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05 May 2017

Shy and Powerful: Le Butcherettes Front Woman Teri Gender Bender Turns Her Inner Demons Into Kick-Ass Rock 'n' Roll

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Teri Gender Bender. Teri Gender Bender.

Teri Gender Bender is one of the great female rock front women—and she continues to kick ass and take names.

Teri Gender Bender—her real name is Teresa Suárez Cosío—recently recorded and toured with the supergroup Crystal Fairy, which also includes At the Drive-In/Mars Volta guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, Melvins guitarist Buzz Osborne, and Melvins drummer Dale Crover. However, she’s best known for fronting Le Butcherettes, which will be performing at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace on Thursday, May 11.

During a recent phone interview, Cosio started off by telling me that she’s always nervous during interviews. I broke the ice by telling her that the recent Crystal Fairy album was amazing, with incredible energy.

“I’m just so grateful that we were even able to make that album,” Cosio said. “I never expected in my entire life—at 27 years old after listening to the Melvins since I was 12—that I’d be collaborating with Dale and Buzz. I’m just happy it even exists. In a spiritual sense, I feel really relieved, and hopefully that opens up the door to hanging out more with those guys, and more collaboration. I’m really thankful for those memories of recording it. The process was a gift within itself.”

Cosio said the group wound up being a cultural-exchange project, of sorts. Cosio was born in Denver to a Mexican mother and a Spanish father, and moved to Mexico later in her childhood.

“It’s pretty surreal, to say the least. Everyone in the band is from different cultures. Omar is from Puerto Rico, and Buzz and Dale are from Northern Washington,” Cosio said. “It’s very interesting to see those different worlds collide. It was like, ‘I didn’t know about that type of food,’ and, ‘My mother will make breakfast for you guys and make you some traditional Mexican food.’ It was great to see everyone exchanging cultures.”

Le Butcherettes, which got its start in Guadalajara, offers a surreal experience as a live band, while the recordings are beautiful artistic expressions—with a blast of garage punk. I asked Cosio what the band means to her.

“For me, it’s my life, but I wouldn’t know how to describe it myself,” she said. “It’s always these different styles and inspirations, from movies to literature. The only thing I really know is that it’s provided me with a passport to tour the world and to be able to experience different artists and different people. I wouldn’t know how to describe it myself, either. I like that it isn’t easy to describe.”

Le Butcherettes have been on the festival circuit and have opened for bands such as the Deftones and At the Drive-In. Cosio said she was pleasantly surprised by the response Le Butcherettes received.

“The Deftones’ crowd was very open to us. At first, I was a little on edge about it, given the rumor was the Deftones crowd was only there to see the Deftones,” she said. “It was the same with At the Drive-In fans. So far, knock on wood, people have been very embracing toward us. The people who showed up early to see us play knew the words to the songs, which I never really expected. I was writing in my room in Guadalajara when I was 12 years old, and I would have never expected to see me opening for these bands, and people showing up early to see us play. It’s given us a career and has opened doors for us.”

While Cosio might be shy, she’s been open about many of the things that happened to her during her childhood, including her father’s fatal heart attack, which prompted her mother to move her and her brother to Guadalajara from their home in Denver. She said music and the arts gave her an outlet to express her pain.

“We lived in a small apartment during most of my childhood, so I wasn’t able to play guitar any time of the day, because the neighbors would hit the walls. Writing was, and still is, a major outlet for me,” she said. “You have the liberty to complain or write whatever you want, and no one is going to judge you, unless you show someone. But me being an introvert, I was going to write about something and be so direct about it, but I always had this fear that my brother might take it and read it out loud—which he did before—and read it to our mom. I had two options: Drown myself in alcohol like my father did—and I loved him a lot, even though he was a frustrated artist and drank a lot—or I could take the other path and try to drug myself up with literature. I know that sounds pretentious, but that’s the only way I can say it.”

Cosio admitted that she is afraid of being underestimated.

“That’s a big challenge, along with not taking it personally—especially if you’re a Latina woman, because you have to get used to stepping over obstacles,” she said. “(You need to) learn how to make that into art and use that as an inspiration. My inner demons have been a constant challenge, like those little voices in your head that say you aren’t good enough and that you’re not a good person. So I work on being a good person, which is a big spectrum—and I want to get to the bright light of the spectrum.”

Le Butcherettes will perform at 9:30 p.m., Thursday, May 11, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $12 to $15. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit pappyandharriets.com.

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