Since 2007, when feminist punk band Tacocat formed, a new scene has evolved in Seattle. Calling out tech bros and catcallers, these bands embrace women’s issues but with an ironic, playful sense of humor.
In the Central District house where three of the four members of local pop-punk band Tacocat live, bassist Bree McKenna, guitarist Lelah Maupin and vocalist Emily Nokes hang out on the couch, while roommate and bandmate Eric Randall (guitar) makes coffee. A feisty chihuahua named Benito Dogriquez (who has his own Instagram account) wanders around the living room. Giant papier-mâché heads of the band from its latest video, “I Hate the Weekend,” stare out from the top of a locker. It almost feels like a midday slumber party, as stories and giggles erupt around the room.
Giggles are a big part of Tacocat’s world, even while the band tackles serious topics like street harassment and the cultural shift brought about by the influx of tech money to Seattle.
“The patriarchy hates being laughed at!” exclaims Nokes, a former music editor at Seattle alternative weekly The Stranger.
Tacocat record release party
With Ononos, Mommy Long Legs, DJ Erik Blood. 9 p.m. Thursday, March 31, at Chop Suey, 1325 E. Madison St., Seattle; $10-$12 (206-538-0556 or chopsuey.com).
Along with Tacocat, other young, feminist-minded bands like Chastity Belt, Childbirth and Mommy Long Legs are also “laughing at the patriarchy,” carving out a new scene that’s welcoming and empowering to women musicians.
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Using networks of all-ages shows, underground spaces and communal “punk houses” with shared basement practice rooms, the bands offer a successor to the Seattle “beard rock” scene, which includes groups like Fleet Foxes and The Head and the Heart.
Ironic and often comical, the new girl power is dipped in glitter, with a nod toward revolution, lol-style. Reclaiming language historically used against women, these self-proclaimed “weird girls” and “cool sluts” are calling out the sad dudes, tech bros, catcallers, yuppie moms, sorority girls and mansplainers of the world with equal parts furious fervor and spit-your-drink-out hilarity.
Seattle, with its independent, do-it-yourself spirit, has proved fertile ground for this new scene.
Tacocat led the way, forming in 2007 and gracing small venues and queer-friendly spaces with its quirky stage antics and surfy, candy-coated hooks. After a debut album and two EPs, 2014’s “NVM” (text-talk for “Nevermind”) gained the band national attention, in no small part because of “Crimson Wave,” a fun, frolicky song about heading to the beach during “that time of the month” that netted more than 200,000 YouTube hits.
Tacocat’s new album, “Lost Time,” comes out on the Hardly Art label Friday, April 1 (with a release party Thursday, March 31, at Chop Suey)/. The band is booked for a United Kingdom tour and also penned the theme for the new “Powerpuff Girls” animated TV show, which premieres April 4 on the Cartoon Network.
Tacocat’s success has opened doors for other bands.
One is Chastity Belt, formed in 2013 at Whitman College by vocalist Julia Shapiro, lead guitarist Lydia Lund, bassist Annie Truscott and drummer Gretchen Grimm. The band started out as a bit of drunken mischief, with the women chanting the band’s name while turning over tables at frat parties. But after playing a show with Tacocat and moving to Seattle, Chastity Belt’s conceptual direction and skills grew.
At a recent all-ages gig in a sushi bar on Vashon Island, Chastity Belt took the stage — wearing Hawaiian shirts, crop tops and Converses — as Shapiro crooned, “We’re just a couple of sluts going out on the town, fooling around,” from “Cool Slut,” off the band’s newest LP, “Time to Go Home.”
Shapiro’s side project, Childbirth — with Shapiro, McKenna and drummer Stacy Peck of Pony Time performing in maternity gowns — also throws down humor over a primal beat, but in caustic odes about the physicality of womanhood: having breasts, fertility, menopause and giving birth.
Being a funny female in a punk band apparently wasn’t always an option, according to Kathleen Hanna, one of the founders of Olympia’s feminist punk movement of the early ’90s, riot grrrl, an inspiration for the new Seattle bands.
“We thought we were being funny a lot of times in Bikini Kill,” says Hanna, referring to her influential band. “But nobody got the joke … Now that there’s less pushback, there’s more room for people to let their whole, three-dimensional selves shine.”
If there’s one band whose members feel perfectly free to be themselves, it’s Mommy Long Legs, featuring Cory Budden (drums), Leah Miller (bass), and guitarists Melissa Kagerer and Lilly Morlock. With influences that include Sleater-Kinney and riot grrrl band Bratmobile’s album “Potty Mouth,” Mommy Long Legs facetiously identifies its music as “barf-core/fart-core/vomit garage” — all genres the members made up.
Mommy Long Legs says Seattle’s DIY and all-ages spaces have helped the scene thrive here, as has radio station KEXP.
“I’m sure there are bands doing this in other cities, but we’re just able to have more support,” says Miller.
Tacocat and friends were not always greeted with such a warm embrace.
“A lot of people said really rude things to us,” recalls McKenna, “like our song topics don’t matter, or the only reason anyone is paying attention to our band is because it has cute girls in it.”
Slowly, however, attitudes changed, and new bands such as Mombutt and high-schoolers The Hardly Boys were invited by Tacocat to share the stage. While on tour recently, the band even encouraged an act to move to Seattle — Robin Edwards, who performs as Lisa Prank.
“We just completely stole her from Denver,” explains Maupin with a smile.
Edwards now lives upstairs, next to McKenna, in a room where she records most of her songs with an electric guitar and Roland MC-505 drum machine.
“What’s that saying, a rising tide raises all ships?” asks Edwards. “I feel like there’s kind of that attitude here.”