Chastity Belt reject subtlety

Quinn Moreland

Chastity Belt

The press picture that accompanied Chastity Belt‘s 2013 debut album No Regerts is the most powerful introduction to the Seattle quartet possible. The image shows four women, Gretchen Grimm (drums), Lydia Lund (guitar), Julia Shapiro (guitar, vocals), and Annie Truscott (bass), dressed plainly in muted pastels. The kicker, however, is that Shapiro is slyly lifting up her dress, revealing a large steak strung on a chain with a lock. Surprise, it’s a chastity belt. The image is a confrontational approach to sexuality and indeed, Chastity Belt does not mess around with subtlety. The band preaches a sort of YOLO lifestyle full of fun and freedom. But in between songs about drinking, fucking, and nip-slips, there is an existential sadness.

The band is continuing to explore the interplay of introspective vulnerability and humor on their sophomore album, Time To Go Home, their first for Hardly Art. There’s a darkness on the edge of town. On the album’s opener, “Drone,” Shapiro sings, “I never expect much from anyone / So I’m never disappointed / and I never have to trust.” The heaviness has always been there, but this time, Chastity Belt is more open. We spoke to Lund after Chastity Belt finished a hectic SXSW schedule, including playing at Impose’s showcase.

Chastity Belt began at Whitman College. How did you continue the band post-graduation?

None of us had any clear idea of what we were going to do after college. We decided to continue with the band since it was the only thing we knew we liked doing and we went to Seattle because it was the place we had the most connections. For me personally, I think the move was the easiest way to avoid growing up right away.

What did you learn from No Regerts that influenced the making of time To Go Home?

The only things I can really pinpoint, is that we needed more than 3 days to record an album, and we needed a space heater while we recorded. For Time to Go Home, we gave ourselves 6 days, which still didn’t seem like enough. Otherwise, we did learn a lot between the recoding of the two albums, but that experience was more of a progression; learning to play our instruments better, jamming more, experimenting with different song structures, etc.

In between songs about drinking, fucking, and nip-slips, there is an existential sadness.

I feel like the assurance in your song “Cool Slut,” “it’s okay to be slutty,” is something that all women need to hear, but especially teenage girls. Do you have other advice for them?

Join a band or get a loop pedal are things I would encourage any teenager. At least for me, it was such an angsty time, and it really helps to have something you can bang on to produce sound … even better to have other people around to sympathize with the noise and sentiment. In high school, I never dreamed of being in a band. I only knew of one other band and it was all men. It seemed like a very big deal, and a lot of work, but looking back I think they just made it seem that way to impress people. Starting a band is so much easier than I ever imagined – You don’t really even need to know how to play your instruments. You just need to like hanging out with the other members.

Chastity Belt has been described as a band that “never takes anything too seriously.” I disagree and find that your music deals with a lot of serious topics in an occasionally lighthearted manner. What is the importance of humor to you?

I’d allow that we do confront serious topics, but I’d agree that we don’t take them too seriously. Humor seems to allow people to relate to pain or frustration without putting themselves in too vulnerable a position. And it gives people a reason to laugh at themselves when they realize they too are a victim of the human condition. I think even in our most serious songs, we include elements of humor. As lead guitarist, I’ll even write my part to reflect the point of a song … maybe put in a stupidly long bend that parodies how bored the singer is.

What was the idea behind the “Time To Go Home” video and how did Macklemore end up making a “cameo”?

We all live in a neighborhood of Seattle that has become a destination for partying on the weekends. Everyone cooped up in their tech offices all week swarm over to capitol hill and let loose. We have a practice space underneath one of the most popular dance clubs and it is insane trying to load in after a show. Scantily clad patrons stand in line for an hour in the cold to have some gross guy grope them on the dance floor. You will always see at least one person throwing up on the street. We came up with a music video idea which was somewhere in between making fun of everyone and ‘if you can’t beat em, join em.’ At least half the dudes out on the town have Macklemore haircuts so it’s hard to tell everyone apart.

You guys just played a ton of SXSW shows! What bands blew you away?

We had sooo much fun at SXSW and yeah, we were so busy. We mostly saw bands that played at the same showcases we played, but luckily we played with some real gems. Girlpool was incredible. Harmony and Cleo are such amazing confident young women. Their voices sound perfect together and they sing about super relatable topics. I also enjoyed Alex G‘s set. We’d been listening to him in the car on our drive out, so we were stoked to see him play after us at the Impose party.

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