There’s a moment in all of our lives where we learn of the great injustices around us and decide what we’re going to do about it on a personal level, you could sum it up as, to conform or not to conform. Le Butcherettes—Teri Gender Bender [vocals/guitar/piano], Chris Common [drums], and Jamie Aaron [bass]—examine that push-and-pull on their third full-length album, A Raw Youth [Ipecac Recordings]. For Teri, you can either embrace that youthful spirit of individual rebellion or be crushed under the gears of society’s oppressors.
“We can all be free if we want to,” she declares. “You take those transmissions and become A Raw Youth or a part of that oppressive society. Youth doesn’t mean young. It’s the essence of being resilient against so many of life’s struggles. In every decade or era, there’s always a rebel who gives inspiration for the poets to write about. That person holds the light. These songs tell those tales.”
If anyone’s fit to relay these stories, it’s Teri. Since first releasing Le Butcherettes’ Sin, Sin, Sin, in 2011, the Guadalajara-born and now El Paso-based punk prophet songstress has sent shockwaves throughout the music world at large. Childhood heroes like Garbage singer Shirley Manson and Henry Rollins have been eager collaborators with Rollins dubbing her “a star” in a Los Angeles Times’ article and routinely playing the band on his KCRW show. With 2014’s Cry Is For The Flies, the group elevated their game once again, with NPR saying the album is “as gorgeous as it is restless, dense and dark” and saying of Teri, “She’s always been a remarkable musician and vocalist, but she reaches new heights here.”
On the road, Le Butcherettes have proven immediately unforgettable, uncontainable, and untethered. At Coachella, Teri climbed the scaffolding mid-set and dangled upside down by her legs without missing a beat, during a recent outing with Faith No More she shimmied across the club floor on her belly without interruption, and alongside the Melvins, she seamlessly climbed a nearby bar, dancing over patrons’ drinks as she danced her way through Le Butcherettes’ set. Her enthralling and utterly captivating stage presence is a throwback to the early days of punk rock, where there were no rules and no playbook.
It’s no wonder Le Butcherettes’ fans are often some of music’s biggest names. The band’s performances at Lollapalooza, Fun Fun Fun Fest and the aforementioned Coachella have left onlookers stunned and enthralled and become those of legend, as an LA Weekly writer said, “There was a moment we locked eyes. I was genuinely frightened.” The Los Angeles Times said “the reckless antics would be just that if the music wasn’t also incendiary, where every rant or tear shed is amplified for its maximum emotional venom.” SF Weekly proclaimed Teri “a feral tour de force” and WXPN extolled her as “one of music’s most singular presences.”
Following the initial whirlwind of touring behind Cry Is For The Flies, Teri experienced an epiphany while in Japan. After her first tour in the country, she spent a month there, immersing herself within the culture and its idiosyncrasies. It felt worlds away from her native Mexico as well as her sometime home of Los Angeles. “I got really inspired,” she admits. “It’s such a beautiful country. You don’t fear for your life. Everything’s on time. Nothing is ever late. If you lose your wallet on the street, you go back to the police station, and they most likely have it there. There’s an incredible sense of community. It completely works, and you feel safe. It’s the opposite of Latin culture where everything is last minute.”
With that idea of community weighing heavy on her mind, she entered RLP Studios (The Morgue Portable Disaster Unit) in El Paso, Texas with longtime producer Omar Rodriguez Lopez. After two frenetic weeks, the band emerged with the wildly energetic, nefariously catchy, and cinematically warped A Raw Youth. Album opener ‘Shave The Pride’ teeters between a kinetic guitar buzz and a sizzling call-to-arms chorus. “It’s about how sometimes it’s better to just put away your inner ego to serve a higher purpose,” explains Teri. “If everyone here would stop being so vicious, rotten, envious, and swallow their pride, the world we be so much better. We all need to tame ourselves for the common good.”
Later on the album, ‘They Fuck You Over’ brings things full circle for Teri who penned the initial framework of the song at only 16-years-old. “It’s really the story of the band,” she goes on. “Back in Guadalajara, there was so much corruption and jealousy in the music scene. We got stabbed in the back so many times. It was about how hard it is to start a band and keep true to your vision with everyone trying to hold you back.” The record continues a tradition of collaboration with iconic guitarist John Frusciante adding a psychedelic swoon to record closer ‘My Half.’ She smiles, “We had a nice hang session at his house, listening to records, playing music, drinking tea, and watching Amy Schumer after.”
Meanwhile, previous tour mate Iggy Pop adds a gritty sense of savoir faire to the gnashing vaudevillian stomp of ‘La Uva.’ Teri adds, “Music is a portal. It opens up people’s hearts to where you can become friends. After a show, Iggy invited us backstage, and we started speaking Spanish. He encouraged me to keep doing things outside of music. Then, he showed us around South Beach. He blessed the track with something special.”
Le Butcherettes certainly represent that spirit of A Raw Youth as Teri defines it. So, when she’s most free on stage, what does she see? “Every once in a while, I’ll hear my father’s voice,” she says. “He passed away a long time ago, but I can feel like he’s there. It’s this intense freedom that allows for that. I hope everyone can share in it as a community any time we play.”