Shepherdess Leads the Pack

Boston’s all female, post 90’s riot grrl, 70’s psych influenced power trio! The band features Emily Arkin on baritone guitar, violin, vocals, Hilken Mancini on guitar and vocals, and Alison Murray on the drums. All the women are also volunteers, founders, activists with Girls Rock Campaign Boston.

QWIMB sent some of the usual questions on Boston, music, and queerness to the band and here is what they had to say:

What brought you to Boston?

shepherdess sweatersEmily: I grew up in Cambridge, and moved back to Somerville soon after college in NY. My mom dreamed of moving to this area her whole life, and it took her a long time to finally settle here, so I feel like I should stick with it! But mostly I agree with her primary reason for wanting to live here: it’s a metro area with great access to art, music, books, and movies. I also feel that Boston is big enough, and has so many schools and general music-lovers, that a 1000 musical flowers can bloom–many parallel scenes and kinds of music flourish side-by-side and cross-pollinate. Yet it’s a nice walkable/bikeable/liveable size.

Alison: I was living in Chicago and long-distance dating a lady in Boston.  Now I live here and we’re married. So… love brought me to Boston.

Hilken:  I came here to go to the Boston Conservatory in 1988 as a dance major

Have you experienced a strong scene for queer women in the city in terms of music/performers etc?

Emily: We’ve met a lot of kindred spirits playing events by/for/about queer women, and similarly with riot grrrl, ladyfest, and other feminist groups or causes. I will say that common politics/orientation doesn’t necessarily equal musical cohesion–sometimes we our music doesn’t really “go” with other bands on a bill just because the theme of the night is ladies or ladies-who-love-ladies. But there’s an upside to that diversity too: I’m not sure I’d want to live in a town with such a well-defined scene that the music or social landscape is too homogenous–that sounds claustrophobic to me.

Alison: Not when I first moved here, but it’s always hard to find your place when you first move somewhere.  I had just come from a pretty rad queer scene in Chicago and was really sorry to be disconnected from that, knowing I’d have to start all over again.  I originally put an ad out on craigslist to find people to play with and used some pretty strong words like “queer” and “feminist” to weed out people who’d waste my time.  It’s really not fun to show up for a ‘jam’ session that turns out to be you watching some dude solo for 45 minutes.  Since joining forces with Girls Rock Campaign Boston I’ve met more women in the music scene, some of them are even queer!  The Ladies Rock Camp volunteers and campers have really created this community of support that lives and breathes on its own here in Boston.

Hilken: I don’t think too much about being queer and whether the city favors you or not in terms of playing music but- one of the first bands I was really into in the early 90’s was Come (that Thalia Zedek fronted) and my band Fuzzy (that I was in the early 90’s) recorded with Tim O’Heir at Fort Apache because of the Come record 11/11 that we loved so much- and that connection really helped us eventually because Fort Apache heard our recording and then ended up managing our career for the next six or seven years after that – so in a way that was a really positive thing that happened in my life and was mainly due to the Come thing so….I guess Yes.

Queerpalooza

What made you decide to join a band?

Emily: I was a classical violinist growing up but also a huge fan of rock, particularly Boston women-led bands like Throwing Muses and The Breeders (later Sleater-Kinney and adjacent DC/Oly riot grrrl bands). I started noodling on guitar, but had terrible stage fright and didn’t like to jam or improvise, so never realistically considered being in a band. (I did come up a list of theoretical band names with my high-school friend Jessie, all of which came to be real bands: “Heavens to Betsy,” “Placebo,” and even our joke name “Klymaxx”…she went on to be an accomplished band-leader and rock-club-owner herself).  Between reading band interviews and talking to my inspiring friends and family-members who were musicians, it dawned on me how much I would enjoy making music myself (both songwriting and performing). I needed to put aside my stage fright and worry of being inexperienced and just embrace the punk rock spirit and go for it! It was terrifying at first, but my friend Lisa who teaches art school very sagely advised me “it’s scary _because_ it’s important to you. You’re on the right track, you’re taking a personal and artistic risk–keep going.”

Alison: I wanted to be in a band since I can remember.  My mom played in a country band in the 70s and 80s called “Sleight of Hand” and I used to play on their drum kit in my basement when I was 4.  My mom plays the piano, guitar, banjo, and sings so I was able to get my hands on other instruments.  I joined concert/marching band in 6th grade and played alto sax until I graduated.  I had also started playing guitar when I was 8 and finally joined a real band in high school as the bass player (only female) and we did Rage Against the Machine, Pantera, and Metallica covers.  I knew I needed to play music and I wasn’t going to let anything get in my way of making that happen.

Hilken: I was dancing (Ballet) and it was really strict and I liked the idea of No Rules and creating your own art. I then became obsessed with Kate Bush because she was a Ballet dancer (like me) and then wrote her own rock music. Then I moved to Boston and saw the Neighborhoods play at Bunratty’s and I wanted to be like David Minehan. Spiky hair and guitar…

Are there any artists that you look up to or who have inspired your own music?

QueerpaloozaAlison: I’m constantly inspired by my amazing and talented friends as well as my favorite artists.  Sometimes all it takes is a simple guitar lick or sick beat and ideas start running through my head.  I have a wide variety of musical interests, so I’m inspired by classical, rock, celtic, folk, punk, disco, etc.  My definite stand outs are The Cure, The Smiths, Interpol, The Chameleons.  Claire Passey of Fur Purse (formerly of Lady Bust) is a killer drummer.  It feels like she kicking me in the chest with every beat and I love it.

Hilken: Kate Bush, J Mascis, Debbie Harry, Joey Ramone, Fred Sonic Smith, The Posies, Mama Cass Eliot … I don’t know. so many

Do think things are getting better for queer female performers or are there still barriers to overcome?

Alison: I feel like there will always be barriers for queer female performers because we have to fight for our space from the start.  If we become complacent or take the work of our predecessors for granted, that space will be filled in again in no time.  Right when I think things are getting better, I get asked if I know how to work a mic stand.  It makes you stay sharp and on your toes, but it’s also exhausting.  One time after a show, this really drunk man in the audience was genuinely attempting to compliment my drumming but it came off as if he was surprised I was capable.  He told me to “keep on drumming” and I’m so glad he did because I rely on male audience member’s approval to feel good about myself.  PFFFF!

Hilken: I don’t think too much about being queer and playing music. I think about getting older and playing rock music is a bigger barrier for people to overcome.

shepherdess flier

Have you been (or are you now) in other bands besides Shepherdess?

Emily: My first band was The Operators (née The Organ Grinders), where I played guitar and sang with Jen Godfrey, Paul Coleman, and Steph Melikian, and then I was in The Quincunx with Steph from the Ops and Slamber Slusser. Both bands reunite occasionally, but many of those bandmates are in other bands/other states/grad school, own their own businesses, or have young kids. Once or twice a year, I join ~40 other musicians in Animal Hospital Ensemble, a surround-sound orchestra of guitars and strings, expanding the solo work of Kevin Micka, who recorded Shepherdess’s album, “I’m Saving Myself for Shepherdess”. I’ve also been in a ridiculous number of one-off cover bands: Guided By Voices, The Ramones, The Runaways, They Might be Giants, Throwing Muses, The Breeders, The Amps, The Shaggs, James Kochalka Superstar, the Star Wars soundtrack, and I’m sure I’m forgetting many (my fave part is making up a bad tribute band names, like “Shocker in Beantown” for GBV).

Alison: I’m currently in Shepherdess and The Clear Deigns.  In Chicago I was primarily in gamine thief, but also played with a band called Funjihad where we performed one gig as Thomas Frampton and the Framptone.  I was the Framptone.  After gamine thief broke up I played with fellow bandmate Heather Lember (the ovens, Lemmy Caution, Cargo May Shift) in a two-piece called Ladycop, but I moved to Boston before that really got off the ground (arrested development?).  Before Chicago I was a solo folk artist, doing mostly instrumentals, in Detroit and Los Angeles.

Hilken: Yes. I was lead singer in a goth band in the 80’s, and then I started Fuzzy, and then I put a record out with Chris Colbourn of Buffalo Tom Fame and now I play in The Monsieurs as well as the SHep!

Queerpalooza

What has been your proudest moment as a member of Shepherdess?

Emily: It’s especially fun to play on bills alongside musicians who I’ve idolized like Mission of Burma, Gordon Gano, Wild Flag, Tanya Donnelly, The Fleshtones, Cotton Candy, Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore, etc. But I think what I’m most proud of is songs we’ve written and/or performed the hell out of, and our relationship to our community and the organization where the three of us volunteer, Girls Rock Campaign Boston, encouraging another generation of rockers.

Alison:  It was pretty incredible to open for WILD FLAG and also Mission of Burma in two separate sold out shows at Brighton Music Hall.  My proudest moments are usually when we’ve all had a rough day or whatnot and we just check in before we start the show to remind ourselves that we’re gonna have some fun – and then we have a kick-ass set!!  We can really turn things around just by getting out there together and playing the songs we love.  We played a show once where Hilken wasn’t feeling well and she practically napped on any surface she could fit on until it was time to play.  Emily and I took care of lugging all the gear so she could chill out for a few and then we rocked!  It was kind of hilarious to be stepping over her on the floor during load out, but it just feels good to know you have each other’s backs when you need it.  I think she was wearing a faux fur or something too because it was wintery out so it really looked like she was a diva.

Hilken: Starting Shepherdess at 35 years old – when I thought noone cared about older women playing rock and roll- and the freaking Phoenix calling me a “warhorse” for continuing to put records out when Shepherdess released it’s first full length on KIMCHEE records back in 2006.

shepheress wild flag flier

What advice would you give to a woman thinking about starting a band or learning an instrument?

Emily: I would say: It’s never too late to start–the fact that you’re thinking about it means you should give it a try. But it’s important to note that the hardest thing about trying something new is getting over your inhibitions–you can always push yourself to be better, but you have to start from somewhere and can’t be afraid of failure. I would also encourage people to be process-oriented in any artistic pursuit…it’s fine to want to be a rock star, and sometimes you set goals for yourself and dream about the future, but the people I know who really enjoy being in bands (including successful bands) love band practice and songwriting and wood-shedding–they don’t just sit around plotting having mad money, gold records, and groupies.

Alison: Stop thinking and start doing!  Make it happen.

Hilken: don’t think about it just do it.

shepherdess record

Want the newest Shepherdess record?? Get it HERE

For more on Shepherdess check out:

An Introduction to Anjimile

 thanksgiving-2012Meet local artist and student, Anjimile!

Juxtaposing the subtle warmth of an acoustic guitar and harmonious vocals with biting, sardonic lyrics, Anjimile is a musical force to be reckoned with. She grew up in Richardson, TX but moved to the bustling city of Boston in hopes of becoming a part of its thriving music scene and escaping the pervasive homophobia of the south. Anjimile’s first full-length LP, In the Garden, was produced by Eric Santagada, professional bassist and recent Northeastern graduate, in Santagada Studios. A labour of love, In the Garden touches on the universal themes of lust, loss, love and learning how to grow up. Some of her influences include indie-rock band Born Ruffians, The Jackson 5, Freddie Mercury, Sufjan Stevens, Say Anything and Violent Femmes. She currently attends Northeasern University, her favorite author is William Faulkner and she is Kanye West’s biggest fan.

Something of a tongue twister, Anjimile’s name comes from a little-known language called Chichewa which is spoken in the east-African country of Malawi, where both of her parents were born and raised. The name ‘Anjimile’ means ‘denied a boy’, as her parents desired a son after giving birth to two girls already. Ironically, Anjimile is a full-blown lesbian. (Bio courtesy of artist)

Anjimile Singin'
Anjimile Singin’

QWIMB asked Anjimile to answer the standard questions we love to ask about her views on various aspects of queerness in Boston. She was gracious enough to provide us with the following responses:

Did you grow up in the Boston area? (if so where, if not, why come here?)

No. I was born in West Virginia,  then my family moved to Iowa (where my brother was born), and a few years after that we settled in Richardson, Texas. So I’ve lived the majority of my life in Texas, from about age 4 or 5 to 18.
Baby Anjimile
Baby Anjimile

Do you think there is a strong community of queer women here either performing or supporting a music scene?

I’m just getting into the Boston music scene so I’m not I have enough experience to say, but I suppose from what I’ve seen I’d say not particularly. Then again, maybe I just don’t know where to look.

Are there any artists/performers who have been particularly influential to you?

I’m a big Michael Jackson fan. When I was a kid my parents would blast the Jackson 5 and I grew up imitating the way baby-Michael sang. I also love Freddie Mercury and Stevie Wonder. I’d say my biggest influences by far have been Sufjan Stevens and Born Ruffians. The Born Ruffians kind of catapulted me into the wide, wonderful world of indie rock and Sufjan Stevens is straight-up amazing. Vocally and lyrically he’s just the best.

What has been your experience with the various in venues for music in Boston? Have you played many of them? What was the crowd like?

Boloco Jammin
Boloco Jammin

I’ve had pretty limited experience playing venues in Boston. I like to tell myself it’s because I’m extremely busy with school and don’t have a lot of time to spend trying to book shows, but honestly I know I need to get out there and play. Mostly I frequent the Boloco on Boylston and Mass Ave. They have Open Mics on Wednesdays and performances on Thursday where they have a featured artist a lot. When I have the time I get myself signed up as the featured artist. It’s pretty awesome. The crowd is chill and they pay you with free food.

Why did you get into playing/performing music? Is there anything specific you would like listeners to hear when they connect with your music?

 I’ve been surrounded by good music since I was born. My parents would play the greats: Bob Marley, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson. I grew up in a very musical household. My two older sisters are also great singers and my little brother plays the drums, bass and guitar. I’ve always been surrounded by music and I learned to love it. Now it’s everything I am. My music is a representation of who I am as a person. Generally, I have an extremely difficult time expressing my emotions. Music, I have found, allows me to express myself exactly how I need to. I want listeners to hear the melodies and the harmonies but I also want them to listen closely to the lyrics. I don’t hold anything back when I write and my music is as honest as I get. When I sing I sing with emotion, and I want listeners to feel the music like I feel it. Performing is a really cathartic experience for me.

 

"Groovin"
“Groovin”

Wanna Hear Some More From Anjimile?

Marissa Owens: Scruffy Folk Player/Former Bostonian

Marissa Owens, a self-described “scruffy folk” musician got her start in Boston and, as she moves into new aspects of career, keeps Boston close to her heart.

Listen to One of her Songs:

See, Saw – Marissa Owens

A Brief Bio of Marissa:

“A self-taught, unsigned folk singer-songwriter,Marissa Owens finds her home in Portland, Maine. Currently enrolled at SUNYPurchase for studio composition, she is a barefoot traveling soul, paddingalong the riverbanks of love, hope, sadness, and longing. The deep meaning shefinds in place, and her cherishing of fleeting human interaction, pours throughher rhythmic, powerful, heartbeat-esque finger picking style. Withdiary-confession lyricism, her music exudes a feeling of being suspendedbetween wandering and searching— both lost and found, home and away.”

QWIMB asked Marissa to answer some of our favorite questions about Boston and queerness, as we like to do. Here are her responses.

What brought you to Boston?

I came to Boston to study at Boston University. I was pursuing a degree in human physiology, but instead of studying, I wrote songs and recorded them in my dorm room. Boston was the place where songwriting started for me. Unfortunately for my roommate, I was always practicing tunes. Eventually, I had to pay attention to the fact that I dreaded school and should not be wasting money or time in the wrong place. I withdrew from Boston University and decided to apply to SUNY Purchase’s studio composition program. I had a free year between studying at Boston and SUNY Purchase, and in that time I got to reflect on my experiences in Boston.

What was your experience like in Boston?

While I was in Boston, I met a lot of great people because of my involvement in the queer scene at Boston University. I made a point to go to events outside of Boston University, just to feel more comfortable in the community. Boston allowed me to be open about my queerness as an adult. That was so valuable to me.

I loved wandering around Boston. I liked getting lost in the crowd, and I spent a lot of my time riding the T alone just to think. On my campus, people didn’t smile at others walking by. I wasn’t used to that. On one hand, I wanted strangers to connect, but on the other hand, I liked passing through a crowd where nobody cared about me. It is a confusing way for me to feel, but I explored all of that confusion and angst in my songs.

What’s great about Boston is there are so many young people there. There’s a feel of excitement, inspiration, and open-mindedness.

Did you feel there was a “scene” for queer female musicians? What about queer women of color? Is there a strong Boston scene in that regard? Was it welcoming/unwelcoming?:

There is a scene for female musicians. Although I was not playing shows in Boston, all of the artists I met and respected in Boston were women. I was so lucky to meet Jenny Owen Youngs and Steph Barrak. For big names, and indie musicians alike, I think Boston has a place for all musicians, because of the range of venues available. I was really in tune with the queer musician scene, and I think Boston supports that scene as well. What’s important is for people to create the scene, and a lot of musicians are doing that, with house shows and such, and that is incredible. As far as a scene for queer women of color, I didn’t really experience that. That isn’t to say that it doesn’t exist, but I’m sure the scene could be much stronger. Every place could stand to be more welcoming toward queer women of color who are musicians. Every place could be more welcoming to women in general. For a woman to get up and relate what she really thinks and feels is still shamed by society. That’s the way it is for people who are queer, of color, etc. But, we ignore all of that, and keep putting ourselves out there.

Thanks Marissa for answering our questions and adding to the QWIMB community!

For more info on Marissa and her music here are some links:

Check Out Local Musician: Sierra West

From Horse Farm to Harvard Square: Sierra West’s is Journey to Inspire

Luck Media)

Helping Animals By Day, Inspiring People Through Song By Night…Welcome To The Fascinating World Of Sierra West! The Folk Influenced Pop/Rock Singer Songwriter Is A Veterinary Technician Who Volunteers Her Musical Talent To Support Animal Causes.

We asked Sierra to answer some questions for QWIMB about her thoughts on Boston, Queerness, and Music…our favorite things.

QWIMB QUESTIONARE: 

Did you grow up in the Boston area? (if so where, if not, why come here?)

I grew up in rural CT on a horse farm. I lived in Watertown until I was 8 and moved to Thomaston where I still visit family. I moved to Boston after college because I heard of a historical folk venue called Club 47 (currently Club Passim) where Bob Dylan and Joan Baez started out and I dreamed of doing the same. I wanted to become part of the folk scene and start taking formal lessons (I was self-taught), so between Club Passim and Berklee I thought I couldn’t go wrong!

Do you think there is a strong community of queer women here either performing or supporting a music scene?

I think there is a strong community supporting more liberal artists/slam poets and dj’s. There is a stronger scene for bands than for solo artists, but there are several acoustic musicians working hard to create a stronger community, especially in JP and Somerville.

Are there any artists/performers who have been particularly influential to you?

I am influenced by a wide variety of music…everything from Neil Young to Nine Inch Nails. I grew up listening to James Taylor, Tom Petty, CSN, Steely Dan…any Classic Rock records i could get my hands on. Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin were repeatedly played. My first concert was Little Feat and Melissa Etheridge when I was 4 and I have been particularly influenced by them because of that. I went through stages of listening to U2, REM, & Ani DiFranco in high school and currently listen to The Weepies, Ben Harper, and Patti Griffin. I have to say, of the thousands of artists I have seen and heard, Martin Sexton is my number one all around choice. He has it all…and I aspire for a career much like his.

What has been your experience with the various in venues for music in Boston? Have you played many of them? What was the crowd like?

Sierra WestThe crowds showing up for music venues in Boston are a hit or miss for artists starting out on their own, especially without representation. There is so much music going on all the time that you really have to advance the gigs & do everything you can to promote them on your own. I’ve never performed at Toad (although I’d love to), but it’s a great small place with free music every night.  Most artists looking to book gigs can do so at The All Asia. There is not much of a local draw there, but it is a great way to gain experience. I performed at The Abbey Lounge, Toast (the gay bar in Union Square), and The Sky Bar regularly before they shut down. I’ve performed at The Midway and The Milkyway in JP supporting queer events and loved the crowd there. I’ve performed a lot at The Cantab Lounge, with a great basement band stage called Club Bohemia, again hit or miss for the crowd. I held my first EP release for “Rocks” at The Lizard Lounge, one of the best basement venues – standing room only on a Thursday night. I loved performing there – intimate, funky, and rockin’ at the same time.  I will be holding my EP release for “Hold Your Fire” on August 14th at Club Passim, which is a dream come true. It’s my favorite venue to perform in not only for its history, but for the love of the folk community and the power of a listening room. It’s not just a venue.

Why did you get into playing/performing music? Is there anything specific you would like listeners to hear when they connect with your music?

After my older brother, also a musician, was killed by a hit-and-run drunk driver I bought my first acoustic guitar and started writing privately in my room. Every time I sing it reconnects me with him. It wasn’t until my senior year in high school that I began playing in front of people. My girlfriend at the time was cheating on me with her male best friend. The day before she broke up with me she had insisted she “could never love a man the way she loved a woman”. We made out to The Cure for half an hour in my old Volvo (my brother’s old car). I recorded my first CD “Depleted Oxygen” 3 months later in NYC. It was fuel for a fire that was already there. I hope my listeners hold on to their dreams despite the resistance that arises, that it is possible to get through a struggle despite how different or against the grain it may feel, because life is too short not to.

____________________________________________________

Intrigued Yet? Take a Listen to Some of Her Music:

Sierra was kind enough to allow QWIMB to post a link to her NEW EP, which comes out AUGUST 14.

Hold Your Fire

Also check out her earlier EP, Rocks.

Rocks


See Her Live!

Sierra is promoting her upcoming EP, Hold Your Fire, at Club Passim on August 14. You Don’t want to miss this show.

Get Tickets Here.

Want More Info On Sierra:

Sierra on Myspace

Sierra’s Website

Feature on a Retired Local Band: PornBelt

PornBelt

Pornbelt was an all-female full-frontal assault back in the early 2000s, with members residing in both Boston’s Jamaica Plain and Somerville neighborhoods. Travis, the former drummer, gave me this description of the band dating from their heyday :

Take a listen to some of their songs. Pornbelt will melt your face off and injure your hearing.

  • Babysitter Fucker
  • Gash Rash
  • Clam
  • Cherry Commando

A couple of show reviewer/writer-type dudes had some words to share on Pornbelt:

“Hell spawned and godlike at once…Pummeled the audience with feedback, white noise and a kazoo.  They brought a power to the state that can barely be described.”  Tony Reaves. 11.11.02.  UMO

“This has to be some milestone in evolution, or a sign of the apocalypse. Perhaps the shrillest, most painful and pointless cacophony I’ve ever witness and I’ve seen some real train wrecks. I’m outta here.”  Joe Coughlin, The Noise, Boston Issue 221.May 2002.

 

 

I had some questions for band members about what is was like to be a queer band in Boston in the 2000s, if the bandmembers were all from the city, and what the queer music scene was like at the time the band was performing. Their drummer Travis, was kind enough to answer.

Travis: “This is a really good question.  And honestly, queer was not really a word floating around Boston yet, the way it is today.  There were dyke bands, but not queer bands.  And even though we all were dykes at the time (or bi and trans etc) we were almost more of a feminist band then a queer band.  Most everyone was from the city.  I was a country bumkin from Maine who must moved to Boston and had discover Team Dresch 5 years AFTER they had broken up and I thought they were the greatest thing i’d ever heard (still my most fav band).  I wanted to play dyke punk music and found an ad on Craigslist.  I “audition” for the guitar part at this basement/practice space in Jamaica Plain and joined in. Wtihin a year, we lost the drummer, so I switched to drums and we got a new guitar player.

We were also playing music at a time when many bands were being protested for any affliction with the Michigan Women’s Music Festival.  We played a show once with a few performers who had played there, and subsequently were being protested.  My bandmates reminded me that we bought them hot-coaco cuz it was cold out.  And even though there were trans members in our band, we did not stand behind the protesting of bands.  My girlfriend was in a band at the time (The Kitty Kill – another band you should look up) and they were also protested because they played there.”

 

 

Merry, the lead screamer, also shared some of her experiences in Boston’s queer womens’ music scene and playing with PornBelt.

“PornBelt took on many iterations over the years.I think we can be loosely defined as a gig band between 2001-2003. At that time, the music scene in Boston was fairly segregated. There was the main rock bands of Boston that played shows at places like The Middle East & T.T the Bears, Punk bands playing O’briens or basement shows- of course there were many other types of bands and venues but there was also a strong & prominent  dyke scene in the early aughts. I suppose that’s were PornBelt came in. Our lineup changed over time and we didn’t adhere necessarily to the label of “dyke band” but I think we fit a broader definition of a Queer band-at the core PornBelt had 5 women-lesbian, bi & straight, later we had transgender members. As far as a Queer music scene in Boston, I’m not really aware of any gay male bands that could be considered a counterpart  like a Pansy Division of Boston. There were however many bands that consisted of mostly queer women (and not just folk!)

Our shows were pretty evenly divided between the rock bands that Debbie networked with: Neptune, Young Sexy Assassins, Donna Parker, Japanther, Tunnel of Love and playing shows with dyke/queer bands that the members of PornBelt were fucking, or maybe wanted to fuck: The Kitty Kill, Chelsea on Fire, Secret Cock, Pelvic Circus and Naughty Shirley to name a few. At the time the dyke scene had a very loyal following. The Midway, a bar in Jamaica Plain had a ‘Dyke Night’, and back then Thursday nights were ground zero for Dykes/Queers in the Boston area. Chelsea on Fire were true rock amazons, they were like the Beastie Boys of the dyke scene-I think everyone can agree that they were just in a league of their own- holy shit the pipes on Josie! they were all truly talented,  they had a hardcore dyke following but I think they could hold their own, and did with many other bands. The Kitty Kill also was a great band, they brought a lot of melody and rhythm to their music. I always viewed PornBelt as a novelty band, novelty in the sense that we didn’t fit any particular genre and we definitely were not the kind of band that you would want to blast really loud while zooming down the highway (unless you were perhaps an escaped mental patient with a messiah complex). I like to think our shows were fun and intense -individually the musicians in PornBelt could have been stand out musicians in any other band- but PornBelt was more GWAR meets Smothers Brothers, in my mind- then a true band.

We did have a few stalkers, which I guess does qualify us as a real band.

Debbie was always the driving force in PornBelt. She was the one who got the practice space, networked, made flyers and booked the shows. As for me I was the lead screamer for PornBelt, though when we first formed I was slated to be the bass player. I couldn’t play bass, or any instrument for that matter so I transitioned to the lead screamer and I kinda sucked at that too- for example-the other members had to give me signals when to start ‘singing’, I also needed  to make cheat sheet of lyrics & I generally just winged it with a mic and a pair of well-worn knee pads.

I think towards the end of our time playing together, the last true line up of PornBelt was stellar-

Larissa was sheer force. she is so versatile on bass, shredding and fully engaged, she fucking brought it full on. Larissa also occasionally hopped on the guitar. As a side note, I was out of the Country for about a month and when I came back Larissa bought a van for PornBelt to tour in. The rest of PornBelt tricked out the van, so when I came back I remember being really confused that a van and what turned out to be an ill-fated tour were booked and ready to go.

Travis was our grounded player, he kept the music tight and worked with Larissa to come up with new musical arrangements for the lyrics, he also went between guitar and drums. When we gave each other A-Team characters names, of course Travis was Face because he is dreamy and the lady fans loved him.

Slamber did guitar and drums- (her and Travis would trade off on different songs). Slamber brought raw energy and a provocative appeal that would captivate and engage the audience.

Debbie introduced a lot of unique noise elements to the songs-kazoo, and various mic’d contraptions. Deb also sang what turned out to be some of best songs. Without Deb PornBelt would not have made it past our first basement show. Deb is a true PR machine, she is The Closer.

As for me, when I was in PornBelt I lived in Mission Hill, but I essentially cut my teeth in the Boston Punk scene of the 90’s. I left home fairly early, at 15- so I always felt I essentially spent my teen years growing up behind the Rat, drinking cheap vodka and hanging out in The Pit in Harvard Square. Having come from the Punk scene, labels and  designations were antithetic, that being the whole punk ethos-so it was sort of natural for me to get involved with a variegated music spectrum, though I did take a lot of heat from some punks over my love of Motown, Seals & Crofts, Michael Jackson, Guns n’ Roses-to name a few.  I think because I did not play an instrument my involvement with PornBelt was a bit different from the other band members. I just sort of showed up at gigs, it felt sort of happenstance. But, I loved writing lyrics. It felt great to capture a feeling or experience in a song. It was cathartic and I suppose therapeutic, to unload a torrent of emotion and weird ideas in lyric form. One of our songs was “Baby Sitter Fucker”, the idea for the song came to me when I was dating this guy that I kind of thought was a creep. It was as Oprah would say “An Aha moment”, I remember thinking- this guy, this dude that I am dating-he’s the kind of guy who would volunteer to drive the babysitter home after a date night and make the moves on a young girl, it was also inspired by the various indiscretions of the Kennedy family. The song “Covered Girl” was inspired by an experience with my father’s wife when I was about 12 years old, she told me I need to be demure if I wanted to get a man but that I was too tall anyway and guys don’t like tall girls (I’m 5’8, that’s not even tall). I am a picky eater so I wrote “portion cup” about my O.C.D. need to segment my food.”

-Merry

I would like to thank PornBelt for giving me everything I needed for this article and basically doing all the work for me! If you thirst for more PornBelt, check out their Facebook page.

If you or anyone you know has further information on the queer scene in Boston either past/present/or future, send me a line. Did you go to any of PornBelt’s shows? Tell me about it. Were you at other shows you wanna discuss? Got any pics, stickers, pins, pit-stained t-shirts, memories, or scars you wanna share? Do it. I want it all…give it to me. Please.

(Article by Tina Lafleur)