BUTCHIES SINGER and guitarist Kaia Wilson tells stories not just because she's got 'em—though life as an outspoken dyke punk has resulted in plenty of bruises to craft songs around. Wilson tells tales for the simple fact that she and other out-and-proud lesbians rarely see their victories and struggles reflected in the culture around them.
Amy Ray, Butchies
Showbox, Monday, April 23
"Part of our activism is communication about who we are," says Wilson, 26, from a Pennsylvania hotel en route to Ohio. The Butchies released 3, their third disc, this week on Mr. Lady Records, which Wilson runs with her partner Tammy Rae Carland.
"That could mean writing a really personal love song," she continues. "Which is political because we're talking about loving women in high school or getting beat up because you looked like a boy in high school. Storytelling is important because it's communication. People want to hear something close to their story."
While the Butchies—Wilson, bassist Alison Martlew, and drummer Melissa York—render their own emotional work with Fugazi-ish punk intricacies, they play things straight (so to speak) when backing Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls. The Durham, N.C., band rock half of the 10 tracks on Stag, Ray's recently released solo debut. On their current U.S. tour, the Butchies play a set of their own, then climb in the backseat to lay down support for Ray.
Though Ray herself is a longtime fan of Wilson and York's previous queercore band, Team Dresch, plenty of folkies in the Indigo Girls' audience never heard a punk yowl before the Indigos brought the Butchies on the road in 1999.
"That scene [the Butchies] are from—there are times when it gets very cliquey and very single-minded, and a little bit too image-conscious, without meaning to be," Ray, now 37, said last fall on her way to Seattle's Rockrgrl Music Conference. "I don't think that's the intention. It happens because everything's like, 'This is the hippest thing.' And that's not even part of [the Butchies'] character. For us it's perfect, this band from a completely different scene that goes on the road with us, and they transcend those kind of things and we do, too. It's the way it's supposed to be. That's the idea of building coalitions and helping each other out."
After getting off to a somewhat jokey start with their first album Are We Not Femme? (1998), the Butchies set themselves on a more serious trajectory on Population 1975 (1999). While 3 packs plenty of sadness in songs of abuse ("Junior High Lament"), suicide ("Huh Huh Hear"), and breakup ("Not Like Mine"), it also captures the celebratory nature of their live shows with the adrenalized "The Anything Anthology," in which Wilson coos, "Hey sweet lady, am I it tonight?" It's protest music, Butchies-style.
Not that the band aren't above a little slogan-slinging. York, 31, says she's ready for the music community to throw some rants in with the stories now that there's someone new in the White House.
"Now that Bush is in office, I think a lot of people are gonna be like, 'Fuck this shit, we're not gonna take it anymore.' At least I hope. I guess we'll see."