Q&A: Girl Loves Distortion
To hear its members tell it, Girl Loves Distortion is a group obsessed with substance and sound. "I can't sing songs that are about nothing," Jenn Thomas, who sings and plays drums and keyboard, told me yesterday, a few minutes after my voice recorder had run out of memory. She had much to say about music as an instrument of societal change, about women making independent music, and about Girls Rock! DC (she was running late, in fact, from a meeting for the girls-only rock camp, which she helps run).
Thomas' bandmate, singer/guitarist/bassist Christopher Goett, showed enthusiasm for more aural topics—like why he loves My Bloody Valentine and colored vinyl, his band's jagged, layered post-punk, and its studio sessions with Hugh McElroy in 2007 and Devin Ocampo this past winter.
The latter session, at Inner Ear Studios, yielded You Better Run, Your Highness, which the group (Steven Rubin is the third member) drops this week on its own Etxe Records. Girl Loves Distortion plays Velvet Lounge Friday with Trophy Wife and Thee Lexington Arrows to celebrate the release.
After the jump, my (condensed) interview with Goett and Thomas.
Washington City Paper: It seems your first record—most of it was very visceral, and then there were a couple more electronic numbers. But this one is more coherent.
Christopher Goett: I would totally agree with that. While I love our first record for what it is, in terms of documenting where we were at the time, I think it represents us figuring out how to play together. We got into the studio in Summer 2007 so we were just playing together for over a year. The last song on this new record is actually one of the first songs we ever played together, in '06.
Washington City Paper: I was going to ask about that song [“Ascend”]. I think you can read it as a bit of a band manifesto. Or at least that’s how I read it.
Christopher Goett: Yeah, yeah. It was literally the first song we played together. I kind of came in with those rough chords … those lyrics, they’re a little bit nostalgic, a little bit about getting a sense of your time and place. And that’s kind of how we approach a lot of things. I work for a nonprofit. I met Jenn at a community nonprofit in Northeast D.C. [eSharp Music Center] I think we’ve been involved in community in a lot of ways. I know it sounds cliché but it’s important to us.
Washington City Paper: It seems you write a lot about neighborhoods.
Goett: Yeah, I think in neighborhoods [he laughs again]. I was a community organizer for several years.
Washington City Paper: The blog party line seems to be that you’re one of the last bands embodying a “D.C. sound.” Do you buy that?
Goett: I have mixed feelings about that. I think most people are saying that as a compliment, but when I think of the D.C. sound, I think of a wide swath of kinds of music. There’s so many different kinds of bands. If you take Teen Beat or DeSoto or Dischord, even within there there’s a large spectrum. I love the D.C. “sound,” I suppose, and I’m not ashamed to be part of it at any stretch. I am a part of this community, and I’m entrenched in it and I like it. It’s one of those things [where I say], “Oh yeah, that’s really nice, but I don’t really know what that means.”
Washington City Paper: Can you tell me how the band formed?
Goett: Steve and I were in a band called Eight Track Mind that kicked around for most of '05 and some of '04, and it was becoming a situation where band members were moving further apart ... It was mostly Steve’s songs and I was kind of playing second guitar. And Jenn and I were working together ... in a studio called eSharp. And so kids were learning midi and learning guitar, bass, drums … it was actually really cool. Some young Go-go bands started cropping up. And so Jenn and I worked at the same nonprofit right around when our other band was stopping, and I knew she was an awesome drummer. And I said, “Hey, are you interested in playing rock again?” [Jenn Thomas walks up] … that was probably March of '06. We played a house show, I think in May …
Thomas: It was pretty much “let’s do it right now. O.K.” Then it what was like, “O.K. it’s working. Now let’s keep going.” And that’s that.
Goett: We all bring a different thing to the table.
Washington City Paper: What are those things?
Goett: I mean our perspective in terms of our library. That’s just an audiophile term, sorry, but I mean our collection. I love My Bloody Valentine, Ride and shoegaze stuff as much as I love punk, like T.S.O.L. and The Germs and all that other stuff.
Washington City Paper: … like the horror-rock T.S.O.L.?
Goett: No, the earlier stuff, please. [Everyone laughs.] And then Jenn turned me on to the Big Boys and stuff I wish I’d heard about … We’re not one-note in terms of where we’re coming from. I don’t mean to sound nerdier than I need to be, but I think that it helps. Steve has a certain proclivity where he’s coming form, I have a certain proclivity, Jenn has a certain proclivity …
Thomas: Steve comes from a little bit more of a smoother background.
Goett: Actually, Steve was in a hip-hop band for 10 years.
Thomas: And he comes from a melodic classic-rock [background], like Pink Floyd, and he really loves the stories behind the music and he brings in a lot of that in lyrics. … And my background is more like protest punk, like early D.C. stuff. I came from Austin to here, and I was at University of Texas for a while and saw the Big Boys and Minor Threat. And I moved up here as a skate punk. At some of the shows I remember being the only girl in a bright yellow Zorlac shirt amid an entire sea of people dressed in black. I was wearing cowboy boots and people were like, “whoa …”