Lunachicks: Queens of Scumrock

By Darren Ressler


  The brash punk spirit of '76 is alive and well and living in Brooklyn, of all places. It's blossoming in the warped minds of Brooklyn residents the Lunachicks - fierce ornery females who prove that the borough has more to offer culturally than being the back drop for Saturday Night Fever.Their school of music, dubbed "scumrock", is the satirical regurgitation of all of the cruddy after-school TV - movies like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and She Devils on Wheels, TV sitcoms such as the Brady Bunch and What's Happening - that these girls digested in queen-size proportions while growing up. Factor in a musical infatuation with bands of yesterday, including the Stooges, Ramones, UK Subs, and Motorhead, as well as current favourites like Bad Brains, Slayer, and Metallica, and the diabolical shock rock recipe is complete.

  Aside from drummer Becki, who was inspired to play drums "after seeing Karen Carpenter perform on television with a lucite Ludwig drum set and granny dress," the other Lunachicks never wanted to be rock'n'roll stars as kids. Honest. Then Squid asked her High School of Preforming Arts schoolmates, Gina and Theo if they wanted to be in a band. After Sindi asked Squid if she wanted to join her band, it dawned on Squid after some thought - why not start one big band? And on the seventh day Lunachicks were born.

   Once they started playing out in the spring of 1987, Lunachicks began to gain a Lower East Side club following, garnered in part by their abrasive guitar sound and an outlandish stage show. At a recent gig, singer Theo "gave birth" to a giant baby fly wrapped in red slime and covered with rubber cockroaches while Siamese twins (joined by the hair) wearing pignoses and decked out in matching snakeskin pantsuits acted as midwifes. Though that show was certainly memorable, the gig which really got things going for the band was the night when Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth stopped by and were knocked out by what they saw.Unbeknownst to the 'Chicks, Gordon and Moore got a tape of the band and sent a copy to Blast First's Paul Simon in England. Smith fell headoverheels for them.

"Paul Smith called my house at 3 o'clock in the morning. My mother picked up the phone and she said, 'There's this weird Englishman who wants to talk to you," bassist Squid recalls. "He decided that he would let us make a record if Kim and Thurston produced it," continues Gina. "We didn't want to be 'Children of Sonic Youth', but we started working with them.Things just didn't work out musically between us."

  Despite their incompatibility with Gordon and Moore, the Lunachicks went back into the studio, this time with producer Don Fury, and similar conflict occurred. Nevertheless, their double 7" (released last spring) was the result. The group will be releasing their self-produced debut album in January, tentatively titled Babysitters On Acid, and also have a cut on, "Makin' It (With Other Species)," on the ROIR compilation Scumrock: Live at CBGB's. This cassette was recorded live at the three-day Scumfest held last March, which involved 20 scumrock bands such as Freaks, Ed Gein's Car, Porno Dracula, Reverb Motherfuckers, and Hammerbrain.They proudly boast of "making $81.13" for their performance on the tape, but are happy to be on the compilation with other like-minded bands.

   Though many have named Lunachicks as the foremothers of the scumrock scene, they have mixed feelings about the term and their title.On one hand, Sindi sees the hype behind a scene as "just another way for record labels and business people to make money." On the other, the guitarist has been told by a promoter that scumrock bands are purveyors of "socially-conscious underground music" - a definition admittedly not applicable to them, but one which is acceptable to the group.

   Though not ardent feminists, the Lunachicks have encountered the institutional inequities which exist in the music industry and are quite vocal about their distaste for the status quo. Collectively, they believe that the cards are stacked more in favor of an aspiring male band than one composed of all females. This adversity gives the group incentive to carry on and raise even more hell.

   "I think that people aren't used to seeing girls doing what we're doing because everyone is so using to seeing Lita Ford, Joan Jett and Vixen. Most girl bands are just shown in foxy outfits singing ballads," Theo points out, stating that she sometimes goes out of her way to be unattractive on stage in order to drive home her message.

   "We just really want people to wake up and smell our coffee, and we want everyone to see what women can do independently of men. I really think people need this."Either people love us or hate us, and there is no middle ground -I've never heard someone say 'They're ok,'" contends Theo of the many reactions they encounter. "As long as there is a strong reaction that's good, because with us it's that people either think we're incredible,because they see the joke, or else they hate us because they think rock'n'roll should be very serious. If you take everything very seriously, you're going to be an unhappy person."


Many thanks go out to ciao-corinna ( for contributing this article!

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