By Alex Guiry
VANCOUVER — Based out of Seattle, Chastity Belt are an all-female noise-pop band that sing about fucking guys, as well as not being fucked by guys. The band is made up of Julia Shapiro (guitar, vocals & writing), Lydia Lund (guitar), Annie Truscott (bass), and Gretchen Grimm (drums). BeatRoute rang up frontwoman Julia Shapiro to talk about the intentions of her writing.
A chastity belt is a medieval, metal, locking device manufactured to prevent sexual intercourse, temptation, and masturbation. Historically it represents the notion that men own womens’ sexual desire, and that medieval prejudice still lingers. The girls in the band use hyper sexualized, sex-positive humour to liberate and unlock this belief, and in the process, taunt the “cock-and-balls” attitude that dominate the continent. Light-hearted lyrics like, “This is sex/ this is war /this is me fucking you on the dance floor /You’re a slut/ I’m a whore/ we’ve fucked everyone before” make their music accessible to both genders.
Earlier albums Fuck Chastity Belt and No Regrets, leaned towards slapstick college-style humour that encouraged listeners to repeatedly chant fun words like, “Giant! Vagina!” Since then, Chastity Belt have progressed their style of humour to fly under the radar.
“I don’t want it to be taken too seriously, but we’re not writing joke songs any more. When we first started that’s all we could do. It was easier to write those songs because you don’t have to worry about messing up or embarrassing yourself because it’s a joke, but now I think we are all way more confident musicians and realize we can write good songs,” says Shapiro. “I still try to write in some humour, sarcasm, or witty thing, but I don’t want to make anyone cringe.”
The band doesn’t label their music as if they are part of a feminist movement. They don’t force the audience to identify. They leave clues in their writing, the album art, and simply the presence of four girls on stage. “We are feminists, so it’s cool to be known as feminists, but not all our songs are about being a feminist, some are just about being a person. If anything we would like to be role models for younger girls who aspire to be musicians, because for me, growing up I didn’t have that many female role models or girls who played music.”
For Julia, it has been her peers that influence her as an artist: “A lot of the people that I’ve met in Seattle have been really supportive and helpful. In my other band [Child Birth] both of the other women [Bree McKenna of Tacocat and Stacy Peck of Pony Time] are older than me, been in bands longer, and give advice, so I feel like I’ve learned a lot from them.
Early in 2015, Chastity Belt toured with Australian songwriter Courtney Barnett. “That was a dream tour. I had some cool conversations with her about how she writes songs.” After that tour they left for two and a half months in Europe and played alongside Death Cab For Cutie. “That’s crazy to me, I just loved them so much in middle school. I never thought I’d be sharing a stage with them. We played the biggest shows we’ve ever played before.”
As for what to expect in upcoming shows: “We have a bunch of new songs, maybe like five we can play live, and we are working on a bunch more. I feel like our other new songs we’ve added are a little more complex than our last album [Time To go Home]. I’ve written all these weird kind of folksy songs on my acoustic guitar. I’m not sure if they are going to translate into Chastity Belt, but we are trying to record something this year. I’m just trying to see what comes out and see if it works with the rest of the band.”
The band that started out as a joke have reinvented themselves by creating tension through introspection, all while holding onto their original antics.
Chastity Belt perform at Fortune Sound Club on March 8.
SLED ISLAND 2016 SHOW UPDATE: Catch Chastity Belt for two Sled Island shows June 22 at Broken City and June 23 at Tubby Dog.AB, Alberta, BC, British Columbia, Broken City, Chastity Belt, Fortune Sound Club, Sled Island, Sled Island 2016, Tubby Dog