Teri Gender Bender and Le Butcherettes (“The Butcher Women,” essentially) aren’t the noms de guerre you’d instantly equate with charm and charisma. You might imagine instead a frontwoman who intimidates her audience into submission and a band that inspires its listeners to hold their ears. But Teri and her Guadalajara-based lineup are clearly costumed messengers, and they don’t mind tricking you into absorbing their hardcore, new-wave feminist agenda (their self-professed “butcher rock”) with fun and games.
We were lucky punks to witness the U.S. debut of a band we predict is going to set the hearts of riotless riot grrrls on fire, when they headlined the SF Convergence Fest preview party in June. Already underground royalty in Mexico, the band has opened for The Dead Weather and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but we had been slightly apprehensive: Le Butcherettes’ self-produced Kiss and Kill EP features very, very basic garage rock, and on record the songs can come off as somewhat predictable (excluding the anthemic “For Your Bleeding” and a couple of diamonds in the rough). So when Teri’s voice ripped through the crowd with a startling precision, intonation, and stylistic confidence difficult to achieve live – especially for punk bands – we nearly spit Corralejo all over ourselves.
We caught Le Butcherettes again opening for Omar Rodriguez-Lopez at the Great American Music Hall in downtown San Francisco. Fans of The Mars Volta guitarist’s progressive trip-rock were likely shocked out of their herbal haze by Le Butcherettes’ aggressively simple arrangements and bullet-direct delivery. While the headliner’s performance was note-perfect – thanks to the Mac laptops flanking the musicians – our focus, it seemed, had been ruined by Le Butcherettes, who tore through one two-minute rocket after the other, as Teri tore around the stage having an opera-worthy madscene. Dolled up in a crinoline-assisted dress straight out of a postwar dishwasher ad, torn stockings, and tying it all together with a blood-soaked apron, Teri Gender Bender looked like the doppelganger of the polite, hospitable young girl named Teri we’d sat down to chat with before the show:
What aspects of your sound or style are you adamant to keep?
My truthfulness to the creation of the songs. In Mexico, they ask “why rock?” There is some pressure to sound Latin, and pressure to sing in Spanish. But I won’t sell out–I won’t sing in Spanish on every song to widen my audience there, because it’s just not how I created the songs. Just like Omar isn’t doing his songs in English, because they were created in Spanish.
At the Convergence Fest preview party, we watched you tear raw meat onstage, crawl through the audience to sing into the faces of stunned scenesters, and throw Ann Sexton poems all over the place… Do you consider yourself a performance artist?
No, not really. I just lose my mind onstage. And the symbolism and use of props just aid the music, the use of them doesn’t stand on its own.
What’s up with the meat onstage? We heard you were a vegan…
I am vegan! The real me probably wouldn’t want to handle raw meat, but there’s that connection between women and gender and “T&A” and meat that I want to illustrate.
“WE’RE SHOWING THAT THE
STRICT ROLES, THE GENDER ROLES,
You sing about the engendered violence of the recent onslaught of kidnappings in Mexico on Kiss and Kill. You grew up in the US before your family moved back to Guadalajara—did this move change your perspective on gender roles or the treatment of women?
I grew up in Denver, and I felt constantly oppressed there. So no, not much either way. There are people everywhere buying into the idea that women are worth less than men, or that men have to be a certain way.
How is performing at home different from performing in the states?
In Mexico, there’s still this idea of “the perfect rock band.” Male frontman, tough image, very traditional rock image. We were performing at the RockNexa festival, which is pretty huge, and a portion of the crowd started booing before they’d even really hear the first song…they just saw me.
What happened with your former drummer?
Not to talk smack, but…we were onstage once, and I was dancing, kind of doing my thing, and she started talking into her mic, saying, “what a bitch, what a whore,” an imitation of what some women will say about other women. I thought, ok, cool, go with it. It’s funny that later, she ended up saying that stuff to me, for real. I think when you’re talking about problems of society, you should look into the people in your life, your own group, to see if it’s there, too.
Do you think infighting is a big problem in feminism?
I guess some people think presenting oneself as a sexual being is the same as presenting oneself as an object. I guess when people say “if you dress like that, you’re asking to be taken less seriously”…it’s sort of my fault, in a way. The high heels are a weapon they can use.
But your onstage getup is meant to harken to the traditional objectification of women, and butcher it, right?
Yeah. And I’ve come to learn there’s a difference between speaking and shouting.
So an audience can be “tricked” into absorbing feminist ideas, if need be?
Photos by Jesus Varela.