The queer rocker returns to Houston . . . happily.
by Joyce Gabiola • Photo by Billie Jo Cavallaro
Bitch, the classically-trained violinist turned multi-instrumentalist-poet-rocker, is as blunt as her stage name—a name chosen to reclaim a word that is used negatively in order to empower one’s self, much like the word queer.
I caught up with Bitch in Miami, where she is rehearsing with the band she fronts called The Exciting Conclusion, backed by Gabriel Kubitz and Lee Free.
Bitch is one busy . . . well, you know. Prior to her current album Blasted!, Bitch’s indie label Short Story Records released recordings by her folk hero Ferron, featuring collaborative musical efforts with the Indigo Girls, Ani DiFranco, and JD Samson (of Le Tigre). Also in 2008, Bitch and The Exciting Conclusion recorded and released B+TEC, the band’s
first five-song EP.
Now that her second self-produced album Blasted! is out in the universe, Bitch is working hard on her Blasted Extravaganza cross-country tour that runs through the end of April. In spite of having no time for play, the Michigan native says she is determined to get her dog to the beach during her stay in Miami.
Fueled by the creative energy that can feed one’s soul after a breakup, along with funds donated by faithful fans, Bitch wrote and produced Blasted! “Songs come to me everywhere,” she reveals, “but having spent a lot of time at Ferron’s during that time, most of them came to me there. The rest of them have been in my brain for years . . . and some came to me in produce sections in grocery stores across America.”
A quick listen-through of the 11-track album might prompt you to wonder, What’s this Bitch so happy about? The album’s first track, “Kitchen,” begins with what sounds like music from a jewelry box, immediately followed by the sound of a bowling ball rolling down an alley and knocking into pins. The song is full of upbeats and catchy na-na-nas that might induce steering-wheel-tapping or even skipping.
But you’ll soon find yourself gripped by the fourth track, “Blasted,” titled appropriately for the feelings of devastation it conveys. This is mixed with a sense of relief and comfort as a bittersweet violin part is heard. And because Bitch’s vocals on the track are truly at the forefront, not overpowered by the instruments, there exists an intimacy, an unstaged outpouring of the poet-rocker’s thoughts and feelings, ultimately creating a sense of solidarity. Although the song may conjure up feelings of devastation, it also somehow reminds you that you will rise from that place.
Blasted! evokes a lot of emotion, reminding us that sometimes happiness grows from loss, and that ups and downs go hand-in-hand. On her website about the story of this album, Bitch writes:
I’m happy now. Happy to share. Happy to Open Up. Happy that I Lost You cuz I refound myself. Happy about what’s cooking in my Kitchen. Happy to be Blasted and not so Blasted. Happy that the Rain is the Only thing that’s Clear. Happy.
I ask Bitch how she knows when a song of hers is a success—or at least complete. She explains that success is a whole different gauge, and that complete is an issue of production. “The challenge of art is knowing when to stop. There’s a feeling in my heart . . . a total instinct. I don’t understand my songs until I play them for an audience.”
Joyce Gabiola: Let’s say you want to introduce your music to someone. Which song or songs would you recommend first, and why?
Bitch: I’d start with the new stuff, but in order for people to understand, they need [to hear the songs that are] super intense and super funny. I’d say “Open Up,” then maybe “Drag King Bar,” a Bitch and Animal song.
What would you say is typical of Bitch?
I have a good answer: taking regular ingredients and making something you’ve never seen before or smelled before or tasted before, whatever the case may be.
What, if anything, did you learn from Ani DiFranco that is non-music related?
I learned so much from her. She was my first . . .
She was your first?!
[Jokingly] She was my first… can I say [bleep]?
Ha! You just did.
Ha! Oh, she taught me something about how to retain a sense of privacy in public. She’s a very warm person and very protective of her “family,” I noticed, which is a good feeling, you know, when they have your back.
(Speaking of family having your back, Bitch’s mother is a huge fan. As some of you may know, her mother operates the Bitch merchandise store. “My mom’s basement is Bitchland.”)
Are you interested in breaking into the television or movie business?
Totally. Why not?
Oh yeah, absolutely. Game show host!
Do you have anything embarrassing on your iPod?
I really don’t. I do have tapes in my RV. I don’t have any NKOTB or Menudo, though.
Which came first—poetry or the violin?
Violin. I started at age four. I saw someone playing on Sesame Street.
You weren’t writing verse at age four?
I didn’t start writing poetry until I was 11.
You had your heart broken when you were 11?
[Gasp] Yes, I had my heart broken at 11. We moved from the suburbs of Pittsburgh to Detroit, and I had to leave my best friend behind. That’s where it began—the lezziness.
Was it easy for you to come out?
Yes. I listened to Galileo over and over, and basically told my best friend and roommate at the time about my feelings. It was easy to tell my parents. I was 19.
Any guilty pleasures your fans should know about?
Every time I ride on a plane, I read one of those Hollywood mags. . . . Oh, and yellow cake batter.
Do you ever wear mismatched socks?
Now that I’m older, not so much any more.
After the tour, what should we expect from you next?
Sleep . . . for weeks. I’m gonna go to North Carolina and see a drummer friend, Melissa York. We’ll work on music together. I’m also working with Margaret Cho on an upcoming album. Her parents will sing. We’ll make a video for it and play girlfriends in it. I’ll do summer festivals. Just continuing on continuing on. I’ll also go see family in Michigan, and that includes Ferron. I want to do a bunch of filming and mixing with tour stuff, and also my mom. As head of Bitch Merch, I need Mom on the site. You need to check out Mom and me tap dancing. It’s on YouTube.
Have you ever thought of producing songs with a large orchestra?
Yes! It must happen. I can’t wait to do a song with a full orchestra.
Sooo, although I am nowhere near as talented as you . . .
What, how do you know?
Bitch, please. Although I know how to play the violin, I shamelessly inquire if she would be down with giving me a quick lesson. You know, to sharpen my mad bow-handlin’, string-pluckin’ skillz. She says she’d be willing, and even stressed that we’d have to organize. I tell her to look for me at her Houston show at Rudyard’s. I should be easy to spot, as I’ll be the only one with a violin. “We can jam by the van,” she promises.
Bitch plays at Rudyard’s, 2010 Waugh, on April 25. Details: 713/521-0521.
Joyce Gabiola is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine.