Alice Bag is a punk legend whose work in The Bags became the blueprint for a generation of musicians following her emergence in East LA in the late 70s. To this day, Bag continues whipping out energetic songs of rebellion, most recently with her debut album, which saw the light last year. The iconic Xicana singer has a kindred spirit in Teri Gender Bender, beloved frontwoman of Le Butcherettes, the Guadalajara-born band that has found fans in punk lifers like Iggy Pop and Henry Rollins.
Thanks to Red Bull Music Academy Festival Los Angeles, the two artists sat down at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles to discuss the history of East LA punk as told by Bag. Bag chronicles her upbringing, surviving an abusive household, and learning about her Xicana identity. “Growing up in an abusive household, I felt like I didn’t have a voice. I felt like when I tried to defend my mother, I was swatted away. I feel like when I got on stage, all that feeling of not being able to express myself came out, and it came out in a rage,” she says.
Bag and Teri discuss inclusivity in the early punk scene, her admiration for 70s balladeer Raphael and the legendary time they closed down a club so that her then-boyfriend (and Bags drummer) could fight one-on-one with Tom Waits.
Alice is candid and warm as she recounts the experience of writing her memoir Violence Girl, discussing politics with conservative friends, and the current punk landscape, which feels more inclusive than it has in a long time. “To me, it seems that punk has gone full circle. And it’s become, again, like queer, and brown…I feel like everybody is putting punk back to where it should be, which is messing with the status quo,” Alice shares. Teri captures Alice’s legacy early on in the conversation. “She inspired many people to stand up for themselves and to believe that silence is not the only way.”
But perhaps most importantly, the conversation is packed with wisdom on activism and representation in the current political climate. “You don’t have to be one certain type of activist,” Alice explains. “You don’t have to be an artist that writes political songs. You don’t have to be a writer that’s writing an article. You don’t have to be the person that’s marching out at the protests. You don’t have to do all those things. You can do one or two now and then, but the important thing that you can do every day is talk to the people around you,” she declares.
Alice is currently recording her second studio album, the follow up to her 2016 self-titled debut. She recently released a two-song single credited to her and The Sissybears.
Watch the entire lecture above. To check out the full transcript and see other RBMA lectures, click here.