If there’s one word that describes Le Butcherettes and their ruthless leader, Teri Gender Bender, to a T, that word would be intense. Their lyrical themes, albums, and especially their live performances ooze with excitement and danger. Formed in Guadalajara, Mexico, the band soon made a name for themselves thanks to this very same intensity, earning them awards, a spot at the Vive Latino festival, and scores of fans and critics, inspiring fierce devotion and passionate put-downs.
After the release of their first album, Sin Sin Sin, Teri and her rotating cast of musicians hit a stride and took advantage of the situation, moving to the U.S, opening for bands as legendary as Iggy and the Stooges and befriending people like Omar Rodríguez-López (with whom she also formed Bosnian Rainbows). Now, Le Butcherettes have a whole new world to conquer. Cry is for The Flies, their newest album, conjures up a classic rock-tinged setting for Teri to spit her venom and doubt. We talked to her about the new album and much more.
The album is available for purchase on iTunes. Below, check out Le Butcherettes’ video for “Demon Stuck in Your Eye,” just released today.
I read on NPR the other day that the songs on Cry is for The Flies were written a couple of years ago and inspired by your move to the U.S. How has the move affected you and inspired your music?
What I didn’t realize then is that a true feminist embraces all her emotions.
I left Mexico to pursue my ambitions as a hungry music craver. I felt that my journey in Mexico was long from being over, obviously since I have [a] life there. But I truly believed that Le Butcherettes is such a great vision that it required me dropping out of ITESO [a university in Guadalajara] and sacrificing time with my family for my goal, which was to conquer the world with the music I write in the name of women and the death of my ancestors, great grandmothers, great great great grandmothers, etc. Now my goal has changed, it is now to focus as much as possible on my family and husband. Because in doing that I can write better and have a reason to care about outside issues. It’s possible to keep doing what you love with family.
When I moved to U.S as an adult I suddenly [became] full of remorse and guilty thoughts. Realizing that I left behind, that I didn’t even give certain situations a type of closure [they] deserved. To a certain extent the neo-feminist in me began to get angry at me for feeling so weak hearted. What I didn’t realize then is that a true feminist embraces all her emotions.
Why did it take two years to record and release these songs?
Oh my god! If it would have taken two years to record an album I would have shot myself in the neck! To clarify, the album was recorded in a matter of two weeks. It just didn’t feel like it was the right moment to put it out at the time, so I let it sit in the closet. Life happens, you know? One makes plans and life occurs, changing everything. Now, I really have come to terms with not knowing what will happen next even though it terrifies me.
There’s a lot of classic/blues rock-like guitar riffs in your album, yet sometimes your songs don’t follow traditional arrangements or rhythms. What inspires you to write this kind of musical language?
What inspires me is definitely living the life of a gypsy or sailor and being able to meet very interesting, mind-altering people. My husband and I love Turkish rock/pop music from the ’70s. [T]hat is also very motivating and helps the unconscious mind to tune into a hole where anything goes.
Looking back at it now, my head spins realizing that everything in its essence is a collaboration.
How did your work with projects like Bosnian Rainbows and your collaborations with other artists affect the creation of your album and your approach to Le Butcherettes?
Cry is for The Flies was written before I was in Bosnian Rainbows and before I opened up entirely to collaborating with more artists. Truth be told, not many people were knocking on my door to collaborate. So I was hungry. Very hungry for more musical life knowledge. But, looking back at it now, my head spins realizing that everything in its essence is a collaboration. While recording Cry I was learning so much from Omar Rodríguez-López (who produced the album) and from the engineers: Jon DeBaun and Lars Stalfors. They were a real treat to work with.
Lia is the type of drummer that gets it right away in one take. I love being surrounded by people that make recording an album feel like a game. Because that is what it is. Music is a serious game. I love playing, writing, baring my thoughts, and being with a team of people that helps you advance your vision is good for everyone because it’s all for the greater purpose, which is to serve the music.
How did “Moment of Guilt,” Henry Rollins’ contribution for the album, come up? My take on the track’s inclusion is that it gives us another point of view of the themes present in the lyrics but I rather you tell me about it.
Henry Rollins went to see Iggy Pop and The Stooges but was there early enough to catch a Le Butcherettes show. He really liked it and wrote [about] us in his LA Weekly column. Two years later, when I decided to put out the record, I approached him. I thanked him for his support and asked if he would like to do a spoken word based on the theme of “guilt.” He loved the album and is such a sweet supportive man. He had no other reason to do it than for the love of the music.
To me the story that he wrote reminds me [of] a dark Russian tale. Even though guilt has gotten to many, it has not gotten to the character in Henry’s dialogue. The monster inside was a bigger issue. In reality we can be our own worst nightmares; the way that guilt was portrayed as feeling guilt made me as the listener feel empowered. And made me realize that nothing can stop one but oneself.
I really miss Mexico but fortunately enough we’ve been going back and forth playing secret shows there where no cell phones are allowed.
What do you think are the differences between Le Butcherettes when you started the band and now?
The music is more dynamic now, which makes sense. When you work on something you love you will eventually get better. I’ve been really hard on myself on not being hard enough on myself and now I just don’t care. Life is fuuuuunnnnnyyy….long live history and its repetition.
How do you feel about being an artist and doing Le Butcherettes in the U.S. compared to when you lived in Mexico? How have your surroundings affected your music?
I always felt like the world hated me. I guess all feminists live this way (just kidding). But seriously, I am just full of nostalgia. I really miss Mexico but fortunately enough we’ve been going back and forth playing secret shows there where no cell phones are allowed. Kind of going back to the ’90s where people would enjoy a show to the full. The surroundings affect the music whether you want them to or not because they affect daily life process. My dreams have changed; the nightmares are less [frequent] but they are weirder. Dreams are a direct influence on the music without a doubt.
Your live shows are very intense and have featured props in the past. What inspires you to play such emotionally intense shows?
What moves me to be the thing that I’ve allowed myself to become onstage is inexplicable. Sometimes I try to explain why or how, but it only ends up alienating the thing inside. I have to accept that there is no logical way of explaining it. It just happens when something moves me, like making love. You don’t know why you move your hips in lust. Like when a dog that has never swum before; when he gets thrown in a pool his paws start automatically paddling.
You recently contributed to Las 9 Esquinas’ 10th anniversary compilation. What do you remember of the Guadalajara scene? What did you take from it? What bands from that city would you recommend to those not familiar?
I sent them a song where it’s just ukulele, drums, and vox.
I love Bosnian Rainbows. It’s a band that is ahead of its time even if other people don’t see it that way.
In 2007, Le Butcherettes used to rehearse at the 9 Esquinas. Man, did they throw good parties there! Good times. One of the engineers helped me record one of the first versions of “I’m Getting Sick of You.” 9 Esquinas is an old house with a yard in the middle. Those old 1800s Mexican-type homes. Don’t really know what year, but they’re old enough to be taken care [of] by the government. Very beautiful big house turned into a studio with rehearsal rooms for bands.
I remember I was really longing to be a part of something, an organization, a community like 9 Esquinas, you know? They told us that we were a part of their community which blew us away! We were so happy but then two months later we were told they were expanding 9 Esquinas and that too many bands were rehearsing there, us being one of them. But they kindly said that once the expanded house was finished that they would let us know so that we [could] use it, but we never heard from them so I eventually had to find us somewhere else to rehearse.
Years later, [they] asked me to send a track out for their compilation. I was so happy to hear from them. I highly recommend [that] you listen to Aves Aveces, Radaid, Disidente, and Elis Paprika.
I heard you are going to work with Iggy Pop. Can you talk a little about that?
Can’t say much about it right now except that being near him was pure sunshine.
How has it been playing with Bosnian Rainbows? If you could start a new project without stopping to make music with Le Butcherettes, what would that project be like?
I love Bosnian Rainbows. It’s a band that is ahead of its time even if other people don’t see it that way. I know this because I travelled with them all across the world and learned a lot of valuable life lessons from each member of the band.
I’ll never stop making music for Le Butcherettes, not until I die. Even when I was on the road with Bosnian Rainbows the music kept being written. I have so many songs that we’ve been recording, a new-new album. It’s so much fun. But if I could start…shoot…I would love to be in a band with Kathleen Hanna.