Chastity Belt started as a joke. A group of girls running around a Beta Theta (something) frat party in Walla Walla Washington, flipping over tables and yelling things like “Surrender to the god of punk!” No doubt they were giggling the whole time. Dreamed up in the unforgivable environment that is the small college town, where house parties reign and house parties with kegs reign tougher, Chastity Belt started as an excuse, a reason to be loud.
If I could sum up my phone call with lead singer and guitarist Julia Shapiro in one word, it would be “Totally.” Both of us are in that tender post-college mid-20s life, and listening through Chastity Belt’s repertoire, from 2012’s Fuck Chastity Belt to the forthcoming Time to Go Home, each song fits neatly into a timeline of events I totally understand. Getting to a party just to wish you never got there, getting too drunk on a Saturday and having to go home, being a ‘lil slut, the urge to light things on fire, crying.
“Back then I was just thinking—what’s gonna make the kids dance?” Julia reminisces on the band’s college town beginnings, giggling a lot. After a summer post-college apart, Julia along with guitarist Lydia Lund, bassist Annie Truscott and drummer Gretchen Grimm gathered again in Seattle and played some shows. Suddenly, they registered their audience had shifted—from a basement where five 20-year-olds and their seven bongs lived together in dirty harmony—to Seattle’s supportive DIY community.
“After moving to Seattle we realized ‘Oh, we don’t actually have to write joke party songs anymore.’”
And having started in jest, there’s still playfulness and wit there. “I just wanna have a good time / I hope you have a strong heart,” Julia sings on the titular “Time to Go Home.” A song about literally, getting too drunk and having to go home, Chastity Belt takes back teenage cynicism and makes it funny.
And although the band’s beginnings are clearly an influence on a chill, yet hard-hitting sound, they also play a role in the band’s personality. “It takes a certain kind of attitude to be a female in a band,” Julia says. That attitude is personified in Chastity Belt’s latest press photos—in mom jeans and ‘80s scrunchies, they smile as if to say the joke’s on us. “I think that’s part of the reason we started as a joke, was cause we thought we needed to be a joke in order to get that attention.”
It was a foolproof plan: “At that point we didn’t really know how to write songs, or be in a band. So in order to get people to listen to us we were like let’s make this funny. And if people say we suck, then we can just laugh about it.” Julia comically wonders if this method could ever extend to other professions. A joke lawyer who suddenly pleas “Nevermind! I’m a serious lawyer!”
In many ways, Time to Go Home is new territory for the band. Their second full-length release and first on their new label Hardly Art, the album has a few truly emotional songs sprinkled throughout, reminders that early 20s isn’t all, well, house parties. Vulgar and sweet, Chastity Belt’s vagina take back is easily summed up by a glance at their song titles: “Pussy Weed Beer,” “Nip Slip,” “Cool Slut.”
And the themes, simple and true, are a subtle slap in the face—songs that make you feel like putting on your favorite $5 sweatshirt and going to a party just so you can stand by the fridge wondering about the meaning of life, or the tech takeover, or wait, haven’t I been to this party before and didn’t it suck last time? The themes are so honest, that for the band’s latest video release for “Time to Go Home,” the girls simply had a camera follow them around Pike/Pine in Seattle on a “pretty happening” Friday and Saturday night.
“The neighborhood here is changing so much, so we were kind of trying to capture how insane it gets on the weekends here. There’s so many tech bros moving in, taking over. I feel like something crazy is happening.”
And although some all-female bands choose to ignore the label entirely, Chastity Belt is fueled by girlhood: “We’re all feminists. We definitely want that to come across.” Julia’s lyrics make feminist theory playful and simple, a true feat. “He was just another man trying to teach me something,” she sings on Time to Go Home’s “Drone.”
“One big message for us is that more women should be in bands.” Julia talks about watching the Grammys and being shocked at how many categories didn’t have a single female nominee. “Like for Best Rock Album, there were no women. I was like ‘Oh, I guess no women made rock albums this year!’ That’s one big thing for me—is making it not so crazy that we’re an all-female band. Making that not even a thing anymore would be cool. No one ever says ‘Oh yeah we’re an all male band.’‘’
Julia talks about being a teenage girl and never really being exposed to girls in bands. She hopes Chastity Belt can influence teen girls in that way. “I’d like teenage girls to be able to relate to this album and listen to it and think ‘Oh! I could be in a band too.’”
Signing to Hardly Art earlier this year, Chastity Belt is one of the many seriously badass female musicians the label is supporting—La Luz and Colleen Green to name a couple (just a couple, because there are several.) And as part of that, Chastity Belt is not just music made by girls, it’s music made by best friends, best girl friends. Absorbing Time to Go Home, you can feel the particular kind of relaxed, spontaneous fun they’re having.
“Give it to your teenager girlfriends!” Julia pleads to me before we say our goodbyes and good lucks. Totally. All my teenager girlfriends.
Time to Go Home releases March 23 via Hardly Art.
Alexa Carrasco is a writer. You can follow her on that Twitter business here.