Phoebe Legere

By: Lori Smerilson Carson

There are many forms of art, and when an artist has the exceptional ability to utilize as many as they can, they are Singer, Songwriter, Mult instrumentalist, Painter, Fashion Designer, Actress Pheobe Legere. She started her music career when she was only in her teens singing with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and forming a punk rock band Monad, and then moved onto writing musicals as well as music. This led her to begin her acting career in movies which then spawned her to clothes designing, which brought her back to her art. As a painter, she developed influential friendships with world-renown artists such as Andy Warhol and David Bowie. Bowie also, after seeing the video of her college hit song “Marilyn Monroe”, invited her to open for him on his National Sound and Vision Tour in 1991. Currently this song from the documentary Mondo New York will be re-released on DVD Blu-ray, and Legere also has another movie which she wrote, directed and scored called Gender Symphony coming out in 2024. Florida fans can look for upcoming shows, especially in Delray Beach at the Arts Garage.

Catching up with Legere in the midst of all her projects, she revealed some details about her music, her acting, her art, and what fans can look forward to.

SFL Music: The song “Made for You” from Toxic Avenger II, you played piano and really displayed your strong soprano voice. What inspired the song? Was it inspired for the movie or maybe some outside experiences?

Phoebe Legere: The song itself “Made for You”, there’s several levels going on. First of all, I had created a musical about the first African American Woman President of the United States. It’s called Hello Mrs. President and she was a maid with her law degree who sang her ass off. She was selected by computer. They put all the names of everybody in America into a computer and she came out to be the smartest one and the best suited to be the leader. So, this was long before Barack Obama. This was in the very early nineties before there’d ever really been any real significant movement of women to be the President. So, that song was in that musical “Made for You”, but it really was inspired by my love. I was deeply, passionately in love with someone and the way that, that person and I fit together physically. It was actually about the morphology. That means the forms, the lock and the key between two people that really have chemistry. That are really in love. Do you know what I’m talking about Lori?

SFL Music: Yes.
Legere: The way it fits. Fits just right in the hole. That’s really where I got that idea.

SFL Music: What about “Love is Blind”?
Legere: I wrote that for Toxic Avenger because I play a blind, buxom, bimbo. That was the role. So, I wanted to write a song about the way that when you are in love, indeed you are not seeing with your physical eyes. It’s not something going on with the retina. It’s some deeper kind of seeing and in fact, we now know that the eyes just take in the photons. The retina’s just take in the photons, but the real seeing is happening about three inches back in the brain. I’m lucky enough to have a visually challenged, as we say now. We do not say blind Lori, but we say visually challenged, and I love these kinds of musicians. All of that brain power is going into the auditory nerve, and it means that people who are visually challenged often have musical super powers. So, I love these people. They have perfect pitch and for them, music is life and death and sound is life and death, and I’m a little like that. So, that’s “Love is Blind”.

SFL Music: How did it come about that you ended up starring in those movies Toxic Avenger II and III?
Legere: (she laughed) Thank you for that question. It’s really great. I wanted to play some of my music in the Troma movies. I didn’t know too much about them, but it was a movie company that was right here in New York City. So, I just walk up to the second floor with my cassette tapes, and I said to Llyod Kaufman (Jr.) who is the head of Troma films, I said, can I put some of this music in your movies? I was doing what is called song plugging. You know, old fashioned song plugging. Putting your music in the movies. I knew that I was never gonna get on radio because at that time which is around ’89,’90, the airwaves, radio was completely dominated by males. They found a way of, I don’t want to get into that too much. That could be an entire article, but in that period, they had found a way of making boys look like girls. They put the lipstick on them. They had the long hair. This was a big hair time and those boys looked like the most gorgeous women you ever saw in their tight spandex, and they had no need for women, and there was a lot of money to be made. Before that time of course, in the seventies, we had great, great female stars. Great earners actually, but by that time, there was so much money to be made in the music business Lori, that they didn’t want women to be any part of it. Your job as a woman was to bring the guy a beer. And I didn’t go along with that, but I knew I couldn’t get through it. I tried so hard. I had already knocked down five thousand doors. So, I was trying another way you know, what you got to do. If you keep getting punched, then you got to figure out how to change your strategy. So, I knew if I could play some songs in television and movies, that maybe I could get through. So, I go up to the second floor. I’ve got my little tape and I say to Lloyd, I’m a songwriter and I write film scores and can I put some music in your movie? Llyod looked at me and he said simply, “would you please walk over there? We’re going to take some polaroids of you.” They took the polaroids and they went in the back and they came back and they said, “would you like to star in our movie?” I had never seen the movies. I hate violence, but they told me and it’s really true, that Toxic Avenger was the first environmental superhero and he was from New Jersey. So, I thought wow! An environmental superhero from New Jersey. I can get down with that. That’s my message too! I’m all about that. So, I did it and I learned how to make movies. So, when you see that movie Made for You, I directed and filmed all the black and white. I’m a movie maker and I do it all the time. I’m in the middle of making a movie right now and I can tell you about that. It’s very interesting. It’s about music, but I learned it all from Troma because they just used young kids and had them do things they had never done before. I did all my own stunts, designed all my own costumes and just learned how to do it. Learned how to do it for no money. So, it was totally by chance, and it was the music. The music leads me these places where I would never go.

SFL Music: Now those three songs “Made for You”, “Love is Blind” and “Turn to Me” are on a limited edition, collectors vinyl album?
Legere: It’s so wonderful. It’s a platinum collector’s edition of the music of Toxic Avenger, and I also have “Amazing Grace” on that collection in addition to an exclusive interview with me and never before seen photographs of me and Toxie. You can find it at Ship to Shore Records. It’s out. It just came out this week.

SFL Music: You were educated at Juilliard and you can play seven instruments. You’re an actress, an artist, a clothes designer. It’s amazing you have all that extraordinary talent. What made you decide to go into the arts? Was it something that just came naturally?
Legere: That’s a terrific question and it’s so important because both of my parents and my grandparents were super creative. My parents were visual artists. My grandparents were incredible musicians. My parents also played; they were amateur musicians. My grandparents were professional musicians. Everyone that I grew up with was a genius. I mean, like a creative genius. I don’t mean genius smart. I mean genius art which is a little different, and I was raised that way. It’s like being raised speaking two languages because I was raised speaking visual art and drawing from the time, I did my first oil painting at five and I was raised playing and singing from when I was in my diapers. My family had a band called La Famille Légere because we’re from a Cajun background. Cajun and Native American, so we played that very particular kind of music that straddles those two cultures. That’s how I became this way. I am this way.

SFL Music: What would you recommend to a new artist?
Legere: Of what age?

SFL Music: I guess any age from when a person is going to school trying to figure out what they want to do either music, or art, or designing.
Legere: Very often creative people are multi-talented and it’s this culture that makes them choose one thing. It’s like amputating a whole part of their personality, but it’s really what it takes to be a winner is to be completely focused. I specialize in teaching art and music to children ages eight to twelve and if they’re very gifted, I will start with them much earlier. So, I think about this a lot and the parents come to me a lot. The parents, when they see what I’m able to bring out of children and the way in which I am able to inspire confidence in them. They call me the Middle School Motivator, but for me, the arts are a way of processing very chaotic and violent emotions that we all have. On the unconscious level, we have conflicts. Every one of us, that happen when we’re infants. We don’t even remember how they got there. We’re not even aware of it, but when we engage in the arts, painting or playing music, it’s like self-psycho analysis. Deep down into those deep layers, those dream layers of the human mind, and you can deal with the things that will tear you apart and lead you to addiction and self-destructive behaviors if you do not make them conscious. So, I can’t say anything about how to be famous. I can say that celebrity is like having a target on your back and in general, it may bring you some easy money for a while, but it really is a completely empty kind of a high, being a celebrity. I’m famous enough to know. The important thing is to know yourself, and you know yourself by engaging with the materials of the senses that is the arts. The visual material. Singing, using the body as an instrument, dancing. These are the ways to get to know yourself and these are the ways to bond with people in your community.

SFL Music: Are you referring to your foundation (The Foundation for New American Art)?
Legere: Always. Increasingly, people feel that machines can do what the artist did for hundreds of thousands of years. For hundreds of thousands of years, people cherished artists and knew that they were sent by I have to say, the Lord. That there’s something divine about people who are very, very gifted. Everyone knows that, but increasingly people in corporations think that everything should be done by machine. The story should be written by AI. That visual things should not be done by hand, and it all looks very good. It’s like a McDonald’s hamburger. If you’re really hungry, tastes pretty good, but there’s really nothing there.

SFL Music: I love the fact that the proceeds from your music and art go directly to the after-school programs.
Legere: That’s right. Thank you, Lori and by the way, those songs “Love Is Blind” and “Made for You” are on Spotify and I have merch. This is so cool. Spotify allows you to shop for merch as you’re listening to a particular song. So, as you’re listening to “Made for You”, you can shop for our I Am the Future t-shirt, which is a child’s t-shirt. It’s quite extraordinary what’s going on, but they can stream my things of course free on Spotify. They don’t have to buy the vinyl. They can if they want to. I think it’s probably going to be worth a lot of money very soon. Some of my early singles have hit two-thousand dollars, so I encourage you to be a collector, but you can just stream it for free. When you click on it, you will see that everything goes directly to The Foundation for New American Art which is a non-profit 501(c)(3), a New York State registered charity, and we just got a big grant from the governor as a pat on the back for the work that we’re doing in our program which is called Paint Brushes, Not Guns.

SFL Music: That’s awesome!
Legere: Yeah, that’s the way I feel.

SFL Music: You also have a fashion line that was inspired from your art being in a Bundy Museum?
Legere: Yes absolutely. My paintings and that t-shirt that I just talked about, I Am the Future, the child’s t-shirt, has a painting that I did of the Statue of Liberty and instead of holding a torch, she’s holding a paint brush.

SFL Music: You’ve been very busy. There are eight of your original songs in Everybody Dies Trying to Make a Masterpiece by Gustavo Von Ha who you were fellows with at Yaddo?
Legere: Yes. Yaddo is a very famous, I don’t know if you know about it. Yaddo and MacDowell Foundation are the two most famous artists retreats. It’s where you go and you stay in this mansion and they bring you your lunch in a little pail. They cook for you and you don’t have to do anything except make your art. It’s very hard to get in, but if they accept you, you stay in this magnificent like palace (she laughed) and people wait on you, and all you do is you think about your art. So, I was there and I met this fabulous director from Brazil and we really hit it off. Artists have dinner together every night and they are the most talented people from all over the world. It’s really quiet something. So, I ended up playing heavy metal guitar in the middle of this mansion that’s filled with priceless antiques. You know, Leonard Bernstein went there, Truman Capote. The greatest of the greatest were there. Nobody’s ever seen it, but this guy Gustavo Von Ha from Brazil was so charming that they allowed him to film, and what he wanted to film was me playing, you know shredding in this gorgeous 19th century palazzo. So, that’s where I met him. I think that’s another point that I want to make which is that, what’s really the most joyous and satisfying about a life in the arts, is being able to be friends with talented people. With really talented people. World changing, enthusiastic, amazing, original people. That’s what you get from a life in the arts is that you get the artist community.

SFL Music: That’s very true. You also have a punk rock band Monad that appeared in the documentary “It’s A to Z: The Art of Arleen Schloss”.
Legere: Yes, we’re going to have the premier on Monday right here in New York City. It’s called A to Z: The Art of Arleen Schloss, and she was my mentor. Mentors are so important, especially woman mentors and at that time when we started, I was fifteen when we started that rock band Monad. Nobody would book us because all the bookers in New York were men. We could not get booked, and nobody would listen to our music and nobody would give us a break. So, this woman Arleen Schloss somehow booked us for New Year’s Eve. She said, “wow! You’re great. I love what you’re doing.” We had an all-girl band which was very rare at the time. They had them in the seventies, but by the time I came along, late eighties, fifteen, it’s over and nobody wants to see girls playing guitars. We were climbing up that ice-wall, so this woman gave us a chance. She also was a film-maker. So, what we’re gonna see in that movie is a lot of footage of our band Monad, all girls at fifteen, and opening for us were the Pop Tarts who later became World of Wonder who are the managers for RuPaul, also a close friend of mine. Also, Sonic Youth is in that film, same night. We were all playing together New Years Eve. Of course, Sonic Youth became very, very famous and fantastic people. So, Monad, if people want to learn about my punk band, it’s really interesting. We have a whole blog. There’s a group of fans that have a whole blog on Monad which is, we were the it band of the East Village in those days, and they can go to That is an extraordinary blog about the whole history of Monad which is still going on. We have a song that’s gonna be in a new movie that’s gonna be released next year, and we’re going to start releasing. Lori, it used to cost so much money to make a record. You just couldn’t do it, and so now we have the tools of production and we’re doing it.

SFL Music: You also did a residency at the Emily Harvey Foundation in Venice, Italy. How did that come about?
Legere: I just came back and while I was there, I made a movie. It’s called the Gender Symphony.

SFL Music: That is coming out in 2024?
Legere: Yes. Venice is an extraordinary place because there are no cars. We don’t realize what real silence sounds like because we can always hear cars in the background, but in Venice there are places we can go and you can experience no cars. It is really lovely. The whole place is like being in a work of art. Everything there is between five hundred and a thousand years old. They don’t destroy anything.

SFL Music: You also had some creative shows in Delray Beach at the Arts Garage. Are you doing any more? What can fans look forward to?
Legere: I’m going to be going on tour. I’m making a new album right now, so I will be going on tour and fans can go to to see the tour schedule. I haven’t released it yet, but I hope to return to the Arts Garage because not only did I have a wonderful show there, but we support them. The foundation helps to support the wonderful work that is being done in the community by the Arts Garage. It’s a tremendous group.

SFL Music: Is there anything else you want to add for fans to know?
Legere: I will just underline the fact that fans can stream my sixteen albums from Spotify and they can look at my art at and see so many videos on YouTube, and just going to my website they can see, but the most important thing is that video only captures about one-tenth of what an artist is. Music is really a conversation between an audience and a living performer and what they do together. That collaboration of the people listening and the people playing, that is what true music is.

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