“I want to be the first Trans woman artist to sign with a major label,” Isley Reust, vocalist, guitarist for the band Spectacular Spectacular said eagerly, “that’s my big goal at the moment.”
Signing to a major is a lofty goal for any band, transgender or not, let alone someone who only just a couple of years ago experienced a near rock bottom point in her life. Drugs, alcohol, a few trips to the hospital and a diagnosis of Hepatitis C almost completely derailed her ambitions. “I got really sick in 2011 and had to have a major surgery for a tumor,” she told PlanetTransgender, “While at the hospital I found out I contracted Hep. C from my emergency surgery to remove the tumor.”
Living in L.A. in 2011, after she found out about the virus, Isley – then placed on experimental drugs to try and cure the virus – got the itch to be in a band again. “I started talking with a fellow musician friend of mine named Jessica De Grasse who lived in San Francisco. I started dabbling with ideas for new songs ideas during that summer but it wasn’t something I knew I wanted to pursue full time again.”
Reust quit her job, left art school and moved to San Francisco to pursue her music again, “I felt life was too short to not do what made you happy,” she said, and although Isley had a YouTube channel documenting her transition, it was under an alias and “While we were doing the album I was living stealth.”
Still living stealth, writer/director Tony Minas was intrigued with Isley’s YouTube videos and approached her to be in a film about her life. Not wanting to be “out” as a person who is transgender, Reust declined the offer. That’s when Laura Jane Grace, from the band Against Me!, contacted her to say how much she was inspired by Isley’s videos and asked her to be on AOL’s True Trans series.
“So I decided to do it and flew out a few days later,” Isley says of the AOL True Trans series, “During that time I also decided to do the film Tony previously asked me to do months before. I started film on both those while still writing and recording a record. I ended up finish filming my parts for True Trans then was filming Project Isley two days prior to SRS.”
Isley, if you remember, was the blue haired girl from True Trans, overflowing with positive energy. Hair color aside, her blunt bangs and captivating smile drew the audience in and gave her the ability and confidence to be seen as who she is, an intelligent, artistic transgender woman with a bright future. “I’ve always had a pretty good outlook on life,” Isley explained, “I’ve always been a very optimistic person in spite of struggles or hardships. Transitioning did make me even stronger as a woman. I feel you have to be strong inside and believe in yourself if you want to succeed.”
One month post-SRS, Isley went back to filming Project Isley and three months post-op, she and the band hit the road to tour.
“It started when I took Isley’s portrait a few years ago,” Director Tony Minas said to Planet Transgender about the project, “I had just come back to L.A. after spending a few months abroad and asked her to come down to my studio for a portrait session. After making some prints, I started to play around with the pictures in my journal. I even went so far as to write a few poems with the images serving as illustrations. Eventually I realized she was a kind of creative muse for me and I approached her about making a film.”
Project Isley is unique for Tony Minas in that it’s about a specific, non-fictional person. Tony refers to the project as “Unquestionably my most honest film to date.” “Although the film focuses on the life of a single transgender person,’ Tony said, “the whole point is to communicate that Trans people as a sub-culture are not so very different from anyone else. Just like everyone else they have hopes, dreams, ambitions, pain, suffering, as well as a need for self-determination. I hope that after people see the film they will have a renewed perspective not just on Trans issues, but also on human relationships in general.”
Three years, two surgeries and one album later, Spectacular Spectacular’s new release called Blur has hit the digital shelves and quite honestly, it’s pretty Spectacular. “Our blood, sweat and tears went into making this record.” Isley said, “We financed it all ourselves, we’re not wealthy, we barely make ends meet but we made it happen. We knew the best title for the album would be Blur for all the reason I mentioned. Because our lives were nothing short of a blur but in a way a lifetime of memories we’ll always share and treasure forever. Three years we would travel to all kinds of surreal beautiful areas in the Pacific Northwest to gather inspiration for our album. We would end up writing “The Dark Moon” in Redwood National Park.
Since this interview only a few weeks ago, Isley Reust has been busier than ever. Currently tracking music for the new series Her Story, Reust and the rest of the band have been in and out of the studio writing and recording new music for a tentative February 2016 release.
“If we have any good tour offers come our way then of course we’ll do some more touring this year. Before I went out on tour I spoke with Laura Jane Grace for a minute about how we should tour together if our schedules line up. So we’ll see, hopefully one day.”
Join us in the coming weeks as Isley and I break down some of the tracks on the current Spectacular Spectacular release, talk about the writing process and discuss some of her musical influences. In-the-mean-time, check out one of their current tracks called “Orange Juice” here.