An Interview with Daniel Reyes of Duderella
First of all, congrats on the release of your double single Cruising! Could you tell us a little about the name for it?
Thanks! I called it Cruising because I wanted to really capture that vibe of driving around L.A. -- stoned or whatever. It’s a specific part of living in L.A. I’m always blasting music and there’s always a certain song that just makes that experience so much better, the idea came from wanting to make a song the listener can chill and drive around town to. I feel like when you listen to it you really get that vibe.
Absolutely! You just released the music video for LA Dream and I love that even subconsciously there’s an ode to that in the visuals.
Yeah, for sure! I definitely got inspired by Black Sabbath videos from the 70s -- I think like rock n’ roll and punk are not really part of mainstream right now and I just wanted to give a nod to that.
You know, I had a vision for the video and I achieved it. I worked with Allen Falcon who works for Birdcage Studios and my amazing drummer Chris Magallon (The Pocket Rockets) to bring it to life. Allen filmed and edited it and my vision definitely came to life. As we were filming, everything kind of just came together -- like the ice cream [laughs] and then the gum chewing you know, like Kelly Bundy vibes.
In your music and in your visuals, it’s clear that L.A. is a huge inspiration.
Yeah, I mean this is where I grew up and have lived all my life. As I get older I appreciate things even more and there’s this kind of understanding that this is my hood. I like L.A. because it’s gritty -- I mean it’s definitely getting a little hoity toity with the gentrification and all that -- but there are still parts of it that mean a lot to me and the heart of the city. There’s so much culture, and I love this culture clashing that happens here, I always like when opposites clash toward each other.
L.A.’s always been my thing -- I don’t know how I would move away.
What was it like growing up?
I grew up in El Sereno for the most part in a really female charged family and household. My grandma, my mom, my aunt, they were all my moms. My dad wasn’t really in the picture. I would see him every other weekend, if that. There wasn’t really an important male role in my life and i think that def helped shape me in some ways for the better.
What did music mean to you at that time?
Music really was a way to escape. At one point I was just living with like a bunch of people in a 2-bedroom apartment -- just like our huge family. I was able to seek and find refuge in music. At that time all I would listen to was pop music on the radio or have my mom rent some sing along tapes but all that changed eventually.
Who would you listen to?
The first band I really fell in love with -- one that ultimately changed my life was No Doubt -- in their prime. I remember when they first came out, I was in 3rd or 4th grade, and they really had an impact on me and made me think, “hey, I really wanna do this when I grow up.”
Why do you think you were so drawn to them?
I think it was just everything -- the styling, the music, Gwen being a badass.
Love that! So, when did you start making music?
It wasn’t until high school that I really started to make music. It was me and some old friends, Danny and Val, just guitar, drums and me just screaming. Siouxsie and the Banshees, PJ Harvey, M.I.A., The White Stripes, The Distillers , Peaches -- they all became huge influences.
Based on your posts, I would say you’re definitely a M.I.A. fan!
I discovered her in high school and as I got older, I get -- wow -- my tongue is just getting twisted thinking about it. She’s so inspiring because she’s always been herself and no matter what gets thrown at her, she’s been there standing tall. She’s been misunderstood so much. And she still stands by her message. It’s important as an artist to stand your ground and to be true to yourself.
How has the way you make music evolved?
When I started music, it was just more like venting and expressing. You know, just really stuff that was happening around me. I had this friend in high school who got into drugs and cutting… I was singing about that. I think that’s why I started writing -- to just talk about what was going on. Now I have a better sense of who I am -- I mean I don’t think I truly know who I am -- I’m growing every day. But I still try to be true to how I feel. At the end of the day it’s always an emotional experience to make music.
It seems you are part of a very special queer community in L.A. When did you start to break in as a performer?
For sure. At first when I was booking gigs, I thought I had found similar communities with moody post punk bands. But it wasn’t until I got a text from Gianna Gianna and she rolled me over to this night called Queer Space Party. It’s hosted by The Jordyn Show (Jordyn Kramer) -- she started it in Philly where she’s from and now they have an L.A. night which Peter Kalisch has been curating the past few months. I remember playing there just on a microphone and from there that’s when I felt more stuff started happening. I started finding more spaces where people got what I was doing, I became familiarized with more queer artists and just free people.
Then from there I got in contact with Queer as Punk hosted by Olivia Gonzales (pussy Tuesday) She’s a bio queen by the name of Baby.
There’s just been so much love from them and that party. The Queer as Punk community really tries to lift up all the local acts, and they’re really inclusive. It’s something I’m very blessed to be apart of.
Amazing! What else can we expect to see at Queer As Punk?
There’s definitely drag king and queens -- they have a drag show, sometimes they’ll have a lip sync and vendors. It happens every month. The Queer as Punk two-year anniversary is actually this month!
What other shows do you have coming up?
We just got booked for Echo Park Rising! it’s like SXSW before SXSW became corporate and lost what made it special. We have another show this week at the Rec Center in L.A. for Queer Space Party – it’s an insane lineup.
What can people expect from a Duderella show?
To be surprised. People are definitely surprised that we make so much noise, especially since there’s just two of us! But the response has been awesome. For me, I’m kind of bordering between wanting to just scream on a microphone and perform but I also have a bass and I just wanna play. I know one thing, you won’t be bored at a Duderella show.
Just watching your performances, you give so much energy! How does that feel to give that and does the audience give it back?
There’s this exchange that happens when performing. It feels like a relief honestly to exchange -- you know, I’m just saying my truth. And for people to feel that and then seeing people sing to my songs. When I first heard people singing my songs I was like that’s weird! That shit’s wild [laughs].
Why is it so important to foster safe and inclusive queer spaces in music?
I think it’s important because a lot of people, especially youth don’t always have that in their lives. Some of them don’t have a safe space to perform, express themselves or feel at home let alone just be themselves. I didn’t have these things growing up and I think it’s a beautiful thing that queer spaces are growing and expanding.