It’s official. After seven years, Durham, North Carolina-based trio The Butchies are going on hiatus. “Hiatus is a great word, isn’t it?” says vocalist and guitarist Kaia Wilson. “Seems like a politician’s word that musicians get to use to avoid committing to a full-on breakup.
“We’ll be playing more shows here and there in the future because we get along well and reunion shows are always fun,” assures Wilson.
In the meantime, Wilson and her bandmates Melissa York (drums and vocals) and Alison Martlew (bass and vocals) have two last pit stops – Toronto Pride on Sun, Jun 26 and a last-ditch blowout at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Fest in August.
“We made the decision because we’re all ready to move on in our lives. Melissa is staying in Durham for the time being, where she’ll become number one drummer slut by hooking up with various musicians. Alison plans to get into grad school to study marine bio-logy. She’d like to work with sharks. And I’m going to continue in this crazy world of music-making, but I’m moving to Portland. I’m currently en route, travelling across the country in my van with my two dogs, and I’m feeling sad and excited. Uprooted.”
Of course Wilson is going to continue. “I don’t know what else I’d do if it weren’t music. It’s just in my blood.”
Her passion has garnered Wilson a somewhat iconic status within the queer punk music scene. She began at 18 with the band Adickdid (from 1991 to ’93) before moving on to the influential Team Dresch (’93 to ’96), whose albums Personal Best and Captain My Captain are lauded as revolutionary and unapologetic dyke punk queercore. Wilson then struck out on her own. Her acoustic punk solo act boasts three full- length LPs, the ’96 self-titled debut, Ladyman and Oregon.
It was in April of 1998 that Wilson, York and Martlew built The Butchies. “We came together in the same way anyone is conceived – by doing gross things so that our DNA could come together to create a baby that we named The Butchies.
“Without The Butchies, my bandmates and I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be nearly the sort of loud mouths that we love to be and get people to actually listen. It’s been very important for us to be politically outspoken and as gay as humanly possible.
“Though we’ve had our share of trying times, it’s the highs that stand strong: playing in small towns while amazingly energized youth dance, opening for Cheap Trick, playing with Amy Ray, those crazy delirious on-the-road moments that can’t be explained but always end in crazy laughter and tears of madness. We have a good amount of fans and we’re all incredibly down to earth so our relationship with them is pretty much like we’re friends.
“And we put out a lot of frantic energy onstage, crazy rock moves and stage banter.”
The Butchies vow to achieve, as Wilson quips, “underworld domination” via punchy drums, guitar riffs and Wilson’s angst-ridden vocals. They released four full-length albums, Make Yr Life, 3, Population 1975 and Are We Not Femme? (all three released through Mr Lady Records, the indie label that Wilson and her partner, photographer and video artist Tammy Rae Carland, launched in ’97). “We didn’t see any record labels that were really representing and promoting feminist queer politics,” says Wilson. “And that’s what we wanted to do, because we’re feminist queers!” Mr Lady was home to such luminaries as Le Tigre, The Moves and Tami Hart, before dissolving in 2004 for financial reasons.
“I think we’ve always straddled the worlds of cool indie cred and accessible pop-punk,” says Wilson. “We just play what we play. Songs generally start with me bringing in a very stripped-down skeleton song and then we get together and butchify it.”
Their debut LP promised a butchified revolution. “Catch the last fight/ It just might be the best 10 minutes of your life,” (from “To Be Broadcast Live”). And Population 1975 infused the revolution with “more rock, more talk,” while 3 demanded that we get up and “get un-lonely.”
The poignant sentiments on Make Yr Life are fitting as a Butchies finale. “Were you looking for dimension/ Did you come to see the show/ Are you lost in your direction/ Well I can’t take you home…. Make your life souls and stars/ Swimming with dogs and fish and sharks/ Fake your fear fake face fake your fear,” sings Wilson on the title track.
“‘Make Yr Life’ asks us to create our own saviours in ourselves. It’s all under our control. We get to make our own lives and we need to face our fears. Sometimes, in order to face mine, I try to fake them out.”
Hiatus or not, the butchified revolution can only get bigger and better.