Le Butcherettes take their music to new extremes on their newest album bi/MENTAL — but it might not be quite what you’d expect. Whereas in the past, the band have often fittingly focused on society-wide issues, and they grew themselves up as somewhat of a socially conscious noisy punk band, on bi/MENTAL, they fully embrace their own personality and immediate environments and prove there’s no shortage of captivating and even demanding material when looking closer to themselves.
They weren’t waiting to finally come into their own as a band for the years before their flourishing newest record — there’s just a lot to unpack heading into any effort that centers around family. “From a tragedy, something beautiful and pure can be born,” vocalist Teri Suarez asserts, explaining that underneath the eye and ear catching presentation of their newest album, real and tangible turmoil has reared its ugly head.
“The structure of my family is just based on chaos and guilt,” Suarez explains. “Mixed with Catholic upbringing, it just makes a nice stew of anything could go down at any point. So long story short, I came back from tour and my mother was going through an episode, which at the time I had no idea was an episode. I just thought it was something personal against me for being a bad Catholic or a bad daughter — but she was going through a mental breakdown, which ended up with her trying to kill me, and my ignorance due to the subject caused me to completely close myself off from her. I closed the windows, closed the doors, and stayed there for a week just completely mortified to take any action. I was scared of going to the police, of going to anyone, because I felt like I didn’t have anyone and it was fruitless.”
That’s not where the story ends however. Suarez’s experience birthed her latest work, which hits important points about the complicated and often frenzied nature of family relationships.
“The only thing I did as a coward was just keep doing what I do and write songs — just turn on the computer and write songs,” Suarez says of that dark week. “Even with me trying to distract myself, I referred to it — to my mother and my anger towards her for not wanting to get better, because she would medicate with alcohol which is something very common that people in denial do. Basically, it was my truth — our truth, which led me to question a lot of things about myself, like okay this is probably why I am the way that I am with my people, with my friends. Culturally speaking too it led me to go back to my roots, which led me to re-fall in love with my grandmother hence the new attire that I’m wearing which represents her. A lot of things with family — sometimes it’s scary to dig into them, but I think it’s worth it if you like to suffer.”
On the cover art for bi/MENTAL, Suarez — who goes by the stage name Teri Gender Bender — poses with traditional Chichimeccan attire like her grandmother used to wear while performing as a family musician. Even in those two examples of familial inspiration that pushed some of her latest writing, the performer found an example of the desperately bipolar and ultimately complicated nature of what she was tapping into.
Growing Up With Le Butcherettes
That personal stake in the music has persisted since the band’s formative years, even if it’s even more in the open now than before. Suarez has worked on the project since she was a teenager — and its debut release Kiss & Kill emerged all the way back in 2008. She found the music community originally as an outlet for her own very personal experiences like she’s been dealing with now, explaining that she’s long relied on the kind of exploratory poetry that defines Le Butcherettes’ lyrics as a personal outlet. She even has had poetry published at one point under the title The Missing Carcass / El Caparazón Perdido by the Mexico-based publisher Female Sessions.
“Ever since I was little, I just remember witnessing so many things that in my mind I was like okay, this is normal I guess, but at the same time I’ve been feeling my anger, and so thank god for music and art as a general platform for being able to vent it out,” she says, also explaining that she’s endeavored to write a poem a day, no matter the quality, for most of her life. “Luckily enough I’ve been able to use my limitations as a musician to make out a song to be able to express the poems that were inspired by the angry instances. I’m trying to work on it; I’m trying to work on those anger issues but music has definitely helped with that.”
“Basically the music was a way to bring the poems to life for me,” she adds. “Another way of expressing is the live element too. It’s always been kind of like a happening where everyone kind of loses themselves in the moment, including the people that go to the shows and the band. We’re all just in that, within the second of each note just lost in that trance, and there’s a little bit of an inner silence which just connects everyone.”
Musically, they’ve continued on with a tradition of diving headfirst into the human psyche and watching captivating new creations emerge. bi/MENTAL doesn’t sound like a band concerned with being the next big thing so much as they’re keen on making their vision a reality, complications and all, which is often where the really exciting developments happen. Suarez says she wanted her band’s newest record to feel like “a mind in the middle of a breakdown in the eye of a tornado, like a cinematic experience.”
They’re not aiming to dismiss their reality and move onto the next thing as much as examine it and — hopefully — form it more towards their liking, which is both where some of the previous sociopolitical aspects to the band’s music come in and where triumphant aspects of bi/MENTAL like the song “strong/ENOUGH” make an appearance.
Their musical undertakings are ultimately a very personal experience — but not to the exclusion of listeners.
“Being able to listen to other people’s stories, like on the road, being able to listen to how the music that’s from my room in Guadalajara or the room in whatever little hotel in an abandoned city has helped people — it’s really, really heartwarming to be able to hear those stories,” Suarez says.
“A lot of bands helped me get through traumatic experiences, The Beatles for example — Cream, Public Image Ltd. So I’m just like wow that’s freaking amazing to be able to pass on that feeling. I don’t know if that’s the narcissist in me. I like to think that’s the spiritual side of me saying wow that’s really beautiful.”
Check out a single ahead of the full album dropping 2/1 on Rise Records. Photo via Lindsey Byrnes.