Renowned as one of the most energetic front women in modern rock, Killyourstereo.com caught up with Le Butcherettes songstress Teri Gender Bender, following the release of their new album, to talk music, travel and rabid Mexican fans.
Hey Teri, what have you been up to today?
Basically, we are in El Paso, Texas rehearsing the songs from the new record, and I’m watching the sun set at the moment, which reminds me a lot of Australian sunsets. I feel like I’m over there right now.
How much new material is in the set?
A good five songs, at least. It’s a set list that consists of about 16 songs, so we are putting in a little bit from the first, second and third record, and some from the one EP we did a while ago. I’m just happy to be playing these songs if I can be frank. We are bringing in synths finally. I’ve done that awhile now with another band that I’m in, but I think it is time now for Le Butcherettes to make that musical step.
Are you going to be playing the synths?
Well actually this is where I get my relief and a great load off my back. There is this great bassist, an all round musician from Seattle that Chris, our drummer, had met before because she was a studio engineer. Chris said that she would be a great bassist so we tried her out and it worked perfectly. She recorded the bass for ‘Raw Youth’ in three days. She is a one take person. I thought it would be hard for me to play guitar and a Moog at the same time, so I asked her if she could incorporate the synths and bass at the same time, and she was like “Hell yeah!”. She is a nerd for those toys and playing around with synths and all. She is also incorporating guitar now, so there is me now on guitar and keyboard, and Jamie is doing bass, guitars and synths, and the samples are there as well. Chris is killing it on drums. This is the best Butcherettes line-up ever. I’m so stoked.
Has it been easier re-setting the line up this time around?
I can only be so lucky. When the cycle is over with old members, I’m always ready and set to start a new cycle with new people, because how lucky am I that I can learn from new people? We can reshape the vision and serve the music at the end of the day. I may have come up with the vision, but it’s not just about me. I’m drawing from different influences and it’s cool to have people support that vision and be keen to try and play a hell of a show. I’ve been lucky enough to share music with some great people, and I really can’t complain. I’m not in politics; I’m not a brain surgeon or anything. I left school for this, so I can only be so lucky that this is what I can do for a living. People can be in the band for as long as they want, and if it doesn’t work, awesome! Shake hands, still be friends and keep working, and maybe even make music with other projects later on.
How does the new band gel live?
Essentially, everyone is a little older than me. They know what they want more. People my age, generally speaking, are very focused on making small talk. That’s what I’ve experienced in the US and Mexico. Older people are a bit more comfortable with who they are, and don’t have to make small talk. We can be in the van and we don’t have to say anything. All of us can just be in our heads without taking it personally or being self conscious. We have a well oiled machine. We all know how to do our load ins and get to the venues on time, and what to do afterwards. We have a system where we like to chill. Jamie likes to go around the city and get fresh air. I like to stay in the venue and write in my note book to calm down the nerves, and Chris loves overworking, so to reassure that all the cables are right, and setting his drums to the perfect inch. He is the detailist. Jamie always kills it with the music and I try to calm down with writing. It’s nothing what people think it would be with parties and alcohol and all. We are very boring.
Do you prefer that dynamic though?
The body is your temple! If you stay up too late and you have a 7:30am lobby call in the morning, you are obviously going to feel drained and dry, and dehydrated. For example, in Australia we did a driving tour the first time, which is good because it’s easier on the body than aeroplanes, like the second and third time. So we had to wake up early, take our vitamins, drink lots of water and go to sleep as soon as we got back to the hotel room. My respect for people that can continue to party and have a beer afterwards, I could never do that.
Do you think nerves are a positive thing?
Definitely. Nerves are a natural shock of like caffeine or adrenaline. It keeps you pumped and means you’re still excited about what you are doing. I think that’s what it is.
Lots of people have noticed that Le Butcherettes shows are incredibly energetic. How did that develop?
I can’t contain it, which is ironic, because I’m a much bigger fan of bands that are calm. They get onstage and focus on the craft. I can’t do that. Something overcomes me, like craziness or whatever. I’m trying to calm it down but I can’t. In rehearsal it’s perfect. I play great sets, but once you’re on stage, it’s like going into a room with different types of energies. Because it’s not just the artist that is the antenna. It’s a two way street. If you have an audience that does not enjoy you that makes me wanna become violent to a point I am offstage and I go crazy. When I was younger I ended up dislocating a man’s shoulder! This is in Mexico. I was very lucky, because he was completely drunk. I was completely out of it because I had a punk audience, and I started howling at the moon – I don’t even know why. It sounds ridiculous. In that moment you are an animal. So his friends popped it back in. Only in Mexico can you get away with it. I didn’t see him after the show, but I hope he is ok. When the music comes in it kills your ego and something else comes in. It takes a hold [of you]. I don’t know how to describe it.
What is a Mexican audience like?
They are the most brutally honest audience in the world. If they like you; fuck your phone, they put their lighters up in the air and light them to the beat of the drum. It looks like little fireworks going on and off according to the tempo of the music. But if they hate you, I kid you not, they will take shit in their hand and throw it at you. It’s never happened to us, but it has happened to friends of ours, I’ve seen it. I get so mad because they stop the show because of it, and I think, “No! Keep going, they throw shit at you, you take it and keep rubbing it on yourself.” But they make a good point, because it has micro organisms in it, and if that gets into your mouth then you can get sick. But when they are into it, it’s beautiful. There is beauty to it, never knowing what to expect with different cultures. For example, in Japan the audience was the opposite. Everyone was extremely quiet and polite, analysing every single little detail and picking up on single notes and all. When the last note finishes they clap very gently.
What are some other standout countries that warm to the band?
I loved playing in Russia. It reminded me a lot of a Latino crowd because they were all so very extreme with their emotions. If they really enjoy the show, then at the end a lot of women will give me necklaces and one of them gave me one that belonged to their grandmother. It made me cry! That’s deep. I’m not worthy. They are very giving. But similar to Mexico, they are a very corrupt country and very impoverished, but still they want to give you the little that they do have. It’s very moving. Same in Croatia. The promoter of the festival set us up in his mother’s home. So it was very intimate and personal. His family took us to a beautiful dinner next to the ocean. The fish came right up out of the ocean in front of us. It was very personal and homemade liquor as well. I never drink, but in some one else’s home you are going to take that drink and enjoy it. I’m not gonna lie, it was incredible.
On Raw Youth, you went with Omar Rodriguez Lopez again, who has done your other albums. Would you ever change it up in the future?
I’ll be frank, not many people are knocking on our doors. I’m amazed that Omar still wants to work with me after all these years, that he still has interest in our music and that he makes time to help the producer when we are on the same schedule. But in the meantime, nobody else has offered to produce our stuff. If it does happen, then I’ll be more than open to do it. When I’m not touring, I work with other people and we produce stuff together. So I’m always sending song ideas to people. It could be a friend of mine in Greece, because you have the internet. So I’m always working with other people then, but with Butcherettes, its only Omar.
‘A Raw Youth’ is out now via Ipecac Recordings.