We had the privilege of attending some of SXSW’s best official showcases this year and we must say, Chastity Belt was one of the biggest highlights. Hanna J and Julien Kelly did one better and got to interview/photograph them before their big debut though! Take it away crew!
After building a tight following in the Seattle scene, Chastity Belt exploded out of Washington by signing to Hardly Art, a subsidiary of the notorious Sub Pop record label. When they stopped by Los Angeles on the way to SXSW, we couldn’t help but indulge ourselves.
It seemed rather appropriate that the band was playing The Smell, a popular D.I.Y venue in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles. They picked up fellow surf-punk acts Guantanamo Baywatch and Meat Market along the way to round out the show, making the night a completely out of town affair. All the bands killed it, but Chastity Belt absolutely nailed it. Their music and personality is infectious, both on and off the stage. With vocals reminiscent of an early Beach House and guitars like Real Estate circa. 2009, these girls definitely know what they’re doing sonically. Lyrically, they are on another level. Songwriter Julia Shapiro writes with a nonchalance and rectitude that reminds me a little bit of Courtney Barnett and a little bit of Kathleen Hanna – but still 100% her own.
Having cited sex, violence and Nickelback as their, dare we say, obvious influences – we were curious to find out a little more about this mysterious quartet and their shenanigans.
We talked with guitarist/singer/songwriter of Chastity Belt, Julia Shapiro:
Being in a band can take a toll on friendships, yet when we saw you guys on stage tonight you were all so comfortable. Were you all friends before you started the band?
Julia: Yeah, we’re better friends now though, but we were friends for sure. Lydia and I were kinda party friends; I mean all of us went to the same college, and then Gretchen and Annie, I kind of roped into the band after Lydia and I had come up with the concept. When we first started, Annie knew one drum beat, so she was obviously the drummer.
What was the initial concept behind Chastity Belt?
It was just to be super aggressive as females and just be punks and flip over tables at frat parties and just get away with it… because we were punks.
Now you’ve obviously developed into much more than that, has the attitude changed?
We still have the attitude, but we’ve always had the respect at the same time. We would throw bottles on the ground, break them, and then sweep them up! That was our motto, ‘break a bottle and sweep it up’. Still kind of our motto…
We’re always curious to whether other cities besides Los Angeles have that DIY music community. What’s the Seattle scene like?
There’s a real tight knit community. However, a lot of venues get shut down and that’s been happening a lot recently as rent increases and the tech community (i.e. Amazon) moves in. But the community is still strong, and I’m not afraid we’re going to run out of spaces. I believe there’s always going to be a place for DIY stuff to happen. Even though the city is constantly changing the whole time and we’re getting kicked out of Capitol Hill – which is where most of the scene was occurring.
You’re touring with Courtney Barnett, which to me sounds like a match made in heaven. How did that come about?
We’re all big fans. When she played up in Seattle, we went to her show at The Neptune. It was sooooo good. She’s one of the best lyricists around… I can really relate to her songs. One day we were meeting with Jonathan from Sub Pop (this is when they were signing to Hardly Art) when she was playing an in store at Sonic Boom in Seattle. We were meeting him right around the corner and we mentioned it to him, and he was like “oh, I know her, I’ll introduce you.” and then he introduced us as the best band in Seattle right now, which was really cool just to hear him say that – let alone in front of Courtney Barnett. That was one of the better days of 2014. The guy who signed Nirvana just told Courtney Barnett we were the best band in Seattle. And then Jonathan told us to come to Sub Pop tomorrow to meet her again and tour with her.
‘Time To Go Home’ is your first full-release on Hardly Art, what has that transition been like. From a smaller DIY label like Help Yourself Records to something fully fledged like Hardly Art?
The transition was pretty seamless. Everyone is super chill, and I’m good friends with the whole team. It felt really right, they’re so casual, and we can just stop by their office and it’s all very cool. It actually felt super natural to sign with them and it’s been a great experience so far.
– Listen to ‘Time To Go Home’ in full on NPR and make sure to give them some love when they visit a city near you. –
By Hanna J.
Pictorial Display by Julien Kelly