We chat with front woman Teri Gender Bender of Le Butcherettes about writing and performance inspiration and she holds nothing back.
Live shows are always an exhilarating experience. Firstly it unreal to see the band or artists you’ve had on repeat in the flesh sounding better than they did blasting from your speakers.But what is even more extraordinary is when a performance is meant to be something deeper than a musician showcasing their live talent.
Teri from the garage punk band Le Butcherettes gives this kind of performance often leaving audiences in awe of her outraging passion. But the blood and gore in the band’s performances goes beyond the eerie and is rooted in the conventions and values of feminism and the grim Mexican history.
Since their start, Le Butcherettes quickly gained recognition from their outrageous shows and clear-cut garage punk and have been trailblazing ever since.
Their latest album A Raw Youth released late last year is more revealing and vulnerable dealing with conflict and conquering it. While songs like “Reason to Die Young” and “My Mallely” stick to habitual rock formula the album on a whole is not traditional rock. Teri’s flexible and striking vocals and lyricism has a lot to do with it. The darkness of the lyrics in songs like “Sold Less Than Gold” and “The Hitch Hiker” are a harsh howl to the unsettling issues that need to be taken seriously. Since the album they’ve been doing a heck of a lot of touring and are not looking to slow down yet.
How was your last European tour?
Honestly I was expecting the worse in regards to people attendance because no one really knows my band. We came all the way from Mexico and started in 2007. I was expecting not that much but nonetheless I am super grateful for the opportunity to finally headline a European tour and to our surprise there was amazing. We had a ton of shows and told out gigs over Europe, I just couldn’t believe it. It’s one of those things were you have to slap yourself in the face a little bit and remember your alive.
How was the London crowd at the Underworld?
Oh my god, it reminded a lot of Mexico, very wild, very passionate, and they would just sing along to the words of the songs. There’s this one song were I do a little guitar solo and they were singing along to the melody of the guitar. That was cool. I’ve never had that before. It was crazy. Sometimes cultural differences appear and merge into one.
Do you think audiences in the U.S, the UK, or Europe differs?
In all honesty it does it does differ. And I think that has a lot to do with probably the historical differences and backgrounds but at the end of the day, energy wise it’s very similar. Because there will always be an ass in the crowd doesn’t matter what country you’re in. There will always be someone that’s really into it, well if you’re lucky. For us Croatia, we were, well we didn’t know it at the end time, on top of a grave, it was beautiful and the people there were very sweet, very passionate, very wild. And it was very rude if you rejected, people offer you vodka and I don’t even drink but I’m not going to be in someone’s home and be like “no I don’t do that.” No I had be “when in Rome” because of their offering.
In Japan people are very introverted, very quiet, soft spoken, very respectful. Sometimes you think “oh this is amazing” which it is, but there’s a double standard to that because the people are so respectful, so quiet and ductile that there’s a very high suicide rate in Japan and audience wise it’s very different. They are quiet, they analyze every note, every gesture, every detail of the show and once the final note finally ends everyone claps and it’s very polite clapping. Sometimes people that play there for the first time tend to get a little offended like “what people didn’t like us.” But at the same time it’s not that at all, they loved you. Their presence alone is a sign enough that they were there for you. While in Chile or Mexico if people don’t like you they’ll do anything from cementing their hand, throwing it at you. Throwing pennies at you. Or if they love you they’re extremely passionate and they’ll throw roses. And the whole gimmick of throwing their underwear at you or pregnant women still go to shows, they can care less, like “I’m going to rock on.” It’s very surreal all the cultural differences but at the end of the day music aligns everyone. It merges one energy. sometimes that one energy alone contains so many vibrations. It can be negativity, nostalgia, to even happiness. So a band can’t exist without audiences, or vice-versa, it’s a two way street.
Tell us more about where your performance is rooted from. They’re very detailed and have been described as intense…
I think it has a lot to do with my mother, I’m realising it now. She’s a very intense woman as it is. While she cleans the kitchen to when she takes us to school everything was an exaggeration. She’d drop me off, she’d scream out, it’ll be embarrassing. She’s scream out the window “better take care of yourself, don’t let anyone talk to you.” I’ll be like “mom don’t that.” or sometimes at night she’d look at the window, it was a really scary thing, she’d start howling at the moon and I’d be like “mom are you okay and she’d say “I’m at one with the moon.” She a very spiritual woman and growing up between the base and Mexico there’s a lot of conservativeness. My mom was the black sheep and part of the society was ashamed of her and, excuse my language but fuck that. Why would they be ashamed of a woman that lost her partner in life, my father, and she fought for us. So her intensity really helped us get through a lot, BS at school and fed us. So long answer short, my mother, I completely take it from her. It’s all trying to be at one with yourself which is a hard thing to do because we have a lot of, I’m sure every does- that little voice that tells us no good and what’s the point of trying. But at the same time we have that duality of there’s also another good voice saying there’s so much you can get from not giving up. Just being true to yourself, as corny as it may sound it really does wonders.
So you’re being true to yourself when you perform?
I feel that sadly enough I’m realer when I perform then when I’m off stage. Because when I’m off stage I find myself becoming more hunchback. I’m ashamed of my body, which I’m trying to accept. For a woman, I don’t know I’m really insecure and I don’t really consider myself like a woman or a man, I’m just like a ugly creature. When I’m on stage all those insecurities, all those doubts disappear because I’m with my band, we’re trying to serve music to its fullest and at the same time vent.
What is the message you are trying to get across?
I think the message is we’re all capable of taping into the inner animal that we have inside. Anyone of us, sometimes people think I’m only talking about feminism for example but I think it goes much more than that, not the message that I’m saying but the message that is being portrayed by a lot of people. The youth of today, a lot of people stay together in community and feel at one with each other. Growing up in Mexico I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere and I think what I want to say at least or the reason why it’s so easy to make music is because when you find the people that understand you, you can do anything you want, for good or evil- that’s the scary part. Sadly enough that’s part of the way life is there is always going to be evil and good forces, and I just want to be a part of the good force. Along with many people that just want to find a community to create good, produce art, or make delicious food, or clean up after the elderly, things like that, that really make change.
Your lyrics embody characters really well in songs like “Hitch Hiker” and “Sold Less Than Gold”, what is the difference of doing this rather than singing it from an onlooker perspective?
I think whenever appropriate for the song I’m working on, whatever serves the song best. Because sometimes if it were up to me, I’d sing one way the whole time. I love singing very lazily on the mic. But when I’m in the studio and I’m working on a song I put my ego aside and I go “okay no this song is going to be about a woman that’s being kidnapped” for example. That happened to me mother, when she was young, she was kidnapped. She told me her experience. she thought she was going to die. the guy would not pull over for her to stop. She eventually had to jump out of the van and they shot at her, they missed, thank god. They shot her boyfriend in the head. So I have to sing, thinking what she was going through then sticking to my own style. Because there’s no such thing as keeping one style. It just depends on what song I’m singing and I have to leave myself in the corner and think outside of myself to serve the song, the music, and the story which is really important. It’s like a movie, like a cinematic energy, you have to serve the purpose for that. if you’re going to have a cameraman only thinking about himself and “oh how am I going to make this look good for myself” and not serving the purpose for the director than the movie is not going to translate well.
What different emotions are you experiencing when you perform rather than when writing songs?
When I perform its more of a blurry experience because the mix of nerves from anxiety to complete euphoria mixed within it. So basically it feels like I’m being thrown in a pool, so it’s either I drown in the awkwardness or I swim and see what happens while I swim. So I’m basically trying to be considerate and close with my band mates, trying to make eye contact with them so I won’t lose myself in the song. And there’s sometimes where I’m asking for forgiveness in my head saying “please father, accept me, accept me.” I’m looking for acceptance from him because when he passed away I never got to say goodbye to him, we left on really bad terms. So I always have that guilt and on stage I’m able to think of him and have some type of closer even if it’s just for a second and it repeats itself every night.
Like okay, I’ve never done drugs before but the way people talk about DMT, I don’t even know I’m talking about this stuff. They would go “oh I did DMT and I felt like I was this close to touching god.” That’s basically how it feels when you’re really loved. You’re an inch away from touching that greatness and god, that’s better than making love.
Do you feel like your audiences are able to feel that with you?
I hope so. I wish, if I could make that wish that’ll be amazing if they could feel that the same way, or more. But who knows, hopefully and if not then at least they tried and went to the show. Getting out of bed in hard enough, so I’m just happy that they tried
How important is expanding and evolving your sound with each album?
I think it’s basically the importance of, not even referring to music but as a human being it’s very important for someone to try to evolve and change their ways because no one is perfect. Basically applying the same way as writing music or doing something you really like, you always want to get better. You’re always going to have that. The day that you’re comfortable with how you are, you start getting bored. So it’s really good to always try new things and it sounds good now but how can we make this better. So I think it’s a little ambitious feeling and also being around a lot of older people. For example Omar Rodriguez he’s produced our stuff and being around him constantly and on tour, I get to learn from people like him that no more, what things they do and how to run a studio. Because I’m only 26, I still have so much more to learn so it’s really important for someone to be quiet and silent, and observe and ask questions when necessary and that will help evolving the craft or writing music.
You said before that red is a constant in your life. Can you explain the meaning of this and the colour meaning in artwork and performance?
The aesthetic visually was changing throughout the years and the first thing was that it always revolved around the colour red. Always had a red high heel, or lipstick. In the beginning I made my band wear aprons with smeared blood on them, which represented in my head the missing muertas, the dead women of Juarez. Which everyone kept demanding, the mothers kept demanding the government, “Where are our children? Why aren’t they here? What’s going on? The drug wars need to stop.” Again it’s another type of evil at work. And that red represents what was left behind, the traces of what was once alive and created. Blood means life, menstruation, okay we’re still here, and we’re going to make something someday even if it’s not just about birthing, or giving birth. Also the envy, that some men, especially in third world countries there’s a lot of envy of women, a lot of obsession to take control over their reproductive rights. So red has always been a constant colour, it’s always been a constant colour in my life and I think right now it’s all red because that meaning for me has changed. For me it means being able to be passionate, keep yourself respect, because those are the only things you can hand over. A guy, or the government, or whoever it is, a lover can take away your house, can leave you in ruin but it’s up to you to hand over yourself respect. Red for me is hunger, having that hunger and that passion and keeping yourself rooted to the ground because if you let yourself go to the crowd you’re gone. You’re going to be surrounded by a bunch of dead people, you don’t want that.
What would you say to people who creating and performing for the first time?
To be in touch with their vision. To be loyal to their vision and to their instinct. It’s very important to know what you want to do and grab yourself by the ovaries and by the balls and be a leader, and that’s just one of the hardest things to do. And I’m still working on that, that’s a hard virtue.
What else is the band up to this year?
Right now we’re going to play some shows in Los Angeles and from here, we’re going to Europe and we’re going to London. So after the European tour, the plan is to also tour the east coast of North America and then Australia in the summer time, and there’s some more European dates being booked for the fall, headlining dates of ours for fall. So we’re basically trying to stay busy.
What else can you tell us about the tour?
We’ve been playing a Miley Cyrus cover of “Wrecking Ball” and that been so much fun. It’s really cool that people play covers because in a way you’re studying the past of the music. If you’re studying the past of the music it can only make your way of writing music better. And we’re going to have a guest appearance for Davey Havock tomorrow of AFI and Tony Kanal of No Doubt. They’re going to be playing some bass cover songs.
Le Butcherettes tour throughout the UK and Ireland in October, dates below.