Photo: Lindsey Byrnes
Le Butcherettes On The Color Red, Iggy Pop & Their "Struggle"
With a band name like Le Butcherettes, it should be no surprise that the alt-rock band that defies genre conventions cuts straight to the heart of the matter. They take listeners on a dynamic, nuanced tour through provocative songs and imagery that ask you to look deeper, think harder and challenge all your preconceived notions. In this way, the band fulfills art's greatest promise — "to explore the nature of perception."
Le Butcherettes formed in 2007 under the helm of lead singer Teri Gender Bender with drummer Alejandra Robles Luna, guitarist Rikardo Rodriguez-Lopez and bassist Marfred Rodriguez-Lopez rounding out the band's lineup. They released their debut EP Kiss & Kill in 2008. In 2015 the band released their debut full-length album, A Raw Youth, which featured a collaboration with punk great Iggy Pop.
Most recently the band unveiled the single "spider/WAVES" and an EP that reimagines three versions of the same song, struggle/STRUGGLE, which was produced by former Talking Heads member Jerry Harrison. Fans can also expect some new music from Le Butcherettes coming this year if all goes according to plan.
We recently caught up with Le Butcherettes to dig a little deeper into their most recent releases, find out where their band name comes from, what the color red means to them, what we can expect to hear next, and more.
We've read that you once said your band was born out of "a desire to do something with all the unused cathartic energy stocked inside [your] blood." How much cathartic energy do you have left?
Gender Bender: Some days I feel like I have none left. But when we're together I feel like anything is possible so that's definitely very cathartic.
You recently dropped an EP, struggle/STRUGGLE that features three versions of the title track. Can you break it down for us, what are the themes between those three tracks?
Gender Bender: Essentially, the first one, "struggle/STRUGGLE (bi)," that was taken with a vision to go in a very dark place, very dark, in a production style sense. Given the lyrics it was fun to explore that even though they're kind of dark in a way, or moody, it could also be experimented in an uplifting song, like the second one, which is "struggle/STRUGGLE (/MEN)," which is more of an acoustic, uplifting song. You're at the beach and you're just having a nice beer or something, and we don't even drink. … It's the kind of song that took me out of, at least for me, that, "only one song can be played one way" kind of mindset. There's so many ways that you could explore just one simple song and change it production-wise, so that was really cool. Same with the third one ["struggle/STRUGGLE (TAL)"]. We took it to a whole prog-rock/pop direction, and again it's all based off of the melody and you can just take it from there. It was a nice learning experience.
Robles Luna: And that's also organically how it happened. We just happened to have three songs of the same.
The video for your recent single "spider/WAVES" features very vivid imagery. Who did you work with and who devised the treatment for the video?
Gender Bender: The director is basically this very interesting character from Paris, France. And it was very interesting to see because we're all from different cultures. Even [with] the break of the English language it was still great to be able to collaborate and make something pretty insane. In the sense of the overall concept, [it] was, "You're trapped inside the layers of your own mind, let me get out of here." And you realize that maybe it's the world that's trying to get in and you don't understand why they want to get in if there's nothing to offer. So we put that on the table and the director interpreted it through his fingerprint, that vision of, "Well this is what speaks to me," so it was a true collaboration in that sense. And you pick up on one another's cultures and before you know it you're in his world or he's in yours.
So what's next, what's the status of your new album, the follow-up to 2015's A Raw Youth?
Gender Bender: Hopefully that little seed that that album has, if there's any seed, it'll grow inside someone that listens to it, leaving a mark. Maybe it's very ambitious — I must admit saying it out loud it sounds pretty crazy — but that would be a great honor to have someone listen to it and say, "OK I don't feel alone anymore." And so hopefully that will be by the end of this year. There's really no date set, maybe around October hopefully.
Is there anything you can share about the sound of the new album, the style, some of the tracks that are really speaking to you right now?
Gender Bender: We all wanted it to be a little bit from the past but with some futuristic elements, like it has some electronic beats to it. Also, [we] experimented with it with something for example, like a Mellotron, which is something from the past but to use it in a different way with layering in the music, very constructed. I think it's the most constructed record we have. But with that being said, it was an adventure being able to be in the studio and learn from ourselves. And it was great also to have Jerry Harrison produce it and understand our vision of what we wanted to go for. He gave us that freedom.
Can you explain the deeper meaning behind your band name?
Gender Bender: This is going to sound pretentious, very pretentious, but you know what, that's the freedom of being in the art world, that you can be pretentious. And the more pretentious even the better I guess. Le Butcherettes, it came from my desire to find like-minded butchers that felt butchered — their spirit, in the metaphorical sense, pulled into pieces — and to fill one another up. And before I would take very literal metaphors like pieces of meat and I'd decorate the stage with it or an apron with blood, like more literal, in your face, on-the-nose corny elements. But this is how I feel, like a piece of meat or like a woman that's defined by her gender role of a housewife and an apron. … So that was basically what the name and the meaning behind Le Butcherettes was. Empowered species, empowered people.
Can you talk a little bit about why the red is so important to the band?
Gender Bender: Lately I've been asking myself, "What is this meaning to me?" Because you believe it's one meaning and then it starts transforming into another when your moods start changing and morphing. So what we've been doing, we have one of our closest friends on the road, he's directing this on-the-road movie, or we don't even know what it is, with us. Basically we're going around asking people what the color red means to them. … You ask them out of the blue, which is interesting to see when there's a camera and someone freaks out. You guys know when there's a camera and the person's personality changes and everything and so it's interesting to see … what they say when they think of the word red.
It's funny there's this one clip that [he] got where he's asking them, "Oh what does red mean?" Some guards for a venue, they were talking to each other, saying, "Oh, well red, I don't like that color. Red is a color for women." And then at that same moment, a man that works at the club also had some red tennis shoes on, and then he's like, "Yo, what do you think of the color red?" And he's like, "I find it empowering. As a matter of fact, these are my lucky red shoes." And then the other was like, "OK, alright, I can get behind that." So it's nice to see the dialogue and how one was closed off to the color red, make him flip around. … But for me the color red is kind of in question now because I think we're about to close that chapter where we're not going to use red any more. It's just kind of poisoned my mind a little bit if you obsess over one color too much.
Robles Luna: I think it's the question if it's going to be the color of the band in the future. And we're going through another stage where maybe we're representing something else right now. … Ironically, I've never liked red. OK, I see it, because it does make you feel something, but it was always a color that made me feel very intimidated.
I know you've worked with Iggy Pop in the past. Is there an anecdote you'd want to share?
Gender Bender: He's amazing. He's super punctual. When the time [came] to get in the studio together to track together he got right there on time. I had the lyric sheet printed out for him, didn't even need it, and the song's in Spanish. And he had it all memorized to the notch. Actually, it was embarrassing for me because I put in an older version of it where the lyric was a little different and he had the most up-to-date one, so I messed up. … He really supported us.