Femmes Vitales

By: David Grad

Photos: Joshua Kessler

These unlikely role models have been tearing it up long before punk went public. David Grad passes their endurance test. Girls on film by Joshua Kessler.

Photo by J. KesslerPhoto by J. Kessler

Tough, tattooed rock chicks dressed in shorts and garters, blasting out nasty tuneage, fronted by a vocalist resembling a drag-queen Barbie, snarling lyrics about abortion rights, perversions, and crazed, drugged-out baby-sitters who end up roasting their charges... Yeah, the Lunachicks must be in town. For those of you who might dismiss them as just another kooky girl band, might we suggest that you pay a little more attention, please, or get ready to taste the kiss of a tire iron. Because nothing so much enrages these fatal femmes than to be misunderstood. To help our readers avoid encountering any such unpleasantness, and as a general public service, we give you eight reasons to love the Lunachicks.


1. They Started Just For Fun

Back in that forgotten era before forming a punk-rock band was a smart career move, Gina, Theo and Squid served time in high school and hung out with older friend Sindi who had already finished her education and didn’t have to wake up early or get straight for finals. Their venerable institution of learning was the La Guardia School For The Arts, specializing in developing the talents of creative brats that you might remember from the musical Fame. It was an environment in which they were exposed to a wide range of influences.

"We had all these friends who were in cool bands and most of them died, disappeared or whatever," Theo remembers. Growing tired of just smoking pot and watching The Brady Bunch after class, they seized on a curriculum filled with promising opportunities: Sindi and Gina grabbed guitars, Squid acquired a bass, Theo transformed herself into a singer, and a boyfriend was pressed into service as a drummer.

"It started as a fuck-around kind of joke," Theo explains.

"We were doing it for ourselves just to pass the time," adds Sindi. "There was never a master plan to be a punk-rock band—that’s all we could be. It just happened that we started getting taken seriously and being asked to play shows. It was surprising because we pretty much bit. I could barely go from chord to chord. But the energy was there and so was the spirit, and of course, we are so damn cool that people wanted to see us."

In January 1988, the Lunachicks played their first gig opening up for Raging Slab, which was soon followed by other invitations. Perennial scene-sters Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth attended one of these shows, and immediately helped the girls get signed to England’s Blast First label. They even offered to produce the Lunachicks’ first record themselves.

2. They Drove Sonic Youth Crazy

Sonic Youth may fancy themselves the oldest teenagers on NYC’s Lower East Side but in this case they seemed to have reacted like grownups. Going into the studio with the Lunachicks didn’t turn out to be a big success. "We separated with them when we were mixing because it wasn’t working out. We were being snotty brats going, ‘Ahhhhh! I want it this way!’ We were really young and this was the first time we had ever been in a studio. They wanted us to sound like a noise band, leave in all the mistakes, and do all this experimental shit and we were going, ‘No! Take it out!’ And Kim and Thurston just said, ‘Forget it!’ It was hard to tell if it was us or them."

3. They’ve Paid Their Dues

Chip, who had originally signed on as their drummer after they dumped the boyfriend, tells how she felt after she left the Lunachicks to go with another band. (She was replaced by Becky Wreck, but returned in 1993.) "It didn’t seem like it was going anywhere and then a couple of months later I’m standing in line at Tower Records reading one of the free mags and I see interviews with all of them. There’s always that fear that you’re going to make the wrong choice and there it was."

In 1990, the Lunachicks recorded the awesome affront to good taste, Babysitters On Acid, for Blast First with Wharton Tiers and went on a sold-out tour of England, opening for Dinosaur Jr. Then the bottom fell out.

"We got a really bad manager who fucked everything up," Theo explains. "So during the Babes In Toyland-L7-Hole surge, the Lunachicks got swept under the rug." Their 1993 release of the poorly engineered Binge And Purge (Safehouse) didn’t help their situation either.

4. They’re More Of A Dysfunctional Family Than A Band

"We are bonded for life," says Gina. "We have no choice, we have been together for so long, we are all like siblings. Sindi was a terrible influence and we love her for it. She was the one who could buy booze, get us stoned, and give us pills. We were well on our way to teenage destruction before we met her, but she helped prolong that phase.

"I showed up at Sindi’s house when I was 14," Theo recalls, "got totally drunk, took Quaaludes, and passed out on the floor. That’s how I met her." Memories like this sustain through the bad times.

5. They Can Adapt To Adversity

The Lunachicks approach life the same way Chip deals with heavy traffic when she’s riding her vintage BSA motorcycle in New York City rush-hour traffic and running late to practice. "Normally if someone gets in my way, I’m like, ‘Fuck You!’ and start swinging the chain. I swing the chain a lot at cabs because the drivers come from all those countries where they don’t have traffic laws and drive like assholes. You gotta have something handy if those guys want to stop and fight. They’re crazy and they gotta know you’re ready to kill."

6. They’re Not Punk

So they stayed together, got better as musicians, and tighter as a band. Then punk rock started happening again, this time in a very big way. They even opened up for the Offspring (who had opened for them in the past), playing in front of thousands of kids, and big fans Rancid recently asked them to go on the road. You’d think that all they’d have to do now is exploit some of their punk credibility, but no quick fixes for these girls.

"It’s hard for me to talk about punk rock," says Sindi, "because the word has been used to death and stretched out so that it really doesn’t mean anything anymore. When we started this band, I’d been so punk for so long that I was already getting less punk. I was listening to stuff like the Coasters and was beginning to accept the fact that the whole thing was over. Now I fully accept the fact that the whole thing is over. It’s sad because all that’s going on now is people covering old songs, adding new words, and these kids don’t know it. It’s gross and reminds me of the people I went to high schools with in the ’80s who were hippies."

So don’t expect the Lunachicks to return to the joys of being three-chord wonders. Their latest, Jerk Of All Trades on New York’s Go-Kart Records, is an unabashedly in-your-face rock album, where the girls pay tribute to the influence of Kiss and AC/DC as much as the Bad Brains and the Ramones.

7. They’re Role Models

On Jerk, the Lunachicks sing about lust ("Dogyard"), sexual fetishes ("Buttplug"), sexual stereotyping ("Bitterness Barbie"), and abortion rights ("Fallopian Rhapsody"). The album is the best case ever made for real liberation involving empowered women with dirty minds. Sindi answers dozens of fan letters a week from girls who write that the Lunachicks inspired them "to be strong and lead their own lives." Even fathers know best.

"The best thing about the Offspring tour," Sindi explains, "was that two or three times, dads came up to me and said, ‘I brought my daughter here to see you because this is how I want her to see women."’

8. They Don’t Fear Success

The Lunachicks dream about traveling in a little more comfort and even having somebody else haul their gear. Chip figures that if they actually do see some cash, they’ll manage to keep it. "Since we have been managing ourselves for so long, it would be like, ‘Whoo! Whoo! Let’s take a limo to the Chinese restaurant,’ and then it’ll all be gone."

But Theo has set her sights higher: "We have been doing this way too long to think of it as fun for our weekends. We have invested our lives and I want to be huge. I want to be the girl everyone wants or wants to be, and that’s the God-honest truth. I can play at the top of the world and be totally psyched." AP

Thanks to AP Magazine. Visit their site ! www.altpress.com

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