When I recently sat down with the members of The After Lashes, the members of the all-female garage-punk band were excited about what’s happened to them over the last year—and what the coming year may bring.
In 2017, The After Lashes played 17 shows, with their sound steadily improving since their start in 2016. And to begin 2018, the band recorded seven tracks over 12 hours on the day I showed up at the home of Ali Saenz (aka Death Valley Ali) in La Quinta.
On Saturday, Feb. 24, The After Lashes will be perform at The Hood Bar and Pizza with GayC/DC and The Hellions at the monthly Coachella Valley Independent Presents show.
But before we talked about the past and the future, I had to ask: What’s the meaning behind the band’s name?
“The ‘Lashes’ part was always there in my head,” Saenz said. “The After Lashes is an off-shoot of a previous band I was in. A couple of the members and I had been kicking around one word—’Lashes.’ I am going to be honest: I went through a band-name generator, and just started asking, ‘What words rhyme with this?’ or, ‘What could we make of this?’ When ‘After’ and ‘Lashes’ popped up, I was all like, ‘Fuck yeah! There it is!’ It doesn’t really have a specific meaning, but I kind of like that, and I like that it leads people to ask what it means and where we came up with it.
“I like to leave a little mystery there. There are some feminine qualities in there, as well as a little of that S&M that we love,” Saenz added with a laugh.
The After Lashes have melded feminism and politics into their sound—in an entertaining yet serious way.
“We always knew we were going to be feminists and kind of raw and out there, but I don’t think we went into this thinking we were going to be a political band,” said lead vocalist Esther Sanchez. “The times we’re in sort of just call for it. We’ve been finding it difficult to write fun songs lately because of the vibe and our mindset of what’s going on around us—and who’s president. Everything going on has made it difficult to write fun songs, and we’re just writing about what we feel right now. We’re just trying to be truthful to ourselves and who we are.”
When I brought up the song “Dictator,” Saenz noted that the song is not political—and was actually written about a quarrel she had with her husband, well-known drummer Greg Saenz.
“It was the first song I ever wrote, and it’s the song I actually presented to Esther when I was begging to join the band,” Saenz said. “… I was very pissed off at my significant other one night. It was great, because he actually helped me structure everything together in GarageBand—and then he realized it was about him, and I found my lyric book floating in the pool one day.”
Some music fans wrote off the After Lashes after the band’s first few gigs—but the group has become better with each show.
“We started (playing live) too early,” said bassist Serene Tahtinen. “But it’s good to experience it. Me and Jen (Corradi) are on the shy side, so with me and her, every experience is a plus for us to push ourselves more and get ourselves out there more.”
Each of the four members takes part in the songwriting process, they said—an interesting fact, considering they all come from different musical backgrounds. Sanchez grew up singing in church and sang vocal jazz with local musician Alex Santana, while guitarist Corradi comes from a folk-music background. Saenz is inspired by melodic and British-punk influences, while Tahtinen is metal-influenced, although she played jazz bass while she was a music-theory student in college.
“My main influence is acoustic and folk music, if someone told me I’d be playing punk rock with a bunch of badass chicks onstage, I’d say, ‘You’re fucking crazy, man!’” said Corradi, who joined the group later than the others. “My first show with this band was last year at the Date Shed in front of 250 people. I had to deal with my own stage fright, and only after a couple of weeks of jamming with them, they said, ‘We have a gig at the Date Shed!’”
After putting in several hours of work, and as the producers of their upcoming release—Dennis Cooper and Dan Housel—packed up, the band members said they felt good about their recording efforts.
“For me as a mom who has two kids, I feel like this is another child to me,” Saenz said. “It’s the first record I’ve ever recorded, and we had two amazing professionals in here working their asses off, taking us under their wing and showing us the ropes—and they’re going to make us sound like rock stars. This means a lot to me and will be something I cherish for the rest of my life.”
The After Lashes will perform with GayC/DC, The Hellions and others as part of the Coachella Valley Independent Presents series at 9 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 24, at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission is free. For more information, call 760-636-5220, or visit facebook.com/HoodBarAndPizza.