Sowing the Subversive with Le Butcherettes

The high-energy Mexican group brings the thunder to the Valley this week

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Le Butcherettes have quite the reputation.

Aside from their raucous punk-inspired sound, fans delight in their engrossing stage show – one that sometimes includes frontwoman Teresa Suarez (aka Teri Gender Bender) donning a bloody apron, playing with raw meat and fake blood, and making dramatic use of a pig’s head. The band’s onstage antics may be outrageous, but the message behind them commands attention. And attention they have received, enjoying some worldwide success in recent years while opening for the likes of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Dead Weather, and Deftones.

The band’s most recent studio record, A Raw Youth (released in 2015), is a force to be reckoned with, laced with punk guitars juxtaposed with melodic synths. Both of which are countered with Suarez’s chillingly versatile vocals, ranging from a snarky shout to a smoldering wail to an almost witchlike sneer. The unruliness of the record is due in part to producer and friend Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (The Mars Volta, At The Drive-In), who has worked with Suarez not only on Le Butcherettes albums, but on collaborative group Bosnian Rainbows.

Of course for most musicians, songwriting is an intensely personal experience. The end result is a journey through complex emotions, which, at times, includes confronting demons. What we have to think about is do those demons belong to the songwriter, or do they belong to us? Suarez’s lyrical compositions seem like restless poems; at times she comes off as more of a character in a story. This kind of idiosyncrasy is apparent in the album’s opener, “Shave The Pride,” in which Suarez told NPR that the song (originally titled “Pogonophobia” – fear of beards) began about a lover hiding behind his “masses of hair,” but morphed into commentary about society hiding behind its metaphorical beard. “The beard symbolizes our unwillingess to view all perceptions of [a] story,” Suarez said, noting that we are quick to hide behind mass media. It’s this kind of idea depth that gives Le Butcherettes such an edge.

And, taking her gift of crafting bizarre narratives further, Suarez incorporates somewhat abstruse, morose imagery into her lyrics. Four songs into A Raw Youth, we are treated to “La Uva,” which, on the surface, is a song about a grape. But, evoking a sense of Sylvia Plath, a deeper look reveals the story behind it, with lyrics bordering on the esoteric. “La Uva, se ve hacia la calle,” Suarez sings. “Buscando el encuentro hacia uno mismo” (“The grape looks toward the streets searching for an encounter with herself”). And later, “La Uva, se acuesta sobre huesos de color azul/y se muere feliz” (“The grape lies among blue bones and dies happily“). Interestingly enough, this track features a guest appearance by Iggy Pop, who pairs his signature growl strangely with Suarez’s forceful melody. Although the song could be considered slightly abrasive by some, there’s a certain charm to it that is most likely the product of the two artists’ mutual admiration for each other. And, it seems they just had a good time recording it, as evident in the video below.

Why I Like This Album: Suarez, like a lot of us, became disillusioned with the establishment at a young age. When she was fifteen, she adopted her stage name after concluding that people shouldn’t be psychologically bound to the names given to them solely by inheritance. She didn’t like the idea of someone’s name claiming ownership over them, and decided then that she’d be forever known as Teri Gender Bender, embodying the forces of both women and men. And, fronting for Le Butcherettes, Teri Gender Bender epitomizes everything that is right with modern rock and roll. Suarez is smart and possesses a self-awareness that makes her extremely relatable, whether she’s talking about philosophers who influence her, sizing up feminism, or remarking on the seriousness of Mexican culture. All of which come through in her music, still making A Raw Youth one of the most honest records I’ve heard in a long time.

Full of emotion and explosive energy, Le Butcherettes are guaranteed to put on a show you won’t want to miss. They’ll be playing live at McAllen’s Yerberia Cultura this Thursday, June 8. Joining Le Butcherettes are local acts Dezorah and Lazer Hog. Doors open at 8, and the show is all ages.

 

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