A dendrophile is a tree-hugger by any other (Latinate, euphemistic) name. Justin Vivian Bond, formerly of the iconic queer cabaret act Kiki and Herb, has just released a new album by that name that puts a queer spin on eco-friendliness.
Kiki and Herb came out of San Francisco's edgy mix of queer art and activism in the 1990s. The duo moved to New York and by the time they broke up in 2008 had played everywhere from downtown spaces like The Knitting Factory to London's Queen Elizabeth Hall, Carnegie Hall, and Broadway, where their show Kiki and Herb: Alive on Broadway was nominated for a Tony Award. Kiki was known for her nightclub covers/queer revisions of standards by iconic women rockers:
Although the character Kiki is a raucous, alcoholic chanteuse whom one cannot imagine outside a nightclub, Justin has always had a love of nature and is a well-known participant in the Radical Faeries, a movement dating from the 1970s that melds Marxism, indigenous spirituality, feminism, and drag in a potent and liberatory mix.
From this rich soil comes Dendrophile, Justin's first solo album. The dendrophile loves trees and the term can even mean someone who sexually copulates with trees. In a recent interview Justin described enjoying maple syrup not only as a healthier alternative to processed sugar, but also as "tree cum. Yum."
In this video from the new album, the singer is pictured among swaying grasses, or crowned with leaves, while lamenting "looting the land." "Every time we kiss/ we confirm the new world coming," the song promises. Justin's whiskey voice and the simple, haunting instrumental behind it are hard and sexy but full of emotion. In the final image of this video, the singer's face dissolves into flowers.