Every single day Teri Gender Bender feels grateful as she travels the globe with her bands – new romantic alternative rock collective Bosnian Rainbows & the garage punk, Le Butcherettes – putting on passionate, breathtaking performances, bringing joy to thousands of people. Personally, she’s one of my all-time favourite people (she’s such a big hearted, genuine soul) and music makers (her lyrics are poetry, full of power, bravado, beauty, and grace) and every time we get a chance to catch up and chat it inspires me and makes my heart happy.
I know that you identify as a feminist Teri. What are your thoughts on feminism and femininity?
TERI GENDER BENDER: I’ve always identified myself as a feminist because to me this word is linked to a powerful movement that has changed not only culture but even the core of economy. I’m reading a book called Freakonomics and it speaks about the hidden running ways that change the economy on a daily bases. Example: Jane Roe vs. Wade case has helped improved security in the late 90s, lowering criminal rates. My thoughts on feminism, it has helped tremendously, however there are fanatics in every “ism” group and fanatics is a nice way to call someone a poseur. Fanatics generally don’t understand the essence of a movement and focus only on literal translations… resulting in a neo movement that alienates young women.
Is it OK to be both?
TGB: It is completely essential to be both. Every one man, every one woman has a masculinity and femininity in their blood, in their genes, in their roots.
I find that there is a whole lot of love online for you and that you inspire a lot of girls and women (including me!); who are the women that you admire and that inspire you?
TGB: Wow, first of all thank you so much. It really means a lot. It really helps me a lot and I find it spiritually magical when I get support from people that I love and admire. I admire you and love your work, Bianca. You are a writer and it’s bleak out here and you motivate me to write. To be honest, every woman that works hard inspires me. I know this sounds like a pageant Queen answer but it’s really good and motivating to see a lot of woman breaking out and excelling at racing, music, culinary arts, science, math, biology, politics, poetry, writing, journalism, photography etc. etc. eternity. It makes me want to take myself to the next limit, Wendy O Williams made me want to take to the next level, Sylvia Plath’s pain made me feel un-alone and understood, my Mother being Mother and Father for a family of four in Guadalajara, Mexico made me feel like anything was possible. Young energy, positive energy is great soul food for the heart.
Throughout your career as a musician so far, you’ve worked with both men and women; in your experience have you noticed a difference in energy when collaborating with folks of each gender?
TGB: You definitely notice a change of energy with every single person. Each one person sends of a completely different vibe… I don’t know why, but I think it’s because everyone has a different upbringing and different background. In Mexico, all the bands were connected to one another in one way or the other, so we all shared a familiar-commune vibe… and that would make all the bands stick together even though secretly we were all competing because we are hungry and ambitious, young and striving.
Pain, death, sickness, shedding one’s skin along with rebirth and moving forward are some lyrical themes I’ve noticed on Bosnian Rainbows’ debut album; what has inspired these?
TGB: I guess I was feeling extremely ill willed towards myself in 2003 when I moved to Guadalajara, my mother’s hometown. I didn’t feel wanted by my class mates but then again I see now that it was my fault, I was always a little wise ass class clown [laughs]. So I guess, that BR’s album is a good way for all of us to vent together. Every night we play those songs it feels like we cleansing our karma. It’s all a process and think this phase of being re born is close to its end because we other material written both in Spanish and English. I am reading for the next phase now. I think we all are.
What’s your favourite song that Bosnian Rainbows has created so far and what’s it mean to you?
TGB: I really love Torn Maps. I love how different it sounds than the rest of the songs and somehow I feel that it has a political Dead Kennedys vibe to it. We all respect J.B. and he is very supportive of Le Butcherettes and Bosnian Rainbows. It’s insane.
Also, I really like the opening of Eli. I love Nicci’s performance on this one in particular. He makes the beginning (organ church sound) of the album a classic for me.
When the album was recorded, what was the mood like in the studio?
TGB: The mood was always changing. We recorded the album at Clouds Hill Ltd. studio. It’s one of the most beautiful studios I’ve ever lived in. It’s spectacular. Jean Peron-Harve of Faust records there frequently, hell, a lot of renowned artists go there to record… the vibe is very refreshing and healthy. It’s like a compound. So the mood was constantly changing on only positive notes. There was a lot of sun light during our stay. Wow. Vitamin D really does a lot to your chemicals and being around happy people that love what they do is always a HUGE PLUS… essential.
I understand Bosnian Rainbows has recorded a forthcoming album where you sing in Spanish (I cannot wait to hear it!); what does this album mean to you? Why is it important to you to express yourself in Spanish?
TGB: Damn! Thank you! It’s a fruity album I feel. We all love it. And I am so happy that I found a right moment to sing in my maternal language. I was always self-conscious about it but hell, being around supportive people really nurtures me and because of this immense love that I am feeding off of I feel more secure about my talents as an artist.
In a Rolling Stone interview Omar said, “We wanted to create a microcosm for what we’d like to see in everyday life.” What do you think some of these things are? I feel like living a compassionate, passionate life seems very important to Bosnian Rainbows?
TGB: We just focus on living well and that means to live in peace with one another; to understand each other’s space and boundaries and most importantly to dream together. We are very passionate because we speak about our dreams together—our dreams of making good music, of growing old together, of making a small change if lucky. Dreaming is good for a collective group.
When asked about you in another interview Omar said: “Just being around her and seeing the way that she handles…failures or criticisms… It awakened this whole other thing in me, like this whole other way of seeing those things. And to see something in action in someone else, there’s no better way to actually take something in or learn something.” Can you share with us the way you deal with failures and criticisms? How do you see those things?
TGB: Wow. That is a very nice thing he said! He’s always so supportive. He was so supportive since day one. He’s special and unlike anyone else I know… What a beautiful world where everyone I know is genuinely special in their own way plus the gift that life hands us over someone spiritually awaken and guides. He is very good and creating ideas. Which is why he works so well with our manager Cathy Pellow, she is also very good at creating ideas and leading. Being around such people that lead: Deantoni is the beating heart of Bosnian Rainbows, he leads the way every night at every show) and Nicci leads the conversation inside closed doors, he’s full of stories like no one else. It’s being surrounded by these people, Lia (Le Butcherettes) is such a prodigy drummer; at her young age that is so motivating, she’s so supportive and is ready to tour the next Le Butcherettes album. I’m excited for this as well! That makes me forget the bad things other people I don’t even know exist say. I’ve had the worst thing happen to me in the beginning of my career, I lost my best friend, she stopped believing in me as a whole and I come to realize that it’s because I never believed in her to begin with. Being around her made me feel sick about myself and she wouldn’t challenge me musically but she acted like she was the main deal. When she left me she liberated me. It was a very, very necessary pain. If I can survive betrayal and underestimation from a loved one, I can survive anything.
What’s something important that you’ve learned from your band mates?
TGB: Order. We’re all organized. We are a good team together; there is no “weak” link. I learned that they are good guys off and on stage. That’s rare nowadays, luckily for me I’ve always worked with good hearted people, well, almost always. HAHA!
What has your experience so far with Bosnian Rainbows taught you about yourself?
TGB: I learned to be a professional traveller. I can travel light very well. I can tour. There is an art to touring and always moving. I am so lucky. I definitely learned how lucky I am. Being so young can sometimes make me easy to fall into depressions but Bosnian Rainbows/Le Butcherettes always reminds me to be grateful. It’s okay to be introverted too. I’m beginning to accept myself for that and learn from my mistakes…it’s alright to be introverted but not when you have Queens of The Stone Age welcoming you to party. When Le Butcherettes was on tour with QOTSA on the final day of tour they invited everyone to the after party but, I let my typical nervousness-panic cause me a stomach pain; I ran to my hotel room. All I’m saying is that It’s good to socialize every once in a while, it’s called opening yourself. You can’t avoid society forever. I’m hoping to see my brother in Denver this week. I have not seen him in 14 years; I’m ultra-excited/nervous for that. I hope I don’t get any pain on me that day [laughs].
How has touring so constantly changed you as a musician?
TGB: Yes, because I get to watch D, N and O carefully. I see how dedicated they are, inspiring me to dork out on gear and asking questions to improve my production as a producer. I’ve been writing so much more on my time off… It’s not really time off though. I’m either touring or couped up writing tunes on my ukulele! There is something so pure about the uke. Awwww.
The music that you guys make brings a lot of people together, especially for your live shows; does that give you an inspiring vision of community?
TGB: Wow! I never really thought of it that way. I’m always on the defence. I’m trying to stop that. When I go on stage I feel like it’s all or nothing, ready for the worst. I’ve lost a lot of hair over this but it’s so rewarding after every show because I see how happy Omar, Deantoni and Nicci are. After every show, hell, after every day, I always remind myself how lucky I am to be doing what I do. I’m so happy that there are people that support our dream. Damn.
Out of everywhere Bosnian Rainbows have travelled so far, is there a particular place in the world that has a special place in your heart? What’s one of the most amazing things you’ve seen in your travels?
TGB: I love going to the Southern Hemisphere, be it South America or Australia. Everything in the south is by far the safest. I loved New Zealand…we were there during the Hobbit Premiere! That was very cool. I’m a huge Peter Jackson fan and a JK Tolkien fan so it was cool. Damn, every place I love. Tokyo is for sure another universe. You feel like you are in the future. Mexico is always home for me. Velebit, Croatia is startling beautiful.
Lastly, what are some simple things that you enjoy?
TGB: I love writing. Omar gave me an old school restored 1950s type writer for my birthday; every time I’m home I’m on it. It’s emerald green!
With love & light,
*Image credits: 1) art by me, Teri pic by the talented Vane Giraldo; 2) courtesy of BS’ site; all other photos courtesy of BS’ instagram.