Interview w/ Chastity Belt


Chastity Belt’s candid, satirical, and socially perceptive bow draw is one of self-referential sincerity. The band – Julia Shapiro, Gretchen Grimm, Lydia Lund, and Annie Truscott – hum, carve, and roar across their latest LP, Time to Go Home, with a confident gait and bittersweet humor – Julia’s lyrics are punctuated with a profoundly honest, uncompromising texture that grinds the rails between elation and cultural exhaustion. Paired with a distinct and instantly recognizable delivery, the band, now signed to Hardly Art, is one of the most important groups to be pressing music. In advance of their March 2nd show with Protomartyr and Octagrape at the Soda Bar, we spoke with Julia about everything from social media to Lydia’s famous couch.


Rob Patrick: I don’t think I’ve seen another band do such an excellent job with social media. Do you think that an artist, modernly, could be successful without Twitter, Facebook, and so on?

Julia Shapiro: I’m not sure. With [Chastity Belt] it’s mostly me and Gretchen making the updates – it’s just our personalities. But for a band I don’t think it’s necessary to do social media.


To me, “Joke” is like nothing the band has done before. There is a terrific, moving instrumental breakdown at the tail end of the song that is elegant, sad, and hypnotic. What was the writing process like on that song?

That was the first song written on the album. It’s a pretty old one at this point. We started with the intro bassline, and then we worked in the guitar after that. We wanted the song to have a jam at the end, where Lydia and I sort of trade off playing. She worked around a solo that I came up with – I tried super hard not to make it sound like a gross dude solo. We wanted to keep it kind of interesting and weird. We played it over and over again until we found something good.


That has to be fun to play live, though, I imagine.

Yeah, it’s a lot of fun. And we even started to even add onto the jam at the end during live shows.


The band has had both of their records released on vinyl. What’s your take on the reemergence of that medium?

I think it’s nice. There’s something special about owning a physical copy of a record you really like. For me, sometimes looking at Spotify I’ll say, “I don’t know what to listen to.” But then, if I look at my collection of records, it’s a lot easier. Vinyl has a better sound, definitely. And it’s nice for bands to have something to sell on the road.


Speaking of Spotify, what are your feelings, as an artist, about that app? And does it have a permanent place in music?

I think there’s no point in fighting. It’s shitty for artists in some ways, and it’s especially shitty for popular artists like Taylor Swift – she could be losing a lot of money if her music was on Spotify. But for artists that aren’t necessarily known, like us, I feel like it’s a great way to discover new music. So that’s cool. But it would also be nice if we made money [laughs].


Yeah, I feel bad about having a Spotify premium because some artists are pretty upset about that company.

[laughs] No, you shouldn’t feel bad about that. I have a Spotify premium account. It’s very convenient, and I like to make playlists on there. But it would be cool if Spotify, as a corporation, wouldn’t get all of that money. There should be some laws put into place that are a little more fair to artists.


Hardly Art is pretty rad. What has your experience with them been like so far?

It has been great. I love all of the bands on there. There’s just three people that run Hardly Art, and we get along really well with them. They’re super nice and helpful. And they are pretty hands off – they give us a lot of creative space and say. It’s convenient that they’re located in Seattle, so we can stop by the office whenever we want.


I keep saying that they need to sell Colleen Green wayfarers.

Yeah, those would be great. I would purchase those.


Now that Lydia’s couch – we spoke about this a little last time – has made it into a music video and onto the cover of Time to Go Home, is it safe to say that it’s an unofficial fifth member of the band?

[laughs] It’s definitely a mascot. Yeah, it’s still in my house. I think at this point we can never get rid of that couch.


If lyrical maverick Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast came to you and said, “Hey, Julia, let me ghostwrite a song for you”. What would be your reaction?

[laughs] I would be like, “no.”


[laughs] Wow, you’re really curt about that. Just a flat out no?

[laughs] We just have different lyrical methods, I guess. That one song – how does it go? – “I wish you were my boyfriend”. My other band, Childbirth, has a song called “Breast Coast”, which is making fun of Best Coast. I like her songs, but her lyrics are so dumb.


Do you think she knows that, going in? Like, she wakes up in the morning and says to herself, “I’m going to write some terrible lyrics today?

I think she must know. I think she’s like, “yeah, I’ll keep it simple – whatever.” It’s funny to me.


There is some resignation and contempt for party life in your newest record. Those topics aren’t really touched on too often in music. Why do you think that is?

I don’t know. It seems like it’s touched on in pop culture – or at least with me and my friends. I guess I haven’t heard it that often in music – I’m not sure why that is. A lot of people like to write about love. That’s a popular topic, but I think what you brought up will start becoming a talked about subject, because it’s a relevant one for people of my age.


I’m covering your show at the Soda Bar on March 2nd. What headline should I use for that article?

Oh God, I’m not sure if I can think of something.


It’s okay; even if it’s the worst title ever, I’ll use it.

[laughs] “Give These Bands Money”


[laughs] Okay, that works – straight to the point. What is the one question that you get asked during interviews that you wish would stop?

There are so many. I guess “what’s it like being a girl in a band?”


What? That’s a real thing, in real life, that people ask?

Oh yeah, definitely. And then basic questions that we get asked all of the time, like, “how did you get your name?” or “how did you form?” Stuff that we don’t need to be asked over and over again. Oh, actually, my least favorite question is “any fun tour stories?”


That’s a plug-and-play question that you can ask anyone. Anything else you want to tell San Diegans?

We’re touring in the UK in May, but I don’t know why anyone in San Diego would care [laughs]


You can check out Chastity Belt on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Author: Rob Patrick

The program director of the Olympia Film Society, Rob is also a former San Diego Film Critics Society member. He has written for The East County Californian, The Alpine Sun, The East County Herald, The San Diego Entertainer, and the San Diego Reader. When he isn't curating a film festival, he is drinking rosé out of a plastic cup in Seattle or getting tattoos from Jenn Champion.

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