Chastity Belt played their first ever UK headline gig last week in London, as part of a European tour taking in Paris, Berlin and some places we can’t pronounce in Austria and the Netherlands.
It follows the release of the band’s second LP, ‘Time To Go Home’, a straight talking, lo-fi exploration of dive bars, boredom, drinking and sex. With surf guitar.
Clash writer Emma Finamore caught up with the band over a pint before their first London show.
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What have you been up to during your first trip to London?
Julia Shapiro: We went on BBC 6 Music, with Mark Riley, and this one guy who kind of discovered us over here – Michael – I think he heard our song ‘Black Sail’ [on first LP, ‘No Regrets’] and told Marc Riley about us. That was a while ago, maybe two or three years ago.
Annie Truscott: We’ve walked around here [Dalston in East London] a little bit but we’re all super tired…
Lydia Lund: Everything’s really cute here, it’s all so quaint. [everyone bursts out laughing]
AT: Everything’s so little. We were served milk in a tiny milk bottle somewhere, and I was like ‘aaaaaaaaw’!
Gretchen Grimm: Even the sinks are really little!
How do you keep entertained when you’re on the road?
JS: We’re really into Carly Rae Jepson’s new album, ‘Emotion’, right now. It’s so good. I don’t normally like pop that much, but there’s no denying that she’s amazing.
LL: When we were last touring we were listening a lot to Celine Dion. Or was it Cher? We’re totally about the power ballads.
JS: We don’t have data on our cells in Europe, so we’ve got to come up with other ways to entertain ourselves. We’ve brought a lot of books along.
GG: We have an RV this time so there’s this table that we all sit at, all four of us sitting looking at each other. It’s weird. But for some reason I can read at a table, I can’t normally when we’re driving, so maybe I’ll actually read some books this time.
AT: I’ve brought Patti Smith’s new memoir, M Train, it’s only just come out.
Is there anywhere in the UK you’re looking forward to seeing?
GG: Some place called Br..Brighton? I want to see the seaside. And everyone says Glasgow.
JS: We were just in Manchester for the BBC and I can’t wait to play there, it looks like such a fun town.
Are there any British women in music you’re particularly into at the moment?
All together: Electrelane!
JS: I think we might actually be meeting Verity (Susman, founding Electrelane member), our friend Matthew knows her so he was talking about introducing us.
AT: Oh, and Spice Girls.
JS: I was always Baby Spice, ‘cos of the blonde hair…but I liked Baby Spice, I’d probably still be her.
LL: Yeah, Baby Spice was OK.
GG: It was always Sporty Spice for me.
Some reviewers said ‘Time To Go Home’ is a more sombre record than your first, what do you think about that?
JS: I guess compared to the last record this one’s maybe a bit ‘sadder’? I don’t generally like songs that are straight up happy, y’know? I need some emotion.
LL: It’s just all about life though!
AT: It’s hard to write completely positive lyrics that aren’t really cheesy…
GG: I think Björk is the only person who can get away with that.
JS: And Kate Bush. We love Kate Bush – that’s another for our British women list.
You had a two-year gap between the first and second records, will we have to wait that long for another? And what can we expect from any new material?
JS: I think it’ll be sooner, we’ve got a bunch of new songs right now, and some more that we’re working on. We’re gonna play a couple tonight.
LL: Because it’s just life it probably is kind of another stage. I mean, I hope we’ve grown up a little bit.
JS: It’s hard for me to say that a song is about one single thing because it tends to be more like a stream of consciousness, but I guess the new songs feel more…mature. I’m really excited about our new songs.
AT: I think we’ve all grown as musicians too, I know for myself at least I’ve definitely improved.
GG: This is always all of our first bands, so we’re all growing a lot.
How did you decide who played what when you formed a band?
JS: Lydia and I had both been playing guitar since seventh grade, and Annie knew like, one drum beat….so she was all, ‘I’ll be the drummer!’
AT: Then I remembered that I actually had a bass at home. I played violin, but I really wanted a bass in high school. Then I sort of just had it sitting around and never really played it. The tuning of a bass is the same as the violin just the other way around, so that was actually quite helpful.
GG: My family was just really into sports so I never learned anything as a kid. That’s why I’m on drums! [they all crack up laughing]
Have your families ever mentioned the lyrics or anything? Or are they just really proud of you?
JS: I don’t think they’ve ever really commented on the lyrics. My mom tried once I just really didn’t want to talk about it...
LL: My mom really likes critiquing things - she really wants me to change the melodies that I sing. She says, ‘You’re so plain and so a-tonal.’ And then tries to tell me how to do it. She learned to play to cello when she was in her 50s, and said that opened up her spiritual mind. So she’s into music.
AT: I remember my dad listening to a song on our first record and he was like, ‘Wait, is that song finished?’ and I was like, it’s on vinyl. It literally doesn’t get more finished than this!
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'Time To Go Home' is out now.
Words: Emma Finamore