It was the evening of February 28 when Lisa Mungo walked out of Fremont’s Bar House, closing the door on a room full of the sound of Parliament-Funkadelic, and the cheers of her regular patrons. She had built up a stable of smiling, tipping, drinking faces during her tenure as a bartender, but was now leaving that life behind in favor of a professional position in social media at Roland Virtual Sonics.
The crowd there to send her off expressed nothing but joy for Mungo’s future, which to this writer seems a little incongruous, considering Mungo just sang a song on a punk album about how much contempt she can have for bar-goers.
“You want me to make you something fun?/You want me to make you something that I like?/Get the fuck out of here,” Mungo screams on “GTFO,” one of the 13 blistering cuts of high-distortion punk rock that make up Suffrage, the first LP by Seattle’s own Fucked and Bound. It is a record that’s arrived just in time to embody the most heated thrust of the #metoo movement.
According to Mungo, the band was never meant to be an outwardly political outfit. Her goal at the start, as often is for hardcore-punk musicians, was just to vent. “I would think about something that is personal that bothered me,” Mungo says in an interview just after that last shift. “I thought ‘Okay, I’m a bartender, I can talk about that.’ Customer service, in general, is frustrating.”
Fucked and Bound was born of frustration. Mungo plays keyboards in local heavy progressive-rock outfit He Whose Ox Is Gored alongside her songwriting partner, guitarist Brian McClelland, who also attended this interview. According to the duo, Fucked and Bound began when McClelland began writing guitar parts that were too direct and aggressive to be used in Ox. "I played these riffs at practice and realized they were of a different beast entirely," he said.
At the same time, Mungo realized that in Ox she had physical limitations being stuck behind a wall of gear. “I just wanted to scream. I wanted to reach out and touch people.”
When McClelland and Mungo began working with those more aggressive riffs in private, the project became an avenue for the both of them to exorcise their demons with a direct, emotionally driven project to counteract the more mystical, cerebral nature of He Whose Ox Is Gored—a Dionysian counterweight to their other outfit's more right-brained and Apollonian character.
“I started seeing it as an opportunity to explore almost an alter ego,” Mungo says. She abandoned her keyboard and began to sculpt her stage persona, a psychosexually amplified version of herself inspired by the so-common-as-to-seem-mundane injustices she witnesses every day, as well as by a strain of virulent and physical punk singer. She cites Dave Verellen from Botch, Steve Snere from These Arms Are Snakes and Alexis Marshall of Daughters as influences. “You can tell that when they’re talking, they mean it and that at that moment they are on another dimension of reality. That to me is the only way to add value as a front person, truly. You need to be so immersed and go there that people can't help but cry. They see your performance and get emotional.”
To that end, Mungo wrote a series of lyrics that eschew the more mysterious writing style she uses in Ox, and focus on the very real irritants in her everyday life. Hence “GTFO,” the aforementioned violent protest of rude bar customers. As far as complaints go, that’s light by Fucked and Bound’s standards. “0FUXX” rails against the cost of living in King County, “Creeps on the Street” likens late-stage addiction sufferers to hellish ghouls. Much of the record wrestles with misogyny from Mungo’s femme perspective.
“I sing about a thousand papercuts every time I leave my door. How many times between when I walk out the door and I get back do I experience misogyny? Even if I’m not completely conscious of it: it’s a constant grating in the back of my mind.”
Initially, Mungo hesitated to take her vocals into the full-throated roaring territory that she now employs. Screaming vocals—the so-called “death growl” as popularized in punk by bands like Negative Approach and in metal by bands like Morbid Angel—has long been central to these genres. Mungo credits her decision to employ them in part to the experience of seeing women scream in other Seattle area bands, including Mysterious Skin and Transient.
“Seeing women screaming in these bands was powerful. It felt very authentic and different than the hundred other bands that have come through with his same formula, but with a guy singing,” Mungo says. “I wanted to know what that felt like, and then we started working on the band, and I felt all the things. It felt cathartic. It felt important.”
Mungo did not write Suffrage with any particular political moment or social movement in mind—the band’s formative months predate the sexual assault charges leveled against Harvey Weinstein, the ignition point for the #metoo movement—but the album has arrived at a time when American society’s attitude toward the commonplace harassment women suffer at the hands of men is galvanized, and voices several of the same frustrations that lie at the center of the #metoo movement’s critique. “We all can feel it; there’s a motion, there’s a buzz. We may not understand it fully, but we know something is happening,” Mungo says, before noting that she’s sometimes felt unsure about making any outright political statements in connection to her band.
The patriarchy’s support struts honeycomb all aspects of society, and they extend even into the hollow of underground music, the labyrinth of small venues, independent-record distros, fan-run blogs, and high-volume dive bars where Fucked and Bound operate. In the end, Mungo opts to take advantage of the platform that the band gives her. “Sitting back and doing nothing is not taking advantage of this moment where there is both momentum and an ability to have an impact. In a way, you’re squandering that opportunity.”
Suffrage relates images and experiences from Mungo’s perspective in a genre that historically has not valued the desires and points of view of women. Her lyrics are a far cry from the asymmetrical lechery of Black Sabbath’s “Dirty Women" or Black Flag’s “Slip It In,” both bands who innovated the musical tropes Fucked and Bound explore. “My womb is a cratered wake,” she sings on album-closer, “Abuse of Registry,” touching on a kind of darkness that men cannot experience firsthand. “In the end it’s inescapable, those are the truths that are inescapable: that I do feel this way, that I do ultimately want to empower women, that I want not to feel a thousand paper cuts every time I walk out the door,” Mungo says.
There is an audience for what Fucked and Bound are relaying. Suffrage was premiered on Vice’s massively-trafficked music webpage, Noisey, and Fucked and Bound are already receiving offers to play overseas. The band has already made local festival appearances to small-but-packed houses. The band’s even had a positive influence on Mungo and McClelland’s other group, He Whose Ox Is Gored, who have just recorded their next record, Cascader (Mungo still plays keyboards, but she will scream on it).
According to Mungo, a significant portion of her audience is always female, material evidence that people are ready to hear an authentic, emotional musical expression of their pain—and they want to listen to it screamed.
The Suffrage release party will be held Saturday, March 17 at Black Lodge as the kickoff to Fucked and Bound’s 2018 tour in support of the album.