At the second night of a three-part Don Giovanni showcase last Friday, we caught up with three of the New Brunswick-based punk label’s brightest and best. We also decided to pioneer a new interviewing technique based on a popular children’s fortune telling game, using a folded paper “cootie-catcher” (or “saltcellar” or “chatterbox” or “whirlybird” or whatever you may have called it).
It seemed especially fitting for Upset, whose debut album She’s Gone was released last year and lyrically speaking, addresses the kind of teenage angst that never really goes away. I talked with Ali Koehler, who formerly played drums for Vivian Girls and Best Coast before releasing a cassette of solo material and forming Upset, as well as Patty Schemel, best known as the drummer for Hole. The band’s regular line-up includes Jenn Prince on guitar (you might know her from La Sera or Negativ Daze) and a rotating cast of bassists (if you know anyone, tweet @weareUpset because they’ve been diligently looking).
ALI PICKS TACO, 4, 5, 3 and gets the question: Do you think it is necessary to shed the legacies of bands you’ve played with in the past before starting a new project?
ALI: No…. no, cause that’s part of who you are and it informs the music that you make now and you can’t make everyone just be like, “Hey, remember all that other stuff?” and erase their memories. So you’ve just kinda gotta keep movin’ along.
AF: Do you think, especially with this project, that you’re building on other projects you’ve worked on before?
ALI: Probably. I mean, just cause those are life experiences we have that we’ll never get rid of, so that always…
PATTY: Shapes you.
PATTY: Ali’s a singer, and a guitar player, and a songwriter, and she’s been a drummer, so there’s that difference.
PATTY PICKS TELEPHONE, 8, 9, 7 and gets the question: You’ve toured with a lot of female-fronted bands. Is there a reason for that and does it differ from touring with dudes?
PATTY: Uhhhhm YEAH. It does.
ALI: For sure.
PATTY: This is gonna sound dumb but I like hanging out with ladies, I like women. Guys are fun and stuff but I just identify with what women talk about and sing about.
ALI: They bring a different vibe to the tour. I know when Vivian Girls toured with… well, Vivian Girls toured with a lot of guys, cause we were on In The Red, and it was more of a boys club. And we played with Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, and King Khan & BBQ Show, and Black Lips and stuff, and that is a waayyyyyyyyy different vibe.
AF: Well those are all bands that have a little bit more of a reputation for being rowdy…..
ALI: Yeah, I mean, they don’t represent all guys. They’re particularly nutty. But. There’s a lot more of like, going to strip clubs, and… having a lot more fights with each other. Just not as chill.
PATTY: They let some stuff go, where I wouldn’t let it go. Like a shower, or something. Maybe a good scrubbing. Or a place to sleep. I’ll go the extra two hours to get to a good Holiday Inn.
ALI: Yeah, I’m into being comfortable. Okay, so King Khan BBQ Show… King Khan, this nails it. The hotel we were staying in, he got drunk and threw up all over his hotel room and then took photos posing in it the next morning, and we’re all eating breakfast like, ugh!
AF: But there’s not so much of that with the ladies? They don’t really pose in their own vomit?
ALI: No. Dudes do.
ALI PICKS CROWN, 8, 5, 6 and gets a question written for Patty. Is it weird watching a documentary about yourself? Or being in one in general?
PATTY: Yeah. I mean, I didn’t really say, I’m gonna do a documentary. I was preserving all the footage and was approached by my friend David, who is the director, who was like “We should do something”. So I did, and then it took a while, it was done in 2011, and going back and looking at all that footage was like going back through a crazy time machine. But it’s always good to take an experience, the good parts and the bad parts, and do something with it, make something, create something out of it, you know.
ALI: Like a phoenix rising from the ashes!
PATTY: YES! To do that with it, to create something and then also kind of share what I saw. I always like the archival footage when I watch a documentary. I wanna see that.
AF: I really liked that the filmmakers talked to so many female drummers because there is definitely this unfortunate thing that happens even in a band that’s mostly women, it’s like the drummer’s always a dude. It’s so hard for people to name female drummers off the top of their head.
PATTY: Yeah. To acknowledge the ones that came before. Gina Schock, Debbie Peterson from The Bangles. Nowadays there’s more lady drummers.
AF: Did you see the Kathleen Hanna documentary?
PATTY: No. Not yet.
ALI: I had snot running out of my nose. I was inconsolable. My boyfriend said, it was as if someone you love has died. I was so moved to tears.
PATTY: I’m gonna watch it this weekend.
AF: You should, it’s really really great. I just think it’s funny that you have that in common, first making such prolific music during that era, but then also both having had documentaries made about you.
PATTY: I lovvvvvvve Kathleen Hannah. Always have.
ALI PICKS: DINO, 2, 6, 2 and gets the question: Why’d you decide to call the band Upset? What upsets you most about the music industry?
ALI: I was looking up the definition of the word upset for… no reason, I don’t know why. And it was something about anxiety, a disquieted feeling, all this shit, and I am a very anxious person. I dunno, I thought it made sense. And it has multiple meanings. You could be upset, or have an upset. I just thought it didn’t sound like any one genre so we could kinda grow into it.
AF: And so for the two-parter, what upsets you about the music industry?
ALI: (makes whistling sound) I don’t know… the fact that it is run by people that don’t know shit about music?
AF: That’s a good answer. That pretty much lays it out.
PATTY: I know. That’s good.
PATTY PICKS CROWN, 6, 3, 4 and gets the question: What’s next for the band as far as doing more albums, touring, etc.?
ALI: We’re doing SXSW this year and we’re gonna work on writing new stuff. Jenn’s been writing new stuff. We kinda took a break over the holidays.
PATTY: We’re sorting out our bass player situation.
ALI: Oh, right. We still don’t have a bass player.
PATTY: Rachel from that dog. played on the West Coast tour with us, which was amazing and great. Thanks Rachel! And then Katy Goodman