Rhythm and muse: Tom and Mike of hot dance duo Dangerous Muse talk about loving the ’80s, being “supersexual,” and the power of eyeliner
Adam B. Vary
On a cool Saturday afternoon in a nondescript Hollywood photo studio, the members of Dangerous Muse–the new and impossibly pretty electronic dance-pop duo of Mike Furey and Tom Napack–prepare to shoot their first music video. It’s for their hit single “The Rejection,” which in November 2005 debuted at number 2 on the iTunes dance charts with practically zero promotion. As a skeleton crew preps the small, all-white set–an homage to cheap and simple early-’80s videos–vocalist and lyricist Mike, 23, consults with director Mike Korbic over the video’s female dancers’ outfits. Keyboardist and programmer Tom, 21, chills off to the side to a mix CD of dance music (Soft Cell, New Order) playing in the background, at one point quietly mimicking the chords to Madonna’s newest single, “Sorry,” on his trusty “keytar.”
Finally, the set in place, the proto-Robert Palmer black lace and stiletto outfits OK’d, Mike–sporting the requisite skintight low-rise jeans and loose-fitting black top–gets into place, the dancers strategically placed around him, waiting for the director’s cue. Korbic calls action, then for playback. The song’s Depeche Mode-esque synth chirps pump through the speakers, and the women swarm Mike, clawing at his clothes and pulling him to the floor as he struggles to sing to the camera lyrics like “I’d like to like you like you like me / But I can’t, please understand.”
The meaning seems clear–a sexy gay boy trying his best to fend off rabid female suitors. “It can definitely be read that way, for sure,” Mike says with a smile the next day by the rooftop pool of a West Hollywood hotel. But he continues, “I would like to leave it up to the individual listening to the song. I wouldn’t want to limited it to any specific interpretation.”
Mike’s not being cagey. He and Tom are the product of a growing pansexual New York City nightlife they discovered while students at Fordham University in the Bronx, so much so that when asked they both avoid placing a definitive flag anywhere on the Kinsey scale of sexuality.
“We’re supersexual,” concedes Mike, laughing. “I don’t think it fits in Kinsey’s chart. It’s multidimensional. I grew up in Maine. In Maine nobody’s cool with anything different at all. So when I came to New York I thought it was awesome that I was able to express myself in many different directions. It was so cool to move to New York and to be a part of this nouveau sexual revolution.”
“I think in this day and age,” adds Tom, “especially in the New York nightlife that we’re a part of, sexuality isn’t a label anymore. Everyone goes out, and you don’t think of people as gay or straight or bi. Everyone’s there, and a bunch of things happen. No one thinks twice about it.”
“There’s no such thing as ‘out’ anymore,” Mike interjects. “It’s like, everybody’s out. People are always trying to attribute behaviors to labels, and a lot of these behaviors are being stripped from genders. Even though you look like a man, you don’t have to act ‘like a man.'”
Like, for example, Tom’s indigo eyeliner, which he says he wears every day, “to class or whenever I see my family or go out to dinner or whatever”–he gets quieter–“and they have to deal with it.” Even though his parents may not quite understand it, Tom explains, “a lot of my friends come to expect this from me. At school on the days that I don’t wear it, they say I look weird.”
Mike immediately interrupts. “I like you without eyeliner too,” he says gently to Tom. “You’re fine.”
In fact, it quickly becomes apparent when talking with the pair how much the two have grown to complement each other in the short two years and change since they first met on a Fordham production of The Who’s Tommy. They often finish each other’s sentences or jump in when one gets off track. Where Mike listens to underground music so new he often doesn’t know the names of who made it, Tom says he “only likes ’80s music,” modifying his statement with a gamut of bands like the Who, Bauhaus, Peter Gabriel, and the Smashing Pumpkins. “Nowadays? Shoot, man, I don’t listen to any new music.”
To be clear, this is a platonic partnership, but like many successful bands the two have spent so much time together that in many ways they might as well be dating. “I couldn’t work with anybody other than Tom,” says Mike. “I don’t know how the hell we found each other. Something must have been right in the cosmos. I had written songs on the piano for a long time, but they sounded stupid. I’m not a singer-songwriter. I wanted something that had a harder edge to it, and you just can’t get that with a piano. You can’t have something [with a piano] that somebody’s going to dance to.”
“To find someone who finally was at least moderately interested in what I was interested in,” explains Tom, “was just the biggest thrill that I could’ve had.”
For the past six months, however, the two have lived on separate coasts. Mike moved to Los Angeles last fall, but Tom, a double major in music and psychology, still has one more year left at Fordham–“I’m not going to give up school because Mike is two years older than me”–and they’ve coped by relying on Apple’s audio instant messenger, iChat, to put down their tracks. (They shot the “Rejection” music video during Tom’s spring break.)
The duo, who’ve already played clubs in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, will put out a new digital release of a cluster of songs in May and an album in June through Cordless Recordings, the brand-new incubator label that music legend Seymour Stein brought Mike and Tom into when he signed Dangerous Muse to Sire Records in September 2005.
More importantly, however, between recording, performing, and school, have these boys had any time to date? “We both are single,” Mike confirms. “Looking for love.”
“Looking for love anywhere,” Tom agrees. “Just not with each other.” They look at each other for a split second, then break out laughing.
Vary also writes for Entertainment Weekly and Variety.
Photographed by Blake Little for The Advocate
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