“It was like taking the Elvis mask off and finding a cyborg underneath,” says Hayes. “All the rock stars being manipulated by the machine, and you thought they were the rebels of the world.”
In the end, the band dropped the deal and returned to Philadelphia vowing that if they were going to be “rock ’n’ roll idiots,” they’d be their own rock ’n’ roll idiots.
On the inside of his arm, Hayes has a tattoo of the slogan “l’art pour l’art.” It means “art for art’s sake.”
“[It means that art] should be inspired, and come right from the source, and shouldn’t serve any purpose other than art,” says Hayes. “I kind of took it to heart.”
It’s a few days after Hayes’ surgery. For the first week, the two drains attached to his armpits need to be emptied regularly. He can’t raise his arms. “The experience seems a bit surreal right now,” he says. “Even though I have never wanted to have [breasts], it’s still a pretty heavy thing to lose.”
In the big picture, surgery was the easy part.
“I took some deep breaths beneath a misting oxygen mask and woke up high and bandaged. [The doctor] did all the work,” says Hayes. “The hard part for me has been the last few years.”
He gets emotional when he relays that recently, his grandpop started greeting him with a handshake instead of the traditional kiss on the cheek.
“It’s very much an honor when he does that,” says Hayes. “Because he’s acknowledging not only is it OK with him, but he can accept who I am.”
These days, Stephan’s head is clearer than it’s been in a long time.
“I used to really obsess,” says Hayes. “I stopped thinking about it so much, which is exactly why I wanted to do it.”
Now that his body and spirit are lined up, everything else is lining up, too.
“I’m just coming out of my cocoon,” says Hayes.
Now, Hayes plans to essentially rewrite his whole catalogue. He’s gigging again. Stargazer Lily is back in the studio. They’re experimenting with how to make music without becoming “a reunion band.” No one, Hayes says, is interested in reliving the past.
Then this winter, Hayes is heading to China to meet Majesta. They’ll live there until they return next summer to celebrate their wedding. In other words, Hayes is finally living out all of his big, big dreams. “I get complete anonymity, which is kind of exciting,” says Hayes. “Like, freeing.”
Uh Huh Her and the Fences + Steph Hayes & the Good Problems play Oct. 8: TLA, 334 South St. 215.922.1011. tlaphilly.com