Iowa-born writer and musician Ian-Michael Bergeron is best known to NYC nightlife for baring it all in his weekly “Stories” column in Get Out Magazine, and as the brunch host at Cafeteria. But on April 14th at the West End, we will see a very different side of him as he fronts his rock band Decibel for their EP release party. Ian dishes with Thotyssey about what goes on behind the scenes of his column, and how we can save the children from pop culture blandness.
Thotyssey: Thanks for talking to us, Ian! So to begin, how many Des Moinesians do you run into in Gay NYC? I bet there’s a lot.
Ian-Michael Bergeron: There are so many Iowans in New York. I might have more Iowan friends now than I did when I lived there!
What was life like growing up there?
A perfect mix of wholesome and accepting. I don’t want to spend my twenties there, but there’s nowhere else I would have wanted to grow up.
Sounds nice. You went to college in Cedar Rapids, is that where you started to explore your sexuality and creativity?
I’ve always been creative. I’ve been singing since I was six, and practically writing before I learned how to write. I also came out of the closet at 14, so I was pretty set by the time I went to college.
I found a listing of a book you wrote there called Letters to Danielle. What was that about?
That was my senior thesis, a collection of three short stories. The pieces are character driven, and really about what we’ll do when we love someone, and how we torture ourselves when that love is gone.
So, what are your favorite books or authors? Who influenced your own writing?
My all time favorite author is Edith Wharton, I think Ethan Frome is the best “love” story of all time. I also love books of essays. I’ll read anything written by Joan Didion or Maya Angelou.
So, when and why did you come to New York?
I moved here in 2012, right after college. I needed to be in the most creative space I could find, and wanted to surround myself with people making real careers in the arts: naturally, New York City.
Where were your earliest hangouts here?
How did you become associated with Get Out Magazine?
Is there, like, a Get Out Office? Or is everything done remotely by the contributors?
Are you eligible for a Get Out Award in June, or is that considered nepotism?
You know, I’m not sure! I just joined the magazine in December, I should probably ask!
Good luck if you can! Does Stories have an overall theme that you’re trying to convey about your life, or NYC gay life, or whatever?
It’s all about dating, sex, and relationships–most often mine, but occasionally others. I think the main point is how rough the dating scene here is, and how relatable bad dates are.
The column can get pretty racy, as you’re describing some of your sexual encounters. Do you ever worry about putting out that level of raw honesty?
Not at all. Honesty is the most important part of writing essays; readers can see right through too much embellishment, or straight up lies. We all go on dates, and most of us have sex. Why not be up front about that?
Have any guys you ever wrote about, even though you don’t use names, get angry that they’re in the column?
Typically I’ll ask permission, or even send them the first draft. Sometimes I’ll change someone’s profession, or the area they live in, so that it’s pretty anonymous. As for my recurring “character”, The Ex Fiancé, we’ve not spoken since the column came out.
I’m sure he’s a regular reader, though! By the way, when writing it, have you ever been tempted to write “I couldn’t help but wonder… “a la Carrie?
Every single installment. Every. Single. One .Though, I’d argue my mishaps in dating are much more Bridget Jones’ Diary than Sex & the City.
Is there a current Mr. Big / Darcy in your life?
Very recently, yes there is. But I wouldn’t expect a column about him anytime soon.
Let’s talk about music. How long has music influenced your life, and who are some of your favorite recording artists?
Music has always influenced me. My dad was a painter and always had music playing, and my mom is a musician herself. Fleetwood Mac is my favorite band–Stevie Nicks has gotten me through some really tough times.
You front a band called Decibel. How did that come about?
Decibel was started by our guitarist, Mik, who reached out on multiple platforms to find musicians. He found me at a karaoke night. I’ve been in the band for a year and a half now.
How would you describe their sound?
Indie rock? It’s a little current, it’s a little eighties. We pull sounds and inspiration from so many different places, and we write our music together.
Is collaborative songwriting a challenge for you, being a prose writer?
Well, I don’t know music as well as the other members, especially Mik, so it’s actually perfect. We usually start with a basic track, then add a beat, then play around with melodies, and then add in lyrics. I have notebooks full of lyrics, and usually everything just falls into place after jamming long enough.
Did you enjoy recording your first EP with the band, or was it stressful?
It was very stressful. The first recording we actually had to discard, due to various issues, and record everything again at a new studio. But I’m extremely happy with how it turned out.
And there’s a very sharp video you made for “Out of Focus.” Can you tell us a little about the process of filming that?
Two graduate students from full Sail University in Florida (Mik found them as well) filmed all of the storyboard after hearing the rough track, and then came and actually filmed us in our rehearsal space. It’s so funny how long you film just to get a few minutes of footage.
[Update 2.3.2019: video removed from YouTube]
So there’s a release party at the West End on Thursday, April 14! How did you arrange this, and what can we look forward to that night? I assume Decibel is performing?
Yes! We’re performing the four songs on the EP, three covers, and two new songs. Well also be selling the EP and other merchandise.
That stage is amazing, I assume it will be your first time performing there?
It is! We’re very excited.
Will you be wearing a Nathan Ayon multicolored body-cut speedo and blazer?
You know I did think about it, but it didn’t show very well under the jacket I’m wearing. Maybe at our next show!
I see you also host at Cafeteria, gay nightlife’s favorite restaurant. What are your shifts there?
I actually work daytime, 9-5, and always Saturday and Sunday brunches. When you’re all hungover and need a fix!
Good to know! Okay, last (very loaded, sorry) question! There seems to be a whole generation of gay youth inheriting the earth who have been raised by phone apps and sugary pop music, with little or no exposure to rock or other genres, classic artists or literature of any kind. But for centuries before, urban gays have been creating profound art and leading important counter-cultural movements. How can you and other like-minded people give the young gays the artistic jolt they might need?
I think leading by example is the best way to get people interested. Just like our band pulls inspiration from all genres and time periods of music–and right now we’re writing a song inspired by my favorite book, Ethan Frome. We have a cover of Lana del Rey, which will attract a more current crowd, and then we expose them to a cover of Mr. Sandman, and a cover of a song by the Buzzcocks.
If we keep it alive, it will carry on to them.
Rock on! Thanks Ian, and we’ll see you Thursday!
Ian-Michael Bergeron’s column Stories can be found every week in the paper and online editions of Get Out Magazine. He and his band Decibel will perform at the release party for their EP at the West End on April 14th at 11pm. He is the host at Cafeteria Restaurant for Saturday and Sunday Brunch. Ian can be followed on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Decibel can be followed on Facebook, Instagram and Soundcloud.