Music put Seattle on the map. Well, I guess it was music and the lumber industry, but the latter isn’t nearly as big of a cultural phenomenon. But the way some people who aren't from the Pacific Northwest talk about the local music scene today, one could be fooled into thinking the vibrancy of the scene died with Kurt Cobain.

Yes, of course, the legacy of grunge in the early '90s and bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains remain a huge influence on both the city and pop culture as a whole, but I believe Seattle’s musical heyday actually came around in the early 2010s, with Chastity Belt’s debut full-length No Regerts—released on August 13, 2013—as a sacred text to the time. 

The band formed in 2010 when Julia Shapiro, Annie Truscott, Lydia Lund, and Gretchen Grimm met while attending Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. Heavily indebted to the feminist principles of '90s bands like Sleater Kinney and the poignant songwriting of Elliot Smith, the band eventually relocated to Seattle and released their early EPs Dude, in collaboration with Dude York, and Fuck Chastity Belt in 2012.

While finding their sound in their early days gigging around college punk venues, Chastity Belt took the often way too self-serious genre of indie rock and imbued it with a post-feminist sense of humor. The Pacific Northwest was known for moody and angsty grunge rock, but Chastity Belt came out looking for a good time with songs about giant vaginas and nip slips

“I think other people took Chastity Belt seriously before we all did,” singer and guitarist Shapiro wrote via email ahead of the 10-year anniversary of No Regerts

“None of us had ever been in a band before this, so it felt less vulnerable to start by writing joke songs. That way, if people laughed at us they were actually laughing with us. We were just writing these stupid songs and we couldn’t believe people actually wanted to listen to them.”

It was a bit of a surprise when music blogs like Pitchfork and Stereogum started to cover the release of No Regerts with overwhelmingly positive reviews—not because the band wasn’t worthy of praise, but because of how the lyrics seem to skewer the type of music bros who read those sites at the time.

One review from Pitchfork curiously compared the band to Vampire Weekend, which makes sense given the breezy surf-rock sounds that were popular at the time, but the lyrics in the song “Seattle Party” sound like the band is laughing right in their face. “Your tattoos are so deep, they really make me think,” Shapiro sings as though she’s rolling her eyes at some dude in a dive bar. “You’re a cool guy, you won’t look us in the eye.” 

But even with the mocking tone in their songs, Chastity Belt always intended to bring listeners in on the joke so everyone can have a good time. “I always try to catch myself when I start taking things too seriously,” said Shapiro. “It’s just like, we’re four good friends playing music together, let’s try to have a good time while also making some stuff that we’re proud of.”

Much like the rich community of musicians that made the local scene so influential in the '90s, Chastity Belt was just one thread in the tapestry of the 2010s music scene, which included bands like the glitter punk aesthetic of Tacocat and the lo-fidelity powerpop of Lisa Prank. Many of these bands swap members and work on different music projects together, giving the entire scene a cohesive feel of community. 

“The music scene here has definitely formed my sense of community for the last decade,” said drummer Gretchen Grimm. “Most of my friends I’ve met through music in one way or another. I love how there has always been a feeling here of people making music with their friends because that’s what they love doing, and people go to shows because they’re stoked to see their friends play.

“I have so many precious memories of watching bands like Stickers, Pony Time, Wimps, NighTraiN, Display, Vats, Haunted Horses, Tacocat, and so many more.” 

The band was supposed to celebrate the notable anniversary with a two-day mini music fest—This Party Sucks—produced by XO Seattle and featuring food trucks, flash tattoos by Shannon Perry and Jonathan Fleming, interactive art (including a giant vagina), and appearances from some of those beloved friends who were with them from the beginning. The shows were canceled when XO Seattle co-founder Austin Bellamy Hicks was accused of sexual assault.

But if there are any positives to glean out of the recent string of venues called out over predatory owners in the Seattle area, it's been reassuring to see how fast the community has rallied around and supported the bands and artists who've been impacted. Chastity Belt and pals have moved the party to Linda’s Tavern on Friday, August 18—there will be new merch (No Regerts is being repressed on black smoke and oxblood and Coke bottle green vinyl), a photo booth, and guest DJ appearances by some of the band’s long-time friends including Emily Nokes and Bree McKenna of Tacocat and Lisa Prank.

The community they were a part of 10 years ago is still very much a part of the city today. But with Seattle’s cost of living surging and fewer venues available for young bands who are just starting out, has the city been able to maintain anything similar for the next generation of artists?

“I feel like I’ve had a lot of conversations with people trying to answer the question, ‘Is the scene dying or am I just getting old?’ The answer seems to be both,” said Grimm. “A friend who grew up here mentioned that going to local shows in high school inspired her to get into different kinds of music and play in bands herself, but kids today don’t have the same access to smaller shows, due to fewer DIY spaces and all ages shows.”

While Grimm appreciates coming to Seattle at the time they did, they can also admit that they just might not be as involved with the next wave. 

“I feel really lucky to have moved here when it felt like there was a show or two I wanted to go to every week. There’s no way I have the stamina to go that hard anymore 👵🏻, but it’s sad to think that there’s less of a robust scene here now for younger people. I do hold out hope, though, that there are more shows happening that I’m no longer cool enough to know about.”

Chastity Belt has changed just as much as the city has over the past 10 years. While they still maintain a sense of humor, their songwriting has evolved to be more than just jokes, and after the band released their self-titled full-length in 2019, Shapiro relocated to Los Angeles. But they all still keep up with each other, even under the new writing dynamic. “We may or may not be cooking up some new tunes,” Grimm teased.

Are they still having fun? Listening to No Regerts now, even a decade later, and there's no question. They obviously are.

Chastity Belt hosts This Party Really Sucks: Celebrating 10 Years of No Regerts at Linda's Tavern Friday, August 18, 5-8 pm.