Robert Maril

The out member of the trio Kings talks about exploring the relationship between queer identity and country music.
March 12, 2014
Since forming country music trio Kings in the summer of 2012 along with Emily Bielagus and Stephanie Bishop, out musician Robert Maril hasn’t shied away from addressing the tension between being a gay artist and performing in the traditionally less-than-welcoming genre.
“We’ve called ourselves a queercore country trio from the start,” says Maril, the band’s cellist.  “It was always really important to me to not only embrace our queer identity—we all three identify as queer—but to not let our queerness get buried in the details.“
The band just released two new remixes to their song “Western Sky” off their debut E.P. Bones and will perform as part of the RWO: Salon in Williamsburg on March 23. They also have an East Coast tour planned for spring.
“It’s country/pop played in a folk idiom on acoustic instruments by gay people,” explains Maril. “Our songs aren’t about being gay, but they’re all about being gay.

Choose one favorite in each grouping:

Country Icon: Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, The Dixie Chicks
Dolly Parton is in my blood. 9 to 5 is the first movie I can remember seeing; I had all of Dolly’s 1972-1991 output on vinyl by the time I was 11. She’s like the other grandma we haven’t met yet.

Favorite Western: High Noon, The Good The Bad And The Ugly, The Lone Ranger, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
Girls Will Be Girls, because I’ve never seen any of those movies and have no plans to.  But people who haven’t seen Girls Will Be Girls are throwing their lives away.

Short Answer:

Who would you say is Kings biggest musical influences?
Dixie Chicks, Ani DiFranco, The Indigo Girls, Jackson Browne, Fleet Foxes… and your high school acapella choir.

What does “queercore country” mean?
We call ourselves “queercore country” instead of just “folk” because, though none of our songs are explicitly about the queer experience, we have a strong belief that our queerness fundamentally--even if unintentionally--colors our existence.  We’re also really into the idea of making music that sounds pretty traditional—the Bones EP isn’t going to shatter any eardrums--but that’s made by three out queer people. Country music isn’t always gay-friendly, so we’re forcing its hand.

What attracts you to the genre of country music?
It’s a uniquely American musical genre that sprang up from the mountain traditions of our ancestors, music that festered up in the hills and hollers while everything else was changing all the time down in the valley, thereby maintaining a lot of traits its shares with super-traditional Irish and English music.  I mean: what’s not to like? Plus boots.

What do you think would surprise people most about your music?  
We don’t say shit, fuck, piss, or motherfucker one goddamned time in ANY of it!

What’s your go-to drink?
In the winter, a rye manhattan. In the summer, Tito's vodka cut with limonata and a splash of soda (it’s called the Gay Gardens and is named after our share in the Pines)

Do you think that country music as a whole is becoming more accepting of LGBT artist?  
I think that America as a whole is becoming more accepting of LGBT artists, but mainstream country music is the exception to that rule: in mainstream country, everybody’s white, everybody’s straight, everybody drives a black pickup with KC lights, everybody drinks beer on the front porch talkin’ ‘bout their proud grandpas and the time he fought for their freedom.  Kings has come to throw a tray full of Cosmos at those people.

What’s a trend you wish would die?
Miley Cyrus. I don’t need her to die, I just need her to go away from all cameras forever.

What’s one of your favorite performance memories so far?
The show we did last May at a festival in Marfa, Texas.  It was 100+ degrees in the shade and we stood there singing our earnest country music in the blazing, torturous 5 o’clock sun, drinking beer and each secretly thinking but not telling the other, This is how I die.

What’s in your fridge?  
Kale, hummus, and Rush.

If you could sing a duet with any country artist who would it be?
Too hard, next question. No fuck that: Reba McIntyre “She Don’t Love You.” Or “Whoever’s in New England.”  Or any of them.

What’s the most played song on your iPod?
That’s too technologically advanced for me to find out, but I think it’s safe to say it’s a dead heat between “Gypsy” by Lady Gaga and “Gypsy” by Fleetwood Mac.

What’s your favorite country lyric?  
“I’m undone, so come and do me.” —Dolly Parton in “I Wanna Fall in Love”