With two sharp albums out – 2013’s No Regerts and 2015’s Time To Go Home – and another freshly recorded, it was the perfect time for Chastity Belt’s inaugural Australian tour. Whilst here, the Seattle rock band hit up Wollongong’s Yours & Owls festival, a handful of sideshows and their fair share of coffee shops. We caught up at The Curtin before their second Melbourne show, talking over their chilled visit, Seattle love and the lessons learnt so far.
How has Australia been treating you so far?
Annie: Really good.
Gretchen: So good.
Julia: Yeah, it’s been a really chill tour. Six shows total.
Do you do more bam-bam-bam shows in the US?
In unison: Yeah!
Gretchen: It’s different in the US because we drive ourselves. We have to drive all day then play a show, and then do that seven nights in a row. But here we have all these days off. 0.50
Annie: Yeah, what do we do with ourselves?!
Gretchen: So relaxed. No long drives.
Lydia: Even the days where we fly, we get up at seven, and then get on a flight. We get to wherever we’re going by like ten in the morning, then we can nap for four hours and still have a full day. Really cool.
Have you done anything cool in Melbourne?
A: We went to Hanging Rock yesterday. We saw some gardens. We’re staying right across the street from a cemetery. We walked through the cemetery a bunch.
G: The dead centre! Lot of good energy there.
A: Found some good coffee shops. Went shopping.
G: Just exploring, nothing touristy really. We should look at down town one of these days.
If you’re a fan of dogs, there’s Princes Park.
A: Yeah, we walked through there.
G: Saw some cute dogs.
Yeah, I went for a run through there yesterday and I was trying to take my mind off how I can’t run by counting dogs. 34 in total.
Annie: That’s a good idea.
Australia actually came to you when you were supporting Courtney Barnett. HOw was that experience?
L: It was amazing. We had so much fun.
J: They were great.
L: Darren Hanlon was touring too, he was opening. We just became such good friends and loved hanging out together. Bunch of legends.
J: Bunch of legends.
And Did you catch Tame Impala at Bumbershoot?
L: I did try and catch a little side of stage.
J: I missed it. I think I heard them, didn’t really watch them.
L: I was actually getting my hair done while it was happening. You could get your hair done for free if you were playing.*laughter*
G: Styled! Not even cut!
A: You got it styled?!
L: Yeah, they wouldn’t cut it. They were like “sorry, we have to close up” but they gave me a gift certificate.
L: Yeah, it is cool. That festival lifestyle!
What do you love about Seattle, in general?
L: It’s really beautiful. It’s surrounded by a lake on one side, and two different lakes, and the sound comes in. And the people.
A: There’s always people to hang out with.
J: We love the people there. There’s a lot of people who like to hang out a lot, which is nice.
I read up on what you were saying about the DIY scene over there and what you were saying reminded me of the punk scene in Melbourne. There’s a lot of cross over, and people hang out and go to each others shows. What do you think really promotes that kind of environment?
L: Maybe it does have something to do with the weather, and forcing people to hang out inside. Like “what are we going to do inside together?”
J: I think it just not being as competitive too. In LA and New York people are –
A: Like trying to “make it”!
J: Yeah, people are more concerned with making it, whereas in Seattle people are just trying to enjoy themselves more. They’re less concerned with trying to get ahead. It’s way more supportive and less competitive.
And what makes you walk away from a show and think “that was a good show?”
G: Probably just the energy of the crowd.
J: Like a show that we played or a show we went to?
I guess more your show.
J: Energy of the crowd.
A: Energy of us, too.
G: How it feels onstage too. I’ll make sure I smile. I’ll know.
J: [It’s good] if I’m not concentrating so hard on other things. If it does feel natural.
A: It really does depend on the sound onstage for me.
J: If there’s bad sound I can feel really uncomfortable but that doesn’t happen that often.
Was there anything valuable you learnt from making Time To Go Home?
J: So much.
A: We learnt a lot. Like, don’t record when it’s cold *laughter*
J: Also just not giving up as creative control.
A: And trust your gut when something feels off.
L: Yeah, I feel like that’s a big one.
G: And not to worry about being too nice to people. Not that we’re going to be assholes to people –
J: Don’t worry about hurting people! *laughter*
A: But you know, it’s okay to say no to people, if it’s not what we want to do. Whereas I think earlier on it was like “they want to help us, we’ll do whatever you want, sounds good!” Whereas now we’re like “we want this.”
A: “Make it sound like this!”
L: And if they’re not getting it right, keep telling them that they’re not getting it right!
A: I feel in general, just being better at communicating and the people we’re working with.
I came across someone – it wasn’t in music but it was another self-promotional panel thing, and they were like “just say yes to everything!”
In unison: Nooooooo!
A: The worst advice!
Learning to say no is such an important thing for life in general.
J: I think saying yes to everything at first can be really good, at the very beginning.
A: Yeah, that’s actually really true.
J: But once you’ve had all those experiences, being like this is actually what we want.
A: In the beginning we were playing every show that we were offered. We were playing once or twice a week.
J: “You want to take a press photo of us? Okay! We’ll do whatever you want!” It was a nice little entry into music. But now we know what we want and we have learnt what we don’t want.
L: That’s how you get better.
I guess you have what some people would call a political edge to your lyrics, but other people might say your talking from a perspective that isn’t the dominant one in music. I have noticed on social people that has resonated with a lot of people. Did you think that would happen when you first started making music?
J: Not really. I don’t think we really thought that much about how other people would interpret our music. We weren’t really thinking about an audience.
L: We weren’t really expecting to have one.*laughter*
J: Yeah, even when we recorded Time To Go Home we weren’t on a label or anything. I guess we were on our friends label. We had pretty low expectations. So we just ended up writing what we wanted to write and not thinking that much about how it would be received.
I think that’s a good mindset. Freeing.
J: I think that’s why they say people’s sophomore albums are harder, when their first album’s a huge hit and the second album they’re thinking…
G: “What do my fans want?”
J: That kind of can screw everything up.
Cool. Just like thinking about your song ‘COOL SLUT’, are there any cool people in popular culture that you think really own their sexuality? My friend was straight up like “Tina from Bob’s Burgers!”
J: That’s cool.
A: Beyonce. Female comedians out there.
G: I guess Amy Schumer. I feel like Liz Phair’s first album.
J: Ground-breaking stuff for her time.
And finally, do you have any worldly advice for people looking to make music?
A: Work with people you love.
L: Yeah, but don’t get down on yourself if it’s not working out with people you love. You can’t make music with just anyone.
J: Be prepared to suck for a while, too.