QUEER-FEMINIST GARAGE ROCKERS ARE BREAKING BOUNDARIES WITH THEIR HARD-EDGED AND ACCESSIBLE SOUND.
Written by Johnny Papan
Strange Breed is a four-piece garage-rock band who has been taking the Vancouver music scene by storm. Together for a little over two and a half years, the self-identified group of queer-feminists, made up of frontwoman Nicolle Dupas, drummer Megan Bell, lead guitarist Terra Chaplin and bassist Ally Von Wallis, has already hit some of the city’s most notable stages including the Rickshaw Theatre, Fortune Sound Club, the Fox Cabaret, and even the legendary Cobalt, to name a few. Since releasing their self-produced EP in 2017, the band has sonically evolved to an edgy, socially driven hard-rock powerhouse. Their debut album, Permanence, is set to drop on September 13, and it has the musical potential to propel the group into the mainstream echelon.
The album was produced by Darren Grahn, who began his career working as an assistant to the illustrious Bob Rock. Grahn, whose lengthy resume includes acts like Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, Skid Row and Metallica, reached out to Strange Breed after being sent a video of the band performing live. Strange Breed says working with Grahn has changed the game for them.
The album’s cover features a badass female protagonist inspired by Rosie the Riveter, a culturally iconic symbol for feminism. Each member of the band got the image, which was designed by local artist Lydia K., tattooed to their body, a sign of, not only unity as a band, but female empowerment on a grand scale. A statement of their stance in this social climate. A photo of the tattoo inked on guitarist Terra Chaplin’s thigh ended up being the final cover.
“I think we wanted something that spoke on a multitude of levels,” says drummer Megan Bell. “We wanted to touch on our permanence in the music scene, the permanence of feminism. The necessity of a political stance when you have a platform. I think it just kind of all fell into place. The tattoo was obviously something permanent. It all just kind of came together.”
“This has been such an important project in all of our lives,” continues bassist Ally Von Wallis. “We realize this is not a temporary project. And so we all were like: ‘This is huge for us, let's tattoo this symbol on our body and let's make this record as permanent as our tattoo.'”
Lyrically, the record is a smorgasbord of social commentary, political statements, and personal reflections. It's a series of stories told from the female perspective, unafraid to comment on subjects that may be considered risqué or taboo. There is a stark contrast between the album's dark, sometimes melancholic lyrical contents and its hard-rocking, upbeat instrumentals. Each song gives you something to think about.
“I feel like a few songs were inspired by the #MeToo movement,” says Chaplin. “There were a lot of things happening when this album was getting put together. The Harvey Weinstein thing, Donald Trump getting in power. There's a whole whack load of stuff.”
“I don't think you need us to tell you what's wrong with society today,” adds Bell. “It's pretty obvious. So I think it was just us commenting on like, our personal discomforts. What we see, where we think change is needed, etc. Everyone is upset, and you can either kind of be grumpy and sit alone and hate the world, or you can fucking make art. With every ebb there's a flow, and hopefully we can flow out of this with a creative revolution.”
“I think that's the main thing, this album touches on a lot of issues,” continues singer-guitarist Nicolle Dupas. "Sexual assault, gender discrimination, LGBTQ issues, mental illness, mental health, things like that, as well. It's a lot of different topics, but it's done in the most accessible way possible, where you can also just, like, rock out. Even if you're not thinking too deeply on what the song is about, we just want you to enjoy it. There are also songs on the record that aren’t necessarily about anything blatantly political. Us playing as an all-female queer band is its own statement, in a way. If we're out there rocking out in front of people and melting faces, there's our statement right there.”
If there’s one thing that Strange Breed has, it’s pride in being themselves. They could care less about fitting in or being outside the norm, they are here to do what they do, however they want to do it. Their quick uprise is a result of a relentless grind, pouring their blood, sweat, and tears into a project that is on the cusp of shattering the proverbial glass ceiling.
“For me, letting people know we are queer feminists is important,” Bell concludes. “I remember being that very confused 12 year old listening to the Donnas and listening to the Distillers and just seeing such pride In watching women be the forefront of their craft. I want to touch people in the middle of Saskatchewan who are afraid to come out, or afraid to be themselves. I want to be a female drummer, and I want to be a queer drummer, and I want to make it okay for other people. I want people to see themselves doing what we're doing. because they fucking can.”
STRANGE BREED album release show is Saturday, September 14 at Red Gate Arts Society with Rong, Fallen Stars and Kitty Prozac.