Julia Shapiro admits: she was just trying to get a reaction.
When she and her friends got bored as students at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash., they picked up guitars and learned how to play them in front of audiences at on-campus music festivals and weekend parties. They were a party band who called themselves Chastity Belt and played songs called "Giant Vagina," "Nip Slip" and "Pussy Weed Beer."
Flash forward a couple of years, and Chastity Belt is the talk of the Seattle music scene, an edgy, all-girl, lo-fi rock band admired by Pitchfork and NPR, being touted as some kind of feminist superheroes. The Seattle Times told the city that "Nobody in Seattle sings about sex more honestly," and CMJ said "Chastity Belt filter feminist theory, cultural commentary and general intellectual bad-assery."
When asked about that, Shapiro giggles over the phone from the band's tour van.
"I don't even think about how other people will receive [our music]. I sing what I think is funny," she says.
Shapiro says Chastity Belt, in its earliest days, was all about making dick jokes that would make people laugh. Like "James Dean," a song in which Shapiro yells "You're a slut! I'm a whore! We've f---ed everyone before!"
"I feel like our more sexual songs are our older ones that I wrote when we were seniors in college and playing songs to frat parties," Shapiro says. "I don't even think of us as super sexual.
"I mean, we have songs about nipples and vaginas. But um..., " she laughs, her bandmates snickering in the background. "I think part of it is probably because we're girls. Because guys sings about their dicks all the time."
The band — Shapiro, bassist Annie Truscott, guitarist Lydia Lund and drummer Gretchen Grimm — might not see themselves as sexual revolutionaries, but they certainly have a catchy way of getting another kind of message across. It might be this: women like to be irreverent and silly and kind of gross, too.
Occasionally, the band takes itself seriously. "Black Sail" shows Chastity Belt at its best: thudding bass and reverb-y guitars back Shapiro's Neko-esque vocals as she sings about sinking ships and schools of fish.
So, yeah, there's talent behind Chastity Belt. And they choose to interlace that talent with songs where the singer yells "vagina!" That might be a little gimmicky for some, but who doesn't like a good dick or fart joke? ♦
Chastity Belt with Pony Time, Bloody Gloves and Bad Mood • Mon, Nov. 4 at 9:30 pm • Baby Bar • 827 W. 1st • Free • 21+ • 847-1234