Frootie Flavors formed back in 1995, just as queercore bands were becoming more visible in the Bay Area, and the Santa Cruz queer-pop duo felt an obvious kinship to the scene. However, when they’d go up to play in San Francisco, they felt a little out of place bringing their upbeat, dancey pop music to the stage.
“I always felt like we were the country bumpkins when we went up to San Francisco to play,” says drummer Vnes Dowling. “We’d go up there and a lot of bands were edgy punk or just experimental with lots of style. We’d be like, ‘we sing cuntry songs—songs from the cunt.’”
The band would always kill, though. They brought a party: saucy sing-alongs, and lyrics that might seem offensive on the surface, but were silly and empowering to the LGBTQ community. The only time they ever bombed was when they got booked to play a queer youth prom in front of kids who wanted to hear hip-hop and R&B.
“We were just a little bit too fuddy duddy for them,” says Dowling.
She describes Frootie Flavors as an “activist dyke band” in the early years. They played queer marches and nearly every year of Santa Cruz Pride. In 1999, singer Stu Doogan transitioned to male, and later Dowling to non-binary. The bass player that joined the band in 2001 was also trans.
“We became a transtastic power trio,” she says.
Over the past nine years, however, they’ve had a new bass player, Valerie Atha, who identifies as a lesbian—“we’ve become a dyke-trans band again,” says Dowling.
In 22 years, the band has maintained the same fun spirit. It’s what keeps the members playing, and the fans still coming out.
“Our main thing is always having a good time. Our main theme as a band has always been partying. All of our songs are very catchy; it’s a sing-along every time. We get a lot of audience participation going,” Dowling says. “We’re so Santa Cruz.”
INFO: 9 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 24. Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $8. 429-6994.