Teri Gender Bender is a woman of passion, intuition and ideas, an untamed organic talent, unfolding in her own time on her own terms. Evolving with each musical outing, band (Le Butcherettes, Bosnian Rainbows, Crystal Fairy, Kimono Kult), her songs layered with fiercely honest poetical lyrics reveal little clues that take us to the very heart of who she is—a fighter, a survivor, a voice for the oppressed, a force of mother fucking nature. Her art is a battle between life and death and truly living; a delicate balance of light and dark, culminating in rebirth with each new album. Unafraid to strike out in a new direction, while maintaining their spirit, Le Butcherettes have spent the last few weeks recording. As they head to Australia for tour Teri gives us an insight into the process…
You’ve recently been recording a new record in northern California. How has the setting been influencing the work?
TERI GENDER BENDER: It’s been a healing environment, Stinson Beach & Marin are magical places. They feel like pulsing veins of the wrists of California. It was a very intense feeling of mourning and sorrow just before going out to record it because a group of robbers stole my father’s ashes. I was so close to losing my mind into complete chaotic self-destruction until I had a good and long talk with a friend of mine that basically talked some different perspective, a perspective of accepting that you are never in full control of what you think is yours. So going to the studio to an environment consisting of forest; trees, soil, bridges, wood, bark, wetness, fog, sun, extremes, wolves, foxes, deer, mountain lions, etc was a haven that soothed my mind for the time being. Just being able to breathe in clean forest trees every morning clears up so much both spiritually and physically.
What can you tell me about the new record?
TGB: This record derives from our most primal musical genres: classic rock. In my opinion this record is probably the most different we have sounded since, A Raw Youth. I try to make sure the producer understands that each record must be different to some degree or another than the last one while maintaining the essence. The writing process of the record was recorded in two weeks on the floor of my room (garage band/logic demos after coming home from tour). I was trapped in my house for those two weeks for fear of being murdered or worse of having to face the silent death of the suspected murderer. It was more mental than anything else but at the moment it was a crude reality: my mother is going to kill me.
I understand that there’s been 60 demo songs that you and your producer have been going through!
TGB: Yes! Jajaja!
It sounds like a lot but I think it’s just protocol when making a record. If you have to throw a lot of songs around and put them out there with the producer. You and the producer have got to trust each other’s ear that is why I gravitate towards working with people with open minded ear’s but that can also help polish and tone a song. The great sensation about this record so far is that the songs have all come together organically as a band plays them… they come to life.
What feelings have you noticed coming through strongly or reoccurring in the songs you have been writing?
TGB: There seems to be a lot of sadness in the songs, a lot of bitterness and resignation, other songs are more protest songs; I suspect the current political climate has unconsciously (as always) sunken in there, everything is connected and at the same time one can be so unaware of this.
Do you have any rituals when writing?
TGB: It has really differed throughout the years. Writing this one occurred in a moment of sheer panic, I was locked inside my house, my own house. My only ritual that would calm me down was to occupy my mind with songwriting. I would record an idea of something that would come out ad lib and then re-listen to what I did and then start rehearsing it/completing it and re-recording it from the ad lib version… only to be given so much more texture/richer arrangements by the producer and his communication with engineer and the band.
Can you sense inspiration arriving?
TGB: It’s always there because of being exposed to so many great artists, even though lack of exposure to old things can help approach an old school formula into an innocent tribute… sadly it derives from a lot of sadness and past traumas. Even my happy go lucky songs derive from some kind of tragedy or loss or self-existential life crisis. Sometimes the mind can create anything from thin air, other times it just takes, takes, takes from what it surrounds itself in, turning into a by-product of an emotion, it is healthy to detach from certain emotions though.
Is there validity in using drugs or drink to tap into inspiration? (In one of your Instagram stories the other day you posted a big bag of weed.)
TGB: I firmly believe people can do what they want with their own bodies. There is validity into everything in life. It is all is a matter of mental interpretation and perspective. It fascinates me as much as it perturbs me then I try to sleep it off and just listen to my instinct. Instinct is the core of inspiration in humanity.
(I personally LOVE smoking. Don’t use weed to tap into inspiration, I use it because I love the taste, the smell, the texture and how it makes me feel afterwards.)
This time around you’ve opened yourself up to really including your bandmates, Riko and Alejandra, in the process showing them your demo songs, self-recorded and some very bare bones; what inspired you to take this approach? I know you’ve done things differently in the past.
TGB: It was the perfect timing. Been lucky as hell to work with such great line-ups in my band but the timing was never aligned with music/band plans. Meeting Alejandra was such a lovely process. We were brought together by a feminist music festival, where we both played in, put together by Nadia G. She is one hell of a drummer, an incredible human being and am proud to call her someone I can count on; a friend. Rikardo has a great take on music and his musical background is very rich, we learn from him constantly as they too keep me grounded and humbled because their actions speak loudly. They play music because it’s their passion. I also invited Marfred to play bass on the new album, it’s been such a learning experience for everyone, I believe!
What are some things that you have been trying out while recording the new record?
TGB: Cooking every day, sweeping, walking, grocery shopping and reading… oh and looking at the stars at night. The studio comes with housing, so living in there is great because it is a studio with a lot of big, big windows and natural lighting.
Is there anything that you learnt from recording the Crystal Fairy record with Buzz and Dale that you’ve brought with you to making this record?
TGB: To play around with a theremin player! Jaja! And… that a really great and fun record can be recorded in short time as well. It is all a matter of a variety of what kind of a process a certain project calls for. Working with them was so easy. Naming the band was the hardest thing to do.
What has being able to take your time with this recording enabled you to do?
TGB: Develop a song to what feels is at its fullest potential… and into a direction that resonates with where my musical roots come from as a child. Lucky enough I’ve always worked with people who push us to a higher level of musicianship and song crafting especially when you are going through a tough time, a producer and a band leader need to keep their calm in times of making an album… lucky enough, during the making of this one there were no times where I felt like exploding… maybe it was the shock from real life problems.
Why is the new record important to you?
The new record is important to me because it may be the last one, you never know. Life has a brilliant way of earthquaking up a plan.
Check out: lebutcherettesofficial.com.
My other chats with Teri:
- Le Butcherettes’ Teri Gender Bender: Humble Beginnings, Supporting Iggy Pop & Finding The Self
- Teri Gender Bender on Feminism, Failure & Passionate Living
Le Butcherettes Australian tour dates
Thu 28 September*
Festival Hall, Melbourne
Fri 29 September*
Hordern Pavilion, Sydney
Sat 30 September^
The Lansdowne Hotel, Sydney
Sun 1 October~
Yours And Owls Festival, Wollongong
Mon 2 October*
Eatons Hill Hotel & Function Centre, Brisbane
*= with At The Drive-In
^= solo show