Grimy distortion, guttural drums, resolute vocals and guitars with megalodon-like power (we’re not even being hyperbolic). Lisa Harrison and Lexi McCoy of Bearcats create chaotic harmonies that bay, thump, and brawl. Basically, they’re rad – why bury the lead? With their latest release, “Break Up Stories“, the band confiscates any notion of placidity and delivers one of the best EPs of 2016. We interviewed the super cool two-piece from California about human rights, DIY culture, and, most importantly, California burritos.
Cinema Spartan: There’s an electric, intensely personal sound and cohesion to a two-piece that’s lost with the addition of more band members, more moving parts. When you formed Bearcats, was that something you both discussed in relation to your approach and sound?
Lisa: We may have talked about adding a guitarist for a minute but we thought that the dynamic we were already working with didn’t need it. Once I got the bass tone we needed to fill that space, and we started blending vocals, we were off and running as a two-piece and we never looked back.
“Break Up Stories” is grimy, unrelenting, and coolly rad but it still maintains an undercurrent of levity and fun. Was it important that you bridge the two when recording the EP?
Lexi: I guess it’s something that we didn’t really think about too much. I feel like it’s kind of just who we are, we’re serious about our music and have a lot of songs about darker topics, but anytime we’re together we have fun and want to make music people can dance to.
For a time in November, you donated all of the money the band made through digital downloads to Planned Parenthood. With one of our most important institutions becoming maliciously attacked, what can we do as a society to stop this shit?
Lexi: That’s kind of a tough one, and honestly there’s so much anyone can do from protesting to donating to volunteering or calling representatives and things like that. But I think one of the most important things is for people to use their voices and come together to share their stories and experiences.
In an interview with Louder Than War, the band said that DIY culture is important – and I completely agree. With that very community, philosophy and space coming under fire recently, what can musicians and supporters of the arts do to support live music?
Lisa: It’s important to stay positive when it comes to this, we’ve seen some of our favorite DIY spots shut down in the past couple years. What we can do is continue to support active venues, organize events for those in jeopardy and try to gain better community support for venues like these.
The cassettes for Bearcats’ “Break Up Stories” are amazing looking. I’m super thrilled that tapes are being made again. How has the renewed joy in owning physical media affected touring artists?
Lexi: Thank you! Since tapes are gaining popularity, lots of people collect them now and they are such an affordable way to support an artist. I started collecting tapes last year and now when I see a band I like that’s selling them, I usually always buy one. It makes it accessible for people to support an artist for just a few dollars.
Lisa: I love seeing tapes again, we always offer free CDs at shows for those who don’t have cassette players but those people usually pick up a cassette to collect for the artwork and to support the band. I always pick one up if they are offered and have a nice collection going, my fiance and I found a great old stereo system with an awesome cassette player and it really does sound better than anything digital.
Chastity Belt, Lisa Prank, Tacocat and so many others in Seattle are keeping their PNW music community safe, fun, and creative in such a dour time. From California to New York, bands and artists are following suit. Do you think a heightened level of unity from musicians is, now more than ever, important to keep dialogue going during a tenuous political climate?
Lexi: Yeah I really do! One of my favorite parts of being in a band is meeting so many amazing people who are making incredible music. Like I said before, I think coming together to express ourselves and support one another is really powerful, and I know that we as a band want to be a part of that, especially with what’s going on politically.
Lisa: Of course. Our best experiences have been when a strong sense of unity is felt between bands we try hard to keep that vibe wherever we go. We’ve met so many amazing and talented people along the way, I feel like we have home bases in many of the cities we’ve traveled to.
Your cover of “Merry Christmas, I Don’t Wanna Fight Tonight” is so good. Will you ever consider releasing a Christmas album or EP in the future? Asking for everybody.
Lexi: Ha thank you! The answer is most likely no, I hate most Christmas music except the song we covered. I absolutely love Cassie Ramone’s “Christmas in Reno” album though, but I’m not sure we could pull it off like Cassie did. I was actually inspired by her to cover a Christmas song and even used a drum machine because she did in her cover of “Run Run Rupolph”.
I’ve listened to “Keeping the Score”, off of your Candy EP, at least seventy times today. From the production to the use of vocal samples, there is such a rad and layered complexity going on. What went into writing and recording that particular song?
Lexi: That’s so nice! Lisa wrote the song, and Max Brebes (who recorded it) really transformed it on the EP by adding all the layers and vocal samples. We let him do whatever he wanted with it and he did an excellent job — we were both super happy with it.
Lisa: I wrote that song about my divorce and it has a real raw feeling to it. Max Brebes recorded and mixed it for us. He added a lot of depth to the vocal melodies. We actually pick up the tempo on that one when we play it live now; it’s quite faster. If we ever re-record anything it would be the faster version of that one.
As musicians, what is an album that changed the way you look at music?
Lexi: I would say the first Sonic Youth album I ever listened to which was “Dirty,” but also just Sonic Youth as a band in general. I was a TA in high school and the teacher had me listen to it one day when he didn’t have any work for me to do. I felt like I had never listened to music that was so powerful and beautiful. It shook me up inside. When I heard “Drunken Butterfly” I immediately fell in love Kim Gordon and she changed the way I look at music. She just solidified to me that, as a woman and musician, I can do what I want and be what I want and sing how I want. Lisa and I got to see her perform at Burger a Go Go a few years ago and we both just stood there in awe the entire time, it was incredible.
Lisa: Honestly I would say Daft Punk all the way. My fiance really turned me onto them. It’s not what I usually reach for. I started with their EDM stuff and found it really uplifting and fun. They are such complete musicians and composers that evolve with every recording that they make. I love the masks and the anonymity that they strive for: it’s really unique in the music business to see that. I think “Random Access Memories” is a masterpiece, and I can’t wait to see what they do next.
Finally, Dude York made fun of California burritos recently. As Californians, do we defend ourselves about this topic or nah?
Lexi: haha I love Dude York!! I think adding french fries or potatoes to anything is an excellent idea. I’d love to go out for burritos with Dude York and discuss further.