Interview by Ashley Chaney.
Lead singer of Le Butcherettes, Teri Gender Bender (Teri Suarez), is disarmingly enchanting with those bright red lips, commanding voice, and boundary pushing performances. Straightforward and unapologetic lyrics along with notorious stage performances have already made Le Butcherettes a force to be reckoned with. Regardless of if you get her of you don’t, one thing is for sure, Suarez’ sheer feminine/masculine energy and her on-stage use of blood, cuts of raw meat, pig heads, masks, and feather boas have left the Americas intrigued. The unabashed angst found on their debut EP, Kiss & Kill, hurled Le Butcherettes into the U.S. music market leaving music fans wondering if they were here to stay… well, if their new album, Sin Sin Sin, is any sign of their future, oh baby, they are here, they are ready to play and they aren’t going away anytime soon.
Sin Sin Sin shows a more mature but just as exciting side of Le Butcherettes in which the passion to communicate through music remains but the in your face anger has been toned down significantly. The album weaves together stories of fictional characters and stories revolving around situations of so-called sin and basic moral dilemmas. The albums starts with “Tonight,” a song that reminisces a twisted fanfare singed with sex. Sung in a ferociously sweet drawl, “I’m Getting Sick of You” transitions from a minimalistic build up to a stronger more forceful anthem. My favorite song on the album is “Tainted in Sin” due to it’s droning, slightly psychedelic sound. The rhythmic tambourine carries Suarez’ chant-like lyrics broken up by a delicious wail of surrender
Le Butcherettes are young and have started off with a bang. Sin Sin Sin shows that they can do different things lyrically and instrumentally yet keep that same fire they had from Kiss & Kill. In a time where women flaunting their sex for the sake of making up for their lack of musicality, it is refreshing to have a band with a woman lead singer that has attitude, talent, and a message. Together with Suarez on guitar, keyboard and vocals, drummer, Normandi Heuxdaflo, and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez of The Mars Volta on bass, Le Butcherettes have created an album that is catchy, rollicking, rough and tender that will leave you in pieces and wondering how to put yourself back together.
After listening to the new album and talking to Teri over the phone for an interview with Austin Vida, I am convinced the this young artist has a lot more to offer in the future as she herself has said that her artistry is always changing, developing, and hopefully getting better.
What are your first fond memories of having a connection with music?
Teri: I think it has a lot to do with my parents because they both loved music- well, they loved different kinds of music. My dad would play The Who and Tommy on full blast and I remember my mom would yell, “No Roberto, bájale el volumen!” but then he would turn it up even more! I remember as a child looking at Tommy which was a whole new world of weirdness that frightened my mom and excited my dad… it was just something that made me want to find out more. They introduced me to The Beatles, Cream, The Rolling Stones, and it caused a lot of controversy in my family because my mom never really liked rock and roll that much. But that created a balance since she would listen to classical music.
I grew up in Denver, Colorado and my father passed away when I was 14 so my mother and I moved to Guadalajara, Mexico. This transition and loss really inspired me to devote myself to music because it was something my father loved along with literature.
Was the move from Denver to Guadalajara a hard transition?
Teri: Yes, it was. When I moved to Mexico it was sad because I got picked on a lot because I didn’t speak Spanish very well. But it was hard at first because I also didn’t know how to write in Spanish…the accents and the grammar… These things made it easy for bullying but besides that it was beautiful to get to know the people, the food, the history. I have a lot of good memories as well.
When did you begin to develop music and how was that brought about?
Teri: Firstly, I went to this school called Univas from which I got kicked out because I was lazy and wouldn’t go to class. I wanted to be a rebel. So due to this idiotic thing on my part for ditching class, I got kicked out of school and I ended up going to a really bad school, which changed my life. So I went to Univer where I had to where a uniform that included a skirt. That was something I hated with all of my guts because I thought that girls should have the option of wearing pants. I made my own campaign at school to try and fix the system but then decided that I wanted to involve that with music. Many people thought I was crazy and some the girls would tell me that they liked showing their legs, which was fine! But I wanted that option. Uh, ah! Speaking about that right now still pisses me off! I got tons of petitions signed, maybe partially because I made them do it (laughs), but he still didn’t care! Supposedly there were bigger issues to tackle. AH! That definitely inspired me to start a rock band because music has the power to inform more so than petitions.
What do you consider your role to be in the music world?
Teri: I would be lying if I said I was writing music just for myself. I want to expose my music to people. I am actually really shy; on-stage I am another person. I love people too much and I am scared that they might hurt me. It happens to everyone. Instead of hiding in my house, I decided to say “screw it!” I am going to write music anyways. There will always be haters but there will also always be people who inspire you. Music is connected to life! It permits me to live; it’s therapy.
How would you describe your music to virgin ears?
Teri: To break it down for them, it isn’t so concrete as the term rock but more of a simmered down punk rock…I sometimes call it butcher rock. I hope people hear my sincerity.
What sort of inspiration have you gotten from living in Mexico and from living in LA?
Teri: Well, I had gotten so used to living in Mexico after five or six years and traveling on the weekends to Nayarit or different states around Guadalajara and seeing so much beauty. After going back to the States it was kind of saddening, almost like a little death. I feel like I am leaving a stage in my life in the past to be able to grow as an artist. I am not saying that in order to be an artist you have to travel the whole time—Emily Dickens never left her home and she wrote amazing things—but I feel personally in my situation that I need to be able to be in awkward situation to be able to write about those things.
Living in LA has been crazy but I still speak Spanish a lot! My neighbors are from Argentina, Chile, Mexico, etc. and LA shows itself to have a lot of cultural diversity regardless of the Beverly Hill stereotypes. It’s inspiring. In fact, the food is really good in Mexico but here there is so much variety especially for us vegans.
What kind of turn of events led Le Butcherettes to being picked up by Rodriguez-Lopez Productions?
Teri: I think it had to do with luck and being in the right place at the right time. We played this show, the first drummer, Auryn Jolene, and I, and we played at a little bar in Guadalajara but the electricity went out on the previous bands show. But I had a megaphone and told everyone to not call anything off so Auryn and I played an acapella set with the drums and voice. That caught Omar’s attention and he told his friend that we all needed to meet and have coffee. But really it’s all about not being limited. I didn’t know he was there till after the show. But you gotta be impulsive. People might think you are crazy but you just need to go for it!
In the beginning stages of Le Butcherettes, stage performance was imagery heavy and common social standards were being played with through the use of blood, masks, raw meat, feather boas, and heels. I have read that you are done with that chapter in your music. What do you think the new chapter holds for you, the band, and your music and stage performance?
Teri: I am not done with the masks or props but I would like to use other elements. I have been doing the blood thing which is not just about gore or trying to gain attention but for me it represents the women who have died for the feminist causes. I have been doing that for two years in Mexico and now I think it is time to move on. It can sometimes be so powerful that it might be misleading and I remember reading something that in effect said that it’s good to shout every once in a while to get the attention but you can’t keep shouting your whole life or else people will get sick of that yelling, it will hurt their ears. In this case, I did my shouting and now I just want to keep cultivating my musical garden. I want to use different elements that represent the woman.
Your last album dealt with many issues surrounding the often-misunderstood term “feminism.” What does feminism mean to you and are you still trying to communicate that through your music?
Teri: I am definitely trying to communicate feminism but not in a direct way. Bikini Kill and L7 already did that—a more in your face kind of feminism. But I feel like if I did that it wouldn’t be as sincere. I never grew up as a riot grrrl, I am from a different generation. To me feminism is being able to please. You have the privilege and freedom to do what you please without hurting others. Creating art to heal yourself. I know that sounds like a really hippie answer but to me that is feminism’s essence. Feminism is not man hating or shunning women who wear make-up, on the contrary, if you are a woman or a man who wants to wear make-up it is your right as long as you aren’t stealing apples from my garden. I want to carry that forever in my music.
How have you grown musically since Kiss and Kill?
Teri: I think a lot really. I don’t hate or regret it but it is something that I had to go through, like with the blood, to mature. The new record, Sin Sin Sin, is really different. If a person stays the same, they might bore themselves or others… Who knows? There may be people that like it or hate it and think I should stick with primitive punk but I still do punk, but many songs from Kiss and Kill were written when I was 17 years old. I don’t want to sound like a tortured artist but 17 was really hard for me because that was when I was dealing with the skirt issue in high school and a lot of rage. I am now trying to level that rage down and put it into reason.
Can you give us a little insight into your own ideas and concepts of the new album Sin Sin Sin?
Teri: Musically it has a bass now. When Omar was recording he suggested that we add the bass so that in the live shows it will add more body to the music. What I am trying to extend through my CD is that the family on the cover is a nuclear family, a Catholic nuclear family. Ever since we are born we hear that sin occurs everyday and even being born is a sin so the only way to redeem yourself is to go to church. I just found it interesting that there is this tendency to think that we have to make up for so many bad things that occur without our consent everyday of our life. Each song is a different voice and the lyrics portray stories that I imagine. I created different characters with different identities, problems, and interpretations of the human perception of sin.
You were in Austin, Texas for SXSW 2011 and got the chance to explore and experience our home.
What was your favorite thing about Austin?
Teri: I loved the food and the weather! The buildings downtown are beautiful. I am really bad with directions so I got lost so many times which was great! It’s a good place to get lost in.
What are you looking forward to in the future?
Teri: I want to keep playing. Playing is therapy to me. On stage I pretend to be something that I am not. We all feel insecure but by being able to play and be heard, I am slowly starting to feel whole. I want to keep recording and throw out more records, hang in there, and see how long I last… Until I crack. Open. Like an Egg.
Listen to Sin Sin Sin below:
(This interview originally appeared on our sister site, Austin Vida)