Few female-fronted rock-outfits, of a more raging persuasion, have managed to second the exposure their foremothers represented in previous decades. 2019, however, has not been without its triumphs; we’ve seen the release of Australia’s Amyl and the Sniffers thumping self-titled debut. Additionally, The Death Valley Girls have toured extensively with a newly resurrected Brody Dalle and her legendary trio The Distillers. Another group to accompany Dalle, Starcrawler contributed to the feature-length Stephen King adaptation of Pet Cemetary with their hooky tune of the same name. The current climate is littered with the likes of The Coathangers, Skating Polly, and Potty Mouth, and it only takes a quick peek under the covers of what you’ve heard in commercial music to know where to really get your kicks.
Enter Necking – Vancouver B.C.’s own quartet slice of girl-punk pie. With the emergence of their first full-length release and subsequent west-coast tour, guitarist Nada Hayek, drummer Melissa Kuipers, bassist Sonya R, and vocal shredder Hannah Karren, take on the year with nothing short of an unassuming hostile takeover. Cut Your Teeth boasts its share of thematic range, dealing with the tedium of casual sex, social isolation, and varying concepts of success in today’s age. It seems little is spared in stylish, crisp fashion, all with an ironic quality, and all with the vengeful spirit of rock’s greatest examples.
The opening track, Big Mouth, sets the tone; a jarring challenge to come forward about a botched hook-up. Karren’s tone is a tell-all disciplinary action, a statement that “you can give but you can’t take it,” before launching into rampant shrieking that would make Kathleen Hannah proud. It’s a 3-minute stomp, peppered with SR’s bouncing bass-lines and grounded with Melissa’s steady march. Hayek’s wave-like riffs bring the close. From there, we’re given no leisure given the pace (and fun) of No Playtime, with its vindictive line to “kill the arts! kill us all!” a reflective sentiment on the trials of creative pursuit. But undoubtedly, the album’s power center lies in Drag Me Out; here, we hear the throaty lamentation of the socially despondent, (What can I say/I can’t go but I can’t stay?/Who am I now/When I never leave my house?) building to a break-neck carousel spin of raw vocal ability and instrumental upheaval. Such following tracks as Boss, (about getting involved with your balding employer) Still Exist, (a pogo-hopping ditty on mundanity) Rover, (woman as heated canine) and Go-Getter lend Cut your Teeth its tint of faint feminism, wrapped masterfully in a backyard punk-fashion that saves its themes of isolation and coping from an all-too-familiar trope. It’s closing of Spare Me signals the last few falls and rises we take before flying off the swing. From there, Habbo Hotel encourages us to close the night with channel flicking, a fat joint, and one final thrash around your room.
I had the chance to sit with the band, Indian-style, outside Seattle’s Victory Lounge, their first stop following their departure from home:
Me: Alright, so this is your guys’ first tour, right?
Necking: It is!
Me: That’s exciting! How long has it taken for you to get to this point? I mean, how long have you been together, working towards getting your first tour?
Melissa: Two, long, years. And hopefully the last will be the last. ~ Resounding Chuckling
Me: No, I feel like you guys will skyrocket from this point …
Necking: Oh wow!
Me: … from what I’ve heard of your music, I mean, and I’m not even going to lie to you, I was hooked on the name, to begin with. I just had a feeling in my gut that I’m going to love this, and then it turned out you’re a bad-ass punk-rock band. SO. Can you tell me a little about your roots, about the Vancouver music scene, and how you fit into that? Anything you’d like to tell me about the formation.
Sonya: Well everybody knows the story already: Yadda yadda, we started lying about being in a band at a party, started actually jamming a few months later.
Me: I didn’t know that story!
Nada: We’ve told this story 10 times this week, ’cause this is the week people are asking us to do interviews. Like, we were never doing interviews and then the album came out and suddenly we have to do all this stuff.
Melissa: So what happened was, we all wanted to be in a band but we weren’t, we were all friends.
Me: That’s super coincidental … that you could all do something.
Necking: No, No, we couldn’t.
Melissa: … so we just went to a party one day and Hannah and I were hanging out, and we were talking to these two dudes and we were like, “Yeah, we’re in a band..” I don’t know why we did that…
Hannah: It was kind’ve the first time we were hanging out, too… We said, “Yeah, that’s how we know each other, we’re in a band..”
Melissa: And then this guy was like “Oh, what do you play?” and I’m like… “drums!” I had never played the drums in my life. And then we just went with that for a while until we were in too deep, and we thought, “Y’know, we should probably book a jam space and try to sound…”
Hannah & Nada: And it was fun!
Melissa: It was fun!
Sonya: It was really cool the first time, and we didn’t think much of it, but…there’s this music festival in Vancouver called Music Waste, and it’s been going on for 25 years now. It’s a DIY festival, very cheap to get in, and you’ll see basically every great band in the city, and it’s like an institution. Mel and Nada grew up in Vancouver and they would go as teens all the time. And we just put together a demo, a really shitty demo; we wrote two songs and applied to the festival with that.
Hannah: We started jamming together and then found out that the festival was alike, a week later, and they’d extended it… We’re like, “We need to record a demo right now” because after you submit the band, you still have 2 months until the show, so if we could just scrape together a shitty demo, and get excepted, we can spend the 2 months actually becoming a band.
Melissa: But we did not think we would get in. And then we did, and we were all at our different jobs, and school or whatever and we all went on the group chat and were like, “uh, holy shit, we need more than these two 1-minute songs. And so in 1 month, we wrote a 20-minute set.
Hannah: It was the most productive this band has ever been.
Melissa: And from there we were like, “People were kind’ve into that; let’s keep doing this.”
Me: Very cool. And these things tend to usually happen at a synchronized point, y’know? “Alright, this is a sign, we have to jump on this,” and then, ~ CLICK ~ there you go. So, you could try to typecast the sound that you guys have, but it’s also distinct. It’s unique, it’s grabby, it’s…
Nada: This guy just told us we were derivative and mediocre, so…
Me: No, man! It is very unique! So my question is, of everyone’s influences, do you feel as if you sound like them, or do you just sort’ve take from their energy and make it your own? Of the things that you love and draw inspiration from does it sound like them, or do you just make it your own and come up with something totally new?
Hannah: I love the B-52’s. I love that band. I hear that a lot, people saying we sound like the B-52’s, and I don’t always hear it, but in some of Nada’s guitar lines, I can kind’ve hear it. They’re kind’ve quick pacing …
Nada: I like a lot of post-punk bands with interesting guitar lines, but I also like a lot of sludgier stuff. Like older grunge stuff.
Melissa: We were actually talking about doing a Melvins cover.
Me: Oh my God, you should … I’d be so happy.
Nada: At least for my instrument I like to try to merge the two, having a poppy B-52’s sound merged with a sludginess, too.
Me: I feel it. Having that distinct femininity, but still, be hard as fuck. So the first album- this is the first album you’ve put out. I love the themes that you touched on. Personally, my favorite one was … muttering … about doing your older boss.
~ Low Laughter
Hannah: That song’s just funny.
Me: It is really funny! And y’know, you do have a great blend of every day topics that are just humorous and funny to listen to, but you do touch on some serious notes. Do you feel like you’ve touched on everything you’d like for this album? Is there stuff that had to be cut out for its sake?
Melissa: We kept a song about Habbo Hotel, the computer game… so I think we just threw it all in there.
Nada: I’m not going to cut anything. We’re going to sing about cybersex.
Me: That’s right! I forgot about that one.
Hannah: Sonya wrote this song, Spare Me, like, right before we recorded…
Melissa: Right, that was the last one…
Hannah: .. and we were really getting down to the wire. The recording was coming up, we’d already paid for it and put down the deposit months in advance, and we didn’t have the album ready yet.
Sonya: I think that almost everything that was written was in the moment. All the stuff you wrote, (Hannah), it’s like the next day; something happens and it comes out.
Hannah: It’s really just the last year- the last year of our lives.
Me: Everything you’ve had to say-
Melissa: We really just put it all in. Some stuff we didn’t need to, and maybe if we thought a little bit harder about it, maybe I wouldn’t have, and some of the things I just decided to roll with. You don’t need to sing about your shitty relationship over and over again. But here we are, y’know?
Me: It’s not as if when you’re listening to the album you’re thinking, “Can we just lay off that for a second?” No, from an outsider’s perspective it works. Okay, if you guys had the option to work with or be produced by any other famous musical figure right now, who would it be?
Nada: Oh my God…
Me: You can get totally imaginative…
Hannah: Who’s the guy who did The Sims 2 soundtrack again?
Necking: Mark Mothersbaugh!!!
Nada: I want Danny Elfman too!
~ Laughter Erupts
Melissa: I’d like to be produced by Fall-Out Boy. I would love that, I don’t know!
Sonya: Steve Albini, so that we could be Albini’s Beanies.
Me: Now here’s a really pretentious question. When you think of the word punk, (I personally think of a time in the 1970s where the lower-middle-class needed to protest) It’s changed over the past 40, 50 years, obviously. What do you guys think of when you hear that term? If there is an image, an ideology.
Melissa: I think that my ideology around punk is, I think of myself when I’m doing something embarrassing, or that I feel is shitty, or I fucked something up and it’s okay, it’s punk. It’s alright if you fucked up, it’s okay if things are bad right now. It’s fine because that’s what happens. You can turn it into an experience.
Hannah: You’re so late, and you’re like, “that’s punk!”
Me: Like weirdly stylish in away.
Sonya: I agree though, it’s liberating at its core, because of its roots, but it’s also very personal and liberating.
Melissa: I’m absolved of guilt. I don’t feel that anymore. What’s shame? I’m not sure.
Me: That’s cool- I’m very satisfied with that answer. What’s next after this tour?
Hannah: Writing. Work on album 2 and other touring.
Melissa: We’re getting tired of these songs. Fuck these songs. Oh, east coast of Canada in September. The states we don’t have nailed down yet. That, and writing, and then album 2 hopefully as soon as possible.
Me: International aspirations maybe?
Necking: Japan!!! So badly!!!
Nada: Japan 2020.
Me: One more! Do you have any advice for someone who is trying to start the band that speaks to them, to break into music?
Nada: Just go with your friends. Just fuckin’ do it.
Melissa: We did it! I’d never played drums, you (Sonya) never played bass, and then we were just like, “I wanna play drums..”
Hannah: Rent some studio time. We rented the little studio time, it was about $11 each, and we went in for one hour together, and we borrowed some gear from some friends- get the shittiest, cheapest stuff on Craigslist… Whatever you have to do. You can really get, for $50, just some garbage.
Nada: My amp that I’ve been using for two years- $50 on Craigslist. My favorite thing in the world.
Melissa: Just understand that it’s gonna be kinda shitty at first. So the most important thing is to have fun with it, and then all that other shit will happen if it’s meant to happen. Or just make it happen for yourself! Book your own shows!
Hannah: You’re definitely gonna suck, y’know? Don’t worry about sucking. You’re going to. Everyone does, and it’s fine and then you just keep doing it.
Sonya: The energy is the most important part.
Me: Absolutely. I think I’m satisfied.
Necking: Thank you!!