Teri Gender Bender of Le Butcherettes has undeniably become one of the most exciting performers in rock right now. Since winning both “Best New Artist” & “Best Punk Record” honors at Mexico’s Indie-O awards in 2009, Teri and Le Butcherettes have taken their butcher rock diatribe to new heights. Under the mentorship of Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, Le Butcherettes have tightened their sound into a full-bodied, well layered, distorted sound while maintaining Teri’s unbridled delivery and live stage presence which has earned the band rave reviews and almost unanimous acclaim.
Remezcla caught up with this rising star before taking the stage at The Warfield opening for Iggy & The Stooges in support of their latest album Sin, Sin, Sin.
Photo credit: Marianne Spellman
Last time I caught up with you, you were excited to be finishing a tour with both The Deftones and Queens of the Stone Age. Since then you’ve accompanied the Flaming Lips, and blew the crowds away at both Lollapalooza and SXSW. What was your reaction to hearing that you guys would be touring with living-legends Iggy & the Stooges?
I almost couldn’t believe it! It’s really a dream come true. I just feel very grateful because this band started in Mexico playing little bars and now we’re touring the U.S. with some amazing bands. It’s been almost overwhelming, but in a positive way. Each band has their own thing, their own styles going on, so it was beneficial for me to perform in front of these different crowds. The extensive touring has really given me a chance to really learn a lot about myself.
You undeniably have a stage presence and delivery that is very captivating. When did you first discover this talent you have for performing live?
Thank you! Honestly, I almost hate being reminded of it. I’ve always had a lot of nervous energy so performing is very therapeutic for me; I’m afraid, though, that people are always going to expect something crazy. For example, recently when we were performing in Texas I was on stage without my apron playing the same show we always do and people were disappointed saying that I was dressed like a schoolgirl, but I don’t need to dress up just to entertain them. I’m not a clown.
Actually, I was just talking to my mother today and she was telling me “Teri, if you were to die tomorrow you don’t want to be remembered just as that apron girl on stage, because you are not yet at your peak” And it’s true. We’re not clowns and I don’t want to just be seen as the “apron girl.” I want to evolve. This is just the beginning and I have so much farther to go.
Speaking of evolving, the band has had quite a rotating lineup…
[laughs] Yeah, I think once we were counting and came up with 10 people who have once played with the band. I first started the band when I was 17 with my best friend at the time. We had our differences so I ended up moving to Mexico City where I was playing with a new drummer and worked with Omar Rodriguez-Lopez on bass in recording the new album. Omar has been like a father figure to the band. He’s been very supportive of all my decisions and in helping us find our sound. Now I’m based in L.A. and was fortunate to have both Gabe Serbian and Jonathan Hischke play in the band who were both amazing to work with! But now I’m playing with this really good female drummer Lia Braswell and Omar again on Bass.
I DON’T CARE IF YOU’RE A MAN OR A WOMAN. I BELIEVE IN
EQUALITY AND I’LL TAKE YOUR GENDER AND I’LL BEND IT.
Where does the name Teri Gender Bender come from?
I actually got that from Malcolm X. Well, not preciously from Malcolm X but X for him was the unknown factor — he would never know his real last name, and I really love where he was coming from. He would rather become Malcolm X unknown and make it his persona. For me, I know my last name. It’s Suarez and I wear it proudly, but Gender Bender for me is just, like, I want to make my own identity and start something new. I don’t care if you’re a man or woman. I believe in equality and I’ll take your gender and I’ll bend it.
So you describe Le Butcherettes as an art project, tell me about that?
Yeah, I do not consider myself a musician. I perform with some great musicians, but I barely even play my instrument correctly. We’re not a typical rock band and I think that approaching it as an artistic project makes it possible to do whatever we want; you know, push the boundaries.
If not a musician, then?
I feel comfortable being called a performer, but I do not go up there just to entertain. I’m actually very shy. When you’re open with people they judge you and performing on stage let’s me get all the demons out. I just feel very grateful that people enjoy the music and what I do on stage.
IT SHOULD BE THE ERA THAT OUR ANCESTORS FOUGHT FOR,
AND WE’RE STILL DISCRIMINATING EACH OTHER AND EATING EACH
OTHER LIKE LITTLE CRABS WHEN WE GO BACK AND FORTH
[BETWEEN THE U.S. AND MEXICO].
Your music, especially live, feels very confrontational and often deals with themes of gendered violence, philosophy, and literature. What is it that first inspired you to start writing?
When I first started writing, my father had recently passed away and I was writing as a way to deal with loss. Also, I was picked on a lot when I was young. Moving back and forth between Mexico and the U.S. — not just myself, but a lot of other people below middle class income would be discriminated on due to their social status. When I moved to Mexico I dressed differently and I used to get so much B.S. for it. It’s just so weird because we should be living in a new era. It should be the era that our ancestors fought for, and we’re still discriminating each other and eating each other like little crabs when we go back and forth.
It’s always a trip speaking with you because on stage you have this super intense almost maniacal murderous look in your eyes, but in fact you’re totally relaxed and funny. How do you just transform on stage?
In order to be an artist you need something makes you angry something to provoke that animal because you can play on stage and be amazing but some people don’t let that animal out and that’s really what the band is about right now it’s letting our animals out.
That’s what I’ve been going through recently, just trying to get comfortable in my own skin because sooner or later I’m gonna get tired of wearing the bloody apron. I don’t use meat on stage anymore because I’ve made my point. You can only do for so long. It’s like “OK, now I have the people’s attention” now how can I make a clearer point that people can understand.
Any other message you want to add?
Just that there is so much out there musically to discover and people shouldn’t limit themselves
Ok, well with than answer, I have to have one more follow up. What is Teri Gender Bender listening to right now?
Oh, I’ve really been into Syd Barrett’s solo work. It’s so raw and real. Sometimes you can hear where he messes up a bit on a song but it’s those “errors” that are the best parts, you know?
Le Butcherettes with featured guest Omar Rodríguez-Lopéz on bass opening up for Iggy The Stooges at SF’s The Warfield (Dec. 2nd).