INTERVIEW – The Boulet Brothers

"Freaks from all over the world come together"

INTERVIEW – The Boulet Brothers

By Ellie Odurny

Mar 8, 2022 14:00

From not-so-humble beginnings on the LA club scene, The Boulet Brother’s Dragula show has now streamed four seasons, finding a new home on the horror subscription service Shudder. Centred around the themes of glamour, horror and filth, Dragula is a drag competition like no other, designed to shock, delight and horrify. We caught up with Dracmorda and Swanthula Boulet ahead of the UK tour dates to chat all things gore, goth and glitz.

Naturally, the style of goth subculture has a big crossover with a horror act, but the Brothers also talk about the importance of the non-binary nature of punk and how it’s presented through fashion and hairstyles. Dracmorda comments how “the punk world and the drag world overlap in a way. Certainly, before drag was televised, you’d go to a punk show back in the day and you’d see guys wearing makeup with long black nails.” This combination of music and style is important to create the right atmosphere for the Boulet Brothers, as it allows them to take people on a theatrical journey from start to finish. They talk about how the music sets the tone for a live experience like the tour and drives the show, with the breaks and shifts of the soundtrack changing to suit the narrative. Season four was the first time the Boulet Brothers created their own original soundtrack. Working with a producer, they created the music to fit the specific themes for the shows. Historically, the Boulet Brothers didn’t have the freedom to set the music for the floor shows, but with season four they wanted to create a kind of ride for the artists. Swanthula mentions that in addition to the Dragula series, their other shows are also influenced by alternative rock and industrial music as that’s what inspires them, commenting that “the best shows are done to music that inspires the artist and not necessarily pandering to what’s popular in the moment.”

“The Boulet Brothers Dragula is almost like a Rocky Horror party”, proclaims Dracmorda, explaining that it’s a place where “freaks from all over the world come together whether they’re gay, straight, queer, non-binary, whatever. What brings them together is the fact that they’re all misfits as opposed to them coming together because of their sexuality per se.” Swanthula mentions how this ties in with using horror as an inspiration: “Sometimes as a queer person we relate to the monster, the outcast, the creature that has no place in society. The classic universal monsters have a lot of relatable storyline to an isolated queer person in a small town before they break out and make their own family.” It’s comments like this that highlight the importance of the communities within subcultures, whether that be in drag, music, or any group in society who need a safe space to feel welcomed and accepted.

Dragula isn’t always free from controversy, however. One of the gruesome elimination challenges in season one of the show involved eating pig brains. One of the contestants announced during the challenge that they were vegan, which presented a moral dilemma for them to attempt to stay in the competition. The online fallout of this challenge gave the Brothers their first taste of the “internet lynch mob”, although they told us that neither the production crew nor any of the other contestants were aware of this information prior to filming, and that they’d never try to coerce any of the participants to do anything morally that they didn’t want to, emphasising that they want to respect people’s boundaries. The vegan contestants in season four were given an alternative option in the ‘blood chug fright feat’ but they declined. The Brothers suggest that this may have been due to perceived pressure from the other competitors, or a lack of trust in the promise that it wouldn’t count against them. The contestants are told that everything they do counts from the moment they arrive on set, from their behaviour in the green room to how they prepare for the floor shows. There’s probably a bigger question here in terms of the ethical responsibilities of a production crew verses an individual’s right to choose but it certainly seems like that choice is given freely.

The Boulet Brothers are known for their coordinated, glamorous aesthetic but according to Dracmorda, they’re definitely not afraid to get dirty with the filth sections of the shows. In stark contrast to the polished looks often found in more conventional drag performances, the filth category is designed to make the audience feel uneasy, pushing the boundaries of disturbing art. Rather than try to filter the more scandalous parts of the show, the Boulet Brothers tell us that the network actively encourages them to push things further. This can be seen to some extent in the characteristic ‘death’ scenes at the end of each of the streamed shows to show the viewers which contestant has been eliminated. Over the course of each season, these have become darker and grittier, a chance for the artists to have one last moment of bloody drama.

The Brothers might love the freedom to shock, however Swanthula has a proverbial bone to pick with the censorship of violence compared to the control of exposing the human body. “One of my problems with society at large is that it’s completely OK to show murder and maiming, with blood and smashing people’s heads in, but a nipple or a butt crack is way too far. That’s insanity.”

Nipples and butt cracks aside, the Boulet Brothers mention that it’s important for them to keep a connection with live events as well as the series, describing how “it gives us a chance to be in front of audiences again which is something that we love.” With the legendary LA Halloween Ball growing each year, it’s safe to say The Boulet Brothers haven’t lost their touch in the events sphere. So what should audiences expect to experience on the upcoming tour dates? According to Swanthula, it’s an atmospheric show full of carnage, sacrifice and glamour, unlike any other drag show you’ve ever seen. Dracmorda adds that the crowd is always friendly and welcoming, telling us “it’s the kind of show you could go to by yourself and not feel uncomfortable. It’s a celebration.”

UK Tour dates are below, tickets available here