An Interview with Chastity Belt

words Words Linnea Enstrom, Portraits Mafalda Silva

2nd November 2015

“I just wanna have a good time,” sings Julia Shapiro on the last track of Chastity Belt’s second  album, Time To Go Home. The lyric has a sad twang to it, like she’s hunched on the curb outside a bar, feeling too drunk and restless to roll back home. 

The Seattle four piece can be described as a college party band that evolved into something more sincere. If their first album No Regerts (typo intended) was all about getting wasted with your friends and shouting “giant vagina” at frat parties, Time To Go Home is the moment the lights come on and you shuffle between the kissing couples, trying to find your jacket. Even a bluntly celebratory song like Cool Slut is melodically hesitant, almost unsure of itself.

That isn’t to say the fun is totally over. As I sit down with guitarist Lydia Lund and bass player Annie Truscott in the backstage area of Dalston venue The Victoria, their tour camper van parked on the other side of the road, I get the feeling they laugh a lot. Jittery with pre-show excitement, they tell me about how growing up has changed their sound.

There’s a sadness to Time To Go Home compared to your debut. Why do you think that is?

Lydia: Maybe part of it is coming to terms with being out of the college bubble. A lot of the songs on the first album were written for college parties and an audience that just wanted to have fun. The band was a mixture between being a reaction to the party scene and also playing into it and wanting to let loose and have fun and play songs that were so simple we could be wasted. In the beginning we felt like our lyrical content had to be sarcastic to be taken seriously. We felt secure within the sarcasm. 

Annie: We didn’t take ourselves seriously, like it was all a joke anyway.

Lydia: When people started to take us seriously, we started to take ourselves more seriously and speak more frankly.

When did that happen?

Lydia: If there was a moment, it was probably when we moved to Seattle. I had never thought that being in a band was something I could seriously do after college or even not seriously do - it was just not on my radar at all. We were offered a show in Seattle and the scene was just so supportive and full of wonderful women playing music. Before that, we were in a small town called Walla Walla. We weren’t in the town scene; we were just playing college parties and the only women making music…. And then obviously, slowly growing up.

Annie: We’ve become better musicians and older humans.

Did you know each other before you started the band?

Lydia: I was mostly friends with Julia and we came up with the idea of Chastity Belt…

Annie: … At a party!

Lydia: We thought it would be so funny if we just chanted that and if we were in a punk band. It wasn’t serious, so it was okay to do it.

Annie: It was a name before a band.

Does touring still feel like a party?

Annie: It’s a balance. If we’re totally sober, the performance isn’t as good, but if we go crazy it’s also terrible.

Lydia: We get along incredibly well and everyone brings something different to the table for touring. It feels like we’re in a relationship.

Annie: It’s like a four way marriage.

Lydia: A big part of it is just about being practical about arguments and things and having fun together and loving each other.

What are you working on at the moment?

Lydia: We’ve written a few new songs. Some are more jammy. One of them came out of us just playing together, in practice.

Annie: It’s more mature than the last two albums. We’ve all gotten better as we go.

Lydia: We’re more acquainted with our instruments. Julia and I had guitar lessons in middle school, but I had never played chords, which is why I had terrible rhythm skills when we started Chastity Belt.

Annie: You would just turn your amp down!

Lydia: A lot of it had to do with confidence. It’s so cool… Chastity Belt has given me so much confidence as a musician and a human, ha!

I consider you a feminist band that don’t want to be defined by your gender identity. Do you agree?

Annie: Totally. I think people want to pigeonhole you as a feminist band if you are all women and if you write songs from a woman’s perspective, like we do. Feminism comes into it, but we don’t have a specific feminist agenda. We’re just women - it’s the way we see the world.

Chastity Belt are playing Brixton Academy on Wednesday 4th November.