*Who is in the band and what do you do if you’re not making music?*
Josef plays drums and is in two other Seattle punk bands, Agatha and Kohosh. He’s very involved in the northwest punk community and he’s a full time bike mechanic.
Eli plays bass and is in a few other projects. He records music, helps run the Bikery (a collective dedicated to empowering people to learn bike mechanic skills), and is a part of an anarchist yiddish study group.
Pancakes (Matthew) plays guitar and has recently started playing in another project called Slouch. He tries to support other queer spaces and projects around the northwest in the little ways that he’s able to. He works weird odd jobs, screen prints, makes a lot art, and is a part time babe.
Frances sings in the band. Outside of the band they go to school, work at Left Bank Books (a collectively owned book project), fantasize about not living in a city, think about trauma and ethics regarding healing and attack.
*You’ve already said that you have founded the band together with Frances.
How did you find together? What was the idea behind the band? *
Frances: Matthew and I met a few years ago; I lived up the street from a social center he was involved in and we got around to talking and sharing music and ideas. I think when we initially started talking about playing music together I was becoming more and more interested in harder stuff. I was coming out of a rough mental place and when I listened to bands like Deathrats, Rape Revenge, Brain Fever, Agatha, Despise You, Requiem, etc., it just hit this sweet spot in my brain; sort of the kind of happy oblivion from drinking too much or physically exerting yourself even though your body hurts. Maybe like a meditative state. I had shared some poetry with him, which I think he liked, and he was the one that actually broached the subject of possibly playing music together. I was interested because I wanted to be able to talk about things that were important to me in that format.
Pancakes: I’ve always had a spot in my heart for heavier genres of punk. It was a huge part of my youth. Up until this point in my life I’ve tried a couple of times to start bands and they just never seemed to get off of the ground. I think a huge part that played into them not going anywhere had to do with my growth, values, and influences changing at a pace that left little room for others to follow. For a few years I became really disinterested in playing music and I stopped playing guitar all together. Around the time Frances and I started hanging out I was being introduced to bands like Rape Revenge, RVIVR, Agatha, Deathrats, and a lot of other queer and feminist projects around the northwest. My friendship with Frances as well as seeing these other punks challenge gender, patriarchy, and other forms of oppression definitely inspired me to want to start playing music and form a project with others who shared similar values and wanted to be critical of the systems of oppression we see in punk and in our everyday lives.
*How did you get to know Saša? When and how did the idea of releasing
“Soft Cage” on his newly founded label, Our Voltage, come up?*
We played a show with this amazing queercore band called Behead The Prophet No Lord Shall Live, which was a part of this cool festival Hollow Earth Radio puts on every year. Some of the members of Behead The Prophet had started a new band, Select Sex, and I’m not entirely sure if Saša was already talking to them about putting out a record or if that was when he realized they were still playing music, but he saw our name on the flyer and that was his introduction to our band. He sent us an email and introduced himself, which was kind of cute because we realized he’d written for a queer journal that Left Bank carries, and then we just kind of went from there.
*Out of the songs that have already appeared on the split tape with
Disparate, you chose “My Gender Is Queer” and “Desert” to also be on “Soft
Cage”. Why that?*
Frances: Both of those are two of my favorite songs from the original group; I’m very happy with the lyrics and both topics are very important to me (what it means to struggle against systems of domination knowing that you are not going to win and what it means to be gender queer). Between the two releases, we started playing with a new drummer and friend and we were incredibly happy with how that influenced those two songs. We thought about writing more new stuff for the release, but we decided to keep those two because we liked them so much.
*Where does the name Body Betrayal come from? I’ve found several possible
meanings, including gender dysphoria as well as people who used the term
to describe having an orgasm during a rape.*
Frances: “Body Betrayal” is a reference to multiple things: to the ways we split our personalities to perform service jobs or work for people who exploit us for our labor while having no real say in whether we want to participate in that system, it’s about gender dysphoria, it’s about dissociation from bodies due to previous trauma, it’s about self-hate because of internalized oppression; I’ve described it before as being about a “broken sacred connection.”
*The lyrics for the song “Soft Cage” read: “Break the soft cage / our
anger’s a violence / I believe in / break the soft cage / our love’s a
fury / I depend on”. “Soft Cage” is, as I interpret it, a metaphor for the
body and/or biological determinism. Obviously, the term “cage” has a
negative connotation, but the lyrics for the song struck me as rather
optimistic, if not like a manifesto. Could you please explain what the
expression “Soft Cage” means in this context and what the general idea
behind the song is?*
Frances: I think that song is about the frustration in the tension that exists between wanting a liberatory practice in my life and constantly feeling the pull of how I was socialized, like there is some invisible hand constantly unbinding the small threads that keep me together; growing up in the era of the panopticon means we constantly police ourselves and each other. There is this inescapable narrative that pops up when you discuss confronting systems of power, where if people “woke up” and worked past the fear of their perceived powerlessness and *everyone* revolted, the number of people who control the most material wealth could do nothing about it. Theoretically systems would collapse on themselves because we would no longer hold them up by going to work, paying rent, etc. it is a “what-if” trap I find myself in often, one that is easier to play with if you don’t take into account the ways in which revolutions are destroyed by military interventions and political maneuvering. It is maddening to think about how there are more people unhappy with the systems that continue to erode our quality of life than there are people who benefit from our exploitation, but many people still feel like they can’t fight to refuse arbitrary governments in a way that feels good to them. They’re taught that changing systems by incorporating critiques into existing structures through reform and legislation makes an impact further down the road and are sometimes blind to the ways in which they are turning our cages made of iron into diamonds. So really, there are elements of internal struggle (“soft cage”) and external that I’m talking about. The lyrics you quoted also have everything to do with the false dichotomy between compassion and violence and the desperate desire for people to act.
*In the press release/description provided by Saša it says “Think of a
political dream that hasn’t been dreamt yet in most Gender Studies
classes” – could you please elaborate on that? What does that dream look
Frances: I’m not sure I agree with Saša’s phrasing there, as I would prefer to maybe suggest an antipolitical dream. Since those aren’t words we have used to describe the project, I would probably infer that he is referring to philosophical or scientific traps in gender studies departments.
*What is the idea behind the EP’s cover artwork?*
Frances: A lot of the reason I stayed away from hardcore and metal for so long was because i was tired of watching men make art where bodies like mine were being maimed. I also struggle with self-harm, and often feel like my body is a burning space that wants to be ruined, but sometimes don’t feel like I’m allowed to talk about that narrative even though it’s my lived experience. It is a partial attempt to own those feelings without the shame or the weird eroticizing of self-harm by men who get off on women or gender queer folks who are suffering under patriarchy and capitalism and take it out on their bodies. I’m well aware of the fact that that is probably a thing that may still happen with it, but I can’t change that, so it is what it is.
*I was surprised to see the etching on the B-side of the record.
Considering the title and what to me seemed to me like a record that criticizes how our bodies (and/or our sex) define ourselves in the eyes of society (see: “My Gender Is Queer”), isn’t it contradictory to expose yourselves (via your bodies) on the record itself? *
Frances: the thing about living in this world is that you have a corporeal form. There is literally no way to get out of a body that other people want to assign meaning to, just as there is no way to get out of the misinterpretation of song lyrics, or words spoken between friends. You can try to take control over those things by dressing outside of cultural expectations or trying to be as specific as possible, but we all bring our own set of assumptions to the table to make sense of the world. I would hope that the themes on our record don’t engage with how our bodies define ourselves in the eyes of society as much as I would hope it engages with how society creates the condition and meaning of our bodies.
*Talking of “My Gender Is Queer”: You refer to your music as “queercore”.
How exactly would you define the term? And is being queer – or being a
queer band in a male-dominated subculture – a sort of strategy, a means to
an end for you? If so, to what end? *
Frances: I have funny feelings about queer as a category, but I want other queerdos to find our record, so for the moment it is a short cut to indicate something else outside of cisheteropatriarchal bands that are snoozers. I think taking on systemic structures is beyond the reach of one band (even though i commend bands like Atari teenage riot for creating possibilities outside of a venue). Even inside of the category of queer there are things like cissupremacy, misogyny and racism that are not going to be broken a part by four white people. I’d like to say something fantastic like “every song is a bullet for a bro,” but the most I hope for is to make connections with other people through music and to help create spaces that feel good to me with other people I have affinity with.
*How important are DIY ethics to you personally/as a band? What do you think about bands like Against Me! That have been criticized for “selling out”, yet now raise awareness for topics generally not being discussed in mainstream media? Do you think that Laura Jane Grace’s coming out as trans has changed something within the scene and how it is perceived from the outside?*
Frances: I support Laura Jane grace in transitioning and on her journey to herself, but to be honest I don’t know a lot about Against Me! or public grievances with that band. i think her actions speak to a larger cultural shift in attitudes about gender and queerness, and contributes to ongoing movements and ideas that were instigated by trans women of color years ago and continue to be spearheaded by amazing women like Cece McDonald, Laverne Cox, and Janet mock. Trans women are currently popping up in media like never before and articulating and enforcing their need to self determination, I’ve seen more amazing photos of wild, queer punk shows on the internet (and in person) than ever before, and i do think she plays a role in that. to what degree i couldn’t say. Our band practices a DIY ethic out of habit. We don’t pretend that we are going to be famous, even punk famous. It’s more fun and cheap to do it yourself and so we do. We don’t begrudge bands that get big unless they are assholes, or are openly exploiting people, and we don’t think being paid well is necessarily in contradiction with the ethic. Like anything, it’s contextually dependent.
*Which leads me to another question: Despite the personal nature of most
of your lyrics, you seemingly want to provide a general critique on
society. Yet you make music that is generally ignored outside of the
punk/hardcore subculture, so you probably won’t reach a wider audience.
While you’re obviously not preaching to the converted (considering how
there’s still a lot of sexism, transphobia etc. present within the scene),
aren’t you worried that your criticism will get lost or reach only so many
Frances: Something I think people get trapped in is this idea that you have to “educate and organize the masses,” or there will be no change or revolution or whatever, or you’re only speaking to yourself. In multiple contexts in my life I’ve had to fight with this idea that just informing the public was going to change long standing institutions that are built on systemic, militarized exploitation, murder, and rape. I think making ideas accessible is a good idea, but so are other ideas, like doing what you love and finding the people that love that thing, too, and building off of that momentum. Direct action is a good idea. Sabotage is a good idea. Writing poetry is a good idea. Co-creating relationships that mutually feel nourishing is a good idea. There is literally no one thing that is going to make a larger public wake up and listen to things I have to say, and so why bother playing into this sisyphus-style paradigm that puts too much responsibility on individuals rather than looking at the ways culture is created, recuperated, and maintained by institutions.
*What’s your stance on movements like Femen and Pussy Riot? Both more or
less cite Riot Grrrl as an influence and have generated a lot of interest
in the media due to their quasi-situationist actions. Do they actually
provide a valid critique on patriarchy and do they actually represent what
Riot Grrrl stands/stood for?*
Frances: Femen is a nightmare; they’re a racist faux feminist group funded by a white dude who thinks he knows what feminism and muslim women should fight like and for. Pussy Riot are interesting, but I wish especially the two women who were just released from prison were advocating for no prison instead of better, nicer prisons. Riot Grrrl was not a cohesive group of women even though its inception can be traced back to a few people and situations, so as far as I know it didn’t really have many overtly stated values other than things like 1) don’t be afraid to suck, 2) speak your truth and 3) radical girl love, even though some of the bands affiliated with that movement later went on to play at the notoriously trans misogynistic Mich Fest. Riot Grrrl played a big part of my development as a young person in an incredibly conservative city, but I wouldn’t necessarily use it as the gold standard for feminism.
we thank kcornils.wordpress.com for this.