In the wake of the disastrous results of last year’s presidential election in the United States, there were more than a handful of people who took solace in the fact that at least having a sexist, xenophobic, probably racist, certainly narcissistic megalomaniac at the helm of our nation would make for some good, old-fashioned angry protest punk rock. Now that we’re at about six months P.E. (post election), we’re starting to see the musical fruits of that fateful national decision and learning that that solace was not hollow by any stretch of the imagination. With the recent release of the their sophomore album, Warriors, Bad Cop / Bad Cop are among the first out of the gate in the punk rock Trump era and have set the bar incredibly high for those that will follow in their footsteps.
The California-based four-piece all-female “freight train of ‘fuck yeah!’” that is otherwise known as Bad Cop / Bad Cop were on a nationwide tour with The Interrupters in the lead up to, and immediate aftermath from, the aforementioned election. Knowing that they were due to head into the studio immediately upon completion of tour, it became obvious pretty quickly exactly what direction the new album would take. Says Jennie Cotterill, one of the band’s two guitarists/lead vocalists and principal songwriters, “We kind of made a conscious decision to make this more meaningful than fun — not that there’s anything wrong with fun — but we wanted to really talk about issues that were important to everybody.”
If the question of what to say was pretty apparent from the beginning, the question of how to say it was a little trickier. While the pull for a punk rock band might be to attack an administration in a relentlessly in-your-face manner, the Bad Cop / Bad Cop crew opted to try to pull people in toward at least having conversations, rather than just pushing them away. Says Cotterill: “the reaction to this extreme situation is extreme. But then, when you go extreme, you lose people in the middle.” While the punk scene was still in its infancy forty years ago when Joey Ramone poked some tongue-in-cheek fun at the certain faction within this little world that seems hell-bent on simply being against everything, though that element still remains. “We talked about…how are we going to do this and what are we going to say, because we don’t want to alienate people,” says Cotterill. “Having productive conversation is more important than just saying “I’m against you!” Once there’s a physical line, that’s where people stop listening, and I really don’t care to do that.”
And let’s face it; we’ve all got friends (or parents, or friends’ parents, or at least that one uncle) whose beliefs remain about as diametrically opposed to our own as possible, in spite of what should be overwhelming commonality. “(As we were writing) I kept thinking about this one friend that I have that is real right thinking,” explains Cotterill’s co-frontwoman and partner-in-crime, Stacey Dee. “We grew up together, and I won’t give up on this guy because at the end of the day, I know we get along. We’re coming from the same fucking place in life. I know that his search is one of health and positivity and happiness, so at the end of the day, you can’t be fucking hateful when you’re positive and happy.” And while a more in-your-face approach might be appropriate for some — Bad Cop / Bad Cop favorites and co-Warped Tourmates War On Women for example — there’s room at the table for different approaches. Says Cotterill: “War On Women is great if you’re woke, but there’ a lot of people that aren’t woke… I think that our platform is hoping to rope the unsuspecting listener into a conversation.”
With that in mind, the band recruited their frequent producer Davey Warsop (Dave Hause, Foo Fighters), took a little creative input from their label boss, the one-and-only Fat Mike Burkett, and put out the first truly defining album of the Trump presidency. While’s it’s got an obvious progressive bent to it, to call it a political album is a bit of a mistake. “No one political belief will sum up who you are as a human being on this planet,” says Dee. Like her fellow sisters-in-arms, Dee takes seriously her role as a conduit for change and for building bridges. “The truth is, entertainment is going to be the way to reach across the aisle, because people on the other side that are going to be racist or whatever are going to see something in somebody, whether it be an actor or a musician or whatever, and they’re going to say “fuck, I can’t deny that. I like that person.”
Cotterill and Dee alike have seen the tide shift at its most basic level, taking note of positive changes even though they might be slow to come to pass. Cotterill remembers a sense of bewilderment when marriage equality first came on the ballot in California in 2008. “(At first) I was like ‘of course it’s going to pass because people aren’t that awful.’ And then it didn’t pass and I was crushed. But then Iowa passed it (the following year)…And we think we’re the ones that are so progressive.” By the time the California Supreme Court finally overturned Proposition 8 five years later, the tide had long-since turned and a clear majority of California voters were in favor of same-sex marriage protections. “Really conservative people felt that it was a victory (the first time around),” says Cotterill, quickly pointing out that “everybody else was like “I never thought about it until right now.”
While the bulk of Warriors consists of material aimed not only at the current political system but the overarching nature of American society circa 2017 as well, there are still a handful of moments that are not merely a little more personal, but that are personal in a way that is stomach-punchingly honest and raw and without any shred of pretense. Album closer “Brain Is for Lovers,” for example, deals head on with Cotterill’s feelings surrounding the suicide of a longtime friend and former band mate. The chorus of “Brain…” relays a sentiment that’s not overly common in songs that are ultimately about grief and loss and remembrance. “(That song) was about someone who was a really good friend of mine and committed suicide about a year ago and I was so worked up about that song that I couldn’t even talk about it,” explains Cotterill. Dee, herself the author of another of the album’s more powerful and personal tracks, “Retrograde,” (more on that in a minute) sounds particularly proud of her Cotterill’s work on “Brain Is For Lovers”: “It was gnarly! But where we got to in the end, and the way that Jennie pushed through, her voice is fucking killer! She was pissed that she had to do it, but it came out fucking great. Sometimes you have to see the forest through the trees!”
Oh, so about the above-mentioned track, “Retrograde.” Frequent readers of these pages may recall last year’s in-depth sit-down we had with Dee in which she opened up about her battles with drug addiction and her subsequent journey out of that particularly dark era of her life. This made for a notoriously difficult experience when it came time to write music after finding sobriety: “As I got older and as I got sober over the last couple years, my writing hasn’t been like it used to be. I was predominantly negative, and negative stuff comes out when you’re negative.” Album-opener “Retrograde” reclaims Dee’s place as a songwriting powerhouse, telling the story of a woman grappling her own demons in kick-ass, unapologetic fashion. It’s also a song that Fat Wreck co-founder Erin Burkett is particularly fond of: “To me, it’s about finding your inner strength, and re-inventing yourself. Stacey wrote this about her battle with drugs and alcohol; however, addiction takes on all forms. Sometimes being addicted to behaviors or people can be just as damaging, and the only way to overcome any of it is to realize, that all the power is yours. No one else is going to fix you.”
Fat Wreck Chords, the label founded by Burkett and her now-ex-husband Fat Mike more than a quarter century ago remains a pillar of the independent music community in large part because of the family environment that they’ve created and fostered over that period of time. As all too many people know, it can be devastatingly painful to watch a family member struggle their way through an active addiction. Burkett elaborates on this particular situation: “I have to say that I am so proud of Stacey. She was in a very dark place on our FAT 25 year anniversary tour, and the band ended up having to leave the tour, possibly breaking up for good. Over the years, we have put a lot of band members through rehab, but it’s up the individual to do the work. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Looking yourself in the mirror and not liking what you see is a very hard thing to overcome. Stacey has come back better and stronger and pissed off and ready to change the world. These four woman have really gelled as a band, and found their voice together. It’s awesome.”
The tide may be turning in a more positive and encouraging direction both for the band and for society as a whole again, but as the Bad Cop/Bad Cop ladies note, it won’t do so without education and hard work. That we’re at a point where a group of four women who are not, as Cotterill states it, “twenty-anythings,” is a bit of a light in the darkness in and of itself. “For people to like us as women in our thirties and forties is fucking killer,” explains Dee. “We definitely have something to say and stand by, and I think we have to lead this revolution!”
Warriors was obviously released last Friday (June 16th) on Fat Wreck. Bad Cop / Bad Cop are playing the duration of this year’s Warped Tour, which also kicked off last Friday in Seattle; head here for info on your local stop!
Head below to check out our email exchange with the one-and-only Erin Burkett and the text of our far-reaching and in-depth chat with Dee and Cotterill below!
DS Email Exchange with Erin Burkett
Dying Scene (Jay Stone): I liked Not Sorry when it came out a couple years ago, and I still think it’s a solid album. But Warriors seems different; from the first listen, it really sounds like an important, bad ass album that moves the goalposts not just for them as a band, but for all bands in Trump’s America. Am I right in feeling that way?
Erin Burkett: Absolutely. I think this record really shows how much they’ve matured as a band. It’s raw, gritty, and emotionally charged, yet somehow completely polished at the same time. These four women are able to tackle subject matters that make your blood boil — like misogyny, oppression, and child abuse — yet, somehow make you wanna dance at the same time. That’s talent.
Warriors has a pretty good mix of personal, reflective songs (“Brain Is For Lovers,” “Kids”) and broader, societal critiques (“Warriors,” “Womanarchist”). Do you have a song that’s a particular favorite or that you think is pretty powerful?
There are so many songs on this record that speak to me personally…as a woman, as a mother, as a business owner in a male-dominated industry. I think the song that I relate to the most is Retrograde. To me, it’s about finding your inner strength, and re-inventing yourself. Stacey wrote this about her battle with drugs and alcohol; however, addiction takes on all forms. Sometimes being addicted to behaviors or people can be just as damaging, and the only way to overcome any of it is to realize, that all the power is yours. No one else is going to fix you.
“Retrograde” obviously deals head-on with Stacey coming out of a pretty dark period or her life, which she and I talked about at length in an interview last year. As a friend, and I guess as a boss, what was it like for you to go through that not only with her but with the Jennie, Linh and Myra? Does that fact that they’ve made it out the other side make Warriors that much more compelling?
Firstly, I have to say that I am so proud of Stacey. She was in a very dark place on our FAT 25 year anniversary tour, and the band ended up having to leave the tour, possibly breaking up for good. Over the years, we have put a lot of band members through rehab, but it’s up the individual to do the work. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Looking yourself in the mirror and not liking what you see is a very hard thing to overcome. Stacey has come back better and stronger and pissed off and ready to change the world. These four woman have really gelled as a band, and found their voice together. It’s awesome.
I had Warriors on repeat last weekend, and it caught my daughter’s nine-year-old ear to the extent that she asked both my wife and I questions about the individual songs and subject matter and the album’s overall message, which is a pretty proud moment as a parent. Do you still get moments like that with Darla? And, do you still get those sort of proud parent moments when a younger Fat Wreck band (whether it’s BC/BC or someone else) writes a great song or puts out an important album or has a big career moment?
Absolutely! I hate to use the “F” word again, because I feel like it’s on repeat whenever I talk about FAT, but we really are a family based label. I love watching the process of a band growing from a few kids at a house party, to playing at festivals, to opening up for one of their favorite bands. There is this inner thrill that makes you feel fifteen again when you find a band that’s just starting out and they make you feel crazy and angry and invincible. And then to be able to have some small part in sharing that feeling with the world is awesome…especially when you are a forty-something like me.
Dying Scene Interview with Jennie Cotterill and Stacey Dee
(trimmed and edited for readability’s sake)
Dying Scene (Jay Stone): So I think I sent both of you messages individually last week about how I’ve pretty much had Warriors on continuous repeat for the better part of a week, and, I took a very informal poll of the small handful of people that I knew that have heard the album so far, and it seems to have a spot in everyone’s year-end top-five album lists locked down so far.
And I’m honestly not just saying that.
Jennie Cotterill: Wow…
Stacey Dee: That’s so awesome!
It feels like this is an important album. And I know that’s probably a weird thing to for you guys to say because it’s your own music, but at what point did it start to feel to you like you guys were really onto something here with album number two?
Jennie: We had other stuff kind of in mind, but when we got home from the Interrupters tour, the election had just happened, and we just thought we had to do something else. We kind of made a conscious decision to make this more meaningful than fun — not that there’s anything wrong with fun — but we wanted to really talk about issues that were important to everybody. Our producer, Davey (Warsop), kind of asked that.
Stacey: He wrote us when we were on the road and said “what are some political statements that you think you could say right now?”. One of the things that I wrote back to him immediately was “my choice, my vagina, my Great Wall of China.” (*all laugh*) He remembered that when I went to his house, and that’s pretty much how “Womanarchist” got formed, from us talking about that stuff.
When did you really start writing for the album? Was it really not until after the Interrupters tour (which wrapped right around Thanksgiving of last year)?
Stacey: Jenn had some ideas already, like “Why Change A Thing.” We knew we were going to do “Change,” but we didn’t write it together.
Jennie: I brought…(pauses)…I wrote a lot over the last couple years, and the only things that stuck are obviously what’s on the record. Anything that wasn’t very important to me or political didn’t make it, and that’s okay, you know what I mean? And then obviously, we had a pretty aggressive production situation where —
Stacey: — it wasn’t easy to make the record!
Jennie: It wasn’t! It wasn’t like “what do you guys want to do? That’s fine.” It was like “we’re going to dissect EVERYTHING!” That was different…
Stacey: Yeah, that was different for us. It’s never easy to have your stuff picked apart by other people and put back together. I used to have a hard time with that, but as I got older and as I got sober over the last couple years, my writing hasn’t been like it used to be. I was predominantly negative, and negative stuff comes out when you’re negative. That’s a lot of what I wrote. So I was like “guys, I need help.” I told the band and I told Davey and I told (Fat) Mike that I needed fucking help; I told them “I have some ideas and I need to throw them at you” and luckily they helped me build it into what we have. But it was definitely pulled apart. Letting other people in is hard, but I think it’s turned out for the best, for everybody.
Jennie: Yeah. And I was in a weird spot when we were recording and wasn’t mentally in the right place for that. I know that I resisted a lot of production — and that was an unfortunate mistake on my part. But at the same time, some of the stuff, like the last song on the record was about someone who was a really good friend of mine and committed suicide about a year ago and I was so worked up about that song that I couldn’t even talk about it.
Stacey: Seriously, she couldn’t talk about it. When we tried to give ideas —
Jennie: — I just would shut down and start crying.
Stacey: It was gnarly! But where we got to in the end, and the way that Jennie pushed through, her voice is fucking killer! She was pissed that she had to do it, but it came out fucking great. Sometimes you have to see the forest through the trees.
Jennie: Oh yeah. Now that we’re not dealing with it, that was probably the most uncomfortable professional time that I’ve ever had, and that includes working for a boss that fucking hated me.
Stacey: We had just come off a two-month tour and went directly into writing and recording in a very short amount of time.
Jennie: And not just the tour, coming off the fucking election, I broke up with my partner at the same time, and it was the holidays, and being broke at the holidays is depressing.
Stacey: And then being forced to work. And in LA it was raining, but we had to get up and come over here (to Jennie’s house) because we had work to do, or get up to San Francisco to work with Mike. Mike started taking such an interest in it and became really interested in the harmonies and wrote some killer shit. I’m really excited that he got so excited about this record, because he knew that the songs were there and the melodies were there and he just wanted it to be better than just average. He thinks that this could be a real classic record which is just…like, what?!?
Yeah, I think he’s exactly right. If we can just back up for a second, you were just talking about the last song on the album. People don’t know this yet, but it’s called “Brain Is For Lovers” and it is a killer song, and it’s a total punch in the stomach. I think it’s sort of a different perspective on remembering somebody who took their own life, and it seems like there’s anger there. It’s not just a memorial for the person, but there’s a lot of anger at what that person did. That’s got to be a hard song to have to tap back into when you’re playing it live. Have you processed having to do that yet?
Jennie: I don’t know. Sometimes when I think about it I can’t handle it and I start crying. I’m not angry…(pauses)
Stacey: It’s really mournful.
Jennie: I’m just sad. I knew he was sad for a long time, and it did surprise me but it also didn’t surprise me. I don’t know…we’re not playing it live right now.
Stacey: We have to though. It sounds powerful.
It does have a really, really powerful, forceful sound to it that I would imagine would just kill live.
Stacey: For sure. We should be playing it.
Jennie: Um…yeah…I’m not angry. I know people do things for different reasons. I don’t know, I just wish people wouldn’t do that, but I know it is their choice.
Stacey: The sad thing is that people who are suicidal and are that sad have not gotten a chance to untwist that stuff and to figure out how to be happy. Happiness doesn’t exist when you’re that far down that path. I’ve had a lot of friends who have killed themselves but…some people just can’t make it out, man. They just can’t.
When I say anger, I think what I mean is specifically the last lines in the chorus — “I’m sorry you felt so alone / but you were wrong / I was with you.” Maybe anger is the wrong word, but I don’t feel like that’s an emotion or a perspective that really gets sung about with that much heart.
Jennie: In hindsight, I hadn’t seen him in a while. We went to a show together, but before that it had been a couple years. That in and of itself was kind of weird. I sorta told myself that it was because he wanted to be a private person, but I knew that sometimes people are being private because they are hurting. I think now that maybe he was feeling left behind by a lot of things — we had a band together years ago, we used to live together, and he was really excited about the things that we’re doing in Bad Cop, and I just don’t know if he knew how much I thought about him which was, like, all the time! You know what I mean? I don’t contact people a lot, but I think about them all the time. So that was a weird thing to think about.
…Sorry I turned the interview heavy right at the start.
Stacey: But it’s a heavy song, so that’s okay! I think that a lot of it — and don’t get me wrong Jenn — but more of what that emotion was behind that was like, “I’m sorry that you felt so alone, but you were wrong, I was ALWAYS with you. I’m mad that you did this, but you were wrong. My spirit was ALWAYS with you. I am ALWAYS thinking about you. I LOVED you.”
Jennie: Yeah! Still now, it’s weird. I do think about him…but then there’s like this weird extra thing where it’s like “Oh, Brian” but then I have to suppress that.
Stacey: I hate that! Totally!
Jennie: I hate it. It’s the worst. (*sighs*)
Well…let’s move from heavy personal stuff to heavy societal and political stuff? (*all laugh*) I think the last time that Stacey and I talked up in Boston, the interview itself posted either the night before the election or the night of the election or something like that – my memory is a little foggy there. Obviously the results of the election are sort of a thread that is woven throughout the album; I hate to use the gender labels, but do you feel that as a group of women specifically that you had to take a public stand to say that this was wrong and that we don’t have to put up with it?
Stacey: Not only that, but there’s a rise of women right now that is taking life back without apologies, and I think we’re part of that.
Jennie: I got to see Alice Bag at Punk Rock Bowling; our friend Candace (Hansen) drums for her. I was almost crying — I know I keep talking about crying in this interview (*all laugh*) — but I’ve never seen a fifty-year-old woman screaming in the faces of 200 people about being angry about political bullshit and racist bullshit and sexist bullshit and general patriarchal oppression. She plays with an entirely queer band, and she just going to kick you in the face if you’re a piece of shit. We don’t get to see women that are adult —
Stacey: Yeah, women in their fifties getting to do that, and having a say, wouldn’t have happened even ten years ago. It’s just unapologetic.
Jennie: Yeah, I just feel like women that are public figures outside of the weird fetishized sexual age – you can be a mom, or you can be a bitch, or you can be an old lady. There’s nothing else for you to be, and there’s no other visibility. But I feel like there is more visibility now, and I think that’s what people might be responding to when we do things. We are not twenty-anythings, and nobody is like “I know why you guys are a band; because somebody wanted a picture of you in your bikinis.”
Stacey: For people to like us as women in our thirties and forties is fucking killer. We definitely have something to say and stand by, and I think we have to lead this revolution, Jason.
Jennie: I think it’s all about visibility, and that visibility is getting better. I know that Netflix has an algorithm, but my entire Netflix suggested feed is like “People Of Color” and “Women” and stuff like that. Seriously, how can you still be racist or whatever now when this is what entertainment looks like?
Stacey: The truth is, entertainment is going to be the way to reach across the aisle, because people on the other side that are going to be racist or whatever are going to see something in somebody, whether it be an actor or a musician or whatever, and they’re going to say “fuck, I can’t deny that. I like that person.” You know what I mean?
Jennie: I just saw (“The Big Sick”) with Dinesh from “Silicon Valley” (actor Kumail Nanjiani), who’s a Pakistani guy who falls for a white girl, and I was just like “right on, Judd Apatow!” I mean, it was mostly a white cast, but it did..
Stacey: “This Is 40” was great. Even “Knocked Up,” with her going to the club with her sister and him being like “you’re old as shit, I can’t let you in,” and her being like “fuck you, doorman, doorman.” She’s so super cute. And honestly, I work at a restaurant now and it’s super fun, and two women came in the other day and they were just sitting there and eating and I was like “those are like the coolest chicks in here!” Like, some young girls that come in here wouldn’t be as cool as those ladies, and we were talking and I said “I’m 41” and they were like “we’re 43” and I’m like “fuck yeah you are!” It just seems like it’s the right time for us, right now.
I’m curious how the message of empowerment and positivity and being “boss ladies” as you’ve been known for…how that plays in the middle and the Southern part of the country. I live in Boston, where we like to think that we’re a lot more progressive and liberal than we actually are, and I’m sure that California is much the same way, so you get similar people with similar mindsets there. But how does that play in the middle of the country?
Jennie: There’s still stuff…
Stacey: Yeah, for sure.
Jennie: …but I’ve noticed that when we are in areas that are less (progressive) or where this is more unusual, there’s more people coming up saying “I’m buying this for my daughter” or “I’m buying this for my wife,” and it’s not for you if you’re a man, it’s for a woman. Which is kind of like buying a girl’s bicycle, you know? It doesn’t have to be just for women because we are women, you know? I still think that’s a visibility thing. And given that we’re doing the Warped Tour with bands like War On Women, it kind of normalizes moreso this thing that we’re doing. It’s kinda like…I used to have this job that would put me on construction sites, and I wouldn’t think much about being me. But then, there would always be somebody there that couldn’t wrap their head around it – usually somebody that I was working with, not somebody that was in charge. All day long they would just make comments about the fact that I’m a woman. It’s like, this is insane. Those people are out there, and they’ve apparently never seen a woman on your job site apparently before. Eventually you’re going to have to get over it. I can’t believe you’d let that disrupt your entire day, but whatever! (*all laugh*)
Stacey: It wasn’t our choice to be born as women! Like let’s just go back to that for a second; why would we be persecuted for a choice that’s not even ours? That’s not even a choice? Fuck you!
Jennie: It’s the same thing with class and shit, too.
Stacey: Yeah, it is!
Jennie: “You goddamn poor people need to make some money!”
Stacey: Yeah! (*all laugh*) We’re working with what we have! Luckily, we were born into a country where we can be free. There are so many countries where people aren’t even free to be able to do what we’re doing. There are so many battles to be fought, and so many battles to be won.
Do you go back and forth about the importance of being considered — or I guess known as — a “female-fronted punk band”? We’ve had internal discussions among Dying Scene staff about what we should be using for labels on bands, and is it important to label a band as “a female-fronted band,” or is that not important because in reality, they’re still a punk band like all of the other ones? So I don’t know…but could see how people would go back and forth about on one hand saying “we’re not a female-fronted punk band, we’re a punk band” and on the other hand, especially now, that there’s something powerful about saying “fuck yeah, we are a female-fronted punk band” and taking ownership of that aspect of it.
Stacey: It totally goes both ways. If you’re an asshole saying it, then you shouldn’t say it, you know what I mean? But if you’re a good person…I don’t fucking know…we are women, and we play in a punk rock band!
Jennie: It’s like the whole acknowledgement of race. It’s talked about in that type of PC discussion where, like, you really are not allowed to say that you’re ‘color blind,’ because that dismisses these very separate experiences that people have because they’re different colors, you know? So, there are separate experiences, and it’s going to sound vocally different. Unless you’re our friend Noelle in Rational Anthem, whose voice sounds very much like a man’s. If you say (female-fronted), it will give you some idea of what it sounds like vocally. I’ve personally moved the female part to the end of the sentence when I meet people that don’t know about the band that I’m in. I’ll say “well, have you heard of Fat Wreck Chords? Then have you heard of NOFX? Well we have those kinds of harmonies and we’re all women.” You know? I mean, I want to know personally, up front, because I enjoy seeking out other bands that have women in them.
Stacey: Yes, totally. Totally.
Jennie: It is double-sided. And also, you are totally allowed to ask these questions as somebody that understands the conversation! (*all laugh*)
Stacey: If you’re just an asshole that doesn’t like the band… actually, I like having conversations with those people. It’s like “yeah, well what bands do you like?” And this one guy is like “Lamb of God.” Well, of course you don’t like my band! Or they’ll say “but I like you though.” And it’s like “well what’s your favorite band, then” and they’ll be like “Korn.” Okay…well, congratulations with that…
Jennie: That conversation obviously comes up a lot, and in less sensitive ways. Our boyfriends are in a really good band and they’re really struggling right now, and all I can think of is “well, if you guys had a girl in your band…
Stacey: …you’d really stand out a lot more!”
Jennie: (*all laugh*)… You might get some traction! And it’s amazing that that’s how it is right now. Instead of like when I first started this band. I remember somebody that doesn’t get it was asking about the band and I said “well, it’s all women” and they were like “are you guys hot?” And I said “really? Did you just ask me that? I mean, I can’t make that assessment based on the twenty-five percent of us that are here right now…but why the fuck does that matter?” I feel like that’s where we were six years ago, even here in Southern California. And now, it’s like “my little girl wants to play the drums” or “my daughter is transgender…”
Stacey: Yeah! We’re lucky in California, and there are pockets of other really cool towns.
Jennie: Iowa City!
Stacey: I LOVE Iowa City!
Jennie: Oh my god, yes. It’s because of Rational Anthem.
Stacey: Yeah, and it’s a college town. Flagstaff (Arizona) is another one. When you find those college towns, those kids are for the future. They’re not looking back at any of the shit.
Jennie: They’re not mad about the shit that their parents had that they don’t.
Stacey: But I have seen pockets, like at Skate Jam in Reno, there were these Nazi kids that showed up. Everybody else was cool, but my whole life in punk rock, I didn’t see any of those Nazi kids until now, and I’m seeing more of them. And it’s bizarre. That’s a thing that’s happening. But, these conversations wouldn’t have happened had (the election) not happened.
Jennie: Well, let’s talk about the first time that marriage equality came up for vote, and I was like “of course it’s going to pass because people aren’t that awful.” And then it didn’t pass and I was crushed. California, of all places… But then Iowa passed it, and we think we’re the ones that are so progressive. And then, of course, four years later it came up again and passed, and people that I had had discussions with (who had voted against marriage equality the first time) voted the other way. Not because of me, but I was really glad that they changed their minds.
Stacey: You know what? Human consciousness is on a whole other trip. When you get enough people going in one way, the wave tends to go that way.
Jennie: I know for me, personally, and within the band, we have this joke where I’m like the “no” person at first. But then, once the seed of anything has been planted, it will grow on its own and then you will be more open to what it is. I think that the second time marriage equality came on the ballot, it was because of the seeds that were planted four years ago. Really conservative people felt that it was a victory (the first time), but everybody else was like “I never thought about it until right now.”
Stacey: Right, and then four years later, now maybe they have a daughter that wants to get married to the person that she loves, so of course they’re going to fucking vote for it.
Jennie: These things take time. You can’t just expect (it to get better).
Stacey: But the public consciousness is moving that way. So let’s be happy for that, and be happy that we’re in a progressive, free place where we are able to push things in that direction.
Do you really think things are moving that way? Because it almost seems like there are two separate consciousnesses pulling each other apart. I don’t know…
Stacey: I hear you, but I think the people on the other side…like, I keep thinking about this one friend that I have that is real right thinking. We grew up together, and I won’t give up on this guy because at the end of the day, I know we get along. We have the same kind of life. It’s not like one of us has a lot more money or anything like that; we’re coming from the same fucking place in life, so why are we so different? But I know that his search is one of health and positivity and happiness, so at the end of the day, you can’t be fucking hateful when you’re positive and happy. There’s just no room for it.
Jennie: Also, it’s again about visibility. It’s harder to pretend that this is a country of white, straight, middle-class men anymore. Other people are being acknowledged in the media, and in movies, and on TV…even if you never watch the news and you hang out in an area where you are very insulated, topics such as transgender children are going to make it to you, and you are going to be forced to think about it because now you know that this is real from your experience. And I do believe that the internet has allowed people to feel connected because maybe there’s nobody like you in your area, but now that’s been done away with. There’s whole societies and cultures and social groups on the internet that are vast. But I think there’s also the idea of sharing information. Once you know that something exists – once you know that children are making the stuff that you buy at the dollar store, it’s harder to shop there. If you didn’t know that, you can tell yourself that “it’s just such a good deal!” (*all laugh*) The world is shrinking, and also, while the institutions might be bad, the truth is that everything is in equilibrium, like bacteria in your own human body. There are really cool kids coming up, and there are really weird kids and bad kids coming up, but overall there’s a balance.
Stacey: And with it being more outspoken now and not so hidden, everybody can fly their own freak flag, and it’s awesome that it’s happening. There’s very little that can make that go away other than probably genocide, and I don’t think we’re going down that road.
Jennie: Like with this recent UK election, I things are going okay. People are angry because they’re not making the money that they want to. We all decided as a fucking planet that we want the cheaper, faster thing, and the end of that is that people get exploited, and when other people are getting exploited, everybody loses.
Stacey: That’s really true, Jen. When people are exploited for “things”…
Jennie: Right, for stuff that’s just going to end up in a landfill when you don’t need it.
Stacey: Right. And I’m not too good to say that I don’t get caught up with that “I need, I need, I need” mindset. But I watched this show on Netflix called “Life Below Zero,” and it’s about people that live…without much. They go out and they hunt and they eat what they hunt and they trade and they don’t have more than they need. They get exactly what they need to trade with other people, and they give to other people, and they’re happy. One guy said “If I don’t have it, I don’t need it.” Fuck yeah! That’s absolutely true. That’s a really, really great perspective.
Jennie: I don’t think about how much money I don’t have, and how much luck is not in my life, until I’m on an airplane sitting next to a person that obviously lives a completely different life. And they’re like “What do you do?” and I’m like “I’m an artist and a musician…and I don’t know what you think of that, but I definitely don’t…
Stacey: This is what we do when we’re together. We just sit and talk about this stuff…especially when she and I are alone, we get DEEP into this stuff. (*all laugh*)
Jennie: Right. Like “what are we going to do about the world?! We’ll just be nice to everybody and that’ll fix it!”
Stacey: Or “what’s the best way to shave your legs?” “Oh yeah…don’t!”
Jennie: I’m struggling with that right now, because I like being able to pass as a completely invisible person in my life. I really need it sometimes…like “I don’t want you to look at me, I don’t want you to remember me…” And I feel like sometimes things like that, I haven’t experimented with it much, but I worry that I’ll have to deal with what other people think if I didn’t shave. Like, I wear a lot of dresses because it’s way more comfortable than anything in the world. I don’t know…we’ll find out this summer.
Stacey: The War On Women are going to be like “why the fuck are you shaving?”
Jennie: I know! And I don’t have an answer.
Stacey: You’re right. Everything about it is fucking bullshit.
Jennie: We’ve talked about this, that with things that are post-election…”P.E.”…the reaction to this extreme situation is extreme. But then, when you go extreme, you lose people in the middle. The only constructive conversations that I have had with people that I disagree with have been when I stay in the friendly, middle area and ask questions but don’t make accusations. I don’t want to alienate people. We talked about that too, when writing (Warriors). How are we going to do this and what are we going to say, because we don’t want to alienate people because having productive conversation is more important than just saying “I’m against you!” Once there’s a physical line, that’s where people stop listening, and I really don’t care to do that. I want to have common ground.
Stacey: I’m going to have my right-wing friend come to one of the Warped Tour shows, and I told him that he should come and bring his kid and there’s no talk of politics on either side and we’ll just hang out. I haven’t seen him in like two years.
Jennie: If you acknowledge that no matter what, you view people that are doing things that are charitable as people, you can’t vilify them. I don’t know…are you watching “Black Mirror”?
No, I know what you’re talking about but I haven’t seen it. I think my wife has watched a few episodes.
Jennie: It’s amazing! It’s a little heavy, so it’s not a thing that you can just chill out to, but there was an episode that made me say “this is exactly why you can’t vilify people!” There was a person in the military and it was set in the future and there were these implants that gave you kind of like Terminator-style vision, you know? This guy is killing this group of people in a genocide-type thing because he’s perceiving them as monsters, and one of them engineers a device that will short out the implant that he had so he doesn’t have that obstructed vision anymore and he starts to see them as humans. And obviously this is a television show that is very smart and they’ve thought about it, but that’s in many ways what the military has to do. You have to dehumanize the people that you’re going to go (battle with). It’s the same thing at home. You can vilify “Trump supporters” for example, but a lot of those people are my friends’ parents, and my friends are good people and I know these are decent people, we just have to meet in the middle and be civil and maybe don’t follow party lines.
Stacey: There’s just so much discord in life because of all of the evilness that’s come up through the history of us as human beings. Until we as a human consciousness keep evolving — which we are doing, I think — and exploring who we are, I think it’s going to get to a place of love. I hope so.
Jennie: If you are a part of humanity, you can change it.
Stacey: So many people will tell you that we create our own reality, so as soon as we get everybody on the page of wanting to be positive and happy. And it seems like people want that; why wouldn’t you? If we could get everybody on that boat, there wouldn’t be any place for wars. There won’t be any place for anything but educated conversation. There’s discord sometimes between me and Jennie, and we have to talk about it, and it’s worth it because we love each other and we want to get to a place where we don’t have resentments. We don’t want to have that kind of stuff because that’s the end of everything.
Jennie: The band is a little microcosm of the entire world for me, right now, because we’re so intensely involved with one another. I think that when you don’t know what happened, you’re allowed to fill in the gaps and sometimes if you don’t like the outcome of something, you’ll fill in the gaps with negative things. You start to think that things were malicious, when they really just were from a lack of information…
Stacey: …and you can learn from it and not do it again. And if it happens again on either side — because it’s going to, it’s human nature. Addressing it and working through it is a sign of maturity.
Jennie: It’s the opposite of coming in with your guns drawn, you know? When you do that, of course somebody is going to get hurt. It’s obviously way more likely! Put them down!
I think that’s one of the things that I like about a song like “Womanarchist.” You sort of call out everybody. It’s not just one particular side — though there’s obvious shots at the current President and those are incredibly valid — but there’s lines about the left and about liberals and that as progressive as we like to think that we are sometimes, we engage in the same sort of knuckle-dragging and name-calling that the other side does and just polarize the situation even more.
Stacey: You’re so right about that. It’s not doing everybody any favors. And I know that the words that I used (in “Womanarchist”) are more of the liberal side of that kind of craziness, but it really is towards both, because…just be a fucking human being! Be a human being! Find what makes you really happy! Fuck the politics in this world. Find what makes you happy and do it. It’s not that hard!! The money will come, you’ll figure out how to live. You’re not going to destroy your life by doing what makes you happy! In fact, life will start working with you! You’ll have a magical experience, and that’s what that really is all about, and that’s my belief about everything.
So how do we get people to listen to that? I mean, hopefully this album will help do that, but how do we get people to realize that?
Stacey: I don’t know. I wish I had the right words.
Jennie: You do, though. You do. There are people that are going to decide up front that they don’t want to listen to that song (“Womanarchist”). But it’s out there, and I think it’s a perspective that has not been articulated. If people just chill out and stop choosing banners; this isn’t like Medieval Times where we all do battle at the end of the night. (*all laugh*)
Stacey: No one political belief will sum up who you are as a human being on this planet.
Jennie: Think about what you’re doing.
Stacey: And think about what that does to the next guy. Negativity spreads faster than a house on fire. If you let that stuff go, it just fuels itself and fuels itself until it’s over, and it’s not good for anybody. That’s how this planet has operated, it’s been a planet of war.
Jennie: Travelling and doing shows like we do, we will run into these little pockets where (negativity) is the norm of social operation of the bands there or the people that live there, and you can feel it when you walk in. It’s like “whoa…we are not going to be able to turn the tide of this room right now.”
Stacey: Yeah, every once in a while it’s like “whoa…yeah…”
Jennie: “Yeah, we’re not going to sleep over …” (*all laugh*)
Stacey: That’s one thing you can count on with us. Stuff might get a little difficult and people’s feelings get hurt here and there, but this band is filled with people that are really wanting that (positivity) and have your back.
One thing you said a minute ago that kinda clicked with me, Jennie, was that there are people that aren’t going to listen to a song like “Womanarchist” because of the name alone. I feel almost like Warriors, in and of itself, both the song name and the album name, is sort of that way. Was that a conscious decision that, you know what, maybe people aren’t going to like this but fuck it, we’re going to do it anyway?
Stacey: We definitely talked about that. We knew it was a hot-button word.
Jennie: I think we did talk about how direct to make this and how we were going to push people away — and how we didn’t really want to do that. But there are little things that if you’re listening and you’re looking for them then you’ll know that we are saying these things. But if you are totally oblivious, you might be able to pick this up and put it on and not know what you’re in for. I wanted to put this big vaginal, yonic composition on the front of the record, and that was vetoed by (Fat) Mike.
Jennie: Oh yeah. He fired me from doing the album cover at one point and I was rehired by Erin (Burkett). He was like “we’re going to hire a professional” and I’m like, “Mike, I illustrated your book cover. I’m a professional artist.” Anyway, I got the job back, but no vagina on the cover.
That surprises me coming from him, especially.
Jennie: That’s like the War On Women stance. Like even the name of the band says “listen the fuck up!” I love that. But we had some friends in more moderate areas and we said “are you listening to this band and they said it was too scary. And I thought that that’s a shame, that you were put off by that, because you’ve got to have it. I’m grateful that they’re out doing it, and I love it. It is a huge, wonderful thing that our entire band loves. I think that our platform is hoping to rope the unsuspecting listener into a conversation, rather than to scare you off. War On Women is great if you’re woke, but there’ a lot of people that aren’t woke, so I’m hoping that we can….
Stacey: …smooth that transition!
Jennie: I love what they’re doing and I respect it and I wouldn’t change a thing. I just know that our approach is a little different. Like Stacey has her friend, we all have those people that we care about that we’re hoping to enlighten.
Yes, we all have “those” people. (*all laugh*) But still, it’s an album on Fat Wreck Chords. Mike is known for a certain political bent and a free spirit. I think that people know what they’re in for if they pick up an album that says Fat Wreck Chords on the back. Even if they don’t know the specific band, then know the twenty-five or twenty-seven year catalog that isn’t exactly filled with bands who sit back and act passive. So I’m surprised he’d veto a vagina on the cover. That might be the most ground-breaking thing of this interview! (*all laugh*)
Jennie: I feel like, what’s interesting is that there are people that love that record label — or say that they do — and then they bring these really weird, unenlightened, backwards attitudes and ideas to things, and it’s like…how did you love Fat Wreck Chords? Have you never heard a single one of the Propagandhi songs on one of those comps? How are you like that? Although Myra said that Paul Ryan’s favorite band is Rage Against The Machine! (*laughs*)
Jennie: And everybody is like… “no…just, no….”
Yes, I remember that coming up during the campaign. That’s like the band he works out to or whatever, and then there was a quote I think from Tom Morello where he was like “we literally hate you.” (*all laugh*)
Jennie: I’m always surprised what people listen to. I think most of the people that like are music are cool but there are occasionally people who are sleazy and didn’t get the memo, and who thinks it’s cool to be sleazy to you because you’re a girl and they’re a man, and you just have to walk away from them. Because if you don’t get it from having seen or heard the band and you still think you can talk to women like that, I don’t think I can help you. It’s thankfully not that often.
I’m frankly, unfortunately, not surprised by that at all. Even in a place like this, I’m not surprised honestly.
Jennie: It’s amazing. It’s amazing. We had just left the merch table in Vegas to go get something to eat because we were dying, and right before this person was getting in my face and being creepy, and we were both like okay, we’re going to go..NOW…and give this person the benefit of the doubt and hope they don’t cross that line. And there was a really weird eye contact moment where they were realizing that maybe what he was doing wasn’t working. And it was sort of cool that he kinda woke up in the middle of that incident!
Thank you both so much for taking all of this time. I really can’t wait for people to hear the new album and to hopefully get how important it is. I think you should all be really proud of yourselves, and I don’t know if that’s a thing that you allow yourselves to be, but it’s a damn good album at a damn good time for it.
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