Since reuniting three years ago, things haven't been the same for queercore punk band Team Dresch. The scene has changed—as the band discussed in this week's WW
—but the members' lives are different, too. Singer-guitarist Jody Bleyle lives in Los Angeles, raising a family, while bassist Donna Dresch, singer-guitarist Kaia Wilson, and drummer Marci Martinez live in Portland.
This means the band's upcoming performance at Siren Nation, a women-centered arts and music festival, is a rarity: Team Dresch is filling in last-minute for the Gossip, who dropped off the bill to play a European tour. Bleyle, Dresch, and Wilson (Martinez was unavailable, but Wilson jokes Martinez agreed “with everything I said in the interview”) discuss what they've learned about the band and themselves in the past 14 years together.
I first heard of Team Dresch seven years ago through a friend's recommendation. Now, you have Wikipedia and MySpace pages and it seems like it's so much easier to find out about bands like yours. How has this accessibility affected you?
: Now people don't put out seven inches, they just put out MySpace pages. And we were really lucky because we put out that seven-inch [“Hand Grenade” on KRS in 1994] and for some reason it was almost just as good as making a MySpace page back then because we were able to tour the whole country and play really good shows just off of that seven-inch. I think we were really blessed with that seven-inch action.
I guess it's also like—I guess maybe it's still like this a little bit—you could get anything on K or KRS or Chainsaw or Candyass… you could just get anything based on the label. I probably didn't even like half the shit I was listening to. Or well, kind of—I was like, “Oh awesome, the new whatever! But I don't even know who this is!”
Yeah, I was like that with Dischord.
That phenomenon might be a little less, but I don't know, I'm so far removed from being an 18-, 19-, 20-year-old. Back then, you would go any punk show because it was a punk rock show. For us, we'd go to any lady punk rockers.
Because I was thinking in a way, I don't even know if something like [MySpace] has made it easier or harder. How does that work with social networking? What's the litmus test? You're a kid in the middle of nowhere….What are the current activities of the younger people that would then potentially lead to these more lasting institutions? And by institutions it could be an underground that's not exactly codified in one particular building or non-profit, but it's alive, so you can still find it. It's just like a series of shows and tours and whatever. And that relies on just those individual moments of people coming together and having a good band.
Who were your role models when you started playing music?
I have my favorite guitar guys. Like Bob Mould, and Rites of Spring, all those DC bands. And Soundgarden. I never had anybody I wanted to be like, but I definitely I had people that I appreciated…
For earlier kind of musical inspiration, I'd say Sinead O'Connor, I guess. That question always is so hard for me. I have many, many people, but Sinead was a very important one at the beginning for me. The first women that was really, just like, crushing
to me was Sinead.
I loved the band Scrawl, I loved the band Throwing Muses, I loved people like Siouxsie and the Banshees and Kate Bush. There were other women musicians that I loved like Joni Mitchell who weren't really related to any kind of like, punk or underground scene I was involved in—although I'm sure Siouxsie was involved her own at some point or another—but, you know, musicians like that I ended up actually meeting, but some of whom remain far away icons, role model like people. Then there were local people, like…the band Calamity Jane. They influenced so many people at that time. And then Dead Moon, Toody was in Dead Moon. Amy Denio was in band called the Tone Dogs that I used to watch all the time when I was at Reed.
You've referred to your music as social work. Why use music to reach a female or queer audience? Why not become a social worker or get involved in a more traditional way?
[Music] is the only language I know how to speak.
: Ditto with Donna. But Donna also made zines and made a record label and I eventually made a record label, so we could handle that. I'm not academically geared; I'm not organizationally geared. My brain doesn't work well like that. But we love music. I wonder what I would have done if I didn't do music, and [I] would been like, a marine biologist or something, it wouldn't have been a social worker or an activist in someway, at all. It would have been something, and then activism would be the thing to go along with it, to make me feel good about myself.
When was last time you remember feeling uncomfortable being queer in Portland?
It happens every so often. I felt like that the other day. Just being in a different neighborhood can feel uncomfortable
I can't think of anything specifically, but I remember wondering before I cut my hair—when I had long hair—I wondered if there were people that didn't know if I was a lesbian, and then I remember thinking that if were people who thought I was straight, that would be so werid.
I worked at this winery a while ago and it was the first time I was like, Holy crap, I am in the closet at the winery right now. I felt really weird about it and uncomfortable and its something I hadn't felt in like 15 years.
I don't live there, so I don't know what it's like. But back in the day, when we started in the band, it wasn't accepting…It was just a place where you could beat up just like anywhere else. It was just a small town. There weren't even a lot of dykes around. When I was at [Reed College] there were like three gay people. When I was a freshman, there were like juniors or seniors or whatever that were just like old school: Shaved head, giants tits with no bras, just letting it all hang out. It was totally exciting, it was probably just as exciting for me as it for kids to show up [at Reed] now and be like, “My name is Fuck and I'm a gender free ion.” Talk about a difference though, it's like a mind-blowing difference.
The band has experience line-up changes over the years, from rotating drummers to members leaving the band altogether. How do feel it's affected your performance?
I just always felt like it doesn't really register with me so much. I just always kind of felt like, “We're Team Dresch and whoever's playing with us is Team Dresch.” Obviously we had the schism, when Kaia left, that was kind of a different thing, but the three of us, whoever is playing drums with us, I feel like they're all our drummers. And I'd still feel like all the other drummers are in the band. Because they are. It's no thing. It's nice; it feels like it's a bigger little family.
With two different drummers, the way they play is totally different. Marci [Martinez] is total finesse, and Melissa [York] is total power. So their styles can make the songs different.
Your MySpace page says you're working on a new album. Is that true?
We're in the process of writing a new album.
I've written my contribution's worth of songs. I've written like 20 songs. We need to weed some of them out.
We're still figuring it out.
With Jody having her second kid, you know, we're in a little bit of different realm in life, than if we were, like, 20.
Are you going self-release this album, like you did Personal Best and Captain, My Captain?
That is the last thing we want to do, put out our own record.
We're looking to find a good little home for it. We'll be playing a couple of new songs at the show. We've got a number of them, but we need a label, we need to finish writing and working on them. We'd like it to come out in 2008.
Team Dresch plays the Siren Nation Festival Friday, Nov. 2, at the Wonder Ballroom. 11:45 pm. $25. All ages. Visit sirennation.org for a full schedule of events.
Team Dresch website
Team Dresch at MySpace