Fabula Magazine Interview
Seven Year Bitch is a foursome of musicians
who have seen some shit. They've witnessed the media exploitation
of punk. Weathered the slapped-on labels of grunge and fox core.
Seen friends rise to fame and die.
Lost friends to murder, drugs, and suicide.
Watched their home scene
splashed across the TV screen. Toured their asses off in a tiny, hot, and smelly van. They've
paid their fuckin' dues. And the end result of all this is some passionate, soulful music that
stands the test of time. What would certainly have vanquished some, has transformed Seven Year
Bitch into a group of seasoned writers and performers whose most recent recording
Gato Negro is both compelling and propulsive. They are also women of conviction who give
of themselves to the community. They play benefits for many causes including Rock For Choice,
Home Alive, and the murder investigation of Mia Zapata, a friend and former singer of the
Seattle band The Gits. Drummer Valerie Agnew has co-founded Home Alive, a Seattle
based organization dedicated to women's defense education. I had the honor of interviewing them
in SF at Covered Wagon Saloon.
Lisa Fay Beatty-guitar player
(was not present)
interview by cinder bischoff
photography by debra mcclinton
Cinder: When did you guys kick off this tour, how far are you into it?
Selene: We did two days in Anchorage, two in Seattle, one in Portland last night and now here.
C: And how long are you gonna be out?
S: Just another few shows- San Jose, LA, San Diego.
C: Road-testing new songs?
Elizabeth: Yeah, just West Coast. We're taking some songs on the road that are really really new. We wrote them like a few days before we left for tour.
S: Yeah and so I'm still reading the lyrics off the...
E: Oh shit!
S: Well one of them at least. I've got them all down except for this one that keeps boggling my brain.
C: It's funny how some songs drop off the set list after they've been road-tested. They sound great in the studio and you take them on the road and it's changes. And the one you thought was a sleeper, all of a sudden that's the one that kicks ass.
E: Sometimes they sound a certain way in practice and you play it on stage and it doesn't have the effect you got from practicing.
S: Yeah its totally true. Playing through monitors on stage has a lot to do with that. And then also when you play live you tend to play faster and some things don't sound better when you speed them up. They lose their groove.
E: They lose everything.
C: I liked what I heard at sound check, what song was that?
S: That's a new one, it's called Blue Side. I think it's my new favorite song.
C: What is it about?
S: What is it about?
E: It's about getting bummed out!
S: Yeah, it's about going to the blue side (laughter).
C: What's exciting about the new material, lyrically and musically?
S: What's exciting? Well it's exciting to have new songs just in general. There's some songs that I'm more excited about right off the bat than others. I think it's gonna take a little time to warm up and get the flow of it.
E: The new stuff's different...it's different with Lisa.
C: You've had a recent lineup change. So how's Lisa [new guitar player] doing?
S: So far so good.
E: Yeah I like having Lisa in the band a lot.
S: She's a really good guitar player.
E: She's been playing guitar since she was 9. You don't meet that many women who've been playing since they were 9. Most of the women players you meet, they've just started playing.
S: This takes a lot of experience, you want somebody with experience and obviously she's had a lot from being in the Mudwimmin and playing with them for so long.[The Mudwimmin were an influential SF punk band consisting of mostly women. They were together from approximately Î85-Î95.]
E: Lisa plays drums, she sings, she does it all.
C: I remember seeing them, they used to trade instruments during their sets.
E: Lisa's also been on tour as our sound engineer for three years.
S: Yeah, that was another thing. She knew our band really well and at this point getting someone who didn't know us at all would've been kinda weird. She already knew us, about our personality, and what was happening with us as a band.
E: And she's toured with us. That's really basic to being in a band. Touring with somebody... you don't know, someone could be completely mellow and you get them on the road and they turn into a freak.
S: We know everything psychotic about her and she knows everything psychotic about us.
C: Plus, if the soundman drops dead she can jump right in.
E: That's right, she can drop her guitar... "TURN UP THE MONITORS."
C: What else are you gonna do over the summer? More touring, recording?
E: We're gonna be writing our new record.
S: The plan is to go in the studio in the early fall.
C: So we can expect a release around December or something?
S: I don't know, probably not til Î98. They usually take about 3 or 4 months after you record it before it actually comes out and I know they have some sort of a crazy thing that goes on over Christmas and the holidays when everybody in the industry quits working for a month or something.
C: You've moved around a lot as a band, where do you now call home?
E: We've relocated to this area...now we're a San Francisco based band.
C: Do all of you live here?
S: No, I live in L.A. and I fly up for practice.
C: Friends Fly Free...
E: That sounds so cosmopolitan, "I just fly up for practice."(laughter)
S: It's not that random. We usually plan a couple of weeks in advance, so I can get that seven day advanced purchase.
C: What are your favorite restaurants here in S.F?
E: Josie's Juice Bar and Cabaret. It rules. It's in the Castro, they have a lot of vegan food. And they have Bocca Burgers.
Valerie: Mine is Indian Oven, in the Filmore.
E: Josie's has lipsync shows....and you can eat Bocca Burgers and watch the drag queens.
C: So Selene, I caught The Year of My Japanese Cousin on PBS last Saturday.[An independent film about a young woman in a band struggling for recognition within the Seattle music scene. It was written, produced and directed by Maria Gargiulo. Director of Photography is her sister, Lulu Garguilo (of the Fastbacks). Filmed in Seattle, it features music from local bands and cameos by some of the band members. It airs occasionally in the bay area on channel 9.] How did you get involved with that project and do you have any future acting plans?
S: I got involved through the women that made the movie. Lulu, who was the camera person, was in the Fastbacks. They sent me a monologue to video tape...and that was kind of it. I really enjoyed doing it.
C: Have you ever acted before?
S: A little bit in theater a long time ago but not anything recent. We've mostly been doing band stuff for the past six years, or whatever it was at that point. As far as future plans, I haven't really pursued it. I mean, if something cool comes up, maybe I'd do it. I'm not ready to be another chick in L.A. looking for a part. I'm not anywhere near that right now.
C: I thought I recognized the woman who played your Japanese cousin...?
S: That's Janice [Tanaka] from Stone Fox. That's how we got involved with them.
E: There are a lot of people in bands in the movie, so if you know about the Seattle scene you can see familiar faces.
S: Kurt Bloch plays the engineer. He's in the Fastbacks.
C: The Comet Tavern is in it too, that's a local hangout in Seattle.
E: Yeah, they turned it into a Blues bar
At this point, we discuss the death of Mia Zapata, a fellow musician who was raped and murdered in Seattle nearly four years ago on her way home from a club. Mia was the dynamic lead singer of The Gits. Her assailant has still not been found. Her tragic death has lead to the formation of Home Alive, a Seattle-based self-defense education program.
C: Will you tell us a little bit about you're involvement with Home Alive and any updates on that and/or the Mia Zapata murder investigation?
V: The investigation is not happening right now. They fired the woman who was doing the investigation and they haven't gotten enough money together yet to hire another private investigator. Home Alive is donating some money to keep that going.
C: Tell us more about Home Alive.
V: I co-founded Home Alive in Seattle with eight other collective members shorlty after Mia was killed. It's gone through a lot of different phases. We started out like this really informal meeting, you know, in living rooms and stuff like that and then once we put the CD out and raised a substantial amount of money, we were able to get an office space and studio space and start giving a lot more self-defense classes.
C: Do you hold free self defense classes?
V: Free or for whatever donations people can give. I think at the last count we had 12 or 13 hundred women who had taken the classes we offer. We're now moving to a more mainstream, sort of traditional non-profit structure. We used to be run as a collective and now we're hiring a board of directors...
C: Wow. It's really evolving.
V: It's definitely expanding
C: Are there chapters forming in any other cities?
V: There's already a group here in San Francisco called Rage Ready.
C: I'm just wondering, I mean we've heard so much about her tragic death... What do you think about when you think about Mia?
S: I mostly think about a lot of funny things and good times. Really. I mean when we actually do the song about her [M.I.A.], I get really sad and frustrated. That's the only time that that kind of feeling comes in. She really was amazing. She was a wild child.
V: Yeah, totally.
C: So you guys are going in the studio in the fall. Are you touring all the way up to that or..?
E: No we're just doing a teaser tour.[with Lost Goat] We haven't been on the road since last August and we wanted to get out there. And we had a hiatus when Roisin quit the band and we had to get used to a new lead guitar player. We wanted to bring out some of the new songs on the road and also get back into the feel of playing live with Lisa. We also needed to have some fun. I mean real fun. Cause we've been working and writing songs and sometimes you need a break from that and get out and do a fun show.
V: Playing with Lost Goat has been a lot of fun.
E: I love their band, I love their music and their personalities too. They're really cool.
V: Their attitude towards music is refreshing and inspirational.
C: How is your label, Atlantic, treating you?
E: I don't think we pay much attention to them, and they don't pay attention to us.
S: We are still with them, contrary to popular belief.
E: We write our songs and make our record and go on tour.
C: How much are they helping you out?
E: They've given us tour support and helped us out in other ways but....
S: I think once we get going again we'll be dealing with them more. We've just been collecting ourselves lately.
E: We're definitely not close to the label or anything.
C: Are things chilly with CZ? [Independent label who put out first recordings.]
V: No. We don't like CZ.
E: It's a dumb label, it's a stupid label. I mean, whatever, they were the first label that showed any interest, so we just said, "O.K." But you know, 20/20 hindsight.
V: They're proof that independent or major, you can get fucked by either one.
C: That's about it. I'm sorry we missed Lisa, she can't keep her hands off those soundboard knobs! Thanks, you guys. Any last words to the kids?
S: Hi, kids! (laughter......)