Speak Into My Good Eye

Interview: Seattle’s Chastity Belt Talk Songwriting, Feminism, & Diners

Allyson Dwyer November 1, 2013 Features, Interviews No Comments

Chastity Belt

Having just released their excellent debut LP No Regerts, Seattle rockers Chastity Belt struck out on a national supporting tour, and were rad enough to stop by New Brunswick to play in the basement known as Circuit City. Playing twenty-one cities in less than a month, the group has been making a mad-dash across the country playing small shows daily with Pony Time.

Chastity Belt had no issue filling up the New Brunswick basement with their distinct sound. Playing with no setlist, the band instead decided on what song to play in the moment, and without a second word, in unison they would jump right in to the next song as if the record had been rotating on your player that whole time.

Their distinct sound rounds out more fully when heard live, as if the open air allows the songs to breathe outside of the studio. While they did play a handful of songs off their record, the group also shared many newer tracks, including a closing song that had the four members jamming, each bringing a gratifying solo that built to a cohesive whole. It’s quite a (mature) difference from the one-two minute bursts of No Regerts.

Chastity Belt sat down to chat with Speak Into My Good Eye following a much needed, well regarded meal at the Omega Diner before their show. We spoke about their short time in New Jersey, their lyrics, their recent slated opening spot on Wire’s upcoming West Coast tour, and Halloween costumes. I also caught a glimpse of their brand new “Mom” tattoos, which can also be read as “Wow” if turned upside down.

SIMGE: I realize you guys are only here for a short time so I wanted to know, how do you like New Jersey so far?

Gretchen: It’s the best. We ate at this really cool diner called Omega Diner. I recommend it to everyone, it was amazing.  Our server was so cool.

SIMGE: Diners are like a New Jersey thing. Completely New Jersey.  I always drive by that place.

Julia: It looks like a department store or something from the outside.

Lydia: Great service though.

Annie: I had some really good vegetables, and a veggie burger, which I was craving that. So good.

Julia: I was more into our server, I got a pic with her, so…

Chastity Belt

SIMGE: How did the show here with Circuit City come about?

Julia: I think that I talked to you [Circuit City] about this. Did Tacocat play before?

Circuit City: They haven’t played here, but they’ve played New Brunswick. We’re like internet friends.

Julia: Yeah, cool. So that’s how it happened, Facebook, Tacocat.

SIMGE: I wanted to say I read that analysis you guys shared on Facebook about “Nip Slip.” I thought it was really interesting actually and I wanted to know if you guys ever thought that your songs or your lyrics could be analyzed like that or if you intended for them to ever have feminist undertones?

Julia: I don’t think I really intended anything with writing lyrics. I’ve just written them. I guess it’s cool he wanted to analyze it like that. I mean I think it was obviously like also a joke. He just took it to the next level.  I mean I definitely didn’t like think about it, and anything that he said.

Lydia: I mean in the same way that you write an English paper, it just seemed very scholarly. Like obviously none of this is real but you’re like writing it from a different point, for like your own purpose rather than trying to explain what the artist is saying.

Julia: But I am a feminist, so there’s probably feminist overtones, undertones, in everything

Lydia: Overtones, undertones…

Julia: And overtones.

Gretchen: All the tones.

SIMGE: So you guys are on Spotify now and I noticed in your biography they write that you’re taking “cues” from the riot grrl scene and-

Julia: Wait we have a biography on Spotify?

SIMGE: There’s a biography, someone wrote it, and they wrote, and I’m quoting them, “the intricate moody guitar-based sounds of 90s Pacific Northwestern indie bands like Sleater-Keaney and Autoclave.” How much of that would you say is accurate, like do you guys consider yourselves riot grrls?

Julia: I don’t really think we sound like riot grrls.

Gretchen: Like people say that we’re riot grrl but I think that’s only because we’re girls.

Lydia:  And we’re from the Pacific Northwest…

Julia: I would say we have similar ideas and or like beliefs, maybe, but our music doesn’t sound too much like riot grrl.

Annie: Maybe a couple songs or something but overall I would say if you listen to our album.

Julia: Everyone’s always trying to classify us. Just go with it. From now on when people ask what genre we are, I’m always just like, “rock n roll!”

SIMGE: When you guys are back on the west coast, I know you’re going to be opening for Wire, and that’s really cool and exciting. Do you think that opening for such an established punk group is going to bring open up possibilities, wanted or unwanted?

Julia: Hopefully, it’s kind of intimidating. I’m not sure, it was really lucky that we got the spot on their tour, because what happened was their initial tour support dropped out. We were like “Oh, this is a great opportunity,” so we all kind of had tell our jobs. It was a last minute thing so Annie and Gretchen were both like, “Umm so we’re gonna need more time off, I know that we’re on tour right now, but…”

Annie: “But we’re gonna need another week, so…”

Julia: But yeah I’m hoping that it will at least-

Gretchen: Get us a good name with a booking company.

SIMGE: I wanted to ask going back to your songs and songwriting, a mixture of the songs on your album are pretty funny, it seems like humor is in the DNA of the band but there’s also a couple of tracks that are actually beautifully written and they have really great emotion to them. Do you see the future songs you work on or albums swaying to one side or do you want to maintain that balance between those kinds of songs?

Julia: I think it’s nice to have that balance, but a lot of our newer songs are less light-hearted, less jokey.

Gretchen: I don’t think the joke is as obvious.

Lydia: And the joke could be different too, it’s not like the joke of being at college and shit and everyone just getting fucked up.

Julia: It isn’t quite so obscene. I’m also in a band with Stacey from Pony Time called Child Birth and I feel like that’s where my more light-hearted–we have one called “I Only Fucked You As A Joke.” It’s really cool.

SIMGE: So do you write the bulk of the songs, or do you guys do like collaborator efforts and write them together?

Lydia: It’s mostly Julia.

Julia: Most of it is like I’ll come up with an idea and play it with everyone.

Annie: And then we’ll all come up with our parts.

Julia: We have a couple songs that have been more of collaboration.

SIMGE: Did you ever think Chastity Belt was going to go this far on a national tour?

Chastity Belt: (in unison) No!

Julia: Absolutely not. We all just kind of fell into it, actually.

SIMGE: Have any towns been more receptive to you guys, like what towns surprised you with its turn out?

Gretchen: I was surprised by Iowa. We like sold so much merch there. People seemed to really like us.

Annie: I feel like more people came to the Brooklyn show too than I was expecting. It was pretty packed so that was cool.

SIMGE: What are you all being for Halloween?

Julia: I’m going to be Elmo. Elmo every year, for three years, every year since Junior year.  This will be the fourth year. I don’t know, I try to put a twist on it every year.

Gretchen: Last year you were like dead-

Julia: Zombie Elmo.  First year I was just Elmo, this year is going to be Siamese Elmo. I think so, yeah.

Gretchen: I was hoping to like pick up a costume on tour but we haven’t really had much time.

Julia: There’s a holiday store right next to the Omega Diner which we should go to tomorrow morning.  Go back to the Omega Diner, and go to the Halloween store and get costumes.

Gretchen: For the past couple years I have this Twinkie costume that I wear, but I didn’t bring it because I thought it was too big to bring. Maybe I should have brought it.

Lydia: One year we were all junk food

Julia: I was French fries.

Annie: I was an M&M

Lydia: I was a Hershey kiss

Gretchen: I was the Twinkie.

Julia: We were like dead junk food.

Like this Article? Share it!

About The Author

Allyson is a recent graduate of Eugene Lang College at the New School, with a B.A. in Literary Studies and Writing. She is an award-winning playwright with an interest in other genres, including journalism. She is originally from Leonardo, NJ, and remembers the Internet Cafe in Red Bank.

Leave A Response