In Conversation with Erik Thurmond aka Pasquale

By January 10, 2024
Erik Thurmond as Pasquale. Photograph by Rachel Stern courtesy of the artist.

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We begin

Erik Thurmond sings these words into a microphone, standing under a spotlight among a large crowd. He is performing under his new project Pasquale, wearing a blazer and sunglasses inside, both oversized. I watch this in the form of an iPhone video shared by the artist. His movements are molten, abstracted by flashing lights and the camera’s inability to maintain focus. This is recent performance at the music venue 529. It’s a mesmerizing effect, while also notable to see something like this homegrown in Atlanta.

Pasquale is Thurmond’s Pop music alias, a new vehicle for the artist known primarily for performance art you may find in a gallery or theater rather than a grimy music venue. This isn’t to assume that previous work was boring, stoic, or institutional; Thurmond’s work has always had a sense of humor, a pomp, or joy in the act of performing. Perhaps the most relevant precursor is Pandemia, a band formed with fellow Atlanta artists Sara Santamaria and Parks Miller during the pandemic. During a short but prolific run, the band cultivated an odd ball reputation through a series of memorable performances and a trail of various band ephemera, including lyrics, demos, and a game. The image that sticks in my mind is the event in which the band performs in revealing swimwear behind the former Value Village on Moreland. Thurmond, in an electric yellow brief, climbs on top of a car and smashes it, followed by a crowd of speedo clad imitators. The audience cheers on.

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So perhaps Pasquale is Thurmond’s solo breakout moment. He still collaborates with Miller, who brings a lite metallic weight to Pasquale’s shiny melodies. When planning our interview, I ask whether we should take the popstar on a major label route and do a predetermined PR activity together, something a little outrageous that informs the artist’s current work. Pasquale responds with a dense list of things he’s thinking about (Mysticism! Nature! The Divine!), followed by, “Any fun places come to mind?” In the end, we decide on a humble studio visit, in an old garage transformed into a black box rehearsal space.

The interview was edited for length and clarity.


Jackson Markovic: One interesting detail that I noticed when viewing your performances was the making of the invisible visible, in particular the idea of the stage or the venue.

JM: I’ve also been thinking about that move towards more performance venues, in relation to the work of José Esteban Muñoz and his theories of ephemera in relationship to performance. He said, “Instead of being clearly available as visible evidence, queerness has existed as innuendo, gossip, fleeting moments, and performances that are meant to be interacted with by those within this epistemological sphere, while evaporating at the touch of those who would eliminate queer possibility.” I’m curious about that quote because performance is explicitly mentioned. Have you noticed the elimination of queer possibility as you traverse these different spaces?

Erik Thurmond as Pasquale. Photograph by Rachel Stern courtesy of the artist.

JM: That’s something that I find really inspiring in your work. Having studied some performances, things get stuck in my head. I want to emphasize, you said, giving the audience agency and being able to process it in their own time, I thought that was a strong detail in your work.

JM: Pop music is often so nebulous and undefined. Do you have a working definition for pop music?

JM: With recorded media, and especially music, I was thinking earlier about how it’s perhaps unusual to see a movie ten times, but to hear a song ten times is not a lot. It’s pretty normal. Especially pop music, which often has structures or a chorus that repeats. You said that empowers your audience because they’re able to rehearse or know the words. I’m thinking about this transition to a file recording-based media.

JM: You mentioned mysticism, I immediately thought of Choire Sicha, the writer who wrote the press release for Perfume Genius’ album, No Shape. I have a quote here because it felt very kindred to your current project. “God is all around actually and some of these songs are about being equal and some are about the witchcraft of believing. This is church music the same way Prince’s Black Album is—too dirty. It’s femme art pop the way Kate Bush’s The Dreaming is—too scary.” What strikes me about that album in particular, and the ones mentioned, is how the songs seem to transcend their material boundaries as an MP3 or however we may listen to them. Do you have any references that you would like to share that feel relevant to the work?

Erik Thurmond as Pasquale. Photograph by Rachel Stern courtesy of the artist.

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