A Magical Mix: Matt Petty + Cristy Michel

by Focus Staff | photo courtesy of Matt Petty

You Can Call Me Sir is an electronic rock collective featuring Louisiana-bred, LA based dominatrix Cristy Michel (vocals, guitars, bass, beats- both meanings) and Memphis based experimentalist Matt Petty (electronic trombone, found sounds, moody elements, verbiage). Their music meanders through rodeos and badlands, ambles into the disco and is darkly entertaining. Their music has been featured in Paper Magazine, OUTFEST LGBTQ Film Festival, and Flaunt, and can be heard at the usual online stores.

Why Sir?
Sir: About 10 years ago, a friend called me at 10 p.m. and asked me to attend a party. We were co-workers at a commercial dungeon in Los Angeles called The Dominion. They needed the skills of a professional dominatrix. As soon as the door opened a woman asked my name. I smiled and said, “You can call me Sir!” She never forgot my name after that.

What made you decide to form a band?
Matt: We met at an artist residency in California in 2016. We immediately bonded. We both believe that music is a form of freedom. Its the purest way of receiving emotions, vibrations. It could definitely impact the future. We are very fortunate to harness that power.

How would you best describe your music?
Matt: When I think about the specific genres that have influenced our music I might call it ethereal post-punk- experimental-indie-new age-goth-rock. Our backgrounds overlap in interesting ways. Cristy’s experience playing in punk bands and Matt’s experience performing experimental and classical music have a lot to do with how we approach our writing. We both admit our influence coming from the Southern US as having an impact as well. The fact that we use an alternative instrumentation (guitars, bass, electronic trombone, found sounds) and have a larger picture of what our music represents brings it more toward the genre of popular art music. Maybe the catch all term would be alternative music.

Are you spiritual or religious in any way? If so how?
Matt: The music we make reflects on magic and rituals that we participate in, either accidentally or self-curated, and how these rituals have an effect on our lived identities. During quarantine we performed in a few queer witch rituals via Zoom. We also like to use a lot of freaky imagery, which is definitely inspired by occult mysticism. We have a reoccurring theme of the occult that parallels with our own alternative lifestyles. So in way yes, we make Queer Magic at its darkest.

What are the issues that are closest to your heart?
Matt: Worldwide freedom and equality. Women’s rights. Children’s rights. LGBTQ rights. The multiple collisions of race and culture that are embedded in every corner of the world.

Has trans visibility in the last few years significantly changed things for the better?
Matt: Absolutely. It’s empowering to feel comfortable in our own skin. But it is also a form of expression that is so connected to physical being. Its inspiring to see that freedom.

What does gay liberation mean for you today?
Matt: Through the pandemic and everything else, the community has come so far, and still has a long way to go. There is a generational suffering that still has to heal. There is still a tremendous amount of pressure that queer people are under from their families and society in general. Queer people around the world still live in danger every day, And there are still anti-trans legislation being written in 2021. 2020 was a year for opening our eyes to these things. I recognize where I’ve come from, and I often wonder how different my life would be if I never felt ashamed for simply existing. I think its important for the community to share their experiences, to protect one another, and to continue the progress for the gaybies of the future.

What’s your message to the gaybies of the world?
Matt: Don’t be afraid to explore yourself, your gender and your sexuality. Don’t forget your brothers and sisters who came before you, AIDS, and the time when being a homo was illegal. Don’t get too comfortable, we have more work to do for our community.