Icelandic drag queen Mighty Bear cuts a striking figure, think the Goth punk love child of Lady Gaga and RuPaul. GayIceland sits down with this unique performer to talk about their new music, gothic fantasy and a passion for fashion.
Might Bear has recently released a new EP entitled ‘Einn’ which deals with letting go and healing. “The concept of Einn was me trying to let go of a few things so there is a lot of sorrow on that EP,” the singer explains. “I find it best to deal with emotions through music and it is a very cathartic experience releasing this album.”
The artist’s performances and music bring together elements of electronic, punk and indie music which are not always automatically associated with the trappings and tradition of drag. “I have been creating music for as long as I can remember and for the last 14 years I have been in a metal band but I wanted to start a solo project for a long time. When the drag-group Drag-Súgur was born drag queen Ragna Rök contacted me and asked if I wanted to be in the first Drag-Súgur show. I really wanted to experiment with drag more and it was then that the final incarnation of Mighty Bear was born.”
“Because I was performing my own music the character that was born became this hybrid of both my male and female side.”
In the main, drag acts and performers that play with gender stereotypes on stage have traditionally lip synched to famous songs to create their characters and performances. However, very much the musician, Mighty Bear wanted to do something different.
“I love to lip sync but when Drag-Súgur started out I remember thinking to myself why lip sync when I am fully capable of making my own music to perform. Because I was performing my own music the character that was born became this hybrid of both my male and female side,” they say and add that there is a certain duality within all of us and they really try to embrace that with Mighty Bear. “Mighty Bear is more a shapeshifter depending on my mood and emotions at the time.”
Of course all performers, whether drag acts or not, use costume and fashion to cement their identity and this is especially true of Might Bear. Talking about bringing a gothic element to their costumes they say: “I have always loved extravagant things and have had a passion for fashion. Since my teen years when I discovered punk and metal I have loved all things dark so a lot of my inspiration comes from the gothic fantasy realm. My favourite piece at the moment is a gown Lovísa from Rokk og Rómantík sewed for me. It is based on a black wedding dress that she had made and I fell in love with.”
For Mighty Bear, the way things look is very important, and combining audio and visual elements to “create a world to accompany” their music is a source of “true pleasure.” Piecing together the highly visual elements of drag and gothic fashion, and of a diverse range of musical influences, Mighty Bear sets out to give their audience an experience with more than just a little dose of punk sensibility.
“First of all I want people to experience something. For me I always thought that if I wanted to hear perfectly played music I would stay at home and listen to the album, if you come to a show I want to give you something that you can’t experience from the album. I just love to perform and I think that shines through, I go on stage to express and release emotions and hopefully people are doing that with me.”
Togetherness and family
Of course Might Bear doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and thank god, because having a community of queer performers can only be a good thing. Gay Iceland recently interviewed performer and multimedia artist Skaði with whom Mighty Bear is close. “Me and Skaði share a very special bond since we both perform original music. I think though that a sense of community has more to do with togetherness and family more than inspiration.”
Might Bear is working fast, and another EP release is on the agenda in the next few months. “There is always something coming up, I can’t seem to stop,” they say, speaking about their busy schedule and we are glad of that, if only to see that fabulous black wedding dress.
“Since my teen years when I discovered punk and metal I have loved all things dark so a lot of my inspiration comes from the gothic fantasy realm.”
Mighty Bear will be performing and playing a DJ set at the Pride Party at Gaukurinn on August 11th. As well as taking to the stage at Iceland Airwaves taking place in Reykjavik in November 7-10th.
For more information go to www.mightybearmusic.com
All photos by Stephanie Zakas