over the past decade, mexican garage punk outfit le butcherettes has served as a platform for frontwoman and guitarist teri gender bender to bring to life their visceral, chaotic, and triumphant songwriting. on ‘bi/mental,’ the project’s fourth full-length, le butcherettes have issued their most bracing and forward-thinking record yet
ahead of their pair of shows supporting L7 at Elsewhere, gender bender took the time to answer a few of our questions.
The inspiration behind bi/MENTAL comes from a very particular, personal (and what I can only imagine was a very painful) struggle. How did writing bi/MENTAL compare to crafting your earlier albums?
It was the longest record that took to make given to the fact that we had that time as a luxury rare to us since we are almost always on tour. Never a dull moment. Being on tour can also give you PTS because of many intense encounters and situations one can find themselves in.
So it was very nice to be able to be in one situated area for one whole month in a studio on the edge of the world. overlooking the sea.
Whereas the past records were sometimes recorded one week here and another over there and boom boom bam mam we are done.
In a feature on the LA Times, I read you were concerned about your music being “too much of an open book.” Were you ever afraid to put out something so intimate?
The older I become the more afraid I feel. Before I wouldn’t think twice about it now I doubt every thought that enters my mind. Foggy. Meditating helps though.
First thing in the morning. I feel like having just turned 30 I’m realizing just barely now just starting to realize how some people can truly be bi mental. Who knows, maybe I’m projecting and I’m the bad seed. Maybe that is why I’m too much of an open book or that I’m just too trusting and its always come to bite me in the head. Thank god for being able to vent to you and to the world about this though because in real life I’m so confusing. No one really understands me or my family except a very very very select few. So art helps me be able to vent with this frustration.
What, if anything, are you trying to accomplish with your songwriting both personally, and for your listeners?
An immediate connection. I love to explore all kinds of production but it all starts from the songs and the songwriting comes from a very instinctual feral place that my ignorant brain couldn’t put into a tangible explanation. you see, I’m not really “studied” so I feel pretentious even trying to explain but I just want someone to feel something anything when they listen to it. Song writing wise I just want to keep on evolving and to continue learning and absorbing. There is nothing like feeling inspired enough to let the free flow come out.
Could you tell us more about the track title formats? Can you talk about a specific title that best exemplifies what you’re trying to achieve? e.g. “nothing” can naturally be followed by “/BUT TROUBLE”, whilst “spider” followed by “/WAVES” is less intuitive.
The song is about a manifestation against an intrusion. Feeling drowned. We are the little spider the disconnection of the / is the barricade against the waves negativity once removed the itsy bitsty spider goes down the water spout. the / represents feelings disconnected, words make no sense, when separate they take their own meaning. those are feelings that I think represent mental anguish and isolation.
Jello Biafra delivers a stirring monologue of what sounds like politically charged absurdity in the opening track of bi/MENTAL. How did that collaboration come about? Did you write this together, and what exactly was it getting at?
I have been working on a short film with Omar (Rodriguez Lopez). The movie featured Jello Biafra and my mother. The dialogue was written my O. It’s how the system has let down my mother. She couldn’t rely on it in Mexico so she had to come to the usa yet it still isn’t all it was made out to be, deception, bitterness… out of service is the new norm, nothing is worse than that and it fits perfectly with the bi mentality of western civilization. The dialogue was a sample taken from the short… and he directs these words to my mother and she stands there silently looking out over the El Paso landscapes.
Speaking about big name collabs with punk rock icons, you’ve also collaborated with people like Iggy Pop and Alice Bag, and opened for acts like the Dead Weather, Queens of the Stone Age, and recently the reunited Bikini Kill. Have there been any stand out experiences?
We have been so lucky and fortunate to be able to share the same stage with them. Recently, Alice Bag joined us a couple of times in Los Angeles to perform our song mother/HOLDS and it was such an exhilarating high to be able to turn around and see her and my band expressing themselves and feeding off of one another myself included. Plus Gigi did our lights for that gig too (she was there doing Bikini Kill’s lights) and it was just extra special and made the collaboration a lot more impactful at least for me. Plus it ws so amazing to see so many women in the audience. Watching Bikini Kill was full circle for us. I grew up listening to these inspiring amazing women. At the moment we are on the road in support of L7 and they are fantastic and humble hard working people. It’s been such a mind blowing experience of being able to be on their tour. My real life.
Who are some of your musical and live-energy inspirations?
Cats, chickens, crying babies, pregnant women, women in distress, revenge… Michelle Phifer, Bjork, Violent Femmes, Miles Davis, Uma Thurman’s performance in Lars Von Trier’s movie about a nimph. Rocky Horror Picture Show was also a very life changing musical rock opera for me as well as Tommy – by The Who.
For people just becoming familiar with Le Butcherettes, why did you decide to change your name to “Gender Bender”?
A feminist ego that is used to hide myself the self, behind. To protect myself with against the evil out in the world . To hide behind the idea of a powerful empowered woman when in reality I battle with these demons that also in a sick way nature Gender Bender.
Gender Bending is constant transformation, change, female, male, one two three, all in one, anything is more interesting than Teresa Suarez Cosio.
How has your perspective on feminism in music grown/changed since the name change and now?
My perspective on feminism in music has transformed with time. Feminism is very inspiring to me. It makes me very happy to see it grow and prosper. I’ve had a hate and love relationship with certain hypocritical tendencies within the movement so it is important to have dialogue on this to strengthen instead of living in a denial that with only one way of thinking will we thrive and maybe sadly who knows maybe that is our life’s purpose to all be the same and come together as one thought and then implode into the unknown universe via a blackhole. All I know is that the older I get more grateful I am for all the opportunity’s opened to my music and my band because feminism paved the way for it to be possible.
Interview by Xin-Rui Lee
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