By Ivan Fernandez
Mexico City's Le Butcherettes made their second appearance in Los Angeles this past Tuesday as the opening act for the Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Group at the Troubadour. The trio led by vocalist/guitarist Teri Gender Bender brought their well-documented onstage antics and treated the packed house to a preview of their upcoming debut album Sin Sin Sin to be released in January 2011.
"We're born of sin and we're meant to feel guilty about our virtues," she said of the album title as we sat by the merch booth in the front bar and watched the Rodriguez-Lopez Group perform on a television screen. "If we're good at something, they teach us to do it for the greater good or for the love of someone else. There's a wall of strict religious traditions and prejudices."
Challenging social norms is all part of a day's work for Le Butcherettes whose existence serves as a living manifesto in support of feminism and equality. "When I say feminism," she explained, "I don't mean anti-man or the typical stuff. I mean real feminism as equality between a man and a woman or a man and a man or a woman and a woman. Men also took part in the feminist movement."
Her interest in feminism developed through years of witnessing and suffering harassment and discrimination in the US and Mexico. Teri was born and raised in Denver, CO to Mexican immigrants and moved to Guadalajara, Mexico five years ago. "My mother as a working Mexican woman that didn't speak perfect English could hardly get jobs or would be paid very poorly," she said. "My father as well would work his ass off and, because he was a Spaniard, people would tell him to go back to Europe and other discriminatory things."
"I was bullied in school a lot," she continued. "It traumatized me. My parents would take me out of school, put me in a different school and I would still get picked on all the time. Those little things stuck to me."
Teri completed her education in Guadalajara and, soon after, recruited drummer Auryn Jolene to create Le Butcherettes in 2007. The duo grew in popularity seemingly overnight and won "Best New Artist" and "Best Punk Record" for their EP "Kiss & Kill" at the 2009 Indie-O Awards in Mexico.
Le Butcherettes almost came to an end that summer when Jolene attempted to take over the band with the help of her own manager and publicist. Teri put an end to the drama and moved to Mexico City to continue her music career. She recruited drummer Normandi Heuxdaflo and the new duo grew more popular thanks to playing opening slots for The Dead Weather and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
Earlier this year, drummer Heuxdaflo invited his friend Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (The Mars Volta, De Facto) to a Butcherettes show in Guadalajara. "She was playing right down the street from where I lived in Guadalajara," recalled Rodriguez-Lopez. "The electricity cut out but Le Butcherettes played anyway and I thought that was pretty cool. They played real aggressively and I really liked the energy of it."
"I was screaming through a megaphone," said Teri with a laugh. The musicians developed a close relationship and, earlier this summer, Le Butcherettes recorded their full-length debut album with Rodriguez-Lopez serving as producer.
"I had the songs from the demos and I made my changes to it," said Omar. "I tightened up what was there and refined it without putting my stamp on it. I also recorded all the bass parts," said Omar, "and later suggested she add a bass player which added a missing element."
Le Butcheretes is just the tip of the iceberg of Teri's output. She published a book of poetry titled El Caparazon Perdido (The Lost Carcass) written in English and Spanish, which is based on a dream she had when she was younger, and is currently writing a book about her own feminist ideology which she describes as Butcherism or Carnisismo.
"I realized that people don't know what feminism is anymore," she explained. "The word feminism would be used against me. People labeled me as a man-hater or they'd say 'you're fucking yourself up by labeling yourself.' I thought that was only in Mexico but I traveled to France and England and people there were the same."
"I want to take the good feminist theories that I believe in," she continued, "and other literature that I love like Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Nabokov, Bulgakov and others as well as music, art and theatre and mush it all in."
Every avenue of self-expression is fair game for Teri be it music, writing or art so long as she has the opportunity to share her ideas with others. "Some day I'd like to be considered a musician and also a writer," she said. "I don't want to limit myself."