Recently, you may have seen #trumpqueen floating around your newsfeed paired with hilarious, bizarre, and sometimes disarming photos of the Queen of England’s body headed with the face of Donald Trump. The meme, which began to go viral this week, has had millions of shares across the world and continues to be picked up and spread by sites across the web. Response to the face swaps of our new president-elect and Queen Elizabeth II tends to oscillate between delight and slight horror, sometimes feeling both simultaneously, though people obviously want to keep coming back for more. At the beginning of the week, the Instagram account which first unleashed this Frankenstein of political leaders on the world, @ogtrumpqueen on Instagram, had about 50 followers, which is now up to 18.5k followers and counting.
It turns out that the madwoman who created this sensation, Michal Krauthamer, a graphic designer residing in Bergen County, New Jersey, also throws it down on keys for the up-and-coming jam band PandaJAM. The five-piece ensemble self-describes itself as “an eclectic blend of rock, dance, funk, and improvisational craziness that peaks like the Himalayas,” and has supported acts like The Magic Beans, Hayley Jane & The Primates, and Flux Capacitor. So we decided to sit down with Michal to talk about the wild rise of #trumpqueen and what’s good with her band, which can be found below a few of our favorite photoshop creations of hers.
Live For Live Music: So, this has been a pretty crazy week for you right, with your meme blowing up?
Michal Krauthamer: Yeah, it’s been crazy.
L4LM: How did you come up with the idea for Trump Queen? And when did you first start producing these guys? Since then, can you walk us through the timeline from then up to now?
MK: I started working on Trump Queen in March, one day while practicing my Photoshop skills. I’m not sure where the idea came from. But, I did one and it was just too funny, so I decided to make another one. And then another. And then another. Eventually, I had so many that I decided to post them on Facebook and Instagram to share with friends.
L4LM: Evidently, you’ve been making these images for a while, and it seems like it was never your intention to share them widely with the world, as it was your friend who posted them to Imgur originally, which caused it to go viral. Can you talk about the motivation for making these guys before you started disseminating them widely?
MK: I actually did want to share them, I’m just really bad at the internet. Luckily, my friend Avi Jacobs knew what he was doing and posted it on Imgur at the right time, and it just took off.
L4LM: Before you publicly came forward, did you ever see headlines like the one from the Huffington Post, which read “Someone Keeps Face Swapping Donald Trump and the British Queen,” and if so, how weird is that to be the anonymous “someone” in the news? And building off that, how does it feel to be the person behind a viral sensation?
MK: Definitely. These kind of things are all over the Internet. I can’t believe I’m one of them now. It’s just surreal. It hasn’t even sunk in yet.
L4LM: So you’re the keyboardist for the up-and-coming jam band, PandaJAM, which is ultimately what brings us together today. Can you talk a little bit about that project?
MK: We’re a five-piece band from northern New Jersey, and we’ve been playing together for about 3 years. We like to describe our sound as that of the jamtronifunk variety. Besides me, the band includes Dan Morrell (guitar), Willie Kunstadter (guitar), Alzie Sisco (drums), and Andy Stanish (bass).
L4LM: I assume your bandmates know about Trump Queen; what do they think of it?
MK: They love it! They’ve been really supportive. We are all involved in side projects and are all very supportive of one another. Our guitarist, Dan Morell, just recently released an awesome app called Lewd Q’s with the help of our bassist, Andrew Stanish, who did the developing. I’ve also been very fortunate that our amazing band manager, Catherine Sisco of Storm Sisco Entertainment, has been helping me handle all of the TrumpQueen social media and PR this past week.
L4LM: For people who are unfamiliar with PandaJAM, can you talk a little bit about what you’re going for musically and maybe call out a few tracks that you feel epitomize your sound?
MK: We really enjoy experimenting with different styles. “The Couch Approves” is an excellent example of a track that epitomizes our sound. However, we’ve been experimenting more with a fusion of dance and funk lately, so tracks like “Getaway Murphy,” “Phife and Ice,” and “Devil’s Lettuce” are good examples of what we’re moving towards in the future.
Listen to out PandaJAM’s lay down some of these track during their show back in October of this year at American Beauty in New York, NY, courtesy of the band.
L4LM: Maybe let’s also do this in face swap terms: what would you say are two bands that if they got jumbled up a bit would kinda describe PandaJAM’s sound?
MK: Oh boy, that’s a tough one. But, I would have to say the Disco Biscuits and Umphrey’s.
L4LM: You guys were born out of a weekly jam session. Since then and solidifying more as a formal band, can you talk about some of your favorite performances together?
MK: We’ve really been lucky and shared the stage/bill with some great bands this past year. I’d have to say some of my favorite shows have been Magic Beans at Black Bear, Haley Jane & Tigerman at Mexicali, DiscJam, and the silent disco at Hulavom.
L4LM: Speaking of shows, we heard you were keeping the late-night cabin jams raging at Catskill Chill. Can you discuss that a little?
MK: Yeah, that’s the highlight of my summer! We took a page out of the book of our buddies Shwizz and Fikus and decided to set our equipment in the cabin and throw a party. The turnout was fantastic. This year was especially awesome because we teamed up with our good friends Tigerman (also an NNJ-based band) and had a blast playing all weekend late into the night. We were lucky to have some friends stop in and jam with us including members from Les Special, the Werks, Magic Beans, American Babies, Indobox, and others. We’re definitely looking forward to raging the cabins at Catskill Chill 2017!
L4LM: Your Instagram account says ““It’s not about politics. It’s about the magic of Photoshop and making you laugh,” but your use of hashtags such as #donaldtrumpisanidiot, #antitrump, and #trumpsucks indicate a fairly political stance. Do you view Trump Queen as being political?
MK: As I said, I’m terrible at the internet. When I first made the account, I used popular anti-trump hashtags to get a broader reach, but I had no idea what I was doing. Now, people from both sides of the aisle find it hilarious, and I want to keep it that way! I’m happy that Trump Queen is making everyone laugh, because, let’s face it, America has been in need of good laugh for quite some time.
L4LM:Alright, last one. Can you list a few of your favorite musicians?
MK: I have pretty eclectic taste in music, I’ll really listen to anything. Lately, I’ve been listening to Lindsey Sterling, and according to my bandmates, it shows. I’ve been really inspired by all the great live music in the scene. There’s so much talent out there, and it’s a really good time for live music.
L4LM: So, what’s next for you? Both, in terms of PandaJAM and for Trump Queen?
MK: I’m really hoping that TrumpQueen’s popularity will open some exciting new doors and offer new creative opportunities for me. The most exciting thing about all of this has been getting recognition for something that I really love to do. As far as PandaJAM goes, we’re working on new material, and you can definitely expect to see us on the road and at festivals this coming year.
Make sure to keep an eye out for Michal, Trump Queen, and PandaJAM, as they’re all on the up-and-up. For more information about PandaJAM, peep the band’s website here. You can also catch on 12/27 at Mexicali Live (NJ) or on 1/14 at Arlene’s Grocery (NYC) supporting Annie In The Water.