PET POLITICS: Hannah Teeter on Her Transformation From Vet’s GRL to Def.GRL

Hannah Teeter is sweet as pie in person and vicious as hell on the drum kit. She pairs her innately optimistic nature with her wicked energy to form a stage persona entirely singular. Hannah first started playing drums five years ago after forming the band Def.GRLS with buddies Craig Martinson and Mark Brickman. Def.GRLS released a couple EPs in between, embarked on their first tour this past March to SXSW, and are now in the process of releasing their first LP while simultaneously recording their next EP.

Photo Credit: Thomas Ignatius

Along with playing drums for one of the most unique projects in the Brooklyn scene, Hannah is a proud cat mom with a lot of experience cohabiting with an array of animals, from dogs to hissing cockroaches. While discussing our adoration of our feline friends, Hannah shared the fact that her father is a veterinarian with me (hence her colorful exposure to all types of species). Since Hannah is certainly a different animal on the stage than she is off the stage, I wanted to hear about how her massive love of all creatures influenced her own animal instincts on the stage.

AF: Please introduce us to your kitty.

HT: Please meet Igor! He’s a 12 and a half year old crotchety Siamese/raccoon mix and I sure do like him a lot :)

Hannah and Igor (all pet photos courtesy of Hannah and the Teeter family).

AF: How did Schmigor come into your life?

HT: My dad is a veterinarian back in Kansas, and he got a call one day from a former client who was distraught because she’d seen a mama cat and her band of feral kittens roaming around the neighborhood and they all looked pretty sick. My folks went out – I think armed with butterfly nets lol – and caught the kitties and their mom. My dad treated them all, spayed and released the mom and started to find homes for the little ones. Igor was the last one. He was pretty surly, so I don’t think anyone wanted him, and I wound up bringing the little guy back to New York.

Kitten Days: Hannah and baby Igor.

AF: Can you give us a run-down of your pet history?

HT: Oh jeez, we kinda grew up in a zoo! There were dogs: Bailey the Wonder Dog, Aggie the mean old yorkie and her sweet dumb son Ozzie who had rotting teeth and smelled like garbage, and the most handsome Irish setter known to man, Bowie. He’s old af but still kickin! There were cats: Claude, Wally, Petticoat, Truman, Ping, and Igor. There were snakes and rats and salamanders and crawdads and even some Madagascar hissing cockroaches for a while. And a hedgehog named Twiggy Fusebox.

Hannah and her family pets: Bowie, Aggie, Ozzie, and Petticoat.

AF: As a veterinarian, did your dad pass down any pet-rearing wisdom to you?

HT: Dry food is basically diabetes in a bag for cats! Feed ‘em the wet stuff so you don’t wind up having to hold them down while you spoon Karo syrup into their mouths when you find them in a diabetic coma (lookin’ at you, Claude).

Baby Hannah and Claude.

AF: Share your earliest animal-loving memory with us!

HT: Apparently our cat, Wally, taught me how to walk! My folks and my older brothers talk about how I would sit behind him and hold onto his tail. When he was ready to get up and move, I wouldn’t let go and he’d pull me up to my feet behind him. Who knows if this is truth or legend, but I like the story!

Wally and infant Hannah.

AF: When did you decide to pick up drumming?

HT: About five years ago.

Photo Credit: Mike Petzinger.

AF: What was it that made you gravitate towards the drums?

HT: Oh man. I feel like I’d always wanted to learn how to play drums ever since my brother’s high school band set up our basement as their practice space. I was probably about 7 or 8 years old and he showed me how to do a simple beat and I thought it was so cool mostly because he was paying attention to me and letting me hang out for a bit instead of yelling at me to gtfo. But then for the next 17 years, I didn’t touch the drums haha. So who knows?

Photo Credit: Michael Todaro.

AF: Tell us about Def.GRLS. How did the band start?

HT: I’d become good friends with Craig, who had a solo project and was also drumming in this incredible and incredibly weird and magical band called The Lesbians. He was teaching me how to play drums and when I was kind of struggling with the lessons, he convinced The Lesbians to let me learn how to play during their rehearsals. That was so freakin’ kind and cool of all of them and it was an amazing way to start making sense of the drums. It helped me think of drumming as part of the music as a whole rather than as isolated beats. They even let me play a few songs with them at their Halloween show, which was sadly their last performance. Out of the ashes of The Lesbians rose Def.GRLS with Craig on guitar, Mark (who had been playing guitar) on bass, and me on drums.

AF: You went on your first tour this past March. How was that?

HT: Holy cow, it was incredible!! So fun and exciting and exhausting. Everyone in every city along the way was really kind to us and was making amazing music.

Photo Credit: Luke Ohlson.

AF: Did you have a favorite city on your tour?

HT: I liked all of them a lot and they were all so different. I think my favorite, though, was Little Rock, AR. We played this really neat DIY house show at a spot called Hot Glory House that’s run by a magical boy named Carl Fike. After the show, a bunch of 18 year old punks took us to their favorite Waffle House and we did Madlibs and it ruled!

AF: Who babysat Schmigor while you were away?

HT: My incredible roommate, Tayler. He rules! He’s a legendary dude who’s also an artist and musician and he helped us master our album!

AF: Any funny or thrilling Schmigor tales to tell? 

HT: Haha, I don’t know if this is thrilling but it’s kinda cool I think. When I first brought Igor to New York with me, he was not at all interested in being around humans because he was a wild outdoorsy kitten. We kind of ignored each other for a couple months. Then, on the first cold night of winter, I woke up because there was a tiny furball basically trying to burrow into my armpit for warmth. After that night, he and I have been pretty much best friends. He’s super cuddly now! Loves a snuggle. Still prefers to burrow in armpits.

AF: Have you ever written any songs about (non-human) animals?

HT: Oh man – we had a song that never quite got finished about a cat with three eyes. It ruled! We gotta circle back and finish it!

AF: What is your favorite (non-human) animal song?

HT: I was gonna go with “Werewolves of London” but someone said that technically werewolves are sometimes human so it doesn’t count. So I guess my next choice would be “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”

Little Hannah and Bailey the Wonder Dog.

AF:  If Schmigor was a human, what career do you think he would pursue?

HT: Something where he could mostly nap, maybe catch a few flies, and slowly but methodically knock full glasses off the edge of tables. I guess maybe that means he’d be a happy hour bartender, just like me!

AF: What are your plans for the remainder of 2018 and beyond?

HT: Have fun! More late night jams with friends! Def.GRLS is also gearing up to start work on our Hollywood EP, which I’m pretty pumped about.


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