Interview with Chastity Belt’s Julia Shapiro

Julia Shapiro. Image courtesy of Hardly Art.

I reached out to Julia Shapiro, indie rock singer and songwriter, as she prepares for Chastity Belt’s American Tour for their self titled album released in September. Shapiro is most known for her solo album she recently released as well as her lead vocals and guitar for all-girl garage bands Chastity Belt, Childbirth, and Who is She?

After Chastity Belt cancelled their tour last April due to “health concerns,” Shapiro ventured into introspective songwriting and mixing that resulted in her first solo album titled Perfect Version that captures Shapiro’s discontent with personal imaging and searching for self growth through musings of change and stagnation simultaneously. She then continued working with Chastity Belt and the band later released their self titled album on September 20. Capturing similar sentiments and instrumentals as Shapiro’s Perfect Version, Chastity Belt wanders through foggy terrain of a mental landscape of dissatisfaction while combating it with surreal optimism. I asked Julia some questions about her experiences with creating Perfect Version mostly alone and being back with Chastity Belt after a much needed break.


What have you been up to since the release of Chastity Belt’s album and getting ready for the anticipated U.S. tour in February?

We tour quite a bit over the fall. In October we did a European tour and then in November we played the East Coast. We’re also working on writing some new stuff.

How are you feeling about touring with Chastity Belt again?

I sort of have a love/hate relationship with touring. It can be really fun, but also super exhausting. It’s all about getting the right balance. I’m excited about this upcoming tour because we’re taking our Australian buddies Loose Tooth with us. It’s also our last tour for a while, so that makes it feel a bit more manageable.

What are the things you do to stay centered when you’re struggling on tour or dealing with the frustrations of the recording industry?

Take a walk, call a friend, try to remember to take some alone time. It can be hard to find the time to take care of yourself on tour.

Did your solo album and emotions you unpacked in Perfect Version influence Chastity Belt’s self titled album?

All the lyrics are coming from me, so yeah I suppose so. Some of my solo songs probably could’ve been Chastity Belt songs if the timing had been different — there’s not a huge distinction between my songwriting process when I do solo stuff and when I do stuff with my band, except I was maybe a little bit looser with the way I wrote lyrics for my solo album. It was a little bit more stream of conscious.

How does mixing and composing music alone compare to the process with Chastity Belt?

It’s a lot quicker cause there’s only one person to consult. It’s also hard cause you sort of have to trust yourself more, since you’re the only one making decisions. It’s harder for me to get as excited about songs when I’m by myself — it helps to have my bandmates around to encourage me.

How did you all start Chastity Belt and overcome gender barriers in garage rock? Any advice for college students (specifically, girls) trying to start a band?

Trust yourself, and don’t just blindly follow others advice, especially men who are out of touch haha. Check in with yourself and your bandmates every once in a while to make sure what you’re doing feels good, and ask yourself why you’re doing it.

Do you think Chastity Belt has evolved since you all started making music in college?

Oh definitely. We started out just joking around, we never thought the band would become this serious. We’ve learned a lot along the way. There’s no way to really learn how to make music other than just doing it and learning from your mistakes.

What kinds of music inspired the conception of Chastity Belt? What are you listening to right now? 

Growing up I was really into Elliott Smith, and I still think he was an amazing songwriter. I also listened to Fiona Apple and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in high school. Recently I’ve been really into the new DIIV record. Those guitars sound so good.


Chastity Belt is touring the United States starting early February and will be performing in Denver at the Bluebird Theater on February 23.

Superstar boyband Brockhampton brings rising stars 100 gecs and slowthai to Denver

By Auguste Voss

DENVER—On a Monday night, the line to get into the brand-spankin’ new Mission Ballroom spanned the length of the 60,000 square-foot building, doubled back on itself twice, and wrapped around the front corner. Fans planning for a sweaty moshpit stood in shorts and t-shirts in crisp 30-degree air, huddling together for warmth. Once the doors opened, however, it was a matter of minutes before the whole line was inside and de-frosting.

Situated in Denver’s River North art district, the Mission Ballroom opened just months ago in August with a 4,000 person capacity and a concert calendar stacked with major national acts. 

The venue already operates like a well-oiled machine—several entrances allow for speedy security checks, and once inside the building, conscious efforts to streamline the guest experience are obvious. A muraled archway leads into a second chamber, facing an expansive bar with the usual over-priced beverage choices and the option of a branded cup for cheaper refills. After grabbing a drink, bathrooms are conveniently placed on either side of two hallways leading to the main space—which was packed by 7:30 for an 8 o’clock show. 

Unsurprising as the massive turnout for one of today’s most popular boy-bands was the demographic that showed up. Early 20-somethings abounded, but the crowd was dominated by teenagers and high-schoolers in trendy streetwear, tour merch, and borderline rave gear. Sprinkled in the crowd were older fans, too, but they stuck to the fringes as younger groups pushed up toward the pit. 

L.A./ Chicago-based duo 100 gecs opened with a performance that seemed to draw mixed feelings from the crowd. Comprised of Laura Les and Dylan Brady, 100 gecs has created a refreshing if overstimulating tribute to the digital age through a fast-paced mashup of more genres than I can define. They’ve blown up in the past few months, but it was clear that many at the show hadn’t hopped on the gec-train – yet.

Their debut album 1000 gecs is a chaotic frenzy of death metal, chiptune, hip-hop, and explosive bass punches, initially striking the unexpecting ear as abrasive and overcomplex. But a close listen to  “Money Machine,” for example, reveals creative and endearing lyrics like opening line “you talk a lot of big game for someone with such a small truck.Sonically, the two have created an impressive, unique reimagination of digital music, weaving an almost tangible essence of internet sub-culture into their unrelenting barrage of angsty autotune and genre-bending production. 

Their live show, every bit as turbulent as their online presence, capitalized on the chaos woven into 1000 gecs. The duo jumped around to muddled backing tracks, bathed in green light, while the crowd tried to figure out what they were experiencing; many joined in the moshing, and a few who came expecting Brockhampton’s more straightforward pop-anthems appeared to be caught off guard.

The lighting switched from sickly green to intense red, and for those hesitant to get on board with 100 gecs, slowthai was more their speed. 

Born Tyron Frampton, the Northampton, UK rapper has recently risen to the headlines for masterful lyricism and bold political statements. After receiving a Mercury Prize nomination for his 2019 album Nothing Great About Britain, the 25-year-old wielded a model of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decapitated head during his performance at the September award ceremony.

Slowthai’s music is forceful, propulsive, and engaging, covering topics from drugs to politics to his childhood background in riding motocross. And his stage presence followed suit. Fuelled by raw, manic energy and probably a good bit of testosterone, he waved the mic around his crotch and jeered “sometimes in life people will talk shit to you. When they do, you say ‘get the fuck out of my face.’” 

Slowthai ripped his shirt off just a couple of songs into his set. Standing still, I could feel the floor shake below me as the whole room opened up into moshpits. 

He finished his set with a spirited rendition of “Doorman,” which chronicles a fling with a rich girl and uses allusions to addiction, the royal family, and a children’s show to blast Britain’s wealth disparity. 

After slowthai’s explosive set, the crowd had a chance to cool down before their beloved headliner, Brockhampton.

In the early 2010s, now-frontman Kevin Abstract posted on a Kanye West forum that he wanted to start a band. Over 30 people responded, leading to the inception of Alive Since Forever and the subsequent release of the ASF EP in 2013. Over the months that followed, ASF dissolved and reassembled—about one-third of its original size—as Brockhampton. Since their 2014 inception, Brockhampton has released six studio albums, toured the world, and amassed a cult following.

Today, the boyband is comprised of 13 members: Kevin Abstract, Matt Champion, Ciarán “Bearface” McDonald, Dom McLennon, Merlyn Wood, Ashlan Grey, Robert Ontenient, Russell “Joba” Boring, Jabari Manwa, Romil Hemnani, Jon Nunes, Kiko Merley, and Henock “HK” Sileshi.

Each member contributes something unique to the collective, from vocals to production to visual media direction, and the result is a boyband like no other. Their music addresses difficult topics like mental health and sexuality in plain language, often drawing from band members’ personal experiences, leading to music that advocates for acceptance and self-love in a frequently disparaging society. 

The Mission Ballroom on Monday was a perfect testament to the spectacle of Brockhampton. Three massive, mirror-paneled crosses towered above the stage and LED panels lit the room from behind the bandmates. 

Kevin Abstract, left, and Merlyn Wood, right.

Abstract hit the stage first, opening with his verse on track “ST. PERCY” from most recent album GINGER. The groups other five vocalists, Bearface, Dom McLennon, Merlyn Wood, Joba, and Matt Champion joined Abstract and the crowd went crazy. 

Everyone who was hesitant to get down with 100 gecs and slowthai hit the mosh pits in full force when the group jumped into “ZIPPER,” a dynamic, quintessential Brochhampton anthem with opening lyrics “Pretty sure I’m maniacal, but what do I know?” Later in the track, Wood belted: “shoutout to south-central San Marcos, I got addicted to soft shell tacos.”

Left to right: Kevin Abstract, Joba, Matt Champion, Bearface, and Dom McLennon.

Mosh pits steadily continued, pausing only for “SUGAR.” The song is a cathartic, bittersweet ode to the love, late-night shenanigans, and drug-induced highs that populated the band’s younger years; it felt fitting, then, that the vibe of the room shifted from hip-hop show to high school dance as the crowd slowed down, swayed back and forth, and shouted along to the lyrics. 

The crew closed with “No Halo,” and the end of the show was like coming out of a daze—one I didn’t particularly want to leave behind.

The Brockhampton boys have undeniably infectious energy. Their achievements over the past six years, from the popularity of each studio album to their notoriety for insane live shows, have enabled the rapid growth of a fanbase that knows to bring high expectations. They certainly didn’t disappoint.

 

Photography by Auguste Voss // iPhone.

Bedroom-pop heartthrob ROLE MODEL brings “Far From Perfect” tour to Denver

By Auguste Voss

DENVER —Just blocks from Coors Field in downtown Denver, the Marquis Theater is a low-key hotspot for local gigs and up-and-coming national acts. Tucker Pillsbury, aka ROLE MODEL, stopped by in November on his inaugural “Far From Perfect” tour.

Oxeye Daisy by Auguste Voss

The night began with Denver grunge-pop outfit Oxeye Daisy. Flamboyant, brightly-colored animal print attire added to an already energetic stage presence. While many garage-rock groups might find their sound muddled at a smaller venue like the Marquis, Oxeye Daisy’s music felt crisp and refreshing in a wonderful, grungy sort of way.

Nineteen-year-old songwriter Mills. was next, gracing the stage with a solo set. His voice, smooth as butter, sounded like a bouncier Lewis Capaldi. A wide-brimmed hat was the cherry-on-top of an outfit seemingly catered to his stop in the southwest. Mills. has created a space for himself in the oversaturated bedroom pop realm, working with ‘Surf Trap’ artist Felly on recent single “Water.” Already ahead of the game at nineteen, Mills. demonstrated a passion for music that seemed to tell the audience “this is just the beginning.”

Mills. by Auguste Voss

After plenty of hype from the opening acts, ROLE MODEL burst onstage with a grin that had the whole room cheering even before the music started. The epitome of the teenage heartthrob, ROLE MODEL swept perfectly-disheveled hair away from his eyes as he scanned the room. 

ROLE MODEL by Auguste Voss

At first glance, ROLE MODEL feels like an unexciting archetype—another cigarette-smoking wannabe popstar with skinny jeans and edgy tattoos. But Pillsbury weaves a persona that tells us that he knows exactly what he’s doing, and his music is honest and raw.

His “Far From Perfect” tagline feels like an authentic testament to growing up in Gen Z, and recent songs like “minimal” and “notice me” are anthems of teenage angst and relationship troubles.

ROLE MODEL dances in the crowd. Photo by Auguste Voss

I was impressed that the 22-year old bedroom-pop icon, still testing the waters of national touring, brought along a live band—and it made his show fantastic. Even when he slowed down for a sappy, well-received cover of Hannah Montana’s “The Climb,” his energy was infectious. He bounced back and forth across the stage, wandered into the crowd, and never stood still for more than a few seconds. 

After “thank you for coming,” the band dipped offstage for a moment before returning in full swing for a lively encore. ROLE MODEL closed the night with “girl in new york,” a smooth, catchy ballad of romantic dissonance.

ROLE MODEL by Auguste Voss

ROLE MODEL’s stop in Denver was a dreamy, well-polished sneak-peek of what will undoubtedly be an ongoing rise into the mainstream.

Our Favorite Albums of 2019

Check out what some of our DJs consider their favorite albums of 2019.

 

You Deserve LoveWhite Reaper

Review by Jane Harris

No one did it quite like White Reaper this year. 2019 was a bountiful year for the Louisville, Kentucky natives. With the release of their third studio album, You Deserve Love, White Reaper signed with Elektra Records, joining the ranks of rock n’ roll greats. However, the group isn’t too daunted by sharing a label with The Doors or The Cars, they are quite content blazing their own path and ‘reaping’ its benefits. One of their singles, “Might Be Right,” off You Deserve Love, has racked up over 3 million streams (and counting) since its release at the end of May, dethroning their staple “Judy French” as the band’s most-streamed single. White Reaper’s new album provides a perfect soundtrack for the turn of the year into a new decade— featuring  impressive battling guitar solos reminiscent of classic rock with contrasting high-energy synth sections that deepen the record’s sound. Though the new album isn’t quite as party-next-door sounding as their last two records, the natural progression of their sound as more sleek and tuned can’t be denied or ignored. This album shows that progress is valuable and important. You Deserve Love proves White Reaper succeeds in making intentional music for constantly evolving times and listeners. And that music fucking rocks.

Along with the success of their newest album, 2019 brought White Reaper their debut on national television— they rounded out the year with an electrifying performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! Make no mistake, White Reaper is a force to be reckoned with. So sit back and kick off 2020 with some good tunes and some good love— you deserve it!

 

Come In, Weatherday

Review by August Caldwell

If you listen to any album I ever try to peddle into your earholes, please let it be the emo-punk masterpiece, Come In by Swedish artist Weatherday. I hesitated to suggest this album out of fear that every hip CC student would start listening to it and it would cease to be my own, personal album. But, in light of the season of giving, I decided to do a selfless act and give you, reader, the gift of this perfect album. You can thank me by listening to it.

Come In, Weatherday’s debut album, is a mystical grunge piece, both light and dark, soft and heavy all at the same time. Perhaps what I love most about this album is the lack of production on it. The album is self produced and according to the artist, Sputnik, was recorded mostly in their bedroom. The album possesses the simplicity of a Bandcamp gem and the elevation of raw musical talent. Listening to Come In is like being submerged in a complex dream, it is mysterious, but it resonates. It has a fantastic flow; the music moves you from unabashedly head-banging in public to weeping on your dorm room floor in one fluid motion. The album is absolutely delectable in its entirety, each song blends beautifully into the next, coming together to build a story whose contents seem to evolve with every listen. Come In is balanced; each track transitions seamlessly, and yet the album does not let the listener tune out, like many other albums of its genre. Weatherday injects chaotic and explosive energy throughout, but they make it sympathetic. There is not a dull moment in the entire album. The punk coarseness on tracks like Older Than Before and Cut Lips do not dominate and are balanced with softer, melodramatic tracks like Embarrassing Paintings and the opening moments of Mio, Min, Mio. The fifth track, My Sputnik Sweetheart, is especially noteworthy. The thirteen minute song is both long and crafted enough to subsist as an album in itself. My Sputnik Sweetheart is an emotional rollercoaster, carrying the listener from sunken ballad through a hardcore rage into a goose bump-raising gothic chord progression.

Come In is an important addition to the lo-fi emo-punk genre as one of the most creative albums to emerge from 2019. The album gives magic and a certain child-like thought process back to the genre. Weatherday has proved themselves to be an inspired lo-fi artist in their debut album and I look forward to their future productions in 2020.

 

Over It, Summer Walker

Review by August Caldwell

Atlanta native Summer Walker’s studio debut album, Over It, immediately stood out to me as one of the best albums of 2019. I am not the only one who holds this opinion, its debut week marked the largest streaming week for an R&B album by a female artist. Walker’s second album reveals a large professional leap from her first. She paired up with producer and boyfriend London on Da Track to create a well produced and star studded album sporting hit singles featuring other R&B stars, such as Come Thru with Usher and Playing Games with Bryson Tiller. In between these catchy, breakout tracks, there are gems tucked away that are as soulful as they are sexual, making the entire album an absolute pleasure to listen to, and a personal favorite of mine.

Over It has a slow, sultry flow filled with emotional complexity. Walker’s soft, crooning and at times, mumbly voice gives the album a very sexual feel. I often catch myself gently humping the air when I listen, no matter where I am. I have been trying to control myself, but the melodies are powerful. At the same time, the lyrics invite the listener to share Walker’s most inner thoughts of frustration, anger, desire and heartbreak. It is naughty at some points, Walker tenderly describes scenes of lovemaking on tracks like Stretch You Out and Body that unabashedly draw the listener into the bedroom and let them watch. No matter the content, Walker’s style never fails to be deeply introspective and moody. Walker, the introverted queen of R&B, presents herself as a sexually empowered and dominant woman across her songs, like Just Might with lyrics “I just might be a hoe.” The shy girl-sex kitten combination that Walker introduces is not only inviting but incredibly powerful.

Over It masterfully accentuates Walker’s talent and unique voice. Listening to the album is a deliciously spiritual experience; the sound is so soft and intimate it feels as if the album is wrapped in silk. The album is a great contribution the R&B genre and I am eager to follow Walker’s success in the upcoming decade.

 

Diaspora,Goldlink

Review by Emily Faulks

After listening to Goldlink’s second album At What Cost, I had been anticipating his new album for almost two years. When it finally came out, I was not disappointed. Although the album, entitled “Diaspora,” does not have the same 90’s inspired beats as songs like “Summatime” and “Crew” in his last album, Goldink beautifully creates a time capsule of the present that is scattered across a spatial plane. The songs in Diaspora feel like a musical representation of youth and vitality, the beats pulsating to Goldlink’s relaxed voice and airy choruses. The album opens with the brief introduction of a man sprinting outside on a summer night; then abruptly jumps to a mellow beat and buoyant hook from Ari PenSmith in “Joke Ting.” The album reflects the diaspora of black music through reggae inspired beats and D.C. slang that expose inequality beyond the D.C. area to other gentrifying cities in America and colonized countries in Latin America and Africa. This is my favorite rap album of the year because of Goldlink’s effortless flow paired with hip-swaying beats. It makes me feel like I’m right there with him: running alongside him on a summer night.

Patience, Mannequin Pussy

Review by Mimi Norton

I first heard of Mannequin Pussy when I saw them open for Japanese Breakfast on tour in 2017. I was captivated by their show because they performed at a breakneck pace, flying through a series of loud, high-energy songs; each of the band members’ bodies tensing and releasing according to the pulse of the drums. This punk record is driven by tight guitars and explosive drumming, but it’s exceptional because the album really features lead singer, Marisa Dabice, and lets her voice cut through the noise to share hard truths about trauma, toxic relationships, and self-love. This album is so fun to listen to, and will give anyone listening a new appreciation for patience in this crazy life we all live.