Midnite Snaxxx’s New Album Is a Bristly Blast of Catchy Punk About Oakland’s Gentrification

Back from the grave!” laughs Dulcinea Gonzalez. It’s been five years since the debut LP of her band Midnite Snaxxx dropped, but today, they’re officially back, wholly recharged and totally renewed. They’re no longer the same trio of women cranking out trashed-and-trashed pop. Today, Midnite Snaxxx is a gender-diverse four-piece — with pointed intentions, wielding a new kind of power.

Gonzalez says they’re “in a good spot right now,” and that’s an understatement. Chew on This, the comeback LP, is a bristly blast of catchy but biting upbraids, with gentrification and the patriarchy getting most of the flogging. Their signature power-pop and girl-group influences still figure heavily — there’s “Why Do I,” “Found a Way to Your Heart,” and others. There’s a great cover of The Scavengers’ 1979 song “Mysterex” in there too. But it’s the angrier tracks that really stick out, striking like lightning-fast rallying cries. We need irresistibly catchy condemnations like “Space Invaders – Hey, I’m a Human,” a commentary on the gentrification of Oakland.

“In the 90s, I lived in the Mission District…now, you walk down the street and you wouldn’t even recognize it. It was a place in the 90s where you could go and you could find a place that was cheap; but it was the place you wanted to be, because that’s where all the great cheap food was, and there was bars and music. It was a lot; it was also maybe a little bit scary at times, but it kept the rent down,” she recalls. “But then, when that became the most desirable place in the city to be, all those things fell away. All those artists and all those musicians left, and now we’ve got a more homogenized version of the neighborhood. Now, that’s kind of what’s happening in Oakland, in a lot of ways.”

Pissed-off, poppy punk numbers aren’t altogether new for Gonzalez: “The aggravation is always there,” she laughs. But more than ever, though, Gonzalez says she’s informed by her activism.

Today, Midnite Snaxxx is a gender-diverse four-piece with pointed intentions, wielding a new kind of power.

“[We’re] definitely getting the band involved in things that we, that Midnite Snaxxx, has not been involved in before,” she says. “I think before it was all fun and rock ‘n’ roll and now, it’s just too important to stay out of it.”

During Bandcamp’s recent fundraiser, in which 100 percent of the company’s proceeds from sales were donated to the ACLU, Midnite Snaxxx joined the ranks of bands and artists who offered up their cuts, too. Additionally, ticket and album sales at their release show, slated for March 8, will all go to Planned Parenthood.

Gonzalez is on heightened alert, working as best she can to resist the steady-rolling fascism, misogyny, homophobia, and racism of the Trump regime. But the conditions that paved its path — the longstanding, systemic oppression of people of color, for one — are something Gonzalez has personally battled before.

Growing up in Los Angeles, Gonzalez appreciated its diversity, but she experienced the opposite of that firsthand when her family moved to Orange County.

“It was pretty dominated by the white middle class. There was just a lot of racism, a lot of not understanding — what are you, not understanding that you’re Mexican but you’re not, like, from Mexico,” she says.

When the band needed to be reshaped, Gonzalez seized the opportunity to center people of color. Before this, she’d drifted into band formations somewhat arbitrarily: The Loudmouths, her first, was formed in the mid-90s, back when she met Beth Loudmouth, just after relocating to San Francisco from Los Angeles. Neither one was a skilled player, but that didn’t matter — it was punk, after all. Two LPs and a slew of 7-inches later, the band dissolved, and Gonzalez took a breather.

She eventually fell into the Primitivas, a “high-powered garage girl band,” with Shannon from the La-Teenos. When Shannon wanted to move on, Gonzalez was still in full songwriting swing — while collaborating with Tina Lucchessi of the Trashwomen and the Bobbyteens, both pioneers of the bubble-gunk punk sound, and Renee Leal, who’d also played in the La-Teenos, Midnite Snaxxx was born.

A few years after the their self-titled debut, however, Leal and Lucchessi wanted to pursue other goals. Gonzalez kept going — and this time, she wanted things to be different. She wanted Midnite Snaxxx to literally look different, to feel different. She wanted to play with people of color, with fellow Chicanxs.

“Most of the bands that I see in rock ‘n’ roll – it’s going to be dominated by a lot of white folks, which is totally fine,” she says. “But I just felt like if we could do something different, if we could surround ourselves with people who look like us — it just felt better. It felt more in line with what I wanted to do and who I wanted to play music with and what I wanted to represent.”

“If we could surround ourselves with people who look like us — it just felt better.”

Sammy Gutierrez of San Francisco’s The Ogres, who also played in the La-Teenos, was the first to join, replacing Lucchessi. “He just has a really kind of cool kind of garage-rock trashy style, but loves Tommy Ramone’s style too,” Gonzalez says. Shortly after the 2015 release of “Don’t Wake Me Up” b/w “Pull Down the Shades” on Total Punk, Camylle Reynolds, the singer of Bad Daddies, was brought in as bassist.

“I remember when I was looking for a bass player, I hit her up and I said, ‘Hey, I would really like to get a bass player, a woman of color to play with us, do you know anybody?’ She was like, ‘Well, I have a bass. I’ve never played bass in a band but I’d be interested.’ So it kind of went from there,” Gonzalez says. “And she was a very quick learner and worked really hard. Now she’s great!”

Gonzalez opted for a second guitarist to finally fill the sonic void she believes she was overcompensating for in her own guitar playing. She found the perfect fit in Chris Santamaria of Loli and the Chones, a punk band active through the early 2000s that penned anti-fascist and pro-Latinx rippers like “Nazi Death Camp” and “Pendejo.”

“The bands that I really looked up to, like the Zeros or Alice and the Bags, things like that, Kid Congo – all these really cool Chicano rockers were idols on some level, and I thought it would just be cool to play with our own,” she says.

Reynolds is of Chinese descent, Gonzalez points out. Her own father’s family is from Mexico, she adds, and her mother’s family is Filipino and Scotch-Irish.

“So it’s definitely a mix, but when it comes to it culturally, I identify mostly with my Mexican family because that’s how I grew up — with food and celebrating,” Gonzalez says.

The bond the new members have forged is already strong; when the Women’s March was announced, she and Reynolds made an “immediate decision to go.” “We needed to be a part of it, we needed to be a body to show our displeasure in what was happening and protect our rights that we feel like are fading away or are about to fade away,” she says.

The massive crowd kept the pair from meeting up with friends; they found themselves connecting with the people around them instead. “We met a lot of other women and had really deep conversations with total strangers that were feeling a lot of the same things that we were,” she says. “If anything, you feel comforted that this many women are out there, and they’re standing right next to you, and they’re willing to be out there and to protest and to voice your opinion. It was really awesome. I think that really just kind of changed the tide, you know, for what’s happening. And we’ll see how it continues.”

Something shifted for Gonzalez and Reynolds, too. They returned inspired, fortified by the solidarity and prepared to use Midnite Snaxxx as a vessel for activism, noting that there are “a lot of fires to put out.”

“Like I said, it’s too important. You can’t not do something,” she says. “Because by not doing something, you’re basically on the wrong side.”