Penthouse letters may not be political art, but Cex’s Rjyan Kidwell modeled the CD insert notes for his band’s latest album, Actual Fucking, after the magazine’s section with the idea that telling frank sex stories is the only hope for igniting a sexual revolution.
“I think people need to feel empowered and one way they can do that is by fighting this repression that’s been handed down to us,” Kidwell says in a recent interview. “Repression doesn’t work. At best it makes people grumpy and at worst it makes them fucking murderous.”
Actual Fucking boasts handpicked musicians from across the country, including Cex’s core touring group of Kidwell, Cale Parks and female vocalist Roby Newton. The eight-song recording—due out July 4—is experimental dance music with soulful vocals. Each song is named for a city (including Baltimore where Kidwell resides) and the funky beats and smooth lyrics carry more sexual connotation than content. The written stories, however, are unfettered accounts of sexual experiences. They incorporate all the cheesy dirty talk and uninspired lingo used in any pornographic magazine—with one major difference.
“Penthouse letters are fake,” Kidwell says firmly. “These are all people I know, these are my friends.” It took some time, he admits, to convince cohorts (including female and gay perspectives) to confess private stories, but he spun it as a cause, one about which he is passionate.
“I’ve got an issue with breeders, you know, fucking with what I can and can’t do with my life,” he says referring to the Baby Boomer generation. “I really want to enter into a dialogue with some of them, especially old ones in public office.”
That dialogue may be a long way off if ever realized at all, considering Cex is a non-mainstream band easily brushed off by critics as merely porn. Still, Kidwell says he’ll continue making Cex records and hopes to diversify his story collection of sex life in America.
“It’s [common] in this country to feel a little bit anxious and a lot curious about this question of ‘how normal is my behavior,’” he says. “You don’t have to intellectualize sex in order for it to be okay.”
Cex performs with Love of Everything at The Raven Cafe Monday, June 19, at 9 PM. $5.