Sometimes the attitude is equally as important as the music.
A sense of humour and general disregard for the accepted parameters of convention can make up for shortcomings in a band’s musical ability and capacity to laugh at yourself can be the difference between success and failure.
Take Seattle all girl band Chastity Belt. Although undeniably talented they have forged their reputation in the American music world through one fundamental principal.
The ability to have fun.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZomwJzFc0g]
After initially forming at college in Washington in 2013, Chastity Belt played a handful of shows in senior year for their fellow schoolmates without giving much thought to the possibility of it turning into anything more than a social outlet of expression.
The name itself personified the level of seriousness with which the quintet approached their craft, with guitarist/vocalist Julia Shapiro admitting they sort of fell into the name more than anything.
“We had that name before we started the band,” she offered. “It was me and Lydia (Lund, lead guitar) together and one night we were drunk and just coined the name. I don’t know how it came up, but one of us said it and the other one said “ooh, that would be a good band name’ and we kind of took on these personas. At that time Lydia and I would just meet each other at parties. We were just drunk friends I guess. We would get drunk together and decide to trash the frat boy’s houses we were` at. Lydia would get cranky, and she would flip over tables at the frat houses and yell ‘CHASTITY BELT’. Sometimes we’d take over the stage and start pretending to play a song to someone that some other band had played and tell everyone we were Chastity Belt. It was a complete joke.”
After college, the band expanded their market and moved to Seattle to try their luck. They soon found that the level of seriousness and commitment was far greater in a city that was home to some established bands and rather than try to conform to a stricter regime, Shapiro says the girls made a commitment to keep doing things the way that had worked for them at college.
“I think our audiences started getting more serious when we moved,” she mused. “In college, we were playing to drunks and frat guys and once we moved to Seattle and we were in the scene we started to take art and music a bit more seriously only because we had to. I think after realising that we discovered that people just wanted to see us, we didn’t have to play jokes any more. No one can really insult you if you’re not taking yourself seriously. It’s like, ‘we know we suck’ and it was an easy way for us to get in to being in a band. There was less pressure in a way.”
This new found respect for music while still maintaining the sense of fun that had signified their arrival struck a chord with fans who were drawn to the on-stage magnetism of the four girls who were by now starting to find the balance between music as an art form and music as a weapon.
“We realised we had to keep that sense of fun with the music,” Shapiro explained, “but I think some of our songs have more serious aspects as well, but no matter what we’re not trying to take it too seriously to the point we are not enjoying ourselves.”
As front women, guitarist, and spokeswoman for the group, Shapiro admits the spotlight is constantly shone in her direction but maintains that it is a burden she embraces.
“Maybe a little bit,” she sighed when asked if it puts her in a position of pressure. “I just try to convey myself to people in a way I’d like to present myself. I couldn’t tell you what people want from me, but I try to be myself. We all do. We don’t put on a show or an act that much like some bands. That can be cool, but we decided to be very much ourselves. I think when we first started it wasn’t like that. I think we put on more of an act to go with the joking. People were like ‘fuck you guys! Fuck the band!’ and that was kind of fun too.”
Chastity Belt embarks on an Australian tour in September, and while admitting to not have much inside knowledge about our music scene, Shapiro says the girls are excited about the challenge.
“It’s our first time there as a band,” she enthused. “I expect it to be fun, at least I hope it is,” she laughed.
“We’re just gonna come and play our songs and hopefully not fuck up ha – ha.”
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