The big learning curve when graduating from playing pillbox-size clubs to massive arenas, as broken down by a glam-rock fashion plate with high cheekbones and low inhibitions:
"It's much harder to get in trouble in an arena," explains Justin Tranter, frontman for Semi Precious Weapons, who've spent the past year opening for Lady Gaga on her mammoth "Monster Ball" trek. "When you're playing bars, it's very easy to accidentally have public sex or get in a fight. In the arenas, it took us a while to figure out how to keep that intensity and violence and glamour and filth when this thing was so big. But we finally figured it out: It was about being even crazier, if that's possible."
Semi Precious Weapons gigs tend to be sweaty, full-contact affairs, like a rugby scrum in high heels, with Tranter launching himself into the crowd, pressing lots of flesh, pinballing around the stage, imperiling his band's own gear.
"I've broken our own set like four times," Tranter says with a chuckle, purring his words like a cat. "We just had to really go for it."
Going for it is pretty much the dude's reason for being.
His band's tunes are visceral and debauched, catchy and concussive, all rock-hard hooks in pursuit of rock-hard bodies, as evidenced by their most recent disc, "You Love You," the band's second overall, which was released this past summer.
The New York City-based provocateurs pair tremors of dirty, T.Rex-derived guitar with Tranter's bawdy, full-throated come-ons, which generally revolve around the allure of diamonds, champagne, dancing till dawn and forever being fabulous.
It's all meant to be felt in the pelvis, to get the blood flowing in various nether regions.
"I think what really happened is that we wanted to make people dance to rock 'n' roll," Tranter says from the home he grew up in as a kid in Lake Zurich, Ill., where he's visiting during the holidays. "I love a lot of electronic pop music, but if you don't hear fake drums and synth, people don't understand that you can dance. So I think how Semi Precious Weapons came to be is to get people to dance and party in a real live music setting. It just had to get even more intense and even more ridiculous. We had to be even more fun and filthy."
But there's substance beneath the style, grit beneath the glitter.
Tranter's a well-trained musician who graduated from Boston's prestigious Berklee College of Music with a degree in songwriting in three years.
He started penning his own songs on piano at the age of 14.
His early musical loves are telling, as he was first drawn to the bad-boy rock 'n' roll hedonism of Guns N' Roses and the big-voiced, heart-on-the-sleeve emoting of Sinead O'Connor, a mix of danger, style and earnestness that's prominent in his tunes to this day.
After that, grunge hit, and while Tranter dug Nirvana, tellingly, it was that band's frontman's wife with whom he really identified.
"I just didn't really relate to Kurt Cobain," Tranter says. "There was nothing very glamorous about him. But Courtney Love came along and was obviously of the same vein, but really sexual and really glamorous, which of course, I'm obsessed with."
Tranter's a flamboyant androgyne, his features so black with mascara it's as if he just took a horrible beating, rocking women's pumps and pantyhose, often in retina-blastingly bright shades.
The key to it all?
To not be overshadowed by so much eye shadow.
"People are always quick to judge SPW because of the fact that I wear heels," Tranter says. "For me, I just have no choice. This is just how I feel beautiful and how I feel awesome. I would just be so uncomfortable onstage if I was wearing something else.
"I'm here home for Christmas, and it's so funny, because my mom accidentally calls me 'her' half the time, even though I'm not a transgendered person at all," he continues. "This is just who I am, and there's nothing I can do about it. If people think I'm a horrible musician because of the fact that I dress like this, well then, I guess that's just what has to happen."
Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476.