When a band’s name translates to “the butcher women,” you may expect the group to sound harder than hardcore and hold audiences captive with intimidating lyrics that demand order and allegiance. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Le Butcherettes, led by their charismatic frontwoman and founder, Teri Gender Bender, deliver edgy, progressive lyrics that haven’t been experiences since the ‘90s, when riot grrrl and grunge dominated the music industry. Having already been compared to the current queens of rock—among them PJ Harvey and Karen O—Gender Bender lyrically echos such legendary figures as the late Mia Zapata from The Gits and Donita Sparks of L7. Could she be at the forefront of a new movement in rock? Her band’s debut album, Sin Sin Sin, has been received positively by critics, thanks in part to current rock king Omar Rodriguez Lopez. Not only did he play bass throughout the album, but he’s releasing Sin Sin Sin on his Rodriguez-Lopez Productions label. Gender Bender is already being groomed to take over where rock music left off. On the eve of Le Butcherettes’ upcoming tour opening for the Deftones this summer, we chatted with Gender Bender about how she’s planning to take on the world.
nocheLatina: Your album has a ‘90s riot grrrl spirit to it. Do you feel as though you were born 20 years too late?
Teri Gender Bender: That’s the world’s biggest compliment. Wow! I never even thought about it that way. I don’t know.
nocheLatina: Aren’t you a fan of that era?
Teri Gender Bender: Yeah I am. I listen to Bikini Kill and Nirvana. I love the ‘90s. I was born in 1989 so I don’t remember the ‘90 that well, not the music scene. I started listening to ’90s rock and it really changed my life.
nocheLatina: Which artists are inspiring you?
Teri Gender Bender: It’s really weird. A lot of people have told me I sound like PJ Harvey and I started listening to her two months ago. It’s crazy. I live in a cave when it comes to music. The person who influenced me to start singing rock ‘n’ roll is definitely Kurt Cobain. Kathleen Hanna, she’s a lady that just pops into my mind. From her high pitch voice to her lyrics. She has that power that I don’t think I’ll ever get close to. I’ll never be half of what she is. Also, Janis Joplin. My dad was an alcoholic and everytime he’d drink, he would put Janis on full blast. He said, ‘She’s the best rock singer in the world. You have to be like her.’ Back then I wasn’t a musician. I was only 12. My mom thought her voice was too scratchy. I would say, ‘Mom, you don’t understand. The scratching is what makes it sound so beautiful. It’s not perfect. It makes it so right.’ That moment, it changed me, definitely.
nocheLatina: What are your shows like? Are the majority of your fans women?
Teri Gender Bender: It’s half and half. In some shows, 40% of the time men are up front. People say that they’re there because I’m a girl, but I don’t think that’s entirely true. I think there’s more to it. If they wanted to see a girl they can go to a strip club. We have to give them more credit than that. I think they’re there for a reason—to listen to the music.
nocheLatina: Does your music speak more to women or men?
Teri Gender Bender: I hope it speaks to everybody. I don’t want to sing for just one sex. I want to sing for everyone.
nocheLatina: How long did it take to write and record Sin Sin Sin?
Teri Gender Bender: The first EP that was recorded was done in two days. I was 17 and the songs took a period of time because I was just starting out. That explains why they’re so simple. But I believe less is more. It’s a hard formula, but if you do it right it’s amazing. With Sin Sin Sin, I wrote those songs when I was 19. It took forever to record because no one in Mexico wanted anything to do with us. Some people wanted to go to our shows because it was the hip thing to do. It sucks that we fell into that whole hip band thing in Mexico. People wanted to check out the shows, but no one wanted to sign us. Now that I think about it, I’m glad that they didn’t because we probably wouldn’t have seen a penny from them. A lot of my friends that are signed in Mexico can’t make a living from it. But I really like throwing down ideas that come into mind. Sin Sin Sin was fun to write, but I just want to keep on recording albums and putting them out. When you have someone that’s there for you and believes in you, everything is possible.
nocheLatina: Is your music political? Are you a political person?
Teri Gender Bender: No, I don’t consider my work at all to be political. I try to stay informed. I love philosophy so hopefully my work can be considered more philosophical than political. I mentioned George Bush in one song, but that doesn’t make me a political person. That just makes me aware of who the president was at that time. Sometimes when you’re aware or not even fully alert, people start calling you political. I just wanted to express myself. For example, the song ‘Bang,’ I don’t consider it a political song either. I consider it more of a manifestation of a woman saying, ‘Hey, we’re being battered here and no one is doing anything.’ That’s not a political situation. That’s a global situation.
nocheLatina: What was it like working with Omar Rodriguez Lopez?
Teri Gender Bender: Recording with him was amazing. I’ve never recorded in an actual studio before until I went to his house. He’s just a really good teacher. You can tell he’s really down to earth. Besides being a producer, he’s a friend and a nurturer. He polished the songs and told me to not be afraid to put another chorus. It was great learning from him. Omar also played bass, which was also great because we never used bass before. It was an element that he added that was essential. That gave me more liberty to perform live. Now the music will remain steady if I accidently drop my guitar, purposely or whatever (laughs)
nocheLatina: Music wise, do you have any guilty pleasures? Any musical artists you’re almost embarrased to admit you’re a fan of?
Teri Gender Bender: I have a lot. I still like the Spice Girls. I even know their dance moves. I once made a group called The Spicey Girls. It was three girls, not four, and it was me and twins. I would be in the middle and one twin would be on my side. We actually did some Spice Girls cover songs in school. It was crazy.