Isley Reust is a force of nature. While most everyone in Hollywood is a multi-hyphenate of some kind (writer/producer/model) with an off-resume day job, Isley is making waves on several fronts by thrusting her art and herself into the world. She’s an activist for the LGB and Transgender communities, the title subject of a film to come out next year, and the guitarist for a new band, Spectacular Spectacular, that is prepping a summer tour up the West Coast and Canada. Isley was also featured in the AOL series, True Trans, hosted by Laura Jane Grace of Against Me!
Hayden Black, the writer/director/co-star of Goodnight Burbank (Laura Silverman, Dominic Monaghan), urged me to check out Spectacular Spectacular’s first single, ‘Orange Juice’ after he lined up the band’s music to appear in his upcoming animated series, Gen Zed.
”Isley’s music is just phenomenal so when she offered Gen Zed an exclusive track, all of us here just flipped,” said Black. ”Gen Zed, which is coming out later this year, is the first animated series to feature a Trans actress in a lead role and as a Trans character too. Its a comedy about four college-age kids who move in together, it has a lot of laughs and a lot of heart mixed together with a punk vibe.”
It also features Jane Wiedlin of the Go-Gos (pictured above). I can’t wait.
Last week, Popdose connected with Isley to talk about her life, her art and her future.
POPDOSE: Let’s cut to the chase, who IS Isley Reust?
ISLEY REUST: I’m a musician, actress and a YouTube vlogger. I also happen to be a transgender woman.
Let’s start with the music first, was that your first love?
I’ve been playing music since I was 9 years old. I started off playing piano then bass and finally classical guitar at 13.
Where are you from?
I grew up in a very small town in the desert called Victorville. I never thought I fit in. I always struggled being true to myself and a lot of people just weren’t up to speed with what was going on in the LGBT community. The town had nothing to offer me growing up. I was lucky to find great group of friends who I still am very close with to this day. We would often make bonfires out in the desert at night and just drink to pass the boredom.
What music did you listen to? As a trans kid growing up 20 years earlier, David Bowie and Prince were my lifesavers!
Nirvana and Garbage were my favorite bands as a teenager. John Frusciante (Red Hot Chili Peppers) was my favorite guitar player and inspired me to play the way I do today.
Is Spectacular Spectacular your first band?
I’ve played in bands most my life, so Spectacular Spectacular is my newest band. Jessica De Grasse and I started the band in 2012 in San Francisco even though we met at a party 10 years earlier. I met Millie Chan at Bloomingdales in San Fransisco of all places. She joined the band and we relocated to Los Angeles.
Who plays what?
We all play a little bit of everything. I’m most passionate about the guitar. Our debut album, Blur, comes out June 30th, followed by a U.S and Canada tour.
My dog is named Blur, so naturally I love the album title!
Wow that’s so awesome you have a dog named Blur :)
The first single is very dreamy and danceable, what’s the album going to sound like?
Blur was written and recorded over a span of 3 years, so it is very diverse. Each song is it’s own chapter in a sense. Jessica and I would often go on long road trips across the Pacific Northwest and visit these surreal scenic landscapes just to gather inspiration for writing. We have a variety from live orchestral arrangements, synthesizers, classical guitar and enchanting vocals.
I am totally digging the angelic, Laurel Canyon, dream pop look with those white dresses. Is that the ”band image” or a reflection of your individual styles?
Thank you, I’m glad you like the dresses. We do have similar taste fashion to a degree I would definitely say but we do have things we individually prefer.
On top of that, you’re wrapping up film production. Tell us about the film.
Isley is about a transgender woman on a journey to find her true self and identity in life.
Most actors struggle in Hollywood for years hoping to score their big break, how did a starring role right off the bat come together?
I’ve always wanted to be an entertainer and a person who helps and inspires others. I’ve done some documentaries, music videos and made a TV appearance. I started my YouTube channel close to 5 years ago as a way of giving back to the community.
Director Tony Minas approached me about 2 years ago to see if I was interested in doing this project. At the time I wasn’t open or really out to the public about me being trans, nobody really knew I was transgender just family and close friends. I told him I wasn’t interested.
A year later he asked again and I finally agreed. So when I publicly came out that I was transgender nobody believed me and thought I was a genetically born female; they couldn’t believe I was transgender.
How does the film’s Isley differ from the real deal?
It’s going to semi-autobiographical and little fiction. We filmed a lot of it all over the West Coast in these beautiful and surreal sceneries. The film is going to have three chapters: childhood, adolescence and present day Isley.
What was it like working with Laura Jane Grace on True Trans?
It was awesome; she is a great person and lovely lady to be around. I’m in a few episodes and have my own bio episode. You can’t miss me, I have the blue hair. The series is very touching and beautiful.
Did you watch the Bruce Jenner Interview?
All I can say on that is I’m very happy for Jenner. We all have our own ways of going about doing our transitions and as long as Jenner is happy good for her. Nobody should have to hide their true identity — especially for 60 years.
Since you are an artist, all that matters is quality of your music and the stories you choose to bring to life. Does your gender journey reflect in the band’s lyrics or stage show?
I am a woman. I’ve always been a woman. That said, my journey does have an effect on my songwriting, I write about personal experiences or feelings. Whether it’s through guitar or any medium, I want the work to best represent myself and the characters I portray.
Transgender is the hot news topic these days. The media, and in turn the public, is fascinated by the surgical angle, but whether one chooses to have surgery or not is nobody’s business but their own. I love how you take the sensationalism out of it and just own being a woman. I keep wondering if this is the end game, trans is an important part of the story but being accepted in your true gender identity is the destination.
People see me and know me as a woman already; it’s who I am. The being transgender is really a non-existent part of me in a way and should be that way for every trans individual. Yes, I am transgender but I don’t let that define who I am. I do dream of the day when all trans men, women and trans people of color are treated as equals to the rest of the world. I want to do everything in my power to help be part of that change. I feel it’s my duty for the future generations. We need to pave the way for the future so their lives and ways of living can be pain free to where they can start transitioning early if they want to.
I am so happy for those who do bravely transition in body, style and/or spirit.
Yeah transitioning can be scary, especially in a society who looks down on you for it. That is wonderful that you are supportive of trans individuals and the LGBT community.
Catch Spectacular Spectacular on tour:
Jul 03 Rafters — Mammoth Lakes, CA
Jul 05 Little Red Lion — Eureka, CA
Jul 07 The Liquor Store Bar — Portland, OR
Jul 08 The Highline — Seattle, WA
Jul 09 The Charleston Theater — Bremerton, WA
Jul 11 Cafe Deux Soleilis — Vancouver, Canada
Jul 12 The Railway Club — Vancouver, Canada
Jul 13 DER HINTERHOF — Leavenworth, WA
Jul 14 Checkerboard Bar — Spokane, WA
Jul 16 The Retro Theatre — Glendive, MT
Jul 20 Axe & Fiddle — Cottage Grove, OR
Jul 24 Hotel Utah — San Francisco, CA
Jul 25 Hotel Cafe — Los Angeles, CA
For tickets, RSVP and up to the minute tour dates, click here.
Connect with Spectacular Spectacular on facebook.