“I’m trying to write about anything other than the American presidential elections,” Teri Gender Bender tells State ahead of Le Butcherettes’ latest European tour.
For a distinctly abrasive band from Mexico and based in Texas who describe themselves simply as “accessibly raw,” perhaps an exploration of the politics of Donald the ridiculous is just that little bit too obvious. Teri has never been one for the obvious.
“I’m fed up with what’s going on,” Teri explains. “It’s not because of the the elected people, it’s because of the ignorance that continues to grow from these campaigns, the majority of the supporters of both parties that turn the thinking game into a war field. Now that is an interesting political story. You can never deny the art craft there is to politics. It’s the sheep that make me want to stop commenting.”
Le Butcherettes have never been sheep. A fiery act best known for their stage show, they burst out of Guadalajara, Mexico to grab the attention of rock royalty like At The Drive-In, and garner a reputation for shock value: blood soaked on-stage outfits, pig heads, stomping moves and in-your-face rawness.
“It’s only natural to want to morph and not get stuck in a chapter,” Teri says of the act’s style. “My band has been through a lot of chapters, from playing in aprons, to playing with the same rag dress and hairy legs and make up less to playing in floral dresses to playing in uniform red. Just now there is a new transformation going on and I think it has a lot to do with my current obsession with The Talking Heads.”
“It’s always good to re-fall in love with the past. There are really no preparations. I don’t do vocal warm ups. I guess it’s all about having a good time and writing helps to not think about the upcoming show. Plus, you play so many shows that the day in itself becomes a ritual. From waking up in the morning for lobby call to having lunch together and conversing and trying to imitate [sound man] Mike Conroy’s British accent.”
Despite a love of the past and focus on living their lives soaking up the moment, Le Butcherettes are keen to identify with liberal issues, with Teri particularly outspoken on various feminist topics over the last few years. Quizzed about the controversy surrounding Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws, she links the Repeal the 8th campaign to wider issues including euthanasia.
“Having been outspoken I think these are important battles to have,” she argues. “It’s important to defend these burning issues because they are regarding our bodies. As humans we should be given the right to choose when we want to die and how we want to control our bodies.”
“If the body is oppressed the mind will start to lose stability resulting in breakdowns that will only do damage to society as a whole. Fighting for our basic necessities is always a must. These battles also inspire artists to write great songs that help to bring the message to the world. Awareness and art go hand in hand. They are lovers.”
Latest album ‘A Raw Youth’, is a good example of this. Released last year, it deals in themes such as sin, self-loathing and pain, and saw Le Butcherettes tour with a reunited At The Drive-In, who are clearly a massive inspiration, with both bands based in the relatively small hub of El Paso, Texas. “We all come from crazy backgrounds, non-typical cities, and the chemistry on the road is easy,” Teri explains. “It’s hard to find a band to tour with that doesn’t carry their ego on their forehead. Luckily enough, my ego is repeatedly humbled and starved.”
Teri has long associated with Omar Rodriguez-Lopez in particular, and his presence on production duties on an album that contains a song originally written for his spin-off band Bosnian Rainbows gives massive star quality to a third release also featuring Iggy Pop and John Frusciante.
“The album really came about from my secret storage of keyboard/electronic based songs that I had written. As the producer, Omar felt that these songs would balance out the guitar ones up. I completely agree. I am always wanting a well balanced, varied album,” Teri explained, referring to the record’s mellower, shinier tone.
Iggy Pop is a long time hero of the band, and featured on that Bosnian Rainbows-borrowed track ‘La Uva’, as well as ingratiating himself with the band. “It was very easy going and laid back,” Teri recalls. “He is a true gentleman and even came to the studio in Miami with the song in his heart. He had everything memorized, not to mention that the song is in Spanish. He took the time to drive me and Omar around other neighborhoods in Miami outside of South Beach. That was very fun. He is a sensitive man. Very giving. He is madly in love with his wife. It inspires me to believe in love, you know? He inspires. That is just what he does.”
This tour – “absolute bliss,” according to Teri – is a step along the road to another transformation. For Dublin, the frontwoman says we should expect “nothing at all, except my truth, and passion and soul from my bandmates.” When days on the road are over, though, things will change. “We are already playing 3 new songs from the next record. Working with all kinds of themes that have been surrounding me and my tribe this past year. I can’t wait until it sees the light.”
“We’ll finish the new record, dive into the studio and explore the next sound that I have in mind for the next era of Le Butcherettes.” Which could, experience tells us, mean just about anything.
Le Butcherettes play the Workman’s Club, Dublin on October 19.