Although Chastity Belt’s recently released self-titled LP isn’t exactly a “reunion album,” it does capture the spirit of the Seattle-based, Hardly-Art-signed, alt rock quartet after a brief hiatus, working on other projects and exploring extra-curricular sounds. Chastity Belt was co-produced by the band and Melina Duterte (better known as Jay Som) and would seem to embody the foursome’s longing to once again be and work together. The album, their fourth full-length, would seem to be their most complex, trading in just a smidgen of their punk aggression for slightly more sincere indie rock sentimentality. Chastity Belt have been on the road for about a month and a half now and have dates lined up through the end of next February, and they’ll be headlining the basement of The Church this Thursday, November 14th. Last month I got a chance to chat with Chastity Belt drummer/vocalist/guitarist Gretchen Grimm, who told me all about the band’s latest work.
Izzy Cihak: Since this is a Philadelphia-based publication, I have to ask your thoughts on the city, as I know you’ve played here a handful of times? Any favorite memories or experiences?
Gretchen Grimm: I don’t think we’ve ever had time to explore the city other than the places we’ve played. We’ve played a house show there, at Union Transfer opening for Courtney Barnett, at Everybody Hits, which was really cool, and at a DIY space that was one of the hottest and sweatiest shows we’ve ever played. It seems like a cool place I’d love to have some time to get to know it a bit.
Izzy: Your fourth full-length has been out for just a little while now. Have you had any favorite reactions to it so far?
Gretchen: Someone on Instagram asked us if we were crazy depressed when we made the album, which I thought was pretty funny.
Izzy: I especially like “Apart,” so I have to ask how that song came about? It reminds me of a lot of my favorite music from the mid-‘90s… Like I could totally see you supporting Liz Phair on the Whip-Smart tour, or Sonic Youth on the Washing Machine tour.
Gretchen: Thanks! I had most of the chord structure for that song worked out and the vocal melody/lyrics for the first half of the song when I brought it to the band. For some reason I had the idea to just keep repeating “Apart,” over the second part of the song when I start playing chords. I knew something else could happen there and I just kind of left it open for anyone else to sing or whatever. We had a little break while we were recording between basic tracking and when we did vocals and overdubs. Lydia thought of a vocal melody and I ended up thinking of something too, and it just so happened that our singing parts were in different spaces and complemented each other nicely. Julia thought of some cool harmonies also. That was a really fun one to see come together.
Izzy: And how was working with Melina Duterte? I’m also a big fan of her. Did you feel like she helped to bring anything new to your sound or your recording dynamic?
Gretchen: Working with her was so great. She’s such a positive person to be around and bounce ideas off of. She was super helpful in achieving the right tones and refining specific parts of songs if we were ever doubting things.
Izzy: This is sort of a personal question, but Time to Go Home is probably one of my favorite albums of the decade, so I’m curious about your current thoughts on that record? Any songs that you’re still especially proud of or that you especially enjoy playing live? “IDC” still plays in my head on a pretty regular basis.
Gretchen: I haven’t listened to in it in a while, but when I hear a song I’m always pleasantly surprised by how it sounds. That record definitely has a vibe to it. I kind of forgot about “IDC!” That’s a jammer I wouldn’t mind bringing back.
Izzy: I really like your music videos. What is it that inspires the visual elements of Chastity Belt? I mean, in most cases it would obviously seem to represent your lighter, more humorous, side.
Gretchen: Yea, it’s hard for us to take things like music videos too seriously. We like to have fun while we’re together, so it’s easier for us to do that and feel relaxed, rather than try to pose or act like we’re in some serious film. Once I watched the music video for “Yellow” by Coldplay and I felt so in awe ‘cause Chris Martin is just looking into the camera like it’s a person the whole time and I was just thinking, “Damn, he was born for this.” When I’m in front of a camera, I can’t get over the awkward feeling of someone filming me and I guess the only way to find some comfort is to joke around.
Izzy: You just kicked off a ton of live dates. Are there any gigs you’re especially excited to play, or just cities that you’re especially excited to visit or revisit?
Gretchen: Always love being in the UK, ‘cause British people are the best. I’m just excited to be out and about with my gals again, it’s been a while!
Izzy: What can be expected of the live experience when you’re here at The Church, the city’s like most famous DIY punk venue? I must admit that I’ve been a fan for a long time, but always seem to miss you when you’re in town, so I’m still yet to see you live.
Gretchen: Lights, dancers, confetti, strobe lights… you think you’ve seen live music before, but you’ve never seen anything like this!!! J/K, the other night someone who saw our show in Milan said he’s never seen a band be so calm and chill on stage.
Izzy: Finally, what are you planning and hoping for the last bit of 2019 and the first bit of 2020? Anything you’re especially excited about?
Gretchen: Just to keep the good times goin’ with my fave gals in the world.