Local Talent

A Fiendish Conversation with Chastity Belt's Julia Shapiro

The singer discusses Time to Come Home, tech bros, inverted boredom, and school picture day.

By Seth Sommerfeld March 24, 2015

Julia Shapiro (and the rest of Chastity Belt) always ace picture day.

Emotional detachment, thy name is Chastity Belt. The band of Capitol Hill troublemakers revels in nights gone wrong as Julia Shapiro wryly drones midtempo rock tales about embracing promiscuity and yearning to escape boring scenes. It’s not Shapiro’s only musical outlet, as she also fronts the more riotously punk (and superb) group Childbirth. This week, Chastity Belt released Time to Go Home, its much-anticipated Hardly Art debut. This Saturday (March 28), the band heads to the Highline for an album release show featuring Dude York, Cool Ghouls, and DJ Sarah Moody.

For our latest Fiendish Conversation, we chatted with Shapiro about her favorite moment on Time to Go Home, Seattle tech bros, and the greatest promo photos in the history of time.

What are your favorite aspects of Time to Go Home?

Overall, I am a lot happier with the whole thing as an album and how cohesive it is compared to our last record (No Regrets). The recording that I like the best is “On the Floor.” Something really cool happens at the end when we are jamming. Every time we do that song, it ends a little differently—like certain notes pop out more than others—but I think that on the recording we got a really cool sound out of it.

Does having two slightly different tonal outlets in Chastity Belt and Childbirth help your writing process? And, when writing, is there a point where you have to decide if the song fits for one band or the other?

I think so. It’s kind of a natural thing that happened though, with Chastity Belt just getting more of a serious sound, I guess. It’s not even like a serious sound, like just finding our sound and not just playing party songs anymore. I also feel that I'll write something and it’ll clearly be a Childbirth song: short, punk, easy, simple kind of thing. But sometimes I do have trouble deciding. I’ll come up with a riff or something and I’ll be like, “I wonder if this will work better for Childbirth or Chastity Belt.” Like just recently there was this Chastity Belt song that at first I was thinking was going to be a Childbirth song, but it kind of got more complex. So it was like, “Eeeeh…seemed more like a Chastity Belt.”

Yeah, the one that springs to mind is “Pony Tail.” In some ways it’s more of a Childbirth song than a Chastity Belt song despite it being a Chastity Belt song.

Yeah, totally, I could see that for sure. I wrote that song before I was in Childbirth. It's been cool having a different outlet for those songs.

One of the things that comes up in your music is the Seattle bro culture. Is there a specific type of Seattle bro that is your least favorite?

I would say the clueless tech bro. The clueless homophobic tech bro who just moved here and doesn't know anything about Seattle or the culture of Capitol Hill.

What are some of defining characteristics of the clueless tech bro?

Um, I guess someone saying homophobic slurs on the weekends. I hear a lot of that. And also the other weekend Bree [McKenna of Childbirth and Tacocat] and I were loading into our practice space—which just happens to be in the Pike/Pine corridor, just like right in the center, between Pike and Pine on 11th—and we were walking through the streets to get around all of the drunken people who clog up that whole area. I don't know if you've been around there on the weekends, but it is insane, and it sucks trying to get through there with amps and stuff. So this guy rolls down his window and he’s like, “Move it you stupid bitches!” Like right at us. It’s like what the fuck? We’re not even doing anything. [Laughs] I could talk about this for so long; I get so angry about it. I'd say the sexist, homophobic, clueless tech bro. Hopefully not every tech bro is like that, but there are people who have those three horrible personality traits. I think that would be the ultimate worst kind of bro.

Another reoccurring theme on this record is crushing boredom and trying to escape it at parties and other situations. For you, what makes for a party that wouldn’t require escaping?

It’s probably a party that doesn’t even feel like a party. [Laughs] Maybe just hanging out with a few friends. I have a lot more fun just hanging out with a couple people than being surrounded by a lot of people. Something where there are no expectations of it being a fun night; you’re like so bored out of your mind that you get high with one of your friends and watch stupid TV. I end up doing that a lot. And I’m like, “Honestly? That’s how I wanted to spend my night.”

The boredom sort of inverts and it’s actually good.

Yeah. You just give into the boredom. But I think there is a different kind of anxious boredom, which is more what the songs are about, where you’re not getting anything done because you’re stressed about not having fun or you feel like you should be having fun.

How do you feel Seattle has influenced your music?

Ever since we moved here [from Walla Walla] people have been really supportive of us. It’s always super easy to book shows here; people are always asking us to play shows. I feel that that has influenced us because we haven’t wanted to give up. [Laughs]

Musically, I like kind of jamming with other people because it gives me new ideas of ways of playing. I have fun playing with Peter [Richards] from Dude York. Every once in a while we’ll get together and jam. Sometimes I’ll play a Chastity Belt song that I’m working on with someone else, and it’ll just give a whole new light to the song.

How did the photo shoot for your “school picture day” promotional photos come about? Because that’s the best collection of press photos that I’ve ever seen.

Gretchen and I came up with that idea over the summer on a long drive. We originally wanted to take it even farther, I think. Like have them be catalog photos with one of us in a graduation gown and cap with our diploma. We sort of did this, because we did do this thing with hobbies. We just kept coming up with ideas and were cracking up at all of them. We came to the photo shoot with a vision and a bunch of props. There are a lot that we haven’t even used. We just kept coming up with different poses. And Angel [Ceballos], who took it, really understood what we were going for. She had us all smile in a creepy way.

Chastity Belt: Time to Go Home Release Show
Mar 28 at 9:30, The Highline, $8

Show Comments

Related Content