Posts Tagged ‘I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone’

Every band begins with a mission. Some yearn for fame, others for fortune; many are just looking for a way to pay the bills, and a few want to make art for art’s sake. The Seattle band Chastity Belt also grew from a shared purpose; the quartet came together when they were sophomores at Whitman College, in neighboring Walla Walla. The catalyst? An intense desire, fueled largely by pure boredom, to troll Beta Theta Pi, one of four fraternities on campus.

It was 2010, bandleader Julia Shapiro tells me over the phone, and the brothers’ annual “Battle of the Bands”—a bacchanal dominated by Axe, weed, and body odor—was fast approaching. As such, the ladies Shapiro (guitar, vocals), Lydia Lund (guitar), Annie Truscott (bass), and Gretchen Grimm (drums) decided to contest the event.

A short while later, Chastity Belt hit the stage for their first-ever performance, dressed as punks, faces smeared with garish makeup (“I was wearing so much red eyeliner it looked like my eyes were bleeding,” Shapiro recalls). They performed a single song: “Surrender,” a five-minute ode to angst, youth, “stealing your mom’s cigarettes, and wearing dark eyeliner.” To the band’s surprise, the mass of friends gathered to watch the set significantly outnumbered the Betas. Not that Chastity Belt needed to sway anyone; according to Shapiro, some of the group’s friends stole the voting slips intended for partygoers and stuffed the ballot boxes, rigging the competition in the band’s favor. “We didn’t really win anything,” Shapiro says, her deadpan voice dripping with mock disappointment.

Chastity Belt had, in fact, won several things: a serious confidence boost, validation from their peers, and the realization that, beneath all their jangly tomfoolery as underclassmen, there was a rock band waiting to emerge. “When we moved to Seattle,” Shapiro says, “we were like ‘Oh, we can really do this’—and once we felt that, it was kind of like ‘Well, let’s make music that we actually want to make, that’s not just this funny, humorous thing.”.

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The foursome weren’t ready to grow up just yet, of course, so when it came time to record and promote 2013’s No Regerts and its 2015 follow-up Time to Go Home, they kept things light-hearted, preaching self-love and sex-positive feminism with smirks on their faces on songs like  “Nip Slip,” “Giant (Vagina),” and “Cool Slut.”

Between their nonstop buoyant hooks to garner a reputation as Hardly Art’s goofball darlings, spreading smiles and giggles wherever they went. But eventually, the chortles started to seem like a crutch—especially in the wake of sought-after opening spots for tours with Courtney Barnett and Death Cab For Cutie. “It kind of felt like we were hiding behind humor, in a way,” Truscott says. “It takes a lot more to write genuine songs. It’s just harder.”

With their third album I Used To Spend So Much Time Alone, Chastity Belt are taking off the jester’s mask and buckling down, subjecting their jangle-pop to a heretofore unseen level of discipline. Where the first two albums derived their momentum from fleeting, flippant bursts of energy, I Used To Spend So Much Time Alone sees the band taking a protracted approach to dynamics, venturing through the reverb-laden fog with tentative, well-measured strides. Its songs deal with depression and heartbreak. On “5am,” Shapiro mulls over the existential consequences of a long night out, seething over the realization that in all those hours of empty, inebriated conversations she and her friends have said absolutely nothing. “It’s 5am, and I’m full of hate,” she grumbles, before getting to the root cause in the slinky chorus (“Immediate urge to get everything all straight / Need to express it but it’s not the time or place”).

This is a real-life observation for Shapiro, whose beer buzzes typically manifest as a crushing dose of ennui. “I’m trying to have meaningful conversations with people, or make something happen so that it feels worthwhile that I’m out of my house,” Shapiro sighs. “Sometimes, it’ll end with me going to bed around 5am”—she drops the deadpan for an exaggerated, anguished whisper, poking fun at her own melodrama—”just because I know there’s more, there’s got to be more.”

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Nowhere is Chastity Belt’s chemistry more tangible, or their emotional honesty so profound, as on the late-album slow-burner “Something Else,” an ode to the seasonal depression that’s a hallmark of life in the Pacific Northwest. Along with the album’s lead single “Different Now,” the song represents a deviation from the band’s fragmented approach to composition (which typically casts Shapiro’s parts as cornerstones, over which the other members add theirs). Instead, its slack, melancholy arrangement came together organically during a jam session. “It ended up being a train of thought that I was having which I feel like a lot of people, especially in Seattle, can relate to during the winter,” she says, reflecting on the band’s shared headspace. “You’re kind of stuck in a downward spiral of negative thoughts until you leave the house and go for a walk to clear your head, but it’s hard to get out there when the weather’s so shitty.”

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They may be more world-weary than they were two years ago, but Shapiro and company haven’t gone full Debbie Downer yet, nor do they intend to. At the end of the day, they just want to be honest. Asked if the band’s sobered sound was a conscious effort, she shrugs, “It’s got more to do with the natural progression of our music, and what kind of music we want to be making at this point. Songs like ‘Giant (Vagina)’ and ‘Pussy Weed Beer’ were written in college, when we weren’t really thinking this band was going anywhere. At the time of writing them, we didn’t have any intention of recording them, or continuing to play music.”

Seattle’s rock scene is experiencing an underground renaissance, and at the center of its close-knit collective of punk-inspired bands is Chastity Belt. The laconic, yet rebellious foursome singer and guitarist Julia Shapiro, guitarist Lydia Lund, bassist Annie Truscott, and drummer Gretchen Grimm  have been growing an enthusiastic fan base since their days as a Walla Walla college band, thanks to two raucous albums .

Their tongue-in-cheek humor often belied incisive depth, whether the topic was the boredom of youth (“Pussy Weed Beer”) or sex-positive gender dynamics (“Cool Slut”) and pointed feminist commentary (“Drone”) from 2015’s breakthrough, Time To Go Home. Now with its evocative third album, “I Used To Spend So Much Time Alone”, Chastity Belt further deepens its low-key, nonchalant persona by inviting us into their heads. And with less reliance on laughs to cloak its emotions, Chastity Belt has never felt this vulnerable, or as relatable.

From the very first lines of I Used To Spend So Much Time Alone’s brilliant opener, “Different Now,” we find Shapiro in a reflective headspace. “You’re hard on yourself, well you can’t always be right / All those little things that keep you up at night / You should take some time to figure out your life,” she sings, capturing the uncertainty that comes from getting older and still wondering who you want to be. As Chastity Belt’s guitarist and primary singer, Shapiro is our main entry point into the album’s introspective songs, which grapple with loneliness and depression, and confront the nagging anxieties that can sabotage aspirations, wreak havoc on relationships and friendships, and induce sleepless nights with your regrets and fears.

Throughout I Used To Spend So Much Time Alone, Chastity Belt’s characters nurse heartache (“What The Hell”), confront change (Gretchen Grimm’s song “Stuck”), and work through depression (“Something Else”), but the constant theme is a desire for normalcy. In one highlight, “Caught In A Lie” Shapiro worries she’ll be outed as a fraud, unsure if she’s pursuing what she really wants, or simply doing what others expect from her: “You’re caught in a lie, living someone else’s dream…Is this what you want? Is this who you want me to be?” she asks herself. Elsewhere, “It’s Obvious” portrays a chameleon-like need to adopt the qualities of a disinterested lover and losing herself in the process. “I can hold your interest, but only for a short time / and it feels freeing to lose,” she admits, in one puncturing phrase. And in “Used To Spend,” Shapiro seeks to reconcile her introverted and extroverted selves: “Out of the fog and finally feeling fine / My doubts are all gone and I’m having a pretty good time / Feeling like a real champ, but for how long?,” she asks with a muted resignation, atop loping and scuzzy guitar chords.

Recorded live last summer alongside producer Matthew Simms at Jackpot! studios in Portland, Ore., I Used To Spend So Much Time Alone doesn’t mess with the band’s signature fuzzy guitar rock, so much as refine it. The album’s instrumental depth allows the music to stretch, sway and gradually unfold to new places. That can be heard in the way Shapiro’s distorted, jangling strums entwine with Lydia Lund’s brightly chiming arpeggiated melodies, or when Annie Truscott’s repeating bass lines lock-in as a steadying backbone for Grimm’s kinetic drumming. It all helps propel the dynamic harmonies and resonating vocals of each singer: Where Grimm and Lund’s voices sound delicate and airy, Shapiro’s rich alto croon is capable of shifting from wistful warmth to guttural shouts in anxious songs like “This Time Of Night” and “Complain,” and especially in the fiery closer, “5am.” Depicting the end of a party, a woozy Shapiro seeks connection and conversation about heavy ideas, singing “Immediate urge to get everything all straight / Need to express it, but it’s not the time or place,” her frustrations personified by a cresting vamp of scorching noise and wiry riffs.

Three albums into its career, Chastity Belt showcase an emboldened musicality and matured songcraft that can only come from spending so much time together (rather ironic, given the title). I Used To Spend So Much Time Alone is a thoughtful, reflective album, constantly searching for direction to and questioning every solitary, restless feeling, yet it’s that intimacy that allows us to know a new, perhaps truer side to the artists. It takes an extraordinary amount of self-confidence to expose that process for all to hear.

Long-time favourites and all-round brilliant people Chastity Belt have shared the final track from their forthcoming album, and as you might expect we love it just a little bit. The song ‘5am’ is taken from the upcoming album I Used To Spend So Much Time Alone which is out on June 2nd out on Hardly Art.

Following tracks such as ‘Different Now’ and the low key number ‘Caught In A Lie’ the newest one fits with its title and is a slightly unhinged and sleep-deprived stomper. It derives a little from the usual Chazzy Belt style and irks on the side of a wilder and freer sound.

The song deals with that horrible time in the morning were swirling thoughts are inescapable but yet have no conclusion or tangible definition. It is also another reminder of Chastity Belt’s undeniable ability to capture a moment.

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“5am” is the epic closing track from Chastity Belt’s highly anticipated “I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone”, out 06/02/17 on CD, LP, digital, and cassette from Hardly Art Records.

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This June marks the release of I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone, Chastity Belt’s third and finest full-length to date. Recorded live in July of 2016, with producer Matthew Simms (Wire) at Jackpot! in Portland, Oregon (birthplace of some of their favorite Elliott Smith records), it’s a dark and uncommonly beautiful set of moody post-punk that finds the Seattle outfit’s feelings in full view, unobscured by humor. There is no irony in its title: Before she had Chastity Belt, and the close relationships that she does now, Julia Shapiro considered herself a career loner. That’s no small gesture. I can make as much sense of this music as I can my 20s: This is a brave and often exhilarating tangle of mixed feelings and haunting melodies that connects dizzying anguish (“This Time of Night”) to shimmering insight (“Different Now”) to gauzy ambiguity (“Stuck,” written and sung by Gretchen Grimm). It’s a serious record but not a serious departure, defined best, perhaps, by a line that Shapiro shares early on its staggering title track: “I wanna be sincere.”

“Caught in a Lie” is the second single from Chastity Belt’s highly-anticipated 2017 album I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone, out June 2nd on Hardly Art Records.

Chastity Belt will share their third studio album I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone in June via Hardly Art Records. Announcing plans to play a number of showcases at this year’s SXSW between the 14th and 17th March, Chastity Belt have also released the new video for single ‘Different Now’

The new record, we’re told, stems from a moment a few years ago, while in a tour van somewhere in Idaho, Julia Shapiro, Gretchen Grimm, Lydia Lund, and Annie Truscott—opted to pass the time in a relatively unusual fashion: They collectively paid one another compliments, in great and thoughtful detail.

So, if that’s anything to go by, the new stuff should be just bloody lovely.

On International Women’s Day, here’s Chastity Belt with ‘Different Now’

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