MEET THE QUEER GLAM ROCK DUO THAT WILL HAVE YOU BEGGING FOR MORE
Story // LEXXE
Photos // Sam San Román
Last month in a tiny, sweaty basement in Ridgewood, Queens, BITE! the band accidentally played their first show. What started as a music video shoot fueled by friends and Pabst Blue Ribbon, quickly turned into one of the best performances I’ve seen in years. The crowd knew the words by the second take, and not once did any of us remember we were on camera. The music, their first single ‘Beg”, is a sexy guitar soaked anthem worthy of an arena. The crowd was told the dress code was,” Rock’n’roll, punk, hardcore, goth, freak, slut” and the poster for the evening advertised “make out with Cunio, drink beer, eat pizza and rock out”. A warning that “you may get messy” was printed on the side, and I can confirm that by the end of the shoot I was 6 cigarettes deep with a handle of Jack Daniels in my garter belt.
BITE! Is gearing up to take over as the newest queer glam rock duo. I sat with the band to talk about their beginnings, and how we all came to end up in that basement. As I speak with BITE!, there is an overarching theme of unity and togetherness. When asked what their audience will look like, they say “everyone,”. Indeed, in the midst of the chaos that is the world, rock ‘n’ roll continues to fuel trends, fashion, music and bring people together from all corners of the earth in sweaty solidarity. Its defiant and ungovernable spirit still speaks to those who grew up in its golden age and to those just discovering its electric essence. While we are maybe well past the era of leather jackets and hairspray tinged rock ‘n’ roll, perhaps it’s time to bring it back with what we’ve learned since then, and perhaps it’ll take two queer people who met by twist of fate, to carve out that whiskey soaked world once again. Find out how a Freddie Mercury tattoo, a burlesque club and a lesbian affair may have led to this queer resurrection of rock’n’roll.
Check out the exclusive photos and interview and the the debut music video BEG below:
Who is BITE!?
Alexa: My name is Alexa San Román and I sing and play guitar in BITE!
Cunio: My name is Cunio, and I’ve been pronouncing Alexa’s last name wrong for the entire time I’ve known her, which is like five years now. But anyway…. I sing and write for BITE! And I don’t play shit!
I met Cunio, in a sweaty burlesque club and I met Alexa in her basement before we shot a music video where I did end up in pasties so, honestly not too different. Let’s give a little backstory on how all of this came together and what led you to each other
Cunio: I remember the moment that LEXXE and I met. I was doing a sexy burlesque show in Bushwick and she was impossible to miss w bright pink hair and a Freddie Mercury tattoo on her shoulder. I had just finished singing a Queen song (‘The Show Must Go On’) and we just started gagging over each other. 6 months later we were working together and she had the biggest, dumbest crush on this girl named Alexa who shot her music video. *All laugh* Nobody knew where it was going to go but that truly was the beginning of BITE! If LEXXE hadn’t had a crush on Alexa, then…
Alexa: I wouldn’t have come to see XIV, which is where I saw Cunio sing for the first time and I was just completely like, “What the hell??”. This guy rules and we need to do something together and I NEED to get him to sing on one of my songs. That was honestly the first thought I had watching him sing that night. Then through us all hanging out we got closer and ended up doing a cover song together first.
Cunio: Side note – I always had an awkward crush on Alexa cause she’s so hot! Everytime she came to the theater and was a block or 2 away I’d say, “who’s this hot James Dean looking mother f*cker!” Then she’d get closer and I’d be like damn, that’s LEXXE’s girlfriend.
Cunio: But yeah, it had been a long time since I had written original music and Alexa eventually approached me to do a cover of the song Get Free by The Vines. The Pandemic happened, and she calls me like, “come to Long Island were finally gonna do it,” Cut to a year later we shot a video for it and about halfway through the shoot LEXXE looked up at us like, “so how long have you guys been a band?”
Alexa: That was it, we kind of looked at each other and thought, this actually DOES feel like a band. Maybe this is something we should talk about. That day felt really fun, but I think we both went home and felt like this might be more than just a one time collaboration.
Cunio: I remember LEXXE said “You guys are like Freddie Mercury and Joan Jett in a supergroup. Any label would be stupid not to sign you,” and that was the first time we really considered it. It’s funny because for years LEXXE and I wanted to write together but the person I was supposed to be working with was right next to her the entire time. The chemistry is just something you can’t fake. A couple days later at a NYE party while everyone else was drunk and raging, we were just going through all of our past band traumas and mapping out how to do it and avoid all of those pitfalls.
Alexa: We had no idea what our original music would even sound like!
Cunio: We agreed, let’s just see what happens and if it’s good we’ll follow that path.
Alexa: And here we are!
Cunio: It’s been 10 years since I’ve written and I was so insecure but within the first hour it just snowballed into something effortless. We’d literally come in with two halves of the same song and without any conversation they completely complimented each other. Six songs later we’ve realized it just flows.
Alexa: Yeah, you can’t really make that up.
You both have had really wild and different careers, how is this moment different you think?
Alexa: I mean, every chapter of my musical career I feel like has been pretty different from the one before. It’s been a lot of growth and figuring out who I am as an artist and I wouldn’t ever say I regret any of them, I think they all essentially prepared me for THIS moment. I’m used to a lot of collaboration with my musical projects, I’ve always found myself in some sort of a duo situation in my past. I feel like I took a break from that for a minute and realized how lonely it is to do a solo project and was really craving that comradery. When this came together with Cunio I knew it was exactly what I was missing and I was ready to do this with someone who I genuinely feel like I have an effortless collaboration with. That’s the biggest thing that’s making me want to hit the gas on this.
Cunio: Totally. I started out doing original projects but fell into being a voice for hire for all these touring cover bands. I got to live the fantasy but didn’t have any ownership of the creation. I remember people pulling me aside being like, “You’re too good to be singing covers,” and I always blew it off but like Alexa said I don’t regret any of it- each gig led me to this place. And I lucked out because Alexa is truly 4 people for the price of one. I contribute as co writer and vocalist but what makes this so special is that she plays bass, she plays guitar, she writes but she’s also an incredible filmmaker, director, and editor. So many of the things you need take a stab in this industry are in house!!
When I look at BITE! I see queer glam rock, is this how you want it to come across?
Cunio: That’s our current era for sure!
Alexa: Yeah, I mean I think that’s where we’re starting and stepping off.
Cunio: I hate when people say we’re going to “bring back rock’n’roll” but I actually feel like that sometimes. It sounds arrogant haha but it does feel that way!
Alexa: Haha! It does it does but yeah
Cunio: What’s fun is that our queerness is almost accidental to the project. We are extremely proud and loud about it
Cunio: But our music is very open. We’re not queer at the exclusion of anybody.
Alexa: We want to push the boundaries a little bit, we want to give rock’n’roll a new face a new name, a new look.
Cunio: I think we can challenge the kind of audiences that typically consume this kind of music.
Cunio: We can change their perception of what a queer person is. I feel like straight people are going to eat this shit up and they might not even recognize that that’s what we represent until they find out, and I hope there’s the opportunity…
Alexa: To change some people’s minds.
Well I mean I’m sure to that point that a lot of people didn’t know (and I don’t know how) about Freddie Mercury, and I’m sure a lot of people in the audience, older straight dudes were just rocking out with this dude in a unitard! They were experiencing queer art without realizing it and maybe left with a new perspective without realizing it !
Alexa: And at the end of the day nobody cares! They care about the music, they want to sing, they want to dance. They want to rock out.
That leads perfectly to my next question, who is your fan base and who do you want it to look like?
Cunio: Hopefully everybody! We want it to be as young and old and diverse as possible!
Alexa: The thing about this project that I love so much is just I think you and I went into it together with the feeling of just wanting to have fun! We don’t give a shit if anyone likes it, if they do that’s a bonus. We’re just trying to have a good time and make something that we enjoy doing. So I want our audience to follow that same sentiment. I want people to come to our show and know that, “Oh we’re going to a BITE! show This is going to be fun. It’s a party.
Who are some artists you see yourself playing with? I would pass away if you got to tour with Joan Jett some day..
Alexa: I mean OBVIOUSLY!
Cunio: Any of the legacy bands are definitely on the list
Alexa: Joan Jett, I think KISS is on their last tour but.. Maybe they’ll do another last tour. Which they’ve done a few times I think
Tell me about the music video shoot day and why you chose “Beg” as the first single?
Cunio: I mean, this is a fun one to talk about because Alexa wrote it with me in mind and it existed before I ever got to it.
Alexa: Yeah! We were talking about the project and I felt like I needed to get a head start on this! So I was listening to a lot of inspiration, I actually was listening to American Woman by Lenny Kravitz. I just felt like I wanted to write a rockin ‘guitar bass song. After playing around for a while the riff from ‘Beg’ came out and I built the whole instrumental on logic and basically spit out the song from start to finish instrumentally. Me and my basically brother in law Derrick Mordente sat together, and he helped me with some lyrics and it came together. And the thing is I kept saying, “I just don’t hear me singing this verse, and I feel like it’s Cunio“ And this was one of the first things I brought to him to say hey, I think THIS is the vibe for the band. And you agreed!
Cunio: It’s so true! We chose this for the first single because it casts the widest net in terms of who we can attract as fans and the sort of people who are going to be into our music to begin with.
Alexa: It was hard to choose but I feel like we both agreed that this song really represents BITE! as we are right now, as our first single this is who we are and you’re going to get the point.
Cunio: It’s so funny because people who know me from my other projects are going to hear this and be like “Oh yeah that’s such a Cunio song,” when really I just showed up and it was waiting for me like a gift! I put a little stank on it but it was pretty much fully formed.
Alexa: Also, shout out to Ray Marte (Moontooth) for absolutely crushing drums on this single and laying down an epic performance. Working with my long time collaborator/producer Anthony Lopardo on this project was such a fun experience, I can’t wait to show everyone what’s next.
Talk about the music video day and why it was so special!
Alexa: WELL, we were running on empty because we’d shot another music video the night before in Long Island. The next day we drove back to Brooklyn, came to my apartment and dismantled the entire basement, started pasting a bunch of newspapers on the walls to make some sort of creative set on no money! Everyone was all hands on deck, a couple of coffees deep and we just invited all our friends and family- to come and basically have a rock show in my basement.
Cunio: Part of the reason I’m so proud of it is that Alexa, Derrick, myself, Jon Brick our drummer and our extended family, who we couldn’t do any of this without, just rolled up our sleeves and got to work.
Alexa: The band was putting up the set haha! And we were lucky enough to have a good group of friends and family willing to step up and pitch in
Some of them knew the words by the end!
Alexa: Yes! They did
Cunio: I feel like the video captures what we would like to see when play live. It was such an inclusive experience. Everybody’s different but into it, and that’s the space that we would like to carve out for ourselves.
Style influences for the ‘Beg’ video? Where did you guys get these outfits? They’re killer!
Cunio: We’re very lucky to have a bunch of talented friends, one of whom is Christopher Palu who people are familiar with for his work on Project Runway-
Alexa: He recently worked with Joan Jett! He’s a good friend and offered to step in and help us take our clothes to the next level for the shoots. We’re so grateful for his input and guidance on what BITE! the band looks like. And what it will become stylistically, it’s going to be a really fun journey to get to have together. Especially with someone else involved in helping create where our wardrobe is going to go.
Lastly I was wondering why you think that queer people relate to rock?
Cunio: I think it’s because rock has always given a voice to the outsider. The person who felt like they didn’t belong. It doesn’t matter why you were bullied but we all were in school. When you look at the true founders of rock n roll, people like Big Mama Thornton, Rosetta Tharpe, Little Richard… it has always come from & existed to give voice to oppressed, queer, marginalized folks.
Alexa: Yeah I mean, rock ’n’ roll music was always something that people were throwing stones at, saying “its the devils music” I think there’s certainly some parallels there with the queer experience I think that’s why it’s such a welcoming place to go to where everyone just wants to rock out together.
High heels or long legs?
Cunio: High heels !
Alexa: *laughs* High heels yeah!
Who’s the sexy redhead in the video?
Cunio: Which ONE ??
Favorite BITE! lyric- it doesn’t need to be from ‘Beg’?
Cunio: I know what mine is, “I was just a minute to you but you’re eternity to me”.
Alexa: I never was asked this question by anyone- I mean, I’m just going to cheat and say the whole song ‘Parasite’ but none of you will know what that is yet so stay tuned!
Where are you in three years?
SIMULTANEOUSLY: MSG baby!
Alexa: I think it’s feasible
Cunio: Yeah, on a bus
Slay. Anything you want to say about the future of BITE! ?
Alexa: Get ready, and I don’t think anyones ready…
Cunio: Yeah buckle up!