We first heard New Orleans bounce music about six years ago when our pal Quintron came through Canada and left us a Katey Red mix tape. It sounded exactly like what you would imagine a trans-prostitute screaming at the top of her lungs over distorted beats to a roller-rink full of young boys yelling "booty clap" and "titty whap" would sound like (awesome). Eventually music nerds in the rest of the world picked up on it, but in Canada it remained mostly musical myth. So when we heard some friends were bringing Big Freedia to Montreal we got really stoked. Freedia's sub-genre of bounce is called "sissy bounce" because it's totally gay (in the "men having sex with men" way, not in the, "I cared about the finale of Lost" way) and for her first Canadian performance ever, she's bringing along DJ Rusty Lazer and dancers, probably because she suspects that watching Canadians try to clap their asses is like watching bankers get down at a wedding. We caught up with Freedia while she was running some errands in her home town to learn a bit on how one "backs it up."
Vice: Hey, what store were you at?
Big Freedia: Party City, you know, I'm a party planner.
You do gigs every night too, right?
Yes. I'm actually playing 5 tonight.
Five? In one night? How do you keep up your energy?
So, what makes bounce music the best for booty shaking?
It's an up-tempo beat, it's a call and response type music and it's based out of New Orleans. It's just something that's happening in New Orleans and that's what makes it so unique and so special.
Where does everyone in New Orleans learn to booty shake?
Well, most of the little children, you know, the younger generation, they learn it from their momma talking about going to the club. Children pick up on everything and I mean everything. They watch their friends shake. What's so unique about New Orleans is, if someone stops in a car, just on the street, the girls will stop whatever they're doing, talking, playing cards, freaking, they will stop and just bend over and shake it. And when the car leaves they'll say, "Oh, thank you! I'm going out tonight," or something like that. It's just something about that beat.
What about the man booty shake? The ladies shake it at your shows but the men get right in there too.
Oh trust me, they have to make it lower to the floor than the girls. A lot of them shake better than the girls here. Most of the guys here have a dance where they move their shoulders. It's something very unique that we have going on here. Do you have any tips for the people in Montreal?
You move your backbone and ass muscles. You can practice in the mirror. Look it up on YouTube, we have many people practicing at home and showing different things in their videos so just check it out, or, you know, practice at home. Those butt muscles are the most important to move.
How do I get strong ass muscles?
From working out, from dancing. Your butt muscles don't have to be that strong. Some people have loose muscles, or whatever, but it's all about how you work your backbones to make your booty move. It's all in the backbone.
Even the white girls?
One of my dancers, one of the best shakers I have is white and she also teaches a class on how to booty shake. We teach it when we go out on the road too. We do it at the club--in New York we did an hour beforehand at the venue. We had a warehouse we did it at one time.
What's the craziest move you've seen at one of your shows?
I just saw a guy not too long ago who tripped me out. He crawled back toward the wall and started booty popping--he tripped the whole crowd out. It was crazy. He put his feet on the wall, upside down, and he was on his hands on the floor shaking his booty up and down. Everyone just lost it.
Who's the best Sissy Bounce shaker: You, Katey Red or Sissy Nobby?
I would say Sissy Nobby. He's got more energy than me. I'm older than him now and I've been doing it a bit longer than him—working at clubs for the last eight to ten years non-stop, six days a week. You know, when I feel the extra energy, the extra boost to dance, I do, but I have so many shows.
Have you guys ever competed?
Nobby's my daughter so we don't compete, but when we get on stage and dance together you can see, you know, people say, "Oh they're both going hard. Mother and daughter, they're both going hard," but it's not a competition. (note: they're obviously not really mother and daughter, it's a gay mentor type thing.)
What about competitions between people who go to the shows?
Oh yeah, all the time. Every time we do a concert it's a competition. One girl is going to shake her hips against another girl and we watch to see who's going to win. When Nobby and I do a show together, Nobby will buck up one girl, and I'll be bucking up the other girl, and we'll go back and forth in a competition. Sometimes it gets a little hectic in New Orleans…for the most part it's fun and we can control the situation. There's a couple different moves, right? Like ass clapping or winding…How do I do those things?
It's self-explanatory. When I say, "bend over," you bend over and do whatever I tell you to do. It's a command that tells you what to do and then you do it. With clapping, you basically clap how you would clap your hands, but with your butt cheeks. Do you get the motion I'm trying to explain?
Yes. I'm trying it right now.
If I say wind it, if I say mix it up, it's like mixing up some batter for a cake. You make your ass go around and around. In New Orleans, they've been doing it since they were small. It's amazing how I'll tell a little baby—like one time I did a party and they had a little four-year-old baby and I said, "Lift your leg up!" and the baby lifted her leg up and the whole party just fell out. I was dying laughing. I couldn't finish rapping from being so weak. She was four years old! It just took something out of everyone in the hall.