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Family incites joy/PAIN, satisfaction/GUILT, and love/HATE in equal measure.
Life happens in between the emotions we feel for/OR against those closest to us. The fallout radiates across our lives and ultimately defines us. Le Butcherettes—Teri Gender Bender [vocals/guitar/piano], Alejandra Robles Luna [drums], Rikardo Rodriguez-Lopez [guitars/synth] and Marfred Rodriguez-Lopez [bass]—dissect the meaning of family on their fourth full-length album and first for Rise Records, bi/MENTAL. Equal parts cerebral poetry, art assault, and primal punk cacophony, these 13 tracks represent the Guadalajara-born and El Paso-based group at its most incisive and infectious.
“We all have two extremities,” exclaims Teri. “Black and white are on opposite sides. When I was little, I had a family. Now that I’m older, it’s fallen apart by conflict, emotional corruption, blackmail, and sickness. What does that mean? What does it do to us? We’re always battling with, what I like to call, ‘The Other’. When things aren’t right with your roots, you feel like you’re on the edge of disconnection. You start doubting yourself. They were the roots of my everything…but I’m not that little girl anymore. I have to start making room for myself. I can’t let this torment me. The pendulum swings back and forth. Reason will be lost and gained again. That’s bi/MENTAL. Now that I think about all of this, it makes sense I came up with the name in the shower,” she laughs.
Over the past decade-plus, Teri and Co. quietly laid the groundwork for a statement of this magnitude. 2015’s A Raw Youth attracted acclaim from Consequence of Sound, Magnet, Classic Rock, and more. An infamous live force, the frontwoman defied house rules (and gravity), hanging upside down from the rafters at a storied Coachella set followed by stage-wrecking displays everywhere from Lollapalooza to Fun Fun Fun Fest. Handpicked to support Jack White, At The Drive In, Faith No More, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Deftones, and others, Le Butcherettes earned the blessing and anointment of rock’s vanguard. The songstress also joined iconic Garbage leader Shirley Manson and Brody Dalle on the cover of Nylon, while Iggy Pop, Henry Rollins, and John Frusciante immediately accepted invitations to collaborate. Spreading their influence into the mainstream, “Eli” soundtracked an episode of HBO’s True Detective, and “New York” became the theme for the 2015 World Series opener.
Never content to sit still or get comfortable, Le Butcherettes teamed up with iconic Talking Heads member Jerry Harrison [No Doubt, Violent Femmes, KD Lang] behind the board as producer. After three albums produced by Omar Rodríguez-López of At The Drive In and The Mars Volta, the new creative environment added another dimension to the sound.
“I stayed at Jerry’s house up in Northern California for pre-production,” she recalls. “He, his wife, and their little dog have the most amazing family vibe. The whole atmosphere was very green and really amazing. I was going through a lot, but I felt like I had a family during this time. I was able to be vulnerable and in-your-face at the same time. With all of his wisdom, it’s as if Jerry fathered the record. I think my dad would’ve liked him.”
Themes of internal and familial strife hang over the opener and first single “spider/WAVES” [The album version of the track will feature Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys]. A ticking timebomb of riffs clicks and clacks as her howling falsetto swings towards a searing screech punctuated by spoken word from Jello Biafra. Appropriately, she dons a Chichimeccan warrior outfit in honor of her grandmother in the accompanying music video directed by award-winning duo Noun.
“Lyrically, it’s like this big delicious spider has its wave,” she elaborates. “In a way, we’re all caught in it. This thing wants to devour as much as it can, but you have to make sure you’re okay. You’re trying to protect yourself from something that wants to get in. It goes along with the idea of the record. It helped me go through the emotions. I realized it might be more about me than, ‘The Other’.”
The schizophrenic barrage of “mother/HOLDS” [feat. Alice Bag] unites two generations of disruptive goddesses as Alice Bag and Teri formally meet on a recording. Chilean superstar and “ultra girl crush” Mon Laferte lends her massive vocals to the Latin-tinged “la/SANDIA.” Everything concludes on the abrupt catharsis of “/BREATH.” It’s the ultimate emotional exorcism conjured by theatrical delivery, rock ‘n’ roll ambition, and punked-out psychedelic provocation.
“Music is my outlet,” she admits. “I’ve never been to a therapist before. I don’t talk to my friends about this stuff. Music keeps me away from trouble. It keeps my mind free. It makes me feel connected to God like everything will be okay at the end of the day.”
In the end, bi/MENTAL will undoubtedly make you feel too.
“If you listen, I hope it moves you—even just a little bit,” she leaves off. “I’m not asking for much, maybe just a finger. That’s all I could ask for.”