Australian audiences may remember seeing Mexican three piece Le Butcherettes at the now defunct Soundwave festival back in early 2015. Their raw attitude in tandem with a theatrical approach proved captivating to those watching the performance. For the uninitiated, front woman and founding member, Teri Gender Bender combines the urgency of garage rock with the sometimes atonal aspects of alternative music whilst keeping her band on their toes without their show losing focus. Teri and band have toured globally, played at large festivals and collaborated with a great list of influential artists including utilising Omar Rodríguez a few times for production duties. Le Butcherettes are soon to be back in Australia in support of what will presumably be a memorable tour for At the Drive-In and also on the bill for the more intimate Your & Owls festival. Loud Online caught up with the uncompromising and unique Teri via phone.
Hi Teri, it looks like you’re soon on your way back to Australia.
We’re coming down there again in September. Time flies by very fast.
The last time I saw you was at Soundwave. What are your thoughts on that performance in hindsight?
We were just happy to be there and being able to play Australia. I’m a nervous person in general but once we got on the stage, it just made sense to be there. It was like swimming having landed in a pool and once you get moving, it feels good. I just remember a lot of positive vibes and even ran into an old friend there in Sydney.
The whole aspect of nervousness in performance seems common so you’re not alone there. Still, did you ever witness that with people you’ve worked with such as Iggy Pop or John Frusciante?
Actually, ironically enough they are the least nervous people in everything including socialising. Honestly, I do not know them to the depths of their souls but when we’ve hung out, they seemed super confident in their skin and that has to do with a lot of things such as the way you were raised as a child, your culture and experiences. I think that experiences make you tougher but they remind you that, hey, it’s going to be alright.
I cannot imagine anyone in the music industry making Henry Rollins nervous though.
Ha-ha. A funny story about nervousness is that Henry told me that when he was about to meet Iggy Pop he was super nervous because he had heard a lot of stories about Iggy being such a wildcard. So, when he went up to say hello to Iggy and being introduced with, ‘oh yeah, this is Henry of Black Flag’, without thinking about it, he just went up to him and did a karate chop and said, ‘I’ve heard about you!’ but he was dead serious. Henry was like, ‘Oh, man, I just came here to say Hi’ and then Iggy put down his defence mechanism and they became good friends from then on. I think that was in the Eighties.
Ha, that’s classic. How did working with Omar Rodríguez come about?
I think that coming about has a lot to do with magic. What I mean by this is that is started in Mexico and that alone is a very magical place because you’re surrounded by all of these various energies. If you look at the history of it with say the Mexico City where the pyramids were built on the blood of the slaves. So all of these little rituals from the sacrifices and so on feed into the culture in Mexico as being very magic oriented. When we played a show in Guadalajara, all the lights went out but when shit goes wrong in Mexico, you make a show happen. That is the case for any band in Mexico in that you’re going to run the bus until the wall hits and if it breaks, it doesn’t matter, you’re going to still use that bus and go on. So, the lights went out, it was completely dark and so we played our set acapella. Anyway, Omar was at the fucking show which in itself is a long story because he never goes out. He was at home recording a solo record but one of his friends in another band at the show gave him the guilt trip to come out and support him which he eventually did. So, it was all based on magic, destiny or just right timing but he was there and he saw the show and from then on wanted to get everyone together for lunch and from there he felt out the chemistry in the band because you do not want to work with someone that is bat-shit crazy onstage but are kind of assholes offstage. It was kind of cool that we got along so it worked out.
You’ve worked well with him. Is he producing any of your latest album material at all?
You know what, I don’t want to put that on him anymore since he has already done three albums. I mean, shit, if it was up to me I’d would love to but you know, he’s super busy with the new At the Drive-In stuff he is working on and his solo material. It just turns out that we have Jerry Harrison of Talking Heads producing our new material so it is time to explore new possibilities. We’ll see how that goes.
How does production come into the songwriting side of it if you’re turning up with everything ready?
I think that with the small range of producers that I have worked with, the process has always relied heavily on me arriving to the sessions with the songs or at the very least, ideas of songs and from there we start working them out. Sometimes the producer will suggest, ‘Why not move the arrangement here?’ or to maybe taking a bar out for little changes that add a little spice to the track. Being a producer is probably being an unsung hero because if everything goes wrong, it is the producer’s fault but if it is a great record and does amazing business then, oh yeah, of course, it is only the band’s work. Ha.
True. Do they make you think about live performance as well, when you’re recording an album?
For me, when I did the first record and the EP, I was very aware that I was in a studio so therefore I was more conscious of the technicalities of a song but lately, I think it all equals to one. Playing live is important and people always tell me that the live performances are more striking to them than the actual record. This time we want to take it to recording live because we have never actually recorded live before. It has always been with certain instruments at a time.
You’ve played a lot of festivals. What would be one of the highlights for you?
Let me think and go through the archive of my brain. I once passed out from a heatstroke but that is not a highlight, just something that resonated with me to say, ‘Oh shit, I’m a human being’ and it is the first time that I became aware of my mortality. When I passed out I thought I was dying and that happened to me in Coachella actually so I didn’t get to enjoy it all. We finished playing, I passed out and then I went home. A highlight could be not passing out at a festival and being in good health to watch other bands or even to hang out with your own band mates.
You’ve toured with a stack of bands including Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Queens of the Stone Age, Deftones and Dillinger Escape Plan. Do you watch them play from a critic’s perspective to pick things up on performance?
Hmm, that’s a good question. I try to be humble but being straight up honest, everything that I have is from my mother. Sometimes I feel a little bad because she was the one being an artist and actress since she was young so she was very dramatic. She wasn’t just histrionic on stage and in the theatre but in real life to a point where it was becoming mentally unstable in that it influenced me to a point where I would take some of her everyday characteristics and ingrain them into my everyday life which affected a lot of my relationships. But, in music, it only made me feel like I was getting myself free of my bitterness that I had with my mother. Sorry to be so deep but for me it is a lot more personal and it comes from family or roots. Don’t get me wrong, I admire Dillinger and see their courage, determination, persistence and work ethic to get far. All things those bands have in common along with their great songwriting.
Is it fair to say that your family got you into guitar and music initially?
That was from my father. He wasn’t a musician but he introduced me to the world of musicians. By that I mean that he introduced me to Cream, Led Zeppelin, Queen and all the great, classics whereas my mother introduced me to more Middle Eastern and Turkish music like Selda. Her best friend was from Syria so she had a heavy Middle Eastern influence take on her culture mixed with Mexican. So, the house was always filled with music to a point of it causing drama because my Dad would sometimes get drunk and so he’d turned up the volume really loud because he loved the music really high and so sometimes the neighbours would call the police. So for me, music resonated with chaotic elements. It would be the police coming and my mother crying, ‘No, please don’t take him’ and I was thinking, ‘Wow, music is causing this with loud volume. It is pissing people off but has my father in ecstasy so oh, my, this is what I want to do’. So yeah, he introduced me to music in that way. Ha-ha.