Building a Super-group with Teri Gender Bender
Words by Keith Hadad
What do you get when you take Teri Gender Bender from Le Butcherettes, Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover from the Melvins and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez from At The Drive-in and The Mars Volta and put them into a single band? You get one of the heaviest, most impressive records of the year, that’s what.
Due out on February 24th, Crystal Fairy’s debut self-titled album is a snarling, multifaceted blast to the senses that scorches the listener after every listen. Every track features a thick, metallic interplay of ferocious bass, drums and guitar that chugs along like a squirming, nightmarish demon while TGB’s dagger-like, intricate vocals completely eviscerates it.
Teri Gender Bender took some time out of her schedule recently to chat with us about the new super group and the upcoming album.
How does everyone in the group know each other and how did the group form?
Long story short, Jello Biafra had me open up a show with my other band called Le Butcherettes, which is like my baby band because I started it when I was 17 and Buzz [Osborne] showed up early to his show, which was in Los Angeles at The Roxy, and he caught our set by accident. It turns out that we were having the same booking agent so he told [our booking agent], “Hey I’d like to have Le Butcherettes tour with us”. Then [our booking agent] told me, without me having ever met Buzz before, and he was like “hey, this is kind of unusual to have Buzz request for someone to tour with them, he never does this kind of thing.” Then I was like, “holy shit, well of course, I grew up listening to the Dead Kennedys and the Melvins, like what the hell, of course I would love to tour with them!”
“So we ended up going on tour with them and down the road we ended up becoming friends and with Dale and the crew. Then my friend, producer/ex-bassist from Mars Volta, Omar [Rodriguez-Lopez] he’s also a photographer, so I invited him to document the tour, plus that was an excuse to have him hang out with the Melvins because he’s a big fan and that’s how they met and they hit it off very well. And Buzz asked us if we wanted to form a band with them and we were ecstatic.
Before he asked us…Omar and I were constantly [saying to ourselves] “yeah wouldn’t it be cool if we could get something together with them. Oh yeah, of course that would be cool!” So it turns out that they were thinking the same way and when they asked us, we were all: “we were too nervous to ask you guys, but we were thinking the same thing!”
Were the songs written specifically for the album and if so, what was the writing process like?
It was funny, we found ourselves in the same room in LA just making songs and some stuff came from old ideas, like some stuff came from old Le Bucherettes songs that I never used. I showed Buzz and he started jamming on top of them and of course Dale can read Buzz’s body language and musical everything so they just melted together. Omar has this very Dub-oriented bass style and actually before he played guitar, he played bass in many other bands. So it was very cool to have it all meshed together. That was the easiest part, the hardest part was finding the band name.
Yes, how did you come up with the band name?
We really needed something that would be simple and universal and when we were in El Paso, recording the other half of the album and during the nighttime, we’d go over to Omar’s house and watch movies and one of the movies that he had on was Crystal Fairy [& The Magical Cactus] directed by Sebastian Silva. When we were recording the song “Crystal Fairy,” before it had a name, and during one of the spoken word parts, I said “my name is Crystal Fairy” and it was just random and then it became like a local joke, “my name is Crystal Fairy” so we ended up keeping that as the band name.
How long did it take to record the album?
The first half of the record in LA, we did that in about five days. The first two days, we already had four songs down. That was while we were trying to get to know each other in a musical sense and in a collaborative sense. Then while we were making the arrangements, we were like, “ok, we’re ready, let’s not overthink this” and we’d record the skeleton, the heartbeat of the song first and…once we had the drums down, which Dale did most of the songs in one take, that man is a genius. And Buzz too! They’re all one-takers, the most that they would do is three takes. So in real time while they’re recording their parts, I’d be writing the lyrics because I would already have the melodies down and I would write lyrics to the melodies that I had in my head without questioning them and boom, when it was my turn to record I’d just record my tracks. So the point is, don’t fucking second guess yourself and then see what happens!
The sound on the album is reminiscent of late ‘80s/early ‘90s hard rock, like something off of SST Records, was that a conscious effort or more of a happy accident?
I think it has a lot to do with how Buzz comes from that world and that the Melvins were real innovators in that world. So maybe it’s just in him to put that into the music and with that, he channels that kind of energy and vice versa. And then we channel off of each other’s energy and that’s basically where it comes from, that motherfucker made that shit!
Despite that though, the sound you created doesn’t resemble too much of one of your respective bands versus another, it’s a rather unique blend. Was there at all a fear that maybe one musician’s sound might overpower the others or that the combined styles and sounds wouldn’t have meshed well?
It was more like an animalistic, instinctual thing and I guess we gave each other an artistic freedom. At least, speaking for myself, I feel like they gave me my artistic freedom and I’m the youngest, I’m the baby so usually I’m like “holy shit, how am I going to be able to supply anything?” I am my own worst enemy, I thought I would get so much critique from them but no, they were super chill and very giving and they were all, “oh what you’re doing is great, keep it up! Yeah!” and I thought that was just, wow. That was really nice. That took the pressure off because I was on the spot that was like “shit, I better come up with something now or they’ll look at me like I’m lazy or something” but no, it was quite the opposite…I feel like there was no expectation…
Were there any unexpected challenges that you ran into while recording or performing together?
I can’t speak for them, they seemed like they were having a great time…I guess just getting over my own insecurities and just to feel secure in my own skin around them. And if I could welcome you inside my mind at that time, you’d see that of course I was enjoying it and my biggest pride and joy…is the opportunity that I was given to be with them. But there was also a voice in my head that was like “oh, you’re not supposed to be here.” You know, isn’t that terrible? But eventually, those things went away once I was deep in it and enjoying the process.
Has the current political climate influenced the music on the album at all?
I honestly think not in a direct, conscious level but life is like a domino effect. And I don’t mean to get all hippie on you, but there could be a butterfly in Australia that will take a little poop on a tree that somehow makes a tidal wave that will somehow affect the antenna in my writing process, you know what I mean? I used to consider myself a follower of politics but the more that I’d get into it, the more I’d be like “I didn’t know anything!” because there are so many perspectives and so many sides. My other band, Le Butcherettes, when I was 17, I wanted it to become this feminist political band but I was cutting my own nose off. There’s so much to write about in the world to be just focused on one little grain of the entire sand in the whole beach. So, of course it inspires and influences one way or another, but I think it’s more abstract. There’s that and there’s also an inspiration from a more personal level like the unexpected death of a loved one…it’s overall about life.
Believe me, this is coming from someone who used to take pride in following politics. But now I think that maybe the best thing to do in my own world, because I don’t know much of what’s really going on, there’s so many layers going on in this world that I can’t even imagine that I’d just rather find the answers in silence. I don’t want to say meditation, but you know what I mean, sometimes the answer lies in silence. There’s so much noise and so many opinions and alternative facts and I’d rather just focus on what I do best, which is having a great time making music.
Will your sets from your upcoming shows include more than what’s on the album and if so, what other material will you possibly include?
We’re focusing mainly on what’s on the record, but Buzz did mention getting some covers but yeah, anything goes. That’s the cool thing, that we don’t restrict ourselves…
If you’re at liberty to say, will there be possibly more released material by CF down the road, even if just a single or EP perhaps?
I’m not sure yet, I know that there are some extra songs that we recorded that aren’t on the record. So maybe we’ll get to some of those and, yeah, keep the process going.
If you could include anyone else in the group-alive or dead-who would it be?
John Lennon. He’d play the maracas or something. He’d probably be over playing the guitar by then…if we were to bring him back to life…
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