Le Butcherettes(photo: Lindsey Byrnes)

Words by Erin Lyndal Martin

Listening to Le Butcherettes’ albums is not the same as being in the crowd when Teri Gender Bender pulls out a pig’s head or spontaneously cuts her bangs onstage.

Gender Bender no longer dons bloody apron — she wears red instead — but Le Butcherettes’ new album bi/MENTAL teems with all the stuff of blood. It’s passionate and bold, and it channels what it means to share a bloodline with someone.

Gender Bender (aka Teresa Suarez Casio) had been working on a short film with Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (of the Mars Volta and At the Drive-In). The movie featured Jello Biafra and Gender Bender’s own mother. But then Gender Bender's mother had her first breakdown, which she then self-medicated with alcohol. Dealing with a family crisis forced the musician to change direction. “She came to my house with a knife and she started going at me and I was like, ‘Holy fuck. This is my mother.’ I managed to push her out. I locked all the doors to the house. I didn't want to call the police, especially for a Latina woman in the States.” To cope, the musician locked herself in her closet and recorded 60 demos.

When executives at Rise Records asked about new projects, Gender Bender offered up the demos, and they asked her who should produce it. She suggested Talking Heads’ Jerry Harrison. Harrison was thrilled with the project, but not the Mexico City recording location. “He said, ‘I don't want to travel anymore. I'm sick of doing this. Let's do it near my house.’” Harrison lives in Marin County, and he suggested the Panoramic House studio at Stinson Beach.

The studio, owned by John Baccigaluppi and Robert Lurie, proved inspiring. The house itself was built in the 1960s of salvaged materials like Victorian windows, cobblestones, and shipyard timbers. In 2013, Baccigaluppi and Lurie converted it to a studio in the hopes that the architecture, ocean views, and isolated location would draw musicians.

But for Gender Bender, the price was the biggest asset. “Baccigaluppi is also the editor of Tape Op. He's aware of how hard it is for underground bands like us. Even with a record label supporting us, it was hard to find a good studio with housing included.”

It was Gender Bender’s first time living at a studio, which let her immerse herself in the project. “He gave us a really good deal. Not just us, but all underground bands. For $350 a day, including engineers, the housing, and the coffee included.”

It didn’t hurt that Gender Bender has positive associations with the Bay Area. San Francisco was the first city Le Butcherettes played in the United States, and Gender Bender welcomed immediately. “In Guadalajara, I have to fight my way to earn the respect of the crowd. It's like a sadist/masochist relationship. You want the guy who's yelling all these obscenities to eventually shut up. Sometimes I'd just get off the stage and bite their ankles,” Gender Bender says. She’s not being figurative — she once dislocated an attendee’s shoulder at a Guadalajara concert.

But from the band’s first appearance at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall on, the punk singer felt okay letting down her guard. “At the San Francisco show, people were into it right off the bat. I was like, ‘I hear you. I see you. I hear you and I see you too we exist. We're in this together,” she affirms.

It didn’t hurt that a local luminary began attending the San Francisco shows. “Jello Biafra is one of the reasons that I got into punk music when I was a kid. He's from there. He'd go to the Butcherettes shows there too, which was surreal for me. Like, what the hell's going on here? For me it's like Magic City.”

See them at Bottom of the Hill on Monday. Protect your ankles.

Le Butcherettes, Stars at Night, the Living
Bottom of the Hill
February 11, 2019
9pm, $15

Erin Lyndal Martin is a writer whose music journalism has appeared in Salon, Bandcamp, The Week, No Depression, and elsewhere.