the worst! There are 15 bunks and 14 people. It's a small space. The beauty of it is that everyone gets along remarkably well for living in such cramped quarters. We are on top of each other.
You're destroying the myth that traveling like a rock star is all about luxury.
Oh, there are definitely moments--but you have to pick and choose. Usually we do three shows on, [and have] one day off. You pretty much work your tail off and live in these confined conditions for three days, and then you get usually a day and a half in a gorgeous hotel room with absolutely nothing to do, and you can just lie around.
So you relish that time?
Yeah, it's nice. I'm not a very luxury-oriented person. I don't need a lot to make me happy, but for New Year's I flew my boyfriend and me first class back from [a performance in] Scotland. There are moments that I think, Oh, my God, I can't believe we get to do this. That was the most decadent thing I've ever done. It was wonderful, but I don't need it.
You spend a lot of time on the bus. Is there something you do to make it more like home, or more tolerable?
I sleep with books in my bunk. Hardback books. I spread them out. I usually have CDs in my bed too. If I'm by myself, I like to actually be in bed with things. I'll usually bring an extra blanket for my bed, so I usually like to stuff myself into my bunk.
Is your traveling for pleasure primarily about inspiration, relaxation, or something else?
Adventure. When I travel I prefer to do it by myself--at least [I did] in the past. Now that I'm in a relationship it's going to be different. We're going to travel together a lot. Barcelona is the one city that I keep going back to. There's a music culture there that's really amazing. I ended up going back there the following summer for my first S?nar music festival, which is in June. It's the best electronic music festival in the world, hands down. The music is very avant-garde. That first [time at the festival], I saw one of Fischerspooner's first European shows; I saw Miss Kittin play with Golden Boy--I was incredibly inspired. It was that trip and being at that festival that made me decide that I wanted to make music. The following summer, [band mate] Babydaddy and I went back together, and by that time we had a 12-inch pressed. We met our manager there; it was the first time we'd ever heard anybody DJ one of our songs. The following year we went back and played. Sexuality is very open in Barcelona. It's very free. I'll be honest--the only bathhouses I've ever been to in my life are in Barcelona. There is a sex culture there that's different than it is over here--it's more comfortable there.