By Mace Griffin
April 12th, 2022
80s fab, businesswoman chic pop poet “Bitch” is coming to haunt New York on her tour. She is playing songs from her newest album, Bitchcraft, and is pulling out all the theatrics for her shows.
MG: What most excites you about being on tour?
B: It has been fun! I am exhausted today, I just played five shows in a row. I love connecting with people. I love the weird little gifts that people bring me. I just opened a note that someone brought me after a show. I love the words of encouragement and people letting me know that I am helping them in some sort of way with my work.
Working on tour with this album, with my music, this album for me is my favorite this I have ever made, so I am so excited to get to share it with people. I’m like “Finally!” because I have been living with it in my head for so long.
Lastly, I have written this kind of play that goes along with it, in New York I am doing this kind of play that does this autobiographical tale that links together the songs from Bitchcraft and it takes you through from childhood, to naming myself Bitch, to where we are now.
That has been exciting for me because it has added this kind of theatrical element where I get to put props on stage and live out my whole Lisa Frank fantasy.
MG: Do you have a favorite gift from someone?
B: I remember this one from a welder, where someone brought me made of nuts and bolts that was a sculpture of Animal and me. Someone once gave me a tambourine in the shape of a Jesus fish. I completely adored that, and immediately incorporated it into my set.
The love note I got the other night was wonderful. It was from someone who was fighting through their cancer treatment, and she said that my songs were helping her fight harder.
MG: What are you most wary of?
B: I’m wary of how quickly the mask mandates are coming down. I feel like I turn around I hear that someone I know has COVID. I’m naturally wary of our government in general and what the motivations are in being so relaxed on this.
On the flip side, I feel like touring right now, touring has been so soul fulfilling for me and the audience members. I have heard so many people say, “This is my first show out since the pandemic!” I feel like we all have gotten this renewed sense of how much we need each other.
MG: Do you have a favorite song to perform from your new album? Any old classics that you like to play at shows?
B: This sounds dumb, but I love them all. There isn’t once song I put into my set that I’m not excited when it starts. If I HAD to pick one right now, I would say I’m extra excited about “Pages.” We just released the music video.
I’m playing mostly Bitchcraft, and I worked in a song from my last album called “Opening Offering Talking.” I also do a new version of the “Pussy Manifesto” which is a vintage and classic Bitch and Animal song. By storytelling throughout, I’m giving people context of where that song came from, and putting a spin on where we are now in the feminist movement
MG: Are we going to be seeing the brooms as well?
B: Oh yes! I’m riding them there!
MG: Bitchcraft was your first album in 9 years. Was there a reason for the break?
B: Oh man… That’s a complicated question. You know, I would say, I definitely felt a little burnt out just from being on the cycle I was on, which was constantly touring and releasing an album out every two years. I would say that the break and the space was so great because it gave me a chance to miss it, and a chance to really think big about the album I wanted to make without the time pressure of the cycle.
MG: I notice that even though this album came out in February, you have been able to build it up over a few years, so I don’t even know if “break” is the right word. What inspired you to start touring again and release the album?
B: I have had so many people nudging me on and encouraging me, from a person that I worked with years ago coming on as my manager because she was so excited about the new material, to Kill Rock Stars getting a hold of me because I started releasing singles. They were like “We love this, and we want you to make it a full album.” So, I feel like the encouragement of my peers and community was why I decided to get back on my broomstick and do it again.
MG: I feel like your songs can be easily heard at the club or on the street of a protest. You deal with a lot of heavy realities. How do you keep from getting burnt out with these dark issues?
B: That’s a question I’m sure we are all asking ourselves right now. “How do we keep going in this devastating world that we are in?” Honestly, it’s kind of this little thing down in my gut, to quote myself, saying that “we can be the bigger dream” and change our reality. I think when I hang out with my nieces and nephews, it sounds cliche, but I must remember that there is a reason to keep going and having a little bit of hope.
MG: You go by Bitch, which is a powerful name. Has there been any consequence or benefits?
B: One hundred percent, in both ways. I named myself Bitch to reclaim this word that is used to insult powerful women who take up space. It was part of this feminist revelation that I was going through. Back when I met my first bandmate, Animal, we kind of took on these archetypes to reclaim them. I would say on one hand it is of course a name that nobody forgets and has benefited me in the way of its unforgettable quality and there is a confidence there that people resound with. On the other hand, with the internet, it has been very complicated and kind of awful. I’m in this battle with an algorithm and Kill Rock Star can’t advertise for my album, venues can’t advertise for my shows because of this “profanity.” It’s ironic, because that “bitch” isn’t an FFC word, so you can say it on TV. It seems like as long as you are insulting women you are fine.
MG: When dealing with sexism in the world, what are parts of your gender identity that help you feel confident?
B: I think of myself as a gender non-conforming femme. Ever since I came out and really started to be aware of misogyny and the patriarchy and how it is in everything we do, I started rebelling against all of that. I rebelled against being the quiet demure lady that my parents and society wanted me to be. I feel like I have never conformed gender wise to what people expect of a woman, even though I am on the femme side of the spectrum. It has helped me embrace using “she/they” pronouns because I haven’t been conforming to these heteronormative beauty standards and gender expression standards. That feels really liberating.
MG: What are some of the biggest obstacles you have had to overcome as a gender-non-conforming femme in music?
B: I feel like being queer has helped me, where I play pride festivals and I am celebrated in the gay community. I feel like it has hindered my ability to be in a mainstream circle. I think it is based on how men treat me. There is a certain male gaze or approval, where when you announce yourself as queer, there feels like there is a close off. It takes a very liberated man to not let that get in the way of understanding talent or likability or those career helping factors.
MG: Coming from a classical music background, do you blend that with pop music? Did you have to unlearn anything from being classically trained?
B: Ever since I started being a professional rock musician, I feel like part of my thing has been about unlearning my classical training. So much of classical training is about reading music. My whole life, because there is this ritual of practicing your music, anytime I would turn away from the music and play from my heart, I felt like I was doing something wrong.
I had to unlearn that pretty quickly in writing my own music. Ultimately, that’s what you are doing, when you turn away from reading music and just play from your heart you are writing music. In that classical training, that isn’t honored. That has been a constant and it is something I set out to do having a band in my early 20s. Now I feel like what goes better with a big synth and heavy beats than a violin on top and a whole orchestra at that. In that, I am so grateful for my classical training.
MG: Who has been a big influence or inspiration to you as a musician?
B: Kenny Starr, who is someone you need to get on your radar. I was resigning myself “Pages” as I was driving home from a gig the other night and I thought “Woah, this is definitely influenced by Kenny Star.”
Going back further, I would also say Sinead O’connor, some of her early albums like “The Lion and the Cobra” lived with me. PJ Harvey’s “Drive” album just got in there. Joni Mitchell, Ani Difranco, Tracy Chapman. Definitely classical music. In my childhood house, it was my mom’s show tunes, and my dad’s jazz. My choice was always Sesame Street, the music of the Muppets, and the Electric Company.
MG: As an activist?
B: I have to say I am so inspired by the youths, like Greta Thurnberg and Malala. Just their ability to be willing to dismantle the entire system, stand up and say “This is our future we are fighting for. You don’t get to make the rules now.”
MG: You previously worked with Animal and made music in a group with different artists. What is different about working solo?
B: I’m thought of as solo, but when I think of this album, there have been so many hands in it. I am playing the shows solo, but these tracks have been built with the help of so many people. I have these tracks I build with my friend the rapper Goddes, Roger Mason, Ann Preven, Roma Baran, I mean there has been so many hands. Every night when I’m playing these tracks, I’ll hear a little synth line and think “Oh god, Ann, she is such a genius!” or I’ll play violin and think “I love Roma!” I am solo, but I have this whole coven behind me.
Bitch and Animal is where I got my name from. When I went solo in 2004 for, it was like “well, that is who I am, and I never considered not being Bitch.” I have had a few different mixes with those names with different collaborations. Unless the algorithm wins, I’ll be using this name for a long time.
MG: You use multiple instruments, including the violin. Which instrument do you start making your songs with most often? Which instrument is the most complicated to make pieces for?
B: I rely a lot on the piano and on my bass. I made a very conscious decision at some point to focus more on my violin. It isn’t as easy to sing and play around on my violin. It isn’t hard to include music for any instrument, but I had to consciously write in the violin. It isn’t hard, because the violin was my earliest relationship. To me it was so simple in a way, that I feel like my own rebelliousness in my earlier days made me go away from it. I had to remind myself “Remember who you are, remember your original voice, which is the violin.” It wasn’t hard, I just had to remind myself to bring that instrument in.
MG: Your lyrics deal with very dark and heavy stuff, yet your presence and branding is really bright and fun. How does this contrast help or hurt you?
B: I have been conscious that people have a certain assumption on what I’m going to be like or what my music is going to be like, based on the name “Bitch.” I think that subconsciously I have accounted for that, but I have also always been attracted to a childlike kind of play. Playfulness is my natural state. Naming myself Bitch, there is a playfulness to it. There is humor to it, and people don’t always quite understand until they see a show.
Bitch will be playing in New York City on Wednesday, April 13th and 20th at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 3.