Max & Iggor Cavalera w/ Primitive 170 Russell, Melbourne Thursday 21 March, 2019 For the …
For just over a decade Le Butcherettes have been making the kind of punk rock one might call an anomaly.
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From their sound to their attitude they are a punk band in the truest sense yet they bring influences as diverse as the Beatles, Pink Floyd and David Bowie into their distinct musical palette. Born in Denver, Colorado, founder and frontwoman Teri Gender Bender grew up between the US and Mexico and started the band when she was just 17.
Her stage antics alongside a feminist stance made her a cult figure in the alternative music scene on both sides of the border. She caught the attention of At the Drive-In auteur Omar Rodriguez-Lopez early on in her career. Omar went on to produced and play bass on the band’s 2005 debut album Sin Sin Sin. His relationship with Teri continued in various other projects and remained the band’s producer up until their latest album bi/MENTAL. In the last few years the band has gone through a vital transformation; Teri is now fronting a band with entirely new members, finding a new home label in Rise Records. They brought in producer and legendary Talking Heads guitarist Jerry Harrison to work his magic on the new album and the result has really paid off for them.
“It’s been a delight working on this new album,” Teri Gender Bender tells Hysteria. “Luckily we have been fortunate enough to be very busy as a new band before starting to work on this album together. We just kept getting these offers from these kick ass bands and we were on the road all the time and from that we were able to develop a sense of musicianship amongst each other and make it sound raw every night, even when one of us had the flu or when we would play in our shittiest days together. Surprisingly enough we all get along really well, we can all put up with each other’s demons quite well so when we got into the studio we felt very comfortable with each other.”
Listening to bi/MENTAL, producer Jerry Harrison’s influence is obvious; they resemble the catchy bass lines and rhythmic guitar work that made Talking Heads so prevailing in the late 70s and early 80s. One can also notice the new album’s sonic direction is far more accessible and invites further experimentation than previous releases. “I really like the way Jerry works, we were able to have him early on for pre-production. He was able to help me with a timeline, focus and dedication; it was almost like it was his record as well. He was involved personally with everything alongside me but with that he gave us freedom and he helped us support the music especially with the melodic parts and the storytelling on the record.”
“When I presented the demos to him I would let him know what was going on in my life and what was affecting the songs I wrote. He was very different to Omar who is very visceral, emotional and has a lot fire in him and after one take it’s all about what the song makes you feel. With Jerry is was like we have a month to sit down with these songs and pick the strongest 13 from his perspective which is why I hired him in the first place because I believe in his perfectionism. On Struggle/STRUGGLE we came up with six different versions of the same song. He definitely works from a more intellectual point of view with maths and formulas, he was even a pop maker back in the day and I wanted that perspective and accessibility because he definitely made us more accessible.”
It may not be in your face and it’s not like we have the answers to these issues, during the making of the album I didn’t really know what it was going to be about, it just turned out that everything lyrically and melodically comes from a point of feeling lonely in a dysfunctional family and me feeling like the weird one.
Not only are the new songs sonically different, Teri’s lyrics explore themes of mental illness and how it effects families and societies. It’s a universal topic that touches many people, including the Latino culture where Teri experienced it first hand. “It may not be in your face and it’s not like we have the answers to these issues, during the making of the album I didn’t really know what it was going to be about, it just turned out that everything lyrically and melodically comes from a point of feeling lonely in a dysfunctional family and me feeling like the weird one. Apparently though it’s pretty common that everyone comes from a dysfunctional family the more we talked about it, people who come to our shows tell me stories that are very similar to mine. By default it turns out that all of us in the band have faulty pasts.”
“The sick mind is stigmatised in Latino culture especially if you’re raised in a Catholic family. You just don’t talk about it or check in on that person. My mother wasn’t even aware that she had mental illness, she just thought the whole world was against her, that stress and insomnia comes from reoccurring systems that you think are part of who you are when there is a way to put yourself at ease. My mother and I had a confronting situation where she stabbed me. She’s a good person and I realised it wasn’t personal and wrote the songs at the time feeling pissed off about it and thinking people might relate to these songs.”
Since the band first announced themselves to the world Teri and Le Butcherettes have had great support from their industry peers. After being on Omar’s independent production company for two albums the label merged with Mike Patton’s label Ipecac Records for their third release and the quartet has now found a home on Rise Record’s roster. Punk legends such as Henry Rollins and Iggy Pop have also lend them their voice on previous records and on bi/MENTAL prominent guests include Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys not to mention Mon Laferte and Alice Bag. “Rise Records believed in us because I think that we can’t be classified in a genre easily, that’s what they said to us. They were also interested in our culture.”
Le Butcherettes’ brand of punk is really a true statement of the heart. Even if you’re not a punk fanatic, you can still share their journey from whatever walk of life you come from as their music clearly speaks to the human condition.
Le Butcherettes were last in Australia in 2017 for the Yours & Owls Festival and will hopefully return in the not to distant future for a headline tour in support of bi/MENTAL.