Lauren West sings in New York punk act American Pinup. Here’s the story of how she got into Punk Rock and how it shaped her and her future.
My mom got me into punk rock. I know it sounds unusual, but it’s the truth. As a kid, I would listen to her stories of hanging out at CBGB’s and seeing bands like the Ramones and Siouxsie and the Banshees in utter awe. I can even remember crawling into the back of her closet as a toddler and examining the clothes covered in safety pins she had tucked away for safe keeping. I remember thinking it all just seemed really, really fun. Punk was always more about fun for me than it was about rebellion. I loved the idea of a close-knit, counter-cultural community where you could dye your hair crazy colors and dance like an idiot and play songs made up of three power chords and not be judged. What appealed to me most was the notion that you could carve out your own subculture within punk and do it on your own terms. And I think, even from a young age, I saw mainstream music and culture as little bit lazy, like you were just consuming things other people decided you should like, instead of putting more effort into developing your own taste, and thus, getting more out of it. This may have been a symptom of growing up in the ‘90s, but I think my mother’s history as a punk rocker egged me on.
I started listening to bands like Green Day and The Bouncing Souls when I was around ten, through lots of older cousins and hand-me-down records. I started looking for bands that no one else I knew listened to. I quickly branched out to all kinds of alternative music, from rockabilly to grunge and beyond. There was a good deal of solitude that came with this before I hit high school; I’m pretty sure most of my classmates in my small parochial thought being into punk meant you worshipped the devil. I didn’t really find a community until I discovered the local underground music scene in my area as a teenager, which was overflowing with talented and passionate people. That’s when I started playing guitar and decided to start a band. It took a long time for that band part to happen, partially because of my own lack of confidence starting out and partially because punk, let’s face it, can be a boys’ club. I definitely had to fight my way into a few jam sessions.
I think people who can claim that punk, on some level, shaped them as a person take its definition for granted, and rightfully so. Facing that challenge of being taken seriously as a musician by the males around me who also played music not only made me a more assertive person, but also a better songwriter, and I owe a lot of gratitude to these roots for that. The punk community has fostered what I consider to be some of my biggest strengths, while also giving me this wonderful sense of kinship, and that’s something you don’t turn your back on. Those days of going to shows every weekend and jamming in my friends’ basements were thoroughly formative for me, and to this day the sound of feedback is weirdly comforting. I think it’s something you can’t quite put into words, but we all know.