w/ Glass Candy & the Shattered Theater, DJ Sean Reveron
Mon April 29,
Sometimes the music world--especially the punk-rock world--gets too fucking safe. There are all these cliques, dogmas, unspoken rules, and tighty-whities- in-a-wad bullshit boundaries no one wants to cross because everyone wants to make sure we're all okay with each other.
That attitude needs some shaking up so people don't take rock 'n' roll's raw insanity for granted. Just the other night, I saw some pissy emo dude get all pinched because people were bumping into him when he was standing in the pit at a show where the band members were stage-diving and crowd-surfing all around him.
Well, I'm all for the stir-the-shit-up, put-it-all-out-there-and-spark-some-excitement mentality. We're not gonna get anywhere by letting the status quo lead the status-soon-to-be-quo around on a short leash. So this week, we decided to let Chromatics (an up-and-coming art-punk band) interview themselves, and they came back with, to say the least, some very strong opinions on the Seattle music community. I definitely don't agree with all of the band's statements (especially their ideas about Chop Suey, a club I like and support), but fuck--I'm all for the idea of striking matches and seeing where the next fire starts. At least it leads people away from being jaded bystanders and toward keeping punk an exciting sonic force. JENNIFER MAERZ
When The Stranger approached us to do an interview, we were apprehensive about being represented inaccurately. So we decided that by interviewing ourselves, we could truly express our ideas about being a girl/boy band playing unconventional music in a city that's lost in the current trends of macho boy-rock and wannabe Mick Jaggerisms.
The following interview involves drummer Hannah B. and singer Adam M. Regrettably, guitarist/bass player Devin W. and bassist/guitar player/singer Michelle N. were out of town when this interview occurred.
ADAM M: Would you care to share some of your feelings about being a dyke in the Seattle/underground music scene?
HANNAH B: I view the Seattle scene in particular as overwhelmingly straight/male- dominated. As a result, it is a constant challenge for me, as the opposite of that paradigm, to operate under its rules. I'm often treated like an amateur by sound guys and boys from other bands we're playing with. They assume that I don't know how to set up my own fucking equipment, or that I require extra help and attention onstage. I always get the feeling that I have something to prove, like I have to be extra fierce in order to compensate for negative prejudgments of my abilities as a musician. I am often treated differently in the music world because of my gender. That, my friend, is the definition of sexism. Nevertheless, this is a challenge that I will gladly accept in order to bring about some kind of change or shift in this not-inclusive-to-women scene. I want to play a part in shattering the sexist double standards that are so predominant in our little indie-rock bubble.
HANNAH B: How does it feel being a straight-boy frontman in the Seattle/underground music scene?
ADAM M: Great! I feel safe.
HANNAH B: What is your agenda?
ADAM M: Our agenda is to ask people questions. We don't pretend to have all the answers. There is not necessarily one answer. The reason I became interested in punk rock and the underground was to escape the herdlike mentality of most Americans. I find it infuriating how complacent people in this "community" are. People are so frightened to have their own opinions, let alone share their opinions with others. Dialogue is rarely encouraged. I want to inspire people to create and share their own culture and ideas instead of relying on Prada advertisements to construct their realities.
[Below are some questions that both Hannah and Adam wanted to answer.]
What are the challenges you face playing music in Seattle?
HANNAH B: Well first of all, it's depressing that only 10 years ago, the Northwest was known as a hotbed of progressive/feminist thought, with the strength of the riot-grrrl movement behind it. Yet here we are in 2002, and Seattle seems to have forgotten all of the ideals that bands like Bikini Kill fought so hard to bring to the surface.
No one wants to recognize or combat sexist attitudes anymore, so these oppressive elements are allowed to exist and thrive here. I remember playing a particularly infuriating show at the RKCNDY a few years back, with my old band, Stiletto. Since we were an all-girl group, the mostly male audience felt that it was appropriate to yell out shit like, "Take off your shirts!" and "Nice tits!" I'm serious!
We could not even fathom that this kind of behavior was acceptable within the punk scene in the late '90s. That incident was actually the catalyst for [Stiletto's] subsequent breakup, because we couldn't take the confrontation anymore. We just wanted to be three ladies making music, but a lot of people were really threatened by that.
I feel like I've had to work twice as hard to be taken seriously. I'm viewed as either an amateur or a sex symbol, you know? I've had numerous experiences throughout eight years of playing shows in Seattle that reinforce this concept.
ADAM M: I find it extremely tedious going out and seeing music in clubs and traditional venues. Spaces that exist beyond the confines of the rock-club scene are few and far between, but these places are where the spirit of underground art and music can thrive.
I would much rather have Chromatics play a guerrilla show in the parking lot of Jack in the Box on Broadway than under the pagoda at Chop Suey, the new racist hotspot masquerading as a cutting-edge, hip nightclub. It is disgusting to me that a business so blatantly offensive can open its doors to a supposed community of open-minded artists and musicians. If the same crackers who own Chop Suey opened up an African-American-style bar or nightclub with the same sense of kitsch--cultural imperialistic icons similar to those that Chop Suey utilizes in its theme and décor--you can be damn sure that people would be upset about it. How would this be any different? It wouldn't be different at all. People should be outraged that this business exists, and even angrier that most people just accept it.
What current bands are sources of inspiration for Chromatics?
HANNAH B: Hearty shout-outs to the Gossip, Get Hustle, Tracy and the Plastics, Monitor Bats, Glass Candy & the Shattered Theater, Erase Errata, the Locust, Subtonix, Numbers, the Lowdown, and Le Tigre. All of these bands, in their sound and membership, challenge the current aesthetics of what is acceptable in the underground.
So some of you are probably wondering what the hell Chromatics sound like. Hmm... well, have you been hanging out in basements lately? Chromatics exude that really humid excitement that spills out of basement shows up and down the West Coast, where the kids know something and we're not telling, but it's grumbling and fizzing--and when it gets out, watch your back, 'cause nobody can control it. Chromatics axe all other danceable punk bands in half with punching, bony bass lines and hip-shaking drum beats, like there's a treasure to be found in the secret of making your feet scamper and your head bop, like they know that the answer to life is found right there in the rhythm. At the same time, there's some deep, dark shit going on in there. You can tell by Adam's voice, the way he wails and twitches like some tuff shit's about to go down, and by Devin's ace guitar, which crimps and spatters like shards of glass. The Seattle-based four-piece will soon have a split EP with Portland's saxophonic punkers the Monitor Bats out on Gold Standard Laboratories (GSL), and a full LP later down the line, as well as a single out on K this summer and an upcoming U.S. tour with the Gossip. JULIANNE SHEPHERD