Over a video call with Remezcla, the 33-year-old singer-songwriter Rush Davis reflects on the influence of Mustache Mondays, the now fabled Los Angeles-based queer dance party that also served as a haven for local LGBTQ people of color, continues to have on his life. “It was truly inclusive and highlighted the real ‘other,’ like people that didn’t fit in anywhere, no boxes checked,” Davis says excitedly. “It was also the place where I really found myself. I didn’t have to posture or show up as anything other than me.” The essence of that now-gone but beloved weekly ritual is at the core of his latest project, Transmission, made in collaboration with Ezra Rubin, better known as the inventive producer and DJ, Kingdom.
Shortly after its launch, co-founded in 2007 by the late downtown visionary Ignacio ‘Nacho’ Nava Jr., Mustache Mondays quickly became a hotbed for those set out to go against the status quo. It also happens to be the exact same place where Davis and Kingdom first crossed paths back in 2013.
In its decade-long run, the party hosted and showcased a wide range of esteemed artists and newcomers, both from LA and beyond, such as out-of-the-box R&B singer Kelela, rapper Brooke Candy, Venezuelan avant-garde Arca, and dark-pop-meets-dance duo Nguzunguzu. Its stripped-down spirit and smeared-makeup ethos aligned more with those of DIY punk venues and dive bar performance art shows than the exclusionary and ultra-polished commonplace of gay nightlife across the city. “We had a space where we could just go fucking crazy. Nobody [was] judging you for trying on different identities. It was celebrated,” he adds.
For Davis, being among kin and finding a community that he saw his own identity reflected in as a queer, Black, and Mexican South LA native became critical at a young age. “My mother kicked me out at 15 for being gay,” he says. “The family that I grew up with…we didn’t look like each other. We were all different skin colors. Some spoke Spanish, some of us didn’t. But my grandma was always there for me. She’s a second-generation Chicana from Watts, and that’s alternative at its roots.”
“The family that I grew up with…we didn’t look like each other. We were all different skin colors. Some spoke Spanish, some of us didn’t. But my grandma was always there for me. She’s a second-generation Chicana from Watts, and that’s alternative at its roots.”
Sonically, Transmission takes on many forms. Its opening track, “Element,” is steeped in the fundamentals of underground club classics. Bass-heavy beats crafted to make your windows rattle and the driving syncopated pushes and pulls of deep house take center stage as the story of cyclic rendezvous unfurls (“I see what you’re saying/I feel it too/No hesitation/I wanna do/What you want to do…In your arms/I’m back in my element…In my bed/You’re back in your element”).
“Love Is Blood,” the latest single off of the album, synthesizes Davis and Kingdom’s unabashed love for early 2000s hip hop and tech-drenched R&B. Its sinuous beat weaves into Davis’s buttery-smooth falsettos as he alludes to those near blood-oath-like levels of commitment to the ones you love, a kind of intimacy that he found himself valuing even more after Nacho’s passing. It’s a sentiment that Davis describes as the “softness of masculinity,” one that you can also pinpoint in some of his other projects, like the creative direction in the video for “Same Size Shoe” by serpentwithfeet.
Rush Davis and Kingdom also make sure to extend the collaborative process and share the mic throughout their latest work. On the tropical pop-tinted “Anyway,” the silken vocals from Young Art Records labelmate Rochelle Jordan, interlock with Davis’s to produce an irresistible interplay, while model and singer Shaun Ross taps in on the steamy “Hormones.” On “Bad Side,” they enlist provocateurs Kiddy Smile and Gisele Xtravaganza of the legendary House of Xtravaganza (Davis’s house mother, a mentor, and chosen family member within vogue-ball communities) to construct a track fit to shake up any head-to-head ballroom battle.
Overall, Transmission holds a future-leaning philosophy, from the Mercury sigil on its album cover, to the messaging on songs like “Bleach” and “Nerve,” where Davis and Kingdom touch on being devoted to showing up for your community, even amid its ups and downs and all the mishaps.
“It’s important for us to recognize that we’re representative of something, and for that reason, to be explicit about that,” Davis states. “I choose to show up for my community dressed like my cousins and my uncles, knowing that they might have their feelings about me, you know? I’m still one of you, and I choose to represent you, so that we live on and that those that identify with us have an understanding of not being alone.”
Listen to Transmission below.