doing a job I hated, so I told a complete lie and said, ‘I’m a cabaret performer’. He then asked if he could come to one of our shows, so I phoned up my friend who ran a clubnight in Soho and asked him if we could come do something.

You’re often described as ‘neo-cabaret’. What’s that? Maurice: The word cabaret is so general. Traditional cabaret is associated with doing covers of older songs, a real Weimar kind of thing, whereas we write all our own material, so I think that’s why people tack the neo on.

Does it never get tiring being so irreverent all day? Maurice: We never set out to really make people laugh. The songs became funny because we were trying to make each other laugh, so we were a bit surprised when other people starting sniggering as well. I didn’t start out thinking I really wanted to make people laugh, but now I do. Are you cynical and sarcastic goths in real life? Maurice: I think that’s our sense of humour naturally. We haven’t ever intentionally tried to be dark. When we’ve thought, ‘Oh, let’s be really sick here’, it hasn’t worked. It just feels forced. It’s mainly just that our humour is influenced by really darkly comic, offbeat things like The League of Gentlemen or Nighty Night rather than things like Michael McIntyre. I can’t imagine that working in cabaret . . .

Who are your influences? Bourgeois: Lyrically and in terms of social commentary, it would be bands like Pulp and The Divine Comedy but we are quite eclectic in the music we listen to. Maurice: I love a good wailing woman. I’m always listening to PJ Harvey, Joni Mitchell and Carole King.

Who makes those stunning costumes? Maurice: We are sadly lacking skills in the stitching department, so a friend of ours who is a fashion designer started making them for us in the early days. We’ve worked with a couple of other people since, mainly Julian J Smith. He’s an amazing dress-maker and pattern cutter, as well as having a completely crazy eye for things that are incredibly visual onstage. Do the sequins chafe? Bourgeois: I’m never wearing one costume long enough to know, as there are so many changes. The only costume that is really annoying is the one that is made entirely out of hair. It’s itchy and the hair just gets absolutely everywhere. For days on end after I’ve worn it, I find myself picking bits of neon pink weave off various parts of myself.

Do you dress as glamorously in your day-to-day lives? Bourgeois: I try to but it’s just not that practical. I did walk down the street once in my pink gimp suit, yet no one really looked twice. Maurice: I feel like the more flamboyant we become on stage, the more comparatively dull I become in reality. I’m sure I used to wear far more interesting clothes in my normal life before I started doing this. Now I’m at the stage where I just want to wear a plain, boring grey jumper for a change.

Why the fake brother and sister thing? Bourgeois: That’s something that came out of doing the last show and album, Shedding Skin. It had more of a narrative to it so we started to explore Bourgeois and Maurice’s backstory. It transpired that they were brother and sister and had this sinister tale. The thing with Bourgeois and Maurice is that they are compulsive liars so even now, we can’t be sure if they are related. We think they are but there are photographs on the internet where Maurice is an old lady, cradling an infant Bourgeois so there are many twists. How do non-LGBT audiences react to your show? Bourgeois: I don’t ever really feel like there’s a distinction. At festivals, I think that people let themselves go a bit more anyway but I have never felt like we were a gay act in a straight environment, in the same way that I never feel like other things are straight acts in a gay environment. If you are a little bit warped in the head, it doesn’t really matter who you’re sleeping with you can still enjoy Bourgeois and Maurice!

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22 Sep–20 Oct 2011 THE LIST 21