Seattle-based four-piece Chastity Belt tell tales of everything from 20-feet tall, havoc reeking vaginas, drunken hunger-driven quests for chippies at house parties, through having the odd “nip slip”, right to the process of figuring out how to be softer and kinder to yourself.
Originally from eastern Washington, the band kicked things off in 2010 when they played a (kind of jokingly, kind of not) set at a broey fraternity’s Battle of the Bands – they’ve since put out three records that combine full, sluggish sad-pop with beaming, post punk guitar riffs.
Since the release of 2013’s No Regerts, Chastity Belt’s obscure and goofy lyricisms have taken a back seat, allowing room for the musicality of the intimate yet expansive I Used To Spend So Much Time Alone to grow. “It wasn’t like we were intentionally like, ‘lets get more serious,’” explains guitarist and vocalist Julie Shapiro. “I mean we’ve always had more serious songs on every record we’ve released. This record is just [made up of] all of those songs.
“I think it has to do with us just getting comfortable with being in a band and not having to like, hide behind our humour anymore. I also feel like I’m in a couple other bands that are a little bit more jokey and so that’s kind of how I, uh, get that kind of songwriting out,” she says.
With the increasing emergence of poppy DIY punk bands like Tacocat, Childbirth and Chastity Belt and the support of non-profit radio stations that boast diverse lineups like KEXP, it seems like the rainy seaport city of Seattle is becoming a haven for tongue-in-cheek feminist bands. “The best thing [about the scene in Seattle is] that it doesn’t feel that competitive. It feels more supportive, which is cool. Like we’ve really just like been so supported since we’ve moved here,” Shapiro explains.
Shapiro also drums in new band Who Is She, which features Bree McKenna (of Tacocat) and Robin Edwards (Lisa Prank), as well as playing guitar for the maternity-gowned act Childbirth. “[Stacey] knew Bree from Tacocat so then Bree joined in playing bass. They actually used to date each other, which I didn’t know at the time but after like, seeing their dynamic for a while it made sense.” She laughs.
However, despite the positivity within the scene, Seattle is unfortunately beginning to suffer from the creative troubles facing our own Sydney, with rent and practice spaces becoming excessively expensive. “We all have part time jobs, so when we’re not touring, well like, I bartend, Lydia works at the conservatory here, like gardening, and Annie and Gretchin are both nannies. It can be hard to try and hold a job when you’re constantly leaving town.”
And when it comes to taking time out to empower each other to keep making their tunes, she says they’ll often have “long emotional talks in the car.
“There was this one tour where we were bored so we all took some time to like, write down compliments for each and then we went around and just complimented everyone … That really eased some tension.”
With a voice that is warm, rounded and guttural, Shapiro will sometimes direct her lyrics to both herself and her audience: “You’re hard on yourself / well you can’t always be right,” she sings on ‘Different Now’. “Sometimes I’ll write songs like, talking to myself a little bit,” says Shapiro. It’s songs like this that feel like a soft, hopeful hug, holding the weight of our achy, anxiety-ridden bones; the tonality of the Lydia Lund’s bright, unique guitar riffs and Annie Truscott’s repetitive, heartbeat-like basslines providing melancholic release.
“A lot of the songs are me going through hard times so it’s cool that that can help people.”
“I had like a lot of people tell me that they were going through some rough times when they listened to [I Used To Spend] and it really helped them get through that,” she explains. “I feel like that wasn’t necessarily like my intention in writing the songs, but a lot of the songs are me going through hard times so it’s cool that that can help people.”
Shapiro is inspired by emo, but “emo in like the sense of how Elliot Smith is emo,” and is currently listening to bands like Hovvdy, Dead Sullivan and Duster. “It’s kind of like sad boy music, but I’m into that,” she explains. “That’s kind of just the genre of music that I’m really into right now. Like, kind of slow, mellow sad songs with kind of cool, interesting guitar riffs.”
No Regerts was recorded in three days, and the latest was recorded at Portland’s Jackpot! Studios, which is run by Larry Crane (Elliot Smith, Sleater-Kinney). “With each album we’ve recorded, we’ve had more and more time to work on it but it still never seems like enough.” She laughs. “Each session I feel like has gotten to be a better experience, but we’re just like kind of learning what we want.”
I guess the reason why it took me so long to start making [music] was just that I didn’t think I could.
Chastity Belt provided those first steps for Shapiro to come to terms with the idea that she was capable of making music herself, and the band also provided Gretchen Grimm with her first time drumming in a group.
“I guess the reason why it took me so long to start making [music] was just that I didn’t think I could. But yeah, it’s a cool form of expression. It’s, I dunno… I feel like it’s very healing in ways. It’s kind of like journaling or something like that; it’s just like a way to get out feelings, whether they’re conscious or unconscious.”
On bringing up their upcoming tour with Camp Cope and the band’s push for representation of women and non-binary people on lineups, we discuss the simplicity of their request. “Yeah. [It’s] just like a basic thing.” She laughs. “It’s really cool what Camp Cope are doing; I’m excited to be around that kind of energy.”