MISTRESS & THE MISTERS
Mistress & the Misters are a study in physical contrasts. Drummer Joe Varella is heroin thin with dangerously razor cut bangs. Singer Seth Swift is more Brit-pop, wearing naugahyde and a tight novelty t-shirt to a recent photoshoot. Guitarist Chris Henderson has a beard that would make Marty Stouffer boil with envy.
Against these three large personalities bassist Shane Taylor's quiet demeanor fades into the background. The four don't look like they'd be in a band together, but they are. None of them look like they should be wearing dresses, but they do. The resultant music certainly shouldn't sound so good but, increasingly, it does. Say hello to Spokane's strangest band. They're about to rock your face off.
The band came together when Henderson and Swift met Beth Gibney, a drummer and a girl. None of them were very good at playing their respective instruments so they coined a name with light BDSM connotations and spent as much time as they could onstage going completely crazy. Henderson cringes through his natural, ear-to-ear smile when he talks about where the band was at this time last year. "We were really pretty terrible." Since the departure of Gibney, the addition of Taylor and Varella, they've become really much, much better.
Conflagration, the band's final recording with Gibney, stepped in a boozy, garage-y, classic rock direction. The forthcoming Emic EP adds the prowess to go with the pose, courtesy of what Henderson characterizes as Varella and Taylor's monster chops. The mix of icy technique the two have brought and the onstage insanity Henderson and Swift carry deep inside their persons have won people over fast. The sense you get talking to scene types is that no one in town has gotten hotter faster than Mistress and the Misters. This flare-up is mirrored around the region.
Still bearing the MatM moniker and now on rotating cross-dress duty (Henderson in a skirt is something to behold), the group is especially popular with the all-ages set, despite playing few all-ages shows. The band has a massive bloc of teen fans in Bellingham and a fawning admirer in Julia Lipscomb, the publisher of The Lab International 'zine and an occasional contributor to the Spokane Sidekick. She liked their pre-Varella and -Taylor work, calling Conflagration "pure guitar rock forged deep in the bowels of garageland," but considers the addition of Varella's drumming to be a stroke of serendipity. "I saw him with Nate [Schierman] and something didn't feel right," she recalls. "Now that I hear he's a Mister, it just fits." Sadly, because she isn't 21, Lipscomb has never seen the band live.
This is a problem Henderson says the band is trying to rectify, booking more all-ages gigs to sate the enormity of that scene's response. That responsiveness makes sense, given the band's arc. The group's natural showmanship and desire to rip led to a few key personnel changes that inspired Henderson to actually learn how to play his guitar well. It all shows a determination to give the kids what they want. Even if it's Marty Stouffer in a dress.