As both legend and luck would have it, one auspicious day in an unknown land of leather and lace, two Inas were born from the very same egg. Aside from their peculiar birthplace, they also share the same colourful fashion sense, the same unusual accent and an all-encompassing, almost maniacal love of champagne. It only made sense for them to share a band too.
Ina unt Ina is comprised of Toronto artists Celina Carroll (for our purposes, Ina C) and Christina Zeidler (Ina Z). Together they have been creating electronic music spawned by a predilection for performance art for more than eight years now.
The girls recently launched their debut album All Sides of Ina to a standing-room-only crowd at the Gladstone. In a star-studded art spectacle, friends of the two Inas, including Gentleman Reg and Keith Cole, came by to offer cover versions of Ina unt Ina tracks.
“Certainly we like to sing about the lesbian themes, but we also have very many friends in this world so we like to talk about all of them,” says Ina Z in her curious continental accent. “We opened the show up to all of our friends and are fans of many different musics. We tried to invite people that have different sounds to allow for multiple covers. We left it very open for them. It was a super dream come true to come into this party and hear for the first time these interpretations for our songs.
“You have to be very much a superstar before that happens to you and look at us on our very first try!”
Toronto superstar Cole was himself an unlikely source of inspiration for the album track “Baby Daddy.” The girls wrote this after some serious consideration over who would be a suitable man to sire wee Inas.
“He’s fantastic,” Ina C gushes.
“We have known him for a very long time, and this is why he’s the baby daddy,” Ina Z explains. “When he did a retrospective a couple of years ago he put out this fabulous picture of himself upside down resting in a yogic pose with the full drag on the face but buck naked and the things tucked up between and the red stiletto heels.
“We thought if anyone is going to be our baby daddy, this is what a baby daddy looks like. He is number one baby daddy with the hot cheeks.”
Like Cole, the album itself is surprisingly balanced, considering that most art-based musical efforts suffer from taking themselves too seriously, burdened with weighty or obscure messages. Ina unt Ina have a message, but they spread it with tongue firmly in cheek, presenting humourous observations with sing-along hooks and a lot of dance-friendly beats.
“Some of our songs come from emotional memories and we believe that everyone is vital,” Ina Z says. “You must tap into your emotional experience. Everyone has a voice and All Sides of Ina come from this smaller emotional place. And some of them just come from champagne.”
The tracks also reveal another thing that the Inas have in common: an unapologetic love of classic Canadian rock. For their debut the duo recorded their own versions of some Canadian classics. The Guess Who’s “These Eyes” becomes a warped and gorgeous synth ballad with balls, while Gordon Lightfoot’s epic “Sundown” gets a decidedly goth spoken-word treatment with organ. April Wine’s “I’m on Fire for You Baby” in turn becomes a lusty lesbian anthem with a yearning chorus.
The Ina look on the other hand is far less balanced than the Ina sound. From wolf masks and pink wigs to air mattresses strapped to their backs, the look is in constant flux.
We are inspired by avant-garde artists and our look has changed over the years,” says Ina C. “We have had many obscure references in our outfits that people thought were just fashion and we were trying to make a message out of it. Sometimes we are more ready-to-wear because it’s hard to take 38-foot capes with you everywhere. We do have those.”
In the “real” world both the Inas are prolific artists. Zeidler is a video artist who has shown more than 20 works internationally, winning the Best Canadian Media Award at the 2004 Images Festival. She recently founded the film collective Freeshow Seymour with artist Allyson Mitchell.
Zeidler is also the grande dame of Tor-onto’s historic Gladstone Hotel, working with her architecturally storied family to turn the dilapidated space into a celebrated boutique hotel and artistic hub — and a very queer one at that. Never shying away from the personal or political, Zeidler has taken a leadership role in urban planning issues, pushing recent condo developments to help preserve the artistic character of the neighbourhood around the Gladstone through the local activist group Active 18.
Carroll is multi-instrumentalist who has toured extensively, sharing her voice and music with the world in performance and via soundtracks for dance and film. She is also responsible for vocals and percussion in Chip Yarwood’s band, and has worked with him as a part of the music based project See Why Sound, including a live soundscape for Zeidler’s 2007 film Show Me Yours.
Back in the land of faux fur and Can-con rock, the two Inas also have Jiffy Pop heads (as featured on our cover) that they present to the audience for snacking. Now that’s brain food.
Ah, the life of an Ina.
Future plans include a summer tour of Europe coupled with more fun, more fantasy and, as always, more champagne.