Just a little convo with Julia Shapiro of indie rock outfit Chastity Belt

 By Shirley Griffith 

April 19, 2018

Seattle indie rockers Chastity Belt have steadily churned up a name for themselves in the past few years at their own charmingly cool pace. The band’s first release, No Regerts exemplified the four piece’s knack for piecing together the college experience and social messages with straight-forward humor. 2015’s Time To Go Home offered a stepped-up sound where the band seemed to take themselves more seriously in their writing and overall sound. Songs like opener “Drone,” inspired by Sheila Heti’s book How Should A Person Be?, address that constant droning hum of mansplaining over the catchy chorus ”he was just another man tryna teach me somethin.” Last year the band continued their trajectory of growth and released I Used To Spend So Much Time Alone, a strikingly beautiful album full of honesty and vulnerability. The album is best listened to on repeat as loud as possible, as most pristine albums are. The band, and specifically lead singer Julia Shapiro’s natural flair for finding uncomplicated sentiments for this complicated business of being human are what elevates Chastity Belt’s captivating sincerity.

Julia Shapiro of Chastity Belt (middle right) Photo: Carley Solether

The band has been touring on and off since the release of I Used To Spend, popping by Australia for a few weeks to hang out with my idols and their pals in Milk! Records.  Aforementioned lead guitarist/singer/angel Julia was able to chat with us during the first day of their Spring 2018 tour which started in Montana and brings them to Asheville’s The Mothlight with support from killer acts Lala Lala and Aunt Sis.

Happy Tour Day, it starts today right?

Julia: Thank you! It actually started last night, we added a show in Butt, MT (pronounced butte, but I keep calling it butt) and tonight we’re playing in Bozeman. Right now I’m on this beautiful scenic walk in Butt. We’re staying with our friends’ parents – I love staying with parents on tour.

Are they cool or do they set rock ’n’ roll rules about coming home rowdy after the gig?

Julia: Oh yeah, they’re cool, they came to the show last night!

How was Australia? Did you have enough time to relax/prepare between tours?

Julia: We only got back a week ago! I’ve had just enough time to do laundry and sort things out for this tour, barely. Normally we would’ve given ourselves more time but we stayed in Australia a little longer than we intended and spent like 10 days at the end in Melbourne playing a couple shows.

I don’t blame you! Looks like you were hanging with Courtney Barnett and all the Milk! Records people?

Julia: Yeah they’re all so sweet and welcoming, I feel like maybe I have more friends there than I do here! It was really great, Courtney let us practice and jam out in their warehouse.

Photo: Carley Solether

What a dream gang! So, with you guys touring so much, have you picked up any tricks to keeping your mind and body sane?

Julia: (laughing) Uhmm yeah I’m still working on that but I feel like we’ve gotten some things down. It’s easier in the US when we have our van and have more control of what we’re doing because we’re all usually normally on the same page about maybe finding healthier food or something for that night. For me though, like if I’m in a bad mood I’ll go for a solo walk and that’s helpful. It’s a natural antidepressant.  

What would you say desert island scenario is your utmost tour necessity?

Julia: Hmm probably the selfie stick (laughs). I thought I had lost it but I found it in the van yesterday, so I’m excited, it was a blessing.

Has there been much of a writing process or have you been just focusing on touring since last year’s album?

Julia: Oh yeah we’ve got a bunch of new songs that we’re hopefully recording this summer.

Is it going to be more collaborative, writing-wise like Used To Spend?

Julia: Yeah, a little more…it kind of depends on the songs but Used to Spend had a couple tracks that came about while we were jamming, then I went back and structured them a little more. Lydia [Lund, guitar] and Gretchen [Grimm, drums] have some songs on Used To Spend. On this new record there are songs from them too and Annie [Truscott, bass] even wrote a new song! It’ll be her first song contribution in our discography so that’s really exciting.

Is there anything currently that’s inspiring you to write new songs?

Julia: I feel like probably getting out of Seattle, touring and having different experiences helps but you can’t really force a song to come about. Like, sometimes I sit down and a song comes out and I don’t even try and that’s really nice! But I can go through long periods of ‘God I’m boooored and there’s nothing to write about’ and all my songs are about me being bored and it just sucks. I’m not really sure what inspires me, just feeling really strongly about things. Which, sometimes I don’t feel strongly about anything and I’m like God I guess I just have to write about not caring?

I read you were trying to expand your pedal collection. Have you gotten any new ones that you’re pumped about?

Julia: Yeah, my brother actually just gave me a delay pedal which was really sweet. It’s kind of a weird one but I like it and it inspired one of our new songs. I don’t use it that much but it’s really nice. It makes me play my guitar a little differently, especially when we’re jamming and during the jam parts I get to test it out and try because it sounds crazy.

Is that pretty much how the process goes, you guys jam out and flesh it out from there?

Julia: Yeah, that’s mostly it! A lot of our songs end in a long jam and that’s just from playing a lot and seeing what sounds cool, it lets the song develop naturally. A lot of times I’ll write a song that’s just the basic structure, chords, and a melody then I’ll bring it to the band and everyone else will find parts that work together with it. Sometimes that can come really easily but sometimes it’s really hard and we have songs that I’ve written that just haven’t become anything because it just feels too forced, so that’s when a song dies. I’ve started playing drums which is different. I’ve gotten some experience on the songs that Gretchen writes because we’ll switch spots. Also, I drum for this other band I’m in called Who Is She?

Oh yeah, isn’t that with Lisa Prank?

Julia: Yep, Lisa Prank (Robin Edwards) and Bree McKenna from Tacocat.

You’re doing so much these days, I didn’t realize! Are you still in Childbirth?

Julia: We’ve kind of taken a hiatus for the moment; I had to put Childbirth on the backburner for my sanity. With Who Is She, we rarely play but I’d like to do a little summer tour just because we all like hanging out with each other and it’d be really fun.

Photo: Carley Solether

What are you listening to these days?

Julia: We mostly use Spotify and playlists, sometimes we’ll put on a CD. Courtney Barnett’s new song, “I Need A Little Time” is really great. She gave us a copy of her new album and it’s just so good – I think it’ll be out soon – May 18.

Yeah, she’s my favorite, her and Kurt Vile are both my favorites and when they collaborated on Lotta Sea Lice and toured together with Jen Cloher I lost my mind!

Julia: They’re the best! I met him too while they were touring together and he’s really funny. It [Lotta Sea Lice] worked out because they have a really similar vibe. Oh, I’ve also been listening to…. have you heard of this band, Dick Diver?

Yes! When I saw Chastity Belt last year at The Mothlight the opener was Darren Hanlon and his merch artwork was done by Steph Hughes from Dick Diver!  

Julia: Oh yeah, I got to meet her when she drummed for Darren while we were over there and played a show with them in Castlemaine! I had only heard a couple Dick Diver songs and I loved them–it’s too bad they broke up because they could’ve been really huge.

This tour is bringing you back through Asheville?

Julia: Yes, I’m excited to play the Mothlight again, I love Asheville! My best friend lives there and we got to hang out last year on a touring off day.

Catch Chastity Belt at The Mothlight in Asheville on Friday, April 20 with Lala Lala and Aunt Sis.

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