Ganser Teams Up with Indie Rock Veterans for a Daring Remix EP

Photo Credit: Kirsten Miccoli

Chicago post-punk quartet Ganser transcend genre with their five-song remix EP Look at the Sun, which dropped on Felte Records May 6. Using tracks from their 2020 LP Just Look at That Sky, artists Bartees Strange, Sad13 (Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz), GLOK (Andy Bell of Ride), Algiers, and Adam Faulkner (Girl Band) showcases indie rock’s range while building on the chaos and disillusionment of the source material.

Ganser is Alicia Gaines (vocals, bass), Nadia Garofalo (vocals, keyboards), Brian Cundiff (drums), and Charlie Landsman (guitar): moody rock n’ rollers indebted to bands ranging from Sonic Youth to Durutti Column. Their name comes from a mental health condition where a person apes the signs of a physical or mental illness without “really” being sick. Unsurprisingly, the group is at their strongest exploring that gray area between seeming and being unwell. Gaines describes them as an “inward facing” band.

In the ultimate unplanned irony, Just Look at That Sky—a meditation on times of uncertainty—went live on July 31 of last year. The cover is a matte goldenrod with a circle cutout revealing a black and white photo of a woman’s face. She’s wearing circular glasses that feel both high-fashion and nautical—almost goggle-like. In the reflection are two towering buildings. All the promotional material show the record against what reads like an ’80s vacation photo of ocean expanse.

It feels both serene and uncanny, both for the endlessness of the waves and how the image sits rendered in time. Against the water, the yellow reads like a geometric diving helmet pumping oxygen to the woman as she… swims toward somewhere unfamiliar? says goodbye as she plunges into water? observes at a gentle, bobbing remove? It’s worth noting Gaines—who handles the band’s artwork—is an award-winning graphic designer.

Yes, an emerging act delivered something that promised to be an existential puzzler when racial and economic tensions exacerbated by the pandemic were especially palpable. This strongly lured some while repelling others, making the album a sleeper hit that wasn’t much championed until end-of-year lists arrived. The music itself is familiar without feeling derivative—a heady cloud of the most swaggering punk bands and indie acts from the past 40 years. What did cigarette ads used to say about filters? “All of the flavor gets through.”

With two women sharing vocals in the band—one of whom is Black—it’s easy to be tempted to use identity as the primary lens for examining Ganser’s music. We’re in a cultural moment where so much art from marginalized creators is evaluated based on how affirming it is to people who reflect the creators’ identities—or how instructive it is for everyone else. But Just Look at That Sky isn’t about the unique experience of identity; it’s ’90s-heavy art rock about collectively feeling uneasy—not how any one individual arrives at that emotion so much as what it’s like being there. As Mia Hughes noted in Clash magazine: “It’s perhaps a political record, but only as far as our lives are political.”

Ganser is a mix of art school alumni, service workers, and freelancers. Some are Jewish, some are queer. They’re all millennials who’ve survived two recessions, and since the pandemic they’ve suffered personal and professional losses because of COVID-19. When it comes to capturing unease, each member has a lot of reference material, to say the least.

“Half of art is being able to tell a good joke,” explains Gaines. “The joke’s not always funny, but it’s about framing or contextualizing it so it lands. That’s the only way I can think to describe it. Post-punk is getting narrowed down to a very small little box of dudes shouting and trying to, like, out Nick Cave each other. I consider us art rock because, to me, art rock’s aim is to be amusing to the people that compose it. It forces listeners to think about how we got to the punchline.”

On Look at the Sun, the punchline doesn’t change so much as get rearranged. Looking at the sun is honing in on one piece of the sky. It can mean basking in the day’s glow as much as burning your retinas, and that tension is what this EP captures. The most compelling tracks are “Bad Form (Sad13 Remix)” and “Self Service (Adam Faulkner/Girl Band Remix),” which lend a haunting dreamlike quality to songs about feeling surrounded by people who ask for too much while giving little in return.

But the standout is “Told You So (Algiers Remix).” The song opens with an eager drum rhythm appropriate for a seventies car chase. In comes a distorted clip of art historian John Berger reading from his approach-defining classic Ways of Seeing: “To be naked is to be without disguise. To be on display is to have the surface of one’s own skin, the hairs of one’s own body, turned into a disguise which cannot be discarded.” Then abolitionist Angela Davis says: “Revolutionary hope resides precisely among those women who have been abandoned by history and who are now standing up and making their demands heard.” 

The beat jolts forward, and in rushes Gaines’s voice—once languid and resigned, now reverberating with a dismissive, dance-y confidence. The song has an energy like DJ Keoki’s “Speed Racer” (minus all the sex jokes, plus mega cool-girl mystique). While Ganser is not a “political” band—that is, they don’t typically address politics head on through their music—the new introduction reframes lyrics like “Onwards and upwards/Almost gone/It’s nothing like dying/Nothing like me.” The words sound less self-pitying and more self-righteous, necessarily confrontational in a way that’s exciting and free.

If you follow Ganser on Twitter, you know that’s who they are at their core, but it doesn’t always translate to their music. That Algiers emphasizes this isn’t as much a revelation as a “HELL YES, THANK YOU!” Until the pandemic, Ganser was slated to tour with them. Hearing this track, it’s easy to imagine the raucous magic they would’ve brought to a shared stage.

“Before the world stopped, we were running around a million miles a minute,” explains Gaines. “We didn’t have time to wonder, like, ‘Why aren’t we getting booked for more support tours? I guess we have to keep trying. Or we suck.’ Once the album campaign started, we were getting in print magazines in the UK, but nobody would answer our emails back home.

“After a while, it was really jarring, but then it became pretty clear what was going on. We can’t help if people are intimidated by women expressing ugly emotions or intimidated by a Black person playing an instrument. I don’t know, I can’t read their minds. We’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing. We hide puns and jokes on our record. There’s a lot of layers. I guess people can just catch up.”

Chicago’s certainly there. Ganser might be the city’s best kept secret. The post-punk quartet recently won a donor-nominated Sustain Chicago Music grant. They’re headlining a nearly-sold out three day stint at the Empty Bottle, one of Chicago’s most taste-defining indie venues. In the Reader’s “Best of Chicago 2020,” they were voted audiences’ second favorite punk band (Rise Against took first, which I have MANY questions about). And in September, Ganser will make their Riot Fest debut. Not bad for a group whose sophomore release arrived in the middle of a public health crisis.

While the band is still coming into their own, their future should prove interesting. Is the rest of the world ready for such a promising powerhouse?

Follow Ganser on Facebook and Instagram for ongoing updates.

INTERVIEW: Johanna Warren Comes into Her Power with Chaotic Good

Photo Credit: Jeff Davenport

When Johanna Warren was twelve or thirteen, she recalls thinking that if she wanted to be a true artist, she would have to fuck up her life. Her musical idols – Elliott Smith, Kurt Cobain, Nick Drake – all died as tortured young poets. Warren hadn’t sung in front of anyone since she was a child, writing songs with her little brother as their alter egos, Horsey & Joe. Over the next several years, she’d throw herself first into musical theater, combating crippling shyness to play the parts she’d immediately regretted auditioning for, before preforming jokey songs at open mic nights about surviving apocalyptic floods by taking refuge in the Loch Ness monster’s vagina. It wasn’t until years later, in a grimy punk house basement, that someone took her seriously; even then, she felt a dark pull toward misery and misfortune. “I wanted to be a great artist, so I had to open a chaotic portal to invite in a lot of suffering because that’s where great art comes from,” Warren says. “I think it’s a really grave miscalculation that we’re encouraged to make. I can’t help but feel that there’s some kind of intentionality there, on behalf of some dark, oppressive forces that want us to dim our light and die young and never thrive.”

Fast forward about a decade, and Johanna Warren found herself recording her fourth solo album, Chaotic Good, at Elliott Smith’s New Monkey Studio. It wasn’t the only place she recorded – what started out as angry acoustic demos in her Portland garage transformed over the course of touring behind her 2018 self-released double album, Gemini, as folks she met on the road offered her free studio time from coast to coast. But New Monkey was a significant space for Warren. “Right when I was starting to look for places to record, the owner invited me to have a free day there. It’s all functional as a recording studio, but they have done a really respectful job of preserving things more or less as they were when he was there – it felt like a shrine as much as a studio,” Warren says. “That was so meaningful and that was really the beginning of feeling like alright, I’m making a record. And it felt like it had kind of [Smith’s] blessing. He’s sort of my patron saint of songwriting. I feel like he gave me permission to make a record like this, where it doesn’t have to fit into one neat little genre box, it can just be an expression of my feelings and my own inner hypocrisies and self contradictions.”

Also of particular relevance was the time she spent at the Relic Room in Manhattan, recording with her old bandmates in Sticklips, Chris St. Hilaire and Jim Bertini. Their band had fallen apart in 2012, following the death of Sticklips’ leader, Jonathan “JP” Nocera. JP was the one who, all those years ago, had sat Warren down and made her play every song she’d ever written, recognizing in her something she couldn’t yet see in herself. “He wanted us to keep going with it, but honestly he was the glue that held it all together,” Warren recalls. “I was not capable of keeping it together after he was gone because I didn’t know myself enough musically or emotionally. I wasn’t confident enough in my own ideas because the only music I had really recorded or produced was with them, and they were all slightly older men. At the time I was all too happy to let them take the reins. I was angry about it but didn’t even know that there was another way. My frustrations with that were building but I didn’t have the emotional interpersonal skills to communicate any of that so it just exploded.”

Despite the buzz around the band’s two LPs, 2009’s It Is Like a Horse. It Is Not Like Two Foxes. and 2012’s more minimally-named Zemi, Warren had decided to go it alone, and moved to the West Coast, touring with the likes of Iron & Wine and Julie Byrne. “It was definitely kind of traumatic because I felt like I’d always wanted to be in a great band – I was obsessed with The Beatles and Radiohead. Right as things started to really gel, it all fell apart. And I was so young at the time, it was really formative. I’m just now starting to open the door to collaborating with other people again, cause I’ve been licking that wound for the last decade.” Her first solo album, Fates, arrived in 2013, followed by numun (pronounced “new moon”) in 2015. After recording both Gemini records, but unable to find a label that would release them, Warren formed Spirit House Records from the ashes of a label that JP had gifted her upon his passing. Over time, it has evolved into a collective of experimental folk artists, mostly in and around the Portland scene. Later, Sadie Dupuis of Sad13 and Speedy Ortiz would re-release the Gemini records on her Carpark imprint Wax Nine, as well as put out Chaotic Good.

In the process of recording Chaotic Good, Warren says she looked to that younger version of herself for gems of wisdom and truth that had gotten buried and forgotten over time. “That’s sort of a theme of the album – burying the dream that never came true, and the presence of death and the spirits of the dead, but then the rebirth and new life that springs from the ruins of whatever you’ve buried and grieved,” Warren explains. “This last couple years have been all about a kind of return. It has led to me stepping into my own power, and then also remembering: I have a band – I left them in New York ten years ago. I just need to hit them up and make some amends.” Warren did just that, reuniting with St. Hilaire and Bertini to add drums, synth, and bass to her demos. “It was so healing for everybody to play together again in a completely different context, and for me to be able to assert myself and hold my own. It felt so satisfying to pick up that loose thread and weave it back into the tapestry.”

It was validating, too, to be in control of that process – the band added their parts over the vocals she’d recorded in Portland, as opposed to Warren adding her parts over Sticklips tracks. Back then, Warren says, “I was like the icing on the cake – even though it had been my song that was the foundation around which all of the other instrumentation had been built, I always felt like my stuff was just an afterthought. I didn’t even have the vocabulary to say I can’t hear myself, it doesn’t sound like me, it doesn’t sound like my song anymore. So to work this way with the same people, but have my parts actually be the backbone of the whole recorded construction was really cool. It was such an amazing testament to the collective work we’ve all been doing in the last ten years around gender and power and breaking down these oppressive hierarchical structures.”

The metaphor of excavating her old selves pops up in two videos for the album’s early singles, the graceful stop-motion of “Bed of Nails” and “Only The Truth,” which posits Warren as a Druid resurrected in present-day Los Angeles, still able to find magic in a neon-lit roller rink. “It was so fun to play that character for a couple days, cause I realized, I didn’t really even have to act – this is how I’ve always felt moving through the world, especially places like LA. So much of her world has been lost and destroyed, but magic still exists in everything, and that’s kind of what the song is about too,” she says, before quoting a lyric from the song: “I see light everywhere I go, I see the love in all of you.”

Warren, for what it’s worth, has long identified as a witch “as kind of an eco-feminist fuck you to the patriarchy,” though she doesn’t rely on ritual these days as much as she once did. She practices plant medicine and reiki, and her spiritual beliefs are subtly integrated throughout the album. “What you call God, I call the mysteries of the universe/What difference does it really make after all?” she asks on “Rose Potion,” a song that hints at her experience weaning herself off of pharmaceuticals prescribed for chronic illnesses that only worsened until she was able to find natural remedies and process past trauma. Piano-driven, woodwind-embellished album closer “Bones of Abandoned Futures” describes, in essence, a binding ceremony, in which Warren releases herself from the spells of the past: “Expell from my body the putrid mess inside me and call back my magic to me,” she sings, describing the process as “killing” and “slaughtering” the darkness before she comes to the final, poignant lines, “The time has come for stillness and mindful cultivation of light/Removing the sting and the sorrows of losing by singing with all of my might.” In that way, Chaotic Good is medicine all on its own – the album sees Warren confronting abusers past and present, personal and political, and stepping into her own power and anger as a woman.

“A big part of it [was] just recognizing that I have always had anger in me, inviting that energy into the room, learning how to scream, and giving myself space to do that vocally for the first time,” says Warren, who is at her most brazen on “Twisted,” a seething send-off that sees the singer posit herself as a warrior broken by loving someone incapable of empathy or understanding. “In my previous work I tried to repress it, because I thought it was ugly and scary and bad. I’d been limiting myself to this really pretty, clean, crystalline quality that gets praised a lot. But [for] this record and this time in my life, I’ve given up on prettiness and just gotten more interested in being whole, embracing all parts of myself and not trying to cut things out cause I don’t think they’re pretty.”

Parts of Chaotic Good still rely on the haunting beauty of Warren’s voice – like hushed ballad “Hole in the Wall,” rambling confessional “Every Death,” or wistful, warm acoustic number “Thru Yr Teeth” – but juxtapose them with with the same bitter emotions. As Warren lived her nomadic lifestyle, touring behind Gemini and snatching up time to experiment with newer songs in whatever studio spaces she could, the instrumentation on Chaotic Good grew more robust than any of her previous work, drawing that bitterness out sonically on songs like “Faking Amnesia” and “Part of It,” on which she sings “This is a time for me, everything else can wait/Whatever is meant to be will be and everything else can fall away.”

Indeed, Warren herself is the centerpiece of Chaotic Good, even as springy bass and shuffling drums give the tracks more punk rock energy than the pristine folk she’d cultivated in the past. “I was the only consistent player throughout – it was just me and my guitar and my traveling hard drive flitting around the whole country and working with different people in different places,” Warren says, noting that such an usual way of working was incredibly freeing in that it allowed her to explore different elements and ideas. “It was re-enlivening to get so many pairs of fresh ears on it, a day at a time. It was such a unique way of working. I’m not in any rush to go back to doing it the other way because it gave me so much time and space to reflect and change things up with low stakes.”

“That’s part of the namesake – the chaotic nature of recording it,” she continues. “I was like some little pollinating insect flying around flower to flower and getting the nectar of each moment in time in space,” she says. “I’ve never worked like that before… I feel like it translates to me synaestehtically; when I listen to the record all my senses are flooded with this feeling of variety. I feel like I see rainbows when I listen to it because there are so many moments in time, so many places, so many people, it feels like a travelogue of the last couple years that have been so beautiful really. So chaotic, but so good.”

More than any other song on the album, “Only The Truth” encapsulates Warren’s tumultuous journey, not only as a singer- songwriter, but as human being drawn into a series of co-dependent relationships. As the track builds, she calls out her past reliance on creating songs out of personal tragedy, describing “the sacred well of pain that I’ve returned to time and time again to fill my vessels with the nectar torture poison that my thirsty muse took a liking to.”

“That is to me, an encapsulation of a big over-arching process that I’ve been really invested in personally,” Warren admits. “I’ve taken a real stance against that in myself and in the world around me. It is possible to be happy and make great art and thrive and be healthy and live to a hundred twenty. And I want to do it. I want to prove to myself that that’s possible.”

Warren is currently holed up Wales, following the postponement of a European tour in support of Chaotic Good; she’s planting a garden, foraging wild foods and setting up a recording studio in a spare room, realizing that she needs this time to heal the body she’s put through years of touring. “I feel really happy right now, and honestly, I haven’t had that burning desire to create that I did when I was a tortured 20-something, when that was my only outlet,” she says. “Now, I feel really peaceful when I just wake up and walk outside and plant my beans. I don’t feel the urgency that I did, but I feel that I am making good work that I stand behind that is serving a purpose. And I feel very invested in dismantling that programming that has been running itself out in my mind for a long time and creating and alternative.”

Follow Johanna Warren on Facebook for ongoing updates.

PET POLITICS: Chatting with Pittie Parent and Longtime Vegan Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz

Sadie Dupuis is a shredder with a cause. An artist through-and-through, Sadie is a prolific songwriter, poet, and visual artist. She’s the imagination and voice behind the innovative and ever-evolving rock group Speedy Ortiz, who are fresh off a tour with Interpol. Sadie also releases solo work as her alter-ego to SAD13. But Sadie’s voice extends beyond the artistic realm. She has consistently been one of our generation’s most outspoken artists on a wide range of issues – standing up for human rights, political justice, climate change awareness, sustainability, and this column’s favorite pals, the animals. Sadie is a long-time dog mom to a pitbull cutie named Buster. Audiofemme talked to Sadie to hear about the many causes Sadie supports (and how we can help too), some stories from Speedy’s tour with Interpol, upcoming dates for Speedy Ortiz in 2019, and mostly Sadie’s love for animals and the history that led her to dog-parenting and animal advocacy.

AF: Please introduce us to your fur son.

SD: This is Buster, who I think of as my regular son who happens to be only slightly furrier than me.

All photos courtesy of Sadie Dupuis.

AF: How did you and Buster find each other?

SD: I started fostering Buster on Valentine’s day of 2011. I found him on Craigslist while I was living in New York. My friend and roommate had passed away in late January, and I was having trouble adapting to living without him in what was our shared space, which was also where he died. You can only sage an apartment so much.

I started fostering pit bull mixes in my first apartment as an 18 year old, and loved the experience. I thought that giving care to another animal in that way might help me get out of my head and my grief. Which of course it did. Buster was four months old, a stray rescued from North Carolina by a now defunct New York pit bull rescue. He was recovering from a bad case of mange with tons of bald spots, and his eyes were so scabbed over from it that he was still recovering his eyesight. But I knew right away I would wind up adopting him.

I wanted to change his name from “Buster,” which the shelter had given him, to “Fry.” He wasn’t having it. And besides, he’s a major mama’s boy, very like Buster Bluth. But of course he responds to all manner of nicknames. Chief among them “Lil B.”

He had a very calm and timid energy at first – he didn’t bark until after his first birthday – but he came into his own. He’s got a weird sense of humor and an impossible to predict bratty streak. He cracks me up constantly, but is also great at intuiting when the people around him need quiet, cuddly support. I always thought he’d make an incredible therapy dog. He’s certainly provided that for me.

Buster at 4 months.

Buster at 6 months on his first road trip.

AF: Are there any animal shelters you can recommend to people looking for a furever friend?

SD: Now that I live in Philadelphia, I pay attention to Morris Animal Refuge, the first animal shelter in the country. They are open admission and do tons to provide homes for the animals that pass through. Supporting your local no-kill shelter or rescue is the best, whether that’s with money, fostering, volunteering, or social media sharing. Donating to shelters in someone’s name is a thoughtful and useful gift for birthdays or holidays!

Sadie and Buster having themselves a Merry Little Christmas.

AF: Did you have many pets growing up?

SD: I grew up with a miniature schnauzer. I have a tattoo of him.

My mom’s boyfriend for most of my childhood was not only a former punk drummer, but also an amazing dog trainer, and a really formative influence for me in both those departments. At any given time, he’d have at least ten dogs in the house, at different stages in their education. He’d get tasked with dogs who had histories of violence due to poor training and seeing them make progress was amazing early learning experience that no dogs are inherently bad, and that with love and support animals can make tremendous recoveries. Matty’s still an incredible dog trainer for the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons and I keep up with his posts on Instagram. We also had six rescue cats at one point. Well, one rescue cat and her five kittens. Which is wild to me, because I’m so so so allergic to them. I was drugged up on antihistamines my whole childhood for this reason.

1999ish, high on Claritin, holding Rudy (mother Kitty in the background).

AF: What is your spirit animal?

SD: I’m non-Indigenous and white, so spirit animals aren’t a belief system or phrase I have access to in a way that isn’t appropriative. If I had to pick an animal I identify most with, it’d be (big surprise) dogs. Especially dogs that are territorial over their food. There is a corgi named after me called Sadie Dogpuis (she has a very cute Instagram) so I feel like we are forever psychically linked in name at least.

Sadie Dogpuis and Sadie Dupuis at Junior High in LA.

AF: Have you ever written a song about (non-human) animals?

SD: There was an early Speedy Ortiz song called “frankenweenie” about putting down my childhood dog, partially as a metaphor for getting out of my first long-term relationship. That’s the most specific one I can think of. Animals show up all over my work, though, now that I think of it. Our first album has songs about tigers, horses, fish, rats, not to mention some dog-specific terminology like “coats for curs” and “kennel cough.” The second album has a golden Foil Deer as its album artwork, title, and central metaphor. So I’m very drawn to non-human entities in my work. Also, we’ve tried to put Buster in music videos or press photos like five times. Varying levels of success.

Our first press photo. 2012. I remember getting told it wa too lo-res to print in Nylon. Even though there is a very willing dog model.

Real Hair era. By Emma Rothenberg-Ware. EW ran this, I think. Buster is eager, ready.

‘Twerp Verse’ photo shoot by Shervin Lainez, 2017. Buster is over it.

AF: Favorite all-time (non-human) animal-themed song?

SD: All-time is tough, but I have Palehound on my mind right now and I love her song “Dry Food.” Nicki Minaj saying “you a lil dusty possum” is one of my favorite moments of recorded music.

AF: You just returned from a few big tours this year. Can you share an interesting story with us?

SD: We were just on tour with Interpol, and on a few of the dates, they invited local animal shelters to bring puppies and kittens backstage. The band hung out with the animals and took some cute photos for promotion and were able to help them find forever homes for rescued animals. I think that’s a genius way to support animals and also feel some love on tour, which can be lonely and isolating. Definitely one of my favorite things I’ve seen a headliner request.

A sweet puppy backstage on tour with Interpol.

AF: If your pup Buster had a band, what instrument would he play and what would the band be called?

SD: Buster’s a yodeler and sometimes yowls along to music I play. He thumps his tail aggressively while wagging, so drums are an obvious choice. He’s a good dancer too and loves scampering around when we play, so he doesn’t necessarily have to go into performing music – I’m not gonna force him to follow in my footsteps. Although his jingling collar does show up on some of our recordings when I incorporate excerpts I tracked at home.

Buster’s first favorite bed, a snare drum bag.

He loves music with high pitched guitars and always liked when my ex-bandmate Devin McKnight (now of Maneka) played with a Digitech Whammy. Weirdly, high-pitched, rhythmic vocals are a no – he hates when I play Melt Banana and early Guerilla Toss.

He shreds (not anymore).

Buster at Sonelab in Easthampton, MA while we were mixing Major Arcana.

AF: If he could have another (non-human) animal friend to hang with, fictional or real, what would s/he be?

SD: As he’s gotten older – turning nine this year, already! – Buster’s gotten less good with other dogs, which is a bummer since he used to love playing at the dog park. My mom lives near a dairy farm and when we drive past the cows, Buster loses it. I think he wants to befriend them, which of course I would encourage if I wasn’t worried he’d scare them. Personally, I would love it if Buster made pals with a pig, because that would mean I got to be pals with a pig, too. But honestly, he thinks he’s a person and mostly he just wants to hang out with us.

Sporting a Tooth and Honey sweater.

AF: You have done a commendable job using your voice as an artist to incite positive change among fellow humans, our friends sharing the animal kingdom, and the world at large. Many of us have been hit even harder than usual with the current political climate. Are there any organizations currently that you would like to highlight and urge readers to support?

SD: On the human side, in 2019 we’ve focused on fundraising for and promoting Harm Reduction Coalition, who do work for individuals and communities impacted by drug use. They focus on agency, dignity, safety, and policy reform for people who use drugs, and are involved in initiatives like needle exchange, injection sites, naloxone training, fentanyl testing, and more. I’m really glad for every opportunity to tell people about the life saving work they do and am honored that some of their representatives will be tabling with information at upcoming Speedy Ortiz shows.

On the animal side, I’m daily inspired by people and sanctuaries on Instagram who share their processes in rehabilitating and caring for animals. Kitten Lady, Ducks and Clucks, Prissy Pig, Sesame the Opossum (RIP) are some favorites. Goats of Anarchy recently took in a friend’s special needs goat, and I’ve never felt closer to celebrity. As a vegan I’m psyched when animals others think of as food get to show off that they are as loving and intelligent and funny as dogs and cats. A friend works for Woodstock Farm Sanctuary and I love seeing all the adorable and happy sheep, goats, pigs and chickens. Definitely an organization worthy of support.

AF: When did you become vegan and what prompted you to make the switch?

SD: I became uncertain about eating animals at age 7 after The Simpsons episode “Lisa the Vegetarian” first aired, and as I started to connect “foods” with the animals they came from – like lamb, or rabbit – I couldn’t do it. I stopped eating all mammals in 1998 after my mom moved close to the aforementioned dairy farm and I got to see cows and calves up close every day. So I’m vegetarian purely for animal welfare reasons. Veganism happened right before my final semester of high school in 2006 once I learned more about the environmental impacts of farming industries and the health risks associated with animal milk and eggs. I’d had sports-induced asthma, which went away immediately, and chronic stomach issues I’d had my whole life were seriously diminished.

There were a couple times when I was still a teen that I tried local and sustainably sourced dairy or fish, like when I was studying abroad in Spain, because it then seemed culturally significant to me, or something. But that doesn’t fit in with my philosophy any more and it’s been more than a decade since I viewed anything from an animal as “food.” I get to tour globally and try all kinds of amazing foods and I never wish I followed any other kind of diet. Also, over the past 13 years of veganism, food creatives have gotten so much better at replicating pretty much anything in a plant-based way.

Buster enjoying the sunset at a cemetery screening of The Craft.

AF: I noticed you have made some plugs to sustainable brands on your Instagram. Can you recommend any vegan companies to our readers looking to reduce their carbon footprint?

SD: I recently learned about mushroom leather, and bought my first mushroom suede bag, which is a sustainable (and PVC-free) way to have some beautiful accessories! Native Shoes are my new favorite sneakers – they’re recycled, affordable, and come in very cool styles and colors. MooShoes is a great resource for finding out about new brands in vegan and eco-conscious footwear and I go to their locations in New York and Los Angeles regularly.

AF: Any favorite vegan restaurants or recipes to share?

SD: I have a favorite in every city, but Philly has a crown jewel of American veganism in Vedge. They do a rutabaga fondue that every non-vegan I’ve brought there raves about for years. It’s a bit pricey so it’s best for a really special occasion or if someone else is footing the bill. I did just come home from Mexico City yesterday, which is perhaps the greatest vegan city in the world. Gatorta, Por Siempre, Los Loosers, La Pitahaya and Pan Comido are five of my favorite restaurants – it’s crazy that one city gets to have all of them!

AF: What do you have in store for us with Speedy Ortiz, SAD13, and all your musical endeavors for the remainder of 2019 and 2020?

SD: Mostly eating on tour or eating while recording! You can find all Speedy Ortiz dates at, including upcoming dates with CHVRCHES.

CHECK THE SPREADSHEET: Talking Tour Eats with Cassie Ramone, Sadie Dupuis, and Chloe Chaidez


One surprisingly common tour complaint is not being able to poop for the first few days. Probably due to a mix of public restroom anxiety and not eating like your normal self would, tour constipation doesn’t sound that bad compared to “fire ass,” something my former tourmates have suffered from after consuming too many gas station hot dogs. Even worse though, Darkwing’s fill-in drummer vomited for a day and a half after he solely ate ramen noodles for a week straight. It should go without saying that staying sane and healthy on the road begins with figuring out how to eat well while on a budget, but it’s not always as simple as it might sound. Around the time I started experiencing a weird cold and cough on Sharkmuffin’s last tour, our manager joked that my daily diet of coffee for breakfast, a quinoa salad for lunch, and wine for dinner might have something to do with it. With the help of our road foodie experts Cassie Ramone, Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz and Sad13, and Chloe Chaidez of Kitten we can hopefully learn to avoid all of these tour ailments.

Cassie Ramone

Vivian Girls/The Babies

First of all let me preface this by saying that I love both cheap eating and fancy food, I’m an omnivore with no dietary restrictions (although I try to eat healthy or vegetarian more often than not… key word here is “try” though), and I love both local cuisine and the comfort of chain restaurants. Sometimes when you’re on tour for an extended period of time, McDonald’s and Subway help so much to regain a sense of familiarity. I’m also a huge fan of Denny’s. If I’m in the South or Midwest, Waffle House is essential. I love getting a double order of hashbrowns with onions, cheese and jalapenos, and some over medium eggs. It’s the only American sit down restaurant I can think of where you can eat a lot and end up paying less than $10 after tip.

A good tour habit is going to Whole Foods in the morning and stocking up on healthy snacks and beverages for the day. If you shop smart it can end up costing less than stopping for lunch. That said, stopping for lunch can be an essential break during a long drive. In most of the groups of people I’ve toured with, we’ve enjoyed stopping for lunch at local diners in tiny roadside towns. The menus are similar enough to each other, and the food can be hit or miss, but sometimes you’ll end up with the best BLT you’ve ever had in your life or something. And often, the menu prices seem unchanged from the ’90s!

In the Pacific Northwest, I always make sure to get pho from an authentic Vietnamese place. As far as I can tell, the Pacific Northwest does it best in America.

I know this probably goes without saying, but street cart tacos in LA and mission burritos in San Francisco are both amazing!

There’s a lot of amazing food in Texas, but I always try to stop by this diner Magnolia Cafe in Austin. Their “mag mud” (queso, salsa, black bean dip and guac layered) is sooo good.

Ok this is a weird pro tip, because I’m sure not many people are going to tour Alaska anytime soon, but if you go to Fairbanks they (weirdly) have incredible Thai food! I had maybe the best Tom Yum soup I’ve ever had when I was there!

Hit up a steak house in the Midwest, just for fun.

My last tip is for people traveling through New York! If you play or stay near a halal deli/bodega/truck, order chicken over rice! It’s $5 or $6 for a massive portion, delicious, and tastes great the next day too.

Sadie Dupuis

Sad13, Speedy Ortiz

AF: How difficult is it to eat vegan and stay healthy while on the road?

SD: It’s easy — I’ve been vegan for almost 13 years and it’s only gotten simpler as more vegan restaurants open, and others learn about the prevalence of the diet (and environmental importance of it), and how to accommodate it.

AF: What are your favorite fast food spots / gas stations / random favorite diners and/or food trucks, restaurants, etc. in different cities?

SD: I have a hit list of favorite vegan restaurants in just about every city we tour through, and I try to stop at those every time on tour. When I’m at home I cook most of the time, but I use touring as an excuse to check out and splurge at new spots, like a food vacation. Speedy Ortiz collaborated with a bunch of them on our last headlining tour, creating themed specials that benefited local charities, which was pretty cool and demonstrative of some of my favorites.

In terms of fast food, I don’t eat too much of it, but Chipotle and Taco Bell usually make an appearance at least once a tour since they can accommodate vegans and gluten allergies.

AF: Any additional tips / advice on eating while touring?

SD: I try to stop at a grocery store every few days for some fresh produce or juice – it’s easy to eat junk food on the road, and I am known to plow through big bags of barbecue chips, but fresh or dried fruit is just as easy to snack on and makes you feel way better. Also, an easy way to eat well when you’re in the midst of a 13-hour drive day: soup cups (like Dr. Macdougall’s) which I prepare at gas stations with dried seaweed and raw green veggies like spinach or kale. Adding hot water will blanch and cook the veggies, and rehydrate the seaweed, and you will feel sort of like there’s some normalcy in your life.


Chloe Chaidez


Favorite tour foods:

  • Subway salad. Okay yes, we all know we would never eat Subway in New York City. Maybe if there was an apocalypse and Subway was the last sandwich place on earth you’d walk in there. BUT on tour, when there are literally no vegetables in sight, get a subway spinach salad and put every single vegetable they have inside of it. You won’t quite feel like a million dollars, but maybe 500,000, and you’ll be ready to rock that night.
  • Wasabi almonds. They don’t really taste like wasabi, but they’re definitely tastier than most almonds and they sell them at most gas stations!
  • Apples. Just because apples are usually the only fruit they sell at gas stations in the middle of nowhere.

More tips to eat somewhat healthy and cheaply on the road:

  1. Buy a Cooler. Just don’t forget to bring in perishables and re-freeze your ice packs whereever you’re crashing each night!
  2. Bring a Reusable Water Bottle & Thermos. This will save you loads on bottled water, since tap water is free at most places. Bonus tip: bring your own instant coffee and/or tea.
  3. The Chipotle Myth: It hasn’t worked for me personally yet, but I’ve heard if you call Chipotle and tell them you’re sponsored by them and set it up in advance they will give your band free food.
  4. Taco Bell Dollar Menu: You can make almost anything vegetarian at Taco Bell by subbing beans for beef, and the potato taco is the best!
  5. Dollar Tree: Stock up on snacks here and possibly buy a mermaid doll while you’re there. Everything is actually a dollar!
  6. Gummy Vitamins: Get a giant pack and pass it around the van once a day. Other helpful healthy supplements: Spirulina, Wellness Formula, Oregano Oil, Non-refrigerated probiotics.

NEWS ROUNDUP: Sad13, Angel Olsen, & Sweet Synths


  • Sadie Dupuis’s Announces Solo Project, Sad13

    Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz has announced a solo album and single under the name Sad13. “Get A Yes” is a shimmery, pop departure from her band’s 90’s rock sound, full of synths and electronics. It explores the idea of consent. As Dupuis told NPR, “How many kids learn about sex from pop music? And how many fun-sounding pop musicians do a heinous job as sex-ed teachers?… [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][like] ‘Blurred Lines,’ in which the narrator presumes to know what his partner wants?”

    Slugger comes out 11/11 via Carpark Records. Check out “Get A Yes” below.

  • Watch Angel Olsen’s “Sister” Video

    Continuing her steady stream of amazing new songs and videos from the upcoming My Woman, Angel Olsen released the single “Sister.” Not as wildly defiant as “Shut Up Kiss Me” and “Intern,” “Sister” paces along steadily and gracefully with images of Olsen walking through a Los Angeles desert landscape.  The video breaks the fourth wall at the end, with Olsen running over to a friend on the beach who asks, “Are you shooting a music video?”

  • Turn Your Laptop Into A Synth-Making Machine

    We just told you about cool music by other people, but maybe now you want to make your own? Here’s a unique, new way to do it. BlokDust is a website where you can program your own song, using a kind of visual synths system. You drag and drop and different effects and sounds onto your screen, and turn your laptop keyboard into, well, a real keyboard. The program, which “makes use of Tone.js as an audio frame,” was developed in the UK and is a collaborationn between Luke Twyman, Luke Phillips and Edward Silverton. Check it out here!


LIVE REVIEW: Courtney Barnett @ Terminal 5


Since the March release of her first full-length album, Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit, Courtney Barnett has become pretty popular. Popular enough that on Wednesday she both headlined and sold out a show at Manhattan’s Terminal 5, which has a capacity of roughly 3,000 people. The Australian rocker was supported by Torres and Speedy Ortiz, who recently released their own albums, Sprinter and Foil Deer.

Barnett opened her set with a drawn-out, solo version of “Anonymous Club.” Her endearing voice filled every inch of the venue until even the drunk dudes using the quiet to shout catcalls with fake Australian accents were silenced. When she wasn’t at the mic she reeled around the stage, whipping her hair and strumming furiously. On recordings, her drawl is relaxed, shifting from weary to playful, but on stage, the lyrics come spilling out. At key crescendos she’d replace syllables and whole words a shout or roar, the only thing that could match the intensity on songs like her encore of “History Eraser.”

The best part of the show (besides the music, obviously) was seeing the huge, three-tier venue completely packed for a show fronted by female guitarists. Not guitarists in the sense that they’re strumming a few chords while they sing- they’re rocking strats and telecasters, pushing their instruments and voices to the limit. Sadie Dupuis (of Speedy Ortiz) forgoes any delicate melodies in favor of harsh guitar lines that leave a jagged edge as they cut through swaggering songs. Mackenzie Scott, aka Torres, accompanies herself on guitar with a steady, loping beat- her tone is serious, focused, and slightly dangerous. One of the show’s best moments was during her song “Strange Hellos.” It’s cathartic enough as a recording, but she suddenly let out a chilling shriek in between choruses: “I was all for being real/ But if I don’t believe then no one will.”

When I saw Courtney Barnett a year ago, her set had energy and charisma, but seemed rushed. This time around, she brought a new intensity and confidence to her performance. Before, I remember her ending her set by disappearing from the stage. On Wednesday, however, she dropped her guitar and walked off as the feedback shrieked and wailed at the audience. Maybe it’s because she wasn’t headlining then or her fame was relatively new, but now, she seems to have settled into a more natural, comfortable position: a total rockstar.

If you missed the show, check out a live version of Courtney Barnett’s “Pedestrian At Best” below!

ALBUM REVIEW: Speedy Ortiz “Foil Deer”


“The Graduates” is one of the best songs on the new Speedy Ortiz album, Foil Deer. In the music video, the band takes some strange pills that make them hallucinate a kind of cute, mostly creepy giant rabbit. When their trip ends, they dose some innocent bystanders at a restaurant. It’s a perfect example of their music: charming, funny, and warped. But, I have a serious issue with a lyric Sadie Dupuis sings during the chorus: “I was the best at being second place/ But now I’m just the runner-up.”

This just isn’t true.

On their latest release, Dupuis once again shows off her style of twisted, creeping guitar lines. They perfectly compliment her vocals, deadpan with a hint of twang. The four-piece from Boston got some rave reviews from their SXSW performances, one which featured comedian Hannibal Buress sitting in on drums. Stephen Malkmus has been spotted wearing the band’s t-shirt, and they currently have tour dates which reach into October, including a sold-out show at The Bowery Ballroom on Saturday.

And, of course, their sound is great. It’s a unique departure from chord-driven rock, with unexpected melodies that range from light and fun (“Swell Content”) to heavy (“Homonovus” and “Ginger”) to downright sinister (“Puffer”).

Speedy Ortiz is a serious musical contender. So when Sadie Dupuis sings she’s just a runner-up, I can’t take her too seriously. But when she proclaims in “Raising The Skate” that “I’m not bossy, I’m the boss,” that I definitely believe.

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YEAR END LIST: AF’s Guide to Riot Grrrl’s Influence in 2013

Body/Head at St. Vitus

It is a goddamn golden age for girl-fronted punk.  It’s not that there haven’t been important works by women in the ensuing years, but 2013 saw a Riot Grrrl Renaissance unlike anything since its early ’90s inception.  Back then, Kathleen Hanna had to make safe spaces at Bikini Kill shows for female attendees by calling out aggressive dudes.  The ladies at the forefront of the movement had to blacklist the mainstream media that painted them alternately as fashion plates, dykes, or whores (sometimes all three, and always with negative connotations; it shouldn’t be implied that to be any of these things is bad or wrong in the first place).  By all accounts, they “couldn’t play” anyway, so the medium and its messages were barely worth discussing as anything more than a passing trend.  Meanwhile, riot grrrls preached their radical politics one Xerox at a time.

If the wisdom of these women seemed to skip the generation that adored Britney Spears’ “Hit Me Baby One More Time” without criticism, it has finally come full circle in a way that feels vital and urgent now.  Not only are we as a culture stepping up to finally examine sexism and exploitation and appropriation within the industry, there are more acts than ever completely unafraid to do their own thing – be it overtly political (see: Priests) or revolutionary in its emotional candidness (looking at you, Waxahatchee).  Maybe it has to do with direct influences of stalwart ensembles like Sleater-Kinney and Bratmobile, and maybe it’s a thing that’s happened gradually as those first voices carved out room for other female performers (for instance, in establishing Rock Camps for young female musicians throughout the country, a project that initially came about through discussions and direct action in riot grrrl communities).  There’s no way to make an inclusive list of all the phenomenal bands (punk or otherwise) now blazing their own trails through their various scenes but taking a tally of at least a few of these acts felt like a necessity for me as someone whose entire life was informed by music like this, and girls like them.  And because fifteen years after I discovered it for myself, 2013 feels like one giant, celebratory dance party/victory lap.


If 2013 is the year female-fronted punk broke, it has to be said that not all 90’s era veterans burned out or faded politely away.  In fact, two of the grunge scene’s most influential women put out intensely personal releases this year.

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Kathleen Hanna Kim Gordon
Hanna and Gordon in 1994’s “Bull in the Heather” video

Body/Head, Kim Gordon’s noise project with Bill Nace, created a moving exploration of feminine and masculine tropes in the form of a noise record.  I wouldn’t want to reduce Coming Apart to a document of her split from long-time partner Thurston Moore, but the whole thing feels every bit as raw and awkward as a life change that catastrophic must have been.  It’s Gordon’s most powerful, wild moments in Sonic Youth distilled down and then blown up.  Her vocals can sound desperate and strained at times, but this is ironically the most forceful aspect of the recordings – the anger and the vulnerability existing together in all its anti-harmony.

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Body/Head at St. Vitus
Kim Gordon and Bill Nace perform as Body/Head in June at St. Vitus

Likewise, Hanna’s record is not a chronicle of her late-stage Lyme Disease, the chronic illness that forced her to quit touring with socially-conscious electro outfit Le Tigre (for that, check out Sini Anderson’s brilliant Hanna doc The Punk Singer) but a testament to the triumph that creating it had over her sickness.  Reviving her moniker from ’97’s bedroom-recording project Julie Ruin by adding a “The” to the front and four incredible musicians and co-conspirators at her back, the band released Run Fast in September.  It manages to meld every one of Hanna’s prior sonic sensibilities, burnishing the the dance-punk of Feminist Sweepstakes with the sass and cacophony of The Singles and adopting the confessional tone of that first solo record.

This is riot grrrl all grown up; though neither project should necessarily bear that particular label, it feels like a continuation of the story that in turn validates its importance.  And the influence of Gordon and Hanna and others of their ilk can certainly be heard in a whole host of bands with break-out records that landed this year.  Again, it’s not that anyone in these bands are running around calling themselves riot grrrls, just that they’d be right at home on a playlist with bands who did (and bands of that era, from Red Aunts to Discount to that dog., that demanded my affection as equally).


Katie and Allison Crutchfield have been making music since they were teenagers, most notably in P.S. Elliot before splitting up to pursue creative projects as separate entities.  Katie released American Weekend in 2012 and Cerulean Salt in March, Allison released a self-titled record with her band Swearin’ last year and followed it up with Surfing Strange a few months ago.  The girls are mirror twins, meaning they’re identical but that their features are reversed in some instances, and that’s a good approximation of how their musical projects merge and divide.  Cerulean Salt is stripped down sonically and hyper-focused on thematic subject matter, dealing directly with her family history and its personal stories.  Swearin’ takes a music-making approach more classic to pop punk, its subject matter just as earnest but with a broader focus.  The two have reunited for one-off projects (like an incredible cover of Grimes’ Oblivion for Rookie Mag) and live together in Philly with their boyfriends (both of whom play in Swearin’).  In interviews and in their song lyrics they espouse feminist ideas unabashedly and have talked openly about finding inspiration in the riot grrrl movement.

Speaking of Alison’s boyfriend, Kyle Gilbride produced girl-punk supergroup Upset’s debut album, She’s Gone, out this year on Don Giovanni.  Uniting Vivian Girls contemporaries Ali Koehler and Jenn Prince with Patty Schemel of Hole, She’s Gone is a quirky collection of catchy, rapid-fire jams that at first listen might come off as slightly superficial.  But at the crux of the record is the idea of examining female experience, in particular the formative teenage years, in which break-ups and female rivalry loom large.  Taking what might be written off as juvenile and giving it its due importance in song is what makes the album both accessible and relevant.  If it seems precocious to compare one’s dreams to a dinosaur, at least it validates them by re-calibrating the scale.

Don Giovanni put out another astounding release in The Worriers’ Cruel Optimist.  Fronted by Lauren Denitzio of Measure, the project seeks to combine her interests in literature, art, and queer activism in a way her past musical projects have not.  Over hooky guitars and crashing drums, Denitzio talks about privilege in feminism and the need to re-evaluate personal politics with growing older on “Never Were”, references Jeanette Winterson as a way to talk about androgyny and gender identity on “Passion”, and ruminates on the toll that conservative politics took on a personal relationship in “Killjoy”.  The album closes with “Why We Try”, a triumphant reminder of the reasons these discussions still need to happen in music and elsewhere.  “If we expect something better / things won’t just move forward / Remember why we try“.

In talking about New Brunswick’s esteemed DIY circuit, we’d be remiss to not include Marissa Paternoster, active for several years now in the punk scene there, releasing work under solo moniker Noun as well as with her band Screaming Females.  It’s the latter’s most recent release, Chalk Tape, that sees the band going in some very interesting melodic directions with their particularly searing brand of guitar rock, recording most of the songs without revisions based around concepts scrawled on a chalkboard.  Paternoster’s commanding vocals, gliding easily between out-and-out aggressive and tender, looped sophistication, paired with her exceptional guitar work, make Chalk Tape a tour de force.  Here’s hoping a few misguided Miley fans accidentally stumbled on the wrong “Wrecking Ball”.

Nestled in another well-respected DIY scene, Northampton-based Speedy Ortiz represent a collective of 90’s-era rock enthusiasts with a poet at the helm.  Sadie Dupuis feels more comfortable behind a guitar than on open-mike night, but the lyrics she penned for Major Arcana and delivers with brass are practically worthy of a Pulitzer.  Razor sharp wit, slyly self-deprecating quips, and vitriol marked by vulnerability characterize the general tone of the record, its particular lyrical references so nuanced and clever it begs about a million listens.

Potty Mouth sprang out of the same scene when Ally Einbinder, frustrated with the difficulties of booking shows and playing in bands with men who rarely asked her input when it came to songwriting, decided to form and all-female punk band.  Einbinder and her cohorts are frequent participants in Ladyfest, which has sought to showcase feminist artists across different mediums for thirteen years running.  Bursting with energy and attitude, Potty Mouth’s debut Hell Bent calls bullshit on punk scene bravado, questions obsessive tendencies, encourages punk girls in small towns “it-gets-better” style, and delivers acute, sharp-tongued kiss-offs to any doubters.

Though the pun alludes to classically trained harpist and witchy-voiced weird-folk patron saint Joanna Newsom, Alanna McArdle and her compatriots in Joanna Gruesome stray pretty far from that reference point.  Instead, the UK band cherry-picks from shoegaze, twee, and thunderous punk with Adderal-fueled ferocity.  McArdle is a study in contradictions, one moment singing in a sweet-voiced whisper and the next shouting psychotically, often about crushing skulls or some other, equally violent way of expressing her twisted affections. The group met in anger management, and every second on Weird Sister sees them working out some deeply seated issues, the end result proving what a gift anger can be.


This particular calendar year, it seems, is only the beginning.  With a record crate’s worth of amazing releases from 2013, there’s a bevvy of bands with bandcamp profiles, demos, EPs, cassettes and singles that hold a lot of promise for future releases.  Across the board, when asked how their bands formed or when they started playing, the response is “I wanted to do it so I got a guitar and I just started playing.”  The DIY ethos and “fuck it” attitude are what make these projects so vital and exciting.


The DC group are explosive live, in particular thanks to Katie Greer’s spastic growl and Daniele Withonel’s revelatory drumming.  The band’s been known to spout off about anti-consumerism between songs, out of breath from the high-energy set, but there’s plenty of radical content in their self-released tapes, too.  Those searching for manifestos need look no further than “USA (Incantations)”, a spoken-word bruiser that skewers the non-inclusive founding of America and ends with “this country was not made for you and it was built on lies and murder”; it kind of makes me want to vote for Priests for president.  Elsewhere on Tape 2, Withonel steps from behind her drum kit to flip the script on the male gaze, with perfect Kathleen Hanna pitch. Whether they’re singing about Lana del Ray or Lillian Hellman, these self-described Marxists provide an electrifying listen.

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Perfect Pussy

Perfect Pussy plays notoriously brief shows – if you blink during their set, you’ll miss ’em – but all have played the Syracuse scene for years now.  The quartet got a lot of attention this over I Have Lost All Desire For Feeling, a four song EP with walls of guitar fuzz and synths and some forceful vocals from Meredith Graves buried low in the mix.  Trained in opera but trying out punk, she’s said that because she’s insecure about her singing they’ll likely stay that way when the band records a full length.  But it’s not because she’s trying to hide her words – you can read them by clicking through each song on Perfect Pussy’s bandcamp.  They are well worth extracting from the sludge, coming across like a Jenny Holzer send-up of rape culture, mixed in with some personal meditations on growing past a female betrayal and catharsis through relationships thrown in for good measure.
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Ellen Kempner writes off-kilter lyrics that perfectly distill the wonder and worry that comes with being a teenager, but with a wise, almost nostalgic tone that does not belie the fact that she is, actually, a freshman in college, living these experiences for the first time.  Her musician father taught her how to play guitar, and in high school she was in a band called Cheerleader before releasing some solo recordings that morphed into Palehound.  Their excellent Bent Nail EP came together this year, featuring the quintessential “Pet Carrot”, which seesaws from sing-songy folk to scuzzy 90’s grunge more reminiscent of Liz Phair than of Lorde.
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The Philly trio are a perfect picture of female solidarity, repping other girl bands from Philly in interviews and inking their bodies with matching arrow tattoos, as well as getting involved with Philly’s Ladyfest.  They sing about friendships and loss and the city around them with a raspy roar, holding back just enough on their three-song demo to hint at the spaces they’ll grow into.
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All Dogs

Coming out of Columbus, Ohio’s great lo-fi scene (which bands like Times New Viking and Psychedelic Horseshit helped build, and contemporaries Sex Tide and Connections will only continue), All Dogs take that same energy and clean up the grime just a bit to let Maryn Bartley’s hopelessly catchy vocal melodies shine.  There’s a youthful exuberance and earnestness that propels the material on their split cassette with Slouch and their self-titled 7″ released on Salinas Records.  The Crutchfield sisters have been big early supporters; Katie booked them as openers on an upcoming Waxahatchee tour after saying they “made her cry”.
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About an hour south in Cincinatti, Bridget Battle takes an endearing 60’s girl group intonation and spits it snottily into a microphone while her bandmates in TWEENS play messy, immediate punk rock.  Their CMJ performances earned them rave reviews and helped them release a bit of the energy they’d pent up during the recording of their first full-length in DUMBO, set to see release sometime this spring.  Until then, they’ll be touring with fellow Ohioans the Deal sisters for The Breeders’ extended reunion shows.
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Heavy Bangs

“I don’t care what you think as long as I can’t hear it / I’ll be a fly some other place.  / I don’t care what you do / As long as you stay away from me / I can’t stand the way you do the things you do.”  So begins “All the Girls” from Heavy Bangs’ bandcamp demos.  It’s a departure from the quirky indie pop Cynthia Schemmer played as guitarist for Radiator Hospital, but it takes cues from the same attention to clever melody.  The best indication of what might come from her solo project are the artful and contemplative postcards she posts to her tumblr ( before sending them to to friends, apologetically explaining why Philly drew her back after time in New York, or recounting conversations she had with a therapist over the loss of illusions.  Like the two tracks she’s shared, these can feel sad but are intently self-aware, the attention to detail speaking volumes between the lines.
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Are those alive in a golden age ever able to really realize it?  Or can it only be understood by looking back?  With the passage of time we grow older and wiser and we’re better able to put things into context, but there are some moments that are simply meant to be lived.  If you’re not screaming at the top of your lungs to these records or dancing in the front row at one of these shows, you’re doing it wrong.