By Gilbert Ward Kane
Le Butcherettes are a punk band formed in Mexico in 2007. They are fronted by the most high energy front woman in the industry, Teri Gender Bender. She is the only consistent member. The revolving lineup has included many talented members such as drummer Gabe Serbian of Cattle Decapitation fame and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez of At The Drive In and Mars Volta. Rodriguez-Lopez hooked up with Teri early in Le Butcherettes career and produced their debut album Sin, Sin, Sin (2011) as well as contributed on bass. It didn’t take long for Le Butcherettes to gain notoriety in the music industry.
Three years after their debut release, Le Butcherettes released Cry Is for the Flies. This album contributed to even more recognition and put them on the radar of some very influential people in the industry. They toured with The Melvins (which is where I first saw them), and were noticed by Mike Patton (Faith No More, Mr. Bungle) who owned record label Ipecac. In September of 2015, Le Butcherettes released their most recent album, A Raw Youth, on Ipecac. Le Butcherettes are slated to play Pappy & Harriet’s on Thursday, May 11. I can guarantee this show will be one of the most moving and high energy shows you’ll see for the price.
CV Weekly: What was the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?
Teri Gender Bender: “It was when I was 4 years old and I was in San Miguel de Allende, which is a beautiful little city here in Mexico, and there was a big festival. There were a lot of musicians on the street playing, and all of a sudden something over took me. I went into the middle of the parade and started dancing and singing with the musicians. One of them was moved by it because I was 4 years old. He gave me his guitar and I started improvising on it and banging on it. My mother was screaming at me to stop and come back, ‘No Teresa. No due haces.’ I defied her and kept doing it. I felt so alive. Finally she stopped and started watching with the crowd. We were all united and I knew that’s what I wanted to do the rest of my life. It was Dia de los Muertos, so the visuals were very striking with the skulls and people wearing black and putting food on the floor for the dead. I knew that was the world I belonged to.”
CVW: When you were growing up, you shared time between Denver, CO and Mexico. Were you equally inspired by American music and Mexican music?
TGB: “You know what… Yes! A part of me wants to be embarrassed by the music I was listening to and what influenced me. Especially the American music, but fuck it, it inspired me. A lot of it was The Spice Girls. I was around 6 years old. They were a huge influence on me. A lot of it was about the message more than the music. You know… ‘girl power.’ They’re British, but English music. Luckily my father, who was a very important figure in my life, would listen to a lot of Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Cream, and a lot of Janis Joplin. I was very obsessed with Sonny and Cher. That had a lot of influence on my music. I had the advantage of having Latin American music and English speaking music in my life. I completely relate to both of them. You don’t have to speak the language to relate to the music. There are a lot of international styles which have very interesting time signatures and make you think, ‘why did they put this vocal melody here?’ I listen to a little bit of everything.”
CVW: When did you realize you wanted to head more into a punk direction?
TGB: “I guess because it was something that I could relate to. When my father passed away, I had a lot of angst. Dead Kennedys had a lot of anger, but also had a message behind it; from government problems to the masses and their ignorant social comments. Punk was good for me. I related to it. I was not a musician, so I was able to play a 3 chord song and it gave me vocal melody liberty to invent whatever was necessary. Also, The Talking Heads showed me you can mix punk with afro beats and put in a little bit of funk. Punk is my gateway drug to other types of music.”
CVW: Buzz and Dale of The Melvins and long-time collaborator Omar Rodriguez-Lopez from At The Drive In are in Crystal Fairy with you. How did that come about?
TGB: “Actually, it came about thanks to Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys). He invited Le Butcherettes to open for him in L.A. for a couple of shows. Buzz and him are long-time friends and collaborators. Buzz showed up early to the show. He had no idea who we were, and he caught our set. From that day on, he asked us to tour with The Melvins. I couldn’t believe it. My booking agent is also their booking agent. I was told by the booking agent Buzz never wants anyone on their tour and he was specifically asking for Le Butcherettes. I was like, ‘Holy Fuck!’ The Melvins were another band I listened to a lot. We started touring together. The chemistry was great on and off stage. They started asking what song I would like to cover. I was thinking of Bikini Kill because they are friends and I’m a fan. They were into the idea so I suggested “Rebel Girl.” After tour we would hang out a lot and go to movies together. Part of those hang out sessions were going to the studio. Omar was there too. The planets aligned. It was based on the fact that we liked each other and were all friends.”
CVW: The Melvins are how I discovered Le Butcherettes. I go to every Melvins show I can. I was blown away by you. I’d never been to a Melvins show where I liked the opening band every bit as much, if not more than The Melvins. Your energy is insane. It seems like you give every ounce of energy you have to your performance. When did you know you were capable of that, and is it difficult to recover every night?
TGB: “I guess it just goes back to that day in San Miguel de Allende at the Day of the Dead festival. Also, when I went back to Denver, I would sing a lot in the shower to the point of my mom saying, ‘Teri, Ja! The neighbors. Keep it down.’ or ‘You can’t play guitar so much. The neighbors.’ It was always the neighbors. I understand now. It must be hard to deal with a kid like that. I guess I knew it since I was a little kid. It’s all I knew how to do. Express myself through music or body language. I’m not very articulate when it comes to speaking in English or Spanish. I stutter a lot and immediately regret what I say. Music immediately takes that away. Anything that has to do with the arts takes that anxiety away. Being able to recover the next day is easy because I just tell myself I am very lucky to be able to do this. Also, loading in and out helps me warm up and warm down. On tour, there’s plenty of time to recuperate because there is a lot of waiting around.”
CVW: You’re playing Pappy & Harriet’s on May 11? Have you ever played there, and are there any surprises in store for us there?
TGB: “I’ve never played there. I’m pretty excited. I know people who have played there, and they love it. There’s actually a new lineup: Alejandra Robles Luna from Monterrey (Mexico) and Ricardo (Riko Rodriguez-Lopez). Ricardo has been in the band a couple of years now, but he’s picked up a new instrument, guitar and samples. He’s a great guitarist as well as a great bassist. We’re also playing some songs from the new record we’re working on now. We’re going to have a new producer. Omar has produced our last three records, but we both decided it’s time to change things up a bit and explore new paths. I can’t say who it is right now, but I am so freakin’ stoked about it. It’s a dream come true. It’s like how you’re not supposed to announce you’re pregnant until like 3 months in. It’s something like that. Supposedly, the album will be out if not this year, early next year. Also, Omar is releasing a bunch of records on Ipecac. I’m going to be on at least 6 records this year.”
CVW: “Gold Notebook” is frequently played live, but as far as I know, it has never been released. Is there a chance Gold Notebook will make it onto this record?
TGB: “I don’t think it will, but we’re planning a B-sides record. “Gold Notebook” may make it onto that. Damn man! Nobody knows that one. It’s so cool you even mentioned it.”
Le Butcherettes perform at Pappy & Harriet’s on May 11. All ages show. Starts at 9:00. Tickets are $12.00 & $15.00. www.pappyandharriets.com.