Leisha Hailey is up for talking about lots of things. Texas. Her dog. The L Word. Her band Uh Huh Her’s new album, Nocturnes, released this month and already atop the iTunes electronic chart.
“That’s huge. Are you kidding?” she says, her voice hitting upper levels of cuteness. “I think it’d be weird if you didn’t get excited. I always buy my own copy of the album. I mean, at this point, you have to order it on (online). It’s just fun to have it.”
The disc was produced by Camila Grey (keyboards, guitar, Austin native) and, in a stroke of luck, Wendy Melvoin, best-known for her work with Prince & the Revolution and spin-off duo Wendy & Lisa. Melvoin and Lisa Coleman currently compose for TV and earned an Emmy for their work on the Showtime series Nurse Jackie.
Hailey is, of course, happy to chat about that, too, calling it “some super-lucky situation.” They spent almost a year perfecting Nocturnes’ fuzzy electro-rock sound.
“We sort of hit this production plateau where we didn’t really have the equipment to take it much further. We brought it to her, and she offered her studio. It was really incredible,” Hailey says.
“I think Wendy really simplified our sound. She really brought out the peaks and valleys. If it’s just the two of us for too long, we’re not hearing those things.”
Uh Huh Her’s Keep A Breast music tour hits three Texas cities this week, armed with prevention and awareness tactics targeting young folks. The Keep A Breast Foundation uses art, educational programs and celebrity endorsements (Iggy Pop, Kim Gordon, Katy Perry, Paramore) to support its mission.
Hailey, with little prompting, professes her Lone-Star love.
“I’m a huge Texas lover. I think we spent a cinco de Mayo there once. I think I had a good margarita,” she says with a laugh. “Something about you guys — you have a real zest for life. You’re really festive, but you’re crunchy. I love it.
“Like, I love a dirty cowboy or cowgirl who has some sort of flair to them. I love your aesthetic and way of life.”
Of course, you likely know by now what we’re getting at. The incident — which Hailey is understandably less enthusiastic about discussing.
Late last month, Hailey and Grey were kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight for “one, modest kiss,” and it unleashed a mini-firestorm of tweets, emotional statements and calls for boycotts.
“In no way were our actions on Southwest Airlines excessive, inappropriate or vulgar. We were simply being affectionate like any normal couple. We were on the airplane less than 5 minutes when all was said and done. We take full responsibility for getting verbally upset with the flight attendant after being told it was a ‘family airline,’” the pair said in a statement.
“No matter how quietly homophobia is whispered, it doesn’t make it any less loud.”
The Dallas-based airline, which claimed the situation escalated into one that “was better resolved on the ground, as opposed to in flight,” issued a half-hearted saying they “regret any circumstance where a passenger does not have a positive experience on Southwest” but still seemed to place the blame on Hailey and Grey, citing “several passenger complaints.”
This isn’t the first time Southwest has ruffled feathers. Filmmaker Kevin Smith was removed last year for being too fat, and Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong was ejected from a flight last month for saggy pants. (Really, Southwest?)
Earlier this year, pilot James Fritzen Taylor’s anti-gay, anti-Houston rant was accidentally broadcast over a local air-traffic control frequency and released publicly. (Taylor was suspended without pay and ordered to complete diversity education before being reinstated.)
Hailey is still understandably frustrated with her own ordeal.
“I wouldn’t say I’m at peace with it — at all. No,” she says. “I don’t feel that we’ve been given a proper apology or been made to look like who we really are. We’ve been dragged through the mud for absolutely no reason.”
The bright side, if there must be one, to so much sky-high foolishness is that it’s put a spotlight on Uh Huh Her’s quirky, compelling music. Hailey and Grey have a scrappy chemistry that anchors Nocturnes, and the best tunes have a warm ‘80s glow. It’s lush but never overworked, left-of-center but still sexy and listenable.
“We wanted to write songs that were less shoegaze-y, where people could actually dance or move. We felt like there was a lot of staring (at shows). We wanted a more uplifting sound,” Hailey says.
“Cam has like a really great vinyl collection, and she spent that summer listening and getting back to sort of a classic sound. Let’s be honest — you can’t really get that inspired from the radio these days. We really wanted to write sort of an anthemic record where choruses would swell to these really epic levels. That was kind of our through line to this whole thing.”
The disc was finished for more than a year before its release, which gave Hailey and Grey the unique opportunity to tweak things as they saw fit. It also allowed Hailey time to reflect on her unlikely legacy as part of The L Word, Showtime’s ground-breaking lesbian soap opera. She portrayed bisexual journalist Alice Pieszecki through the show’s five-year run.
“Seriously, that show was one of the most special times of my life,” she says. “Just being a part of something that was, at the time, so new and different and that I think made a lot of change in the world. Or at least was a part of it. It’s rare to be a part of something of that magnitude. It was almost more subtle that people fell in love with these characters and, through that, maybe gained some acceptance.”
Maybe Southwest Airlines could use some new in-flight entertainment.
8 p.m. Monday at Fitzgerald’s, 2706 White Oak. $15; 713-862-3838 or fitzlivemusic.com