Drag, Filth, Horror, Glamour: An interview with the Boulet Brothers
‘Dragula’ is the horror themed sensation that has ripped apart mainstream friendly drag. The show focuses on the darker dimensions to drag exploring filth, horror, punk and the political whilst maintaining glamour and showmanship. Born out of underground shows, Dragula keeps its nightlife essence giving viewers access to the shocking and unashamedly honest world behind the drag performance. Created and hosted by The Boulet Brothers (individually called Dracmorda & Swanthula), these two are a visual and creative treat known for their nightlife productions, homages to the cult horror scene and parallel looks. With Season 3 of Dragula on the way, The Boulet Brothers talk to us about how it all began, extreme elimination challenges and what gender and drag means to them.
The second season of “Boulet Brothers Dragula” has now finished and casting is open for your third season, how do you feel you’ve progressed as a show? SWAN: The show is just getting bigger and bigger – it’s really the same show, concept and basic idea but the budget, cast, sets, challenges, guests and décor are growing exponentially.
What do you look for in your Queens, and what do you avoid? S: We look for talent, toughness, drive and star quality. We believe that you have to have a thick skin, inner strength and knowledge to stand out and make a difference in the world today, so those are the qualities we try to pull out and develop in our contestants.
DRAC:As far as what we avoid we frown on whiners, and people who think change in the world comes from simply complaining on the internet. Ultimately, we would like our stars to be able to go out into the world and inspire others. We want them to be able to go out and have difficult conversations with people that may not agree with them and hopefully inspire change in people.
One thing that’s really stood out in the first season was how much it had a backstage nightclub feel. Was this an intentional progression from your live show? S:Yes, the show is based off of a club event and live pageant that many of the girls in the first season had competed in (and won). We as the Boulet Brothers are nightlife producers, so the whole premise of the show is that we are looking to train and crown a queen who can thrive in a nightclub environment. That being said, using the club as a set only seemed fitting.
D: It was absolutely not because we did not have a budget for the first season and had no choice but to shoot it in a club. That is also why the sound was bad. We wanted you to feel like you were in a club where you can barely hear anyone.
Which one of you came up with the idea of making the show into a programme? D:It was mutual (cough Dracmorda).
The second season includes lots more cinematic scenes, with lots of references to horror and cult classic films. How do you decide on the themes of the challenges? S:We just run with what inspires us!
If budget was no question, is there a specific film or theme you would love to create? D: It would be great to take the queens to a snowed in, arctic hotel for a season like in The Shining and see who survived in spring when the snow thawed.
Some of the extermination challenges are not for the faint heart, especially episode one in season 2! Do you ever worry about the contestants refusing or even there being legal issues? D:No because if they refused to participate they would be exterminated on the spot. The producers go over it all so thoroughly time and time again before we shoot – the contestants know exactly what they are signing up for and ultimately, we aren’t making them do anything. You also have to understand that we and the show come from an underground nightlife world where piercings, tattoos or shooting each other with paintballs isn’t a big deal.
Mainstream drag feels so clean, missing the John Waters style filth many of us grew up with. What is the filthiest performance you have each done? S: Yeah it does, and it’s for reasons like that we started Dragula in the first place. The drag we grew up around was filthy, political, punk, smart, disturbing and artistic and we refuse to let that style of drag be forgotten. As far as the filthiest performances we’ve done as the Boulet Brothers it depends on what your version of filth is. We’ve done religious themed shows that would make Melissa Befierce’s final runway on S1 seem PG13. We’ve wrestled in blood, guts and mud, and put on extreme fetish performances for years – it really just depends on what you define as filth, but I would say we have probably equally offended everyone on some level.
Do you think the extreme horror factors of your show keep it from going fully into the mainstream? Do you worry about Dragula losing its essence at all? S: Not at all. We wouldn’t take it to a platform that would hold it back as it would go against the whole premise of the show. That being said you can get away with a lot on Netflix and HBO these days. It’s a different world, and there are tons of quality platforms to choose from.
What was the first horror film you ever saw? D:Halloween.
You also have a popular night time show, Queen Kong. In what way is this different to Dragula? D:Queen Kong is a huge weekly queer party, it’s not dark at all. It does have queer punk energy, but it’s more queercore, hairy young guys making out kind of drunk, wild vibe.
You both wear some fantastic outfits, what is your favourite look or piece you have each worn? S:We both agree that the outfits we wore on the season one finale are our favourites – the black gowns that were inspired by the movie Legend.
You have travelled all over with the show, how does London/UK audiences compare to ones back in LA? S:The London / UK audiences have been incredible – they are polite, thoughtful and bring us gifts so really, I guess they are our favourites!
There is currently a bit of controversy about gender and drag in the media. What does drag mean to you? D: Our feeling is that anyone can be a drag artist regardless of their gender, and we’ve maintained that since the first Dragula club pageant back in the day. Drag kings, Trans people and afab queens have all competed alongside traditional drag queens on stage at our events (and have won). We are just as open when it comes to contestants on the tv show. There are actually drag kings and Trans people who we wanted on the show since season one but who couldn’t commit to it at the time for whatever reason so it’s not for lack of trying on our end. It will happen when the time is right.
And finally, you represent the underground, unusual and unapologetic side to drag. Where do you see the show going in the future? DRAC: It’s the evolution of queer TV. It’s rock and roll, its rebellion, its queer angst and that appeals to many people. If you’re queer then you already don’t fit in, and more and more queer people are realizing that they identify more closely with our monster family of misfits than the polished, white washed versions of themselves that they are seeing on tv today. I think they see a raw, defiant, proud group of creative people who aren’t afraid to change the status quo and they want to be a part of it. The plague is spreading darling, and you can’t escape it – you better get into it.