Le Butcherettes’ frontwoman talks Crystal Fairy’s début album featuring The Melvins’ Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover and At The Drive In/Mars Volta’s Omar Rodriguez-Lopez.
When Le Butcherettes supported The Melvins on their 2015 tour, vocalist Teri Gender Bender found a kinship between Melvins’ members King Buzzo and Dale Crover. This friendship would result in a split Melvins/Butcherettes 7-inch vinyl release Chaos as Usual.
The musicians have reconvened (along with frequent Gender Bender collaborator Omar Rodriguez-Lopez of At The Drive In fame) for a new musical project: Crystal Fairy, whose self-titled début is due out February 24 on Ipecac Recordings.
The lineup features Gender Bender front and center, with all members playing multi-instrumentalist roles. The result is wholly unique, as one would expect from such a diverse group, with each member having carved unique sonic identities in their other respective acts.
I recently had a chance to interview Gender Bender regarding Crystal Fairy’s exciting new release, the creative process behind their inimitable sound, and what fans can expect from their upcoming tour.
Enjoy the full Q&A below:
SLIS: In your press release it says the genesis of Crystal Fairy began when you toured with The Melvins in 2015. Who initiated the idea of starting a collaborative project, and how did Omar come into the picture?
TGB: Well before any of us were in the band, Omar was a huge Melvins fan. Originally he was going to come document the Le Butcherettes tour because he was a photographer and a cinematographer. So I was like “please do me a solid and film our tour.”
So during that process of filming and capturing footage he was able to meet The Melvins because they’re outgoing people…so they hit it off because they both know a lot about movies and are both movie fanatics in every sense of the word. So they would have those discussions like “oh my god have you seen this movie?” “Oh yeah well I recommend you should watch this movie!” And Omar is so easy-going with everyone, he’s a great listener, so yeah I think it was a nice balance of these characters, because I look at them and I think they could each come from a different movie, they’re just so interesting.
SLIS: I’m curious how the creative process worked since you’re a band full of strong personalities—did the songs come about from jamming or did everyone come to the table with riffs and melodies worked out individually, or was it a bit of both?
TGB: I guess it depends on which song. There was some songs where we were just jamming and some ideas would come. And we’d be like “okay now let’s make an arrangement. This is cool, now lets add this arrangement.” And then Buzz would like take out his cell and be like “I recorded this riff a couple of days ago and I want to add it to this idea we just did.”
And sometimes I would bring out some song ideas I never used in Le Butcherettes, and be like “how about this do you like these ideas?” And they would be like “Awesome yeah let’s do this–lets mold it and make it ours.” So it was really cool, it was a true collaboration. And the crazy creepy thing is that within 2 days for example, we would already have recorded 4 songs: professionally tracked with drums and guitars, overdubs, and all Omar’s bass parts.
It was insane how fast we were moving along in the process. And it was almost too fast. I didn’t want it to move that fast because I wanted to be able to spend more time with them.
SLIS: I think it speaks to your diverse lineup that the band’s sound is somewhat hard to describe. The opening track Chiseler is pounding metal, Necklace of Divorce has a punk feel, and songs like Under Trouble are quite psychedelic. Did you realize pretty quickly that your sound was so unique?
TGB: Honestly I think the key here is that we were all open to any ideas. I don’t know if they were just being nice (laughs). I don’t think they were because they were being pretty straightforward. For example I’d put an idea on the table or Buzz would have an idea and there was like no second thinking it. And I’m used to always second guessing things and re-recording shit, but with them it was more like “okay, let’s go with our instinct and follow it” so I guess it wasn’t just sticking with one particular sound, it was just following our guts and our moods.
And the great thing is that we would all look forward to the coffee break. And that was something we could all bond over this delicious coffee that Toshi our engineer would make. And oh, just thinking about it makes my mouth water!
So I guess it was just the enjoyment of the process and giving each song its own littler fingerprint.
SLIS: I love your vocals on the album—they feel even more dramatic and intense than your previous work. Did you approach them differently with Crystal Fairy?
TGB: I do improvise. Sometimes people ask me “do you prepare for that? ” But it was just on the spot. You have to understand I went in there not knowing what was going to happen. I didn’t even know we were going to record a song. Period. So we got in there and right there on the spot I had to just follow and feed off whatever Buzz and Dale and Omar were putting out there and just mold myself to that.
So it just kind of came out I guess, from that character or whatever that voice is for that record–that “it” came out which was really cool because I didn’t know I was capable of being that…like a different character. Because I consider every song like a different chapter in a book or a different movie. So it was really cool to find that extra voice. Because I’ve done other types of music. I’ve done some electronic, I’ve done some pop ballads to more punky stuff. But this is really cool because it was definitely something I’ve never done before. So it was a different kind of challenge.
SLIS: Your lyrics are abstract and full of dream imagery. One example that stands out is from Drugs on The Bus: Restrains the roots, she uses them to cut out her eyes/the iris shines, the sun is born/the man begins to laugh! Are your lyrics inspired by personal experience, or is it more stream of consciousness?
TGB: In this particular environment, since I was on the spot, I didn’t have time to over think like every lyric and go over every word and edit it. It was more like, okay, fuck it I’m just going to have start writing lyrics in real-time with these guys so we could write as many songs as possible and make good use of our time.
And I don’t really think it was just me writing them–I mean at the very high risk of sounding like a hippy (laughing)–it wasn’t me writing it. I guess we were all channeling something different–I really think it was just my unconscious writing, just whatever came to mind–maybe it was just me bullshitting–I have no idea but it was just like “write what comes out and don’t question it.” And I think that was the mindset for all of us: let’s just see what happens. And see what the animal inside us has to say.
And the same thing goes for Buzz, just the way he plays, the riffs that he chose or all Omar’s bass parts. For example, with Omar I think what’s really cool is that he comes from a very dub (reggae) influenced background and he infused that style with Buzz’s playing…there’s some songs where you can hear that. Because before Omar played guitar he was actually a bass player. If you listen to one of his earliest bands Defacto you’ll hear what I’m talking about. It has this very dub reggae influence on it.
SLIS: Whose idea was it to cover the Tales of Terror track Possession and what inspired that choice?
TGB: That was Buzz’s idea. He knows about all these really underground bands that I’ve never heard of. He did me the favor of picking me up from the hotel I was staying at to go to the rehearsal/studio space. And so on the drive he put on Tales of Terror and he would tell me this story about them. And they were one of those bands that had so much going for them: great songs, great lyrics, very powerful and such conviction. But the personal story of theirs was very sad. I think one of them ended up in a manicomio, or how do you say in English, like a psych ward or something, and I think another one ended up committing suicide. For some reason I’m very attracted to people, be it writers or musicians or characters who are surrounded by tragedy.
So on a personal level it hit home for me, because my father was a very tormented character, so I guess that’s where that comes from? And I was also surrounded by tragedy, so when Buzz showed me this band I immediately clicked with it and we thought it was only natural to have the honor of covering one of their songs.
Whoo! Sorry I feel like I’m getting off track here, I’m being as honest as possible. Sometimes I can overshare.
SLIS : No worries! Besides the more personal revelations, the better the interview will be right?
TBG: You’re right!
SLIS: You have some tour dates coming up this month. Have you decided on a set list, and will it be only Crystal Fairy material or will you also be playing songs from your other respective bands?
TGB: Right now the plan is to rehearse for the upcoming dates, so I’ve rehearsed every song on the record just in case. So yeah hopefully when we get there once we have everything more concrete we’ll see about adding some new songs to the set.
SLIS: What do you see in the future for the band—will there be more albums in the future or was this planned as a one-time thing given everyone’s busy schedules with their established acts?
TGB: The door is open at least from my end, the door is completely open for anything to happen. So yeah it’s just a matter of time. I’m hoping for the record to come out at least, and people buy tickets for the shows, so lets just take it day by day, and hopefully the world doesn’t end and the record comes out this month and then we’ll take it from there!
Thanks to Teri for taking time out for this interview. You can pre-order Crystal Fairy’s eponymous début on Amazon below. 2017 Tour Dates listed at bottom.
Crystal Fairy Tour Dates (more to follow):
February 21 Santa Ana, CA The Observatory Constellation Room
February 23 Pioneertown, CA Pappy & Harriet’s
February 24 Los Angeles, CA The Troubadour
February 25 San Francisco, CA Slim’s