Le Butcherettes’ Teri ‘Gender Bender’ Suaréz dares you
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The singer taps her inexhaustible rage onstage. Offstage, she’s reflective as the band’s debut album ‘Sin Sin Sin’ lands Tuesday, with a Bootleg Theater gig following Wednesday.
When Teri Suaréz sings a line like “you take my pretty dress off,” consider it a gauntlet thrown. Not at men, but at any institution or societal norm that would stand in her way. Her 21 years split between Denver and Guadalajara, Mexico, she possesses a voice that needs few instrumental adornments. “Dress Off” is delivered only with a snarl and an intensely aggressive rhythm, and Suaréz’s vocals are full of bravado and cultural confusion.
“It’s a threat,” she said during a recent conversation. “I dare you to come here and make me yours. That’s not just directed toward a man. It’s directed toward anyone. I’m not trying to be sexy. It’s a dare -- I dare you to try and screw with what I hold dear. So take my dress off.”
Suaréz is a literature fiend and left her philosophy studies for rock ’n’ roll. Le Butcherettes may have been born in Mexico, but the band is schooled in punk rock traditions. The act’s debut, “Sin Sin Sin,” will be issued Tuesday by local label Sargent House — and celebrated with a release show at the Bootleg Theater on Wednesday. With a rep for hectic live shows that border on performance art -- Suaréz accessorizes with fake blood and views the whole venue as an extension of the stage -- Le Butcherettes have already earned themselves a major support system.
“Sin Sin Sin” was championed by and recorded with Omar Rodriguez Lopez, an experimental artist known for his work in At the Drive-In and the Mars Volta. He connected Suaréz with drummer Gabe Serbian, who’s performed with the wide-ranging underground punk of San Diego’s the Locust, and last year Le Butcherettes signed a booking deal with William Morris Endeavor. A national tour supporting the Deftones will follow.
Talking last week in the courtyard of downtown’s recently opened museum devoted to the Mexican American experience, LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, Suaréz was the shy alter ego of her stage persona, whom she refers to as Teri Gender Bender. Suaréz apologized regularly for losing her train of thought, even wondering aloud if she has autism. Meet her on the street, and one would never guess Suaréz is the writer of sharp and primal bursts of melodic noise, songs that share an equal frustration and fascination with American culture, and occasionally feel like the opening shots of a class war.
And hence the reason she wears a bloodied apron.
“The apron represents the housewife, chores and the oppressed female type,” Suaréz said. “The blood represents the rebellion against it ... Right now in Guadalajara, it’s going downhill. There’s drug wars going on, a lot of rapes, a lot of kidnappings, especially with young women. I want to represent a lot of that with the elements that I take on stage.”
Sonically, the threesome disregards genre borders, and Suaréz takes outsider isolation and turns it global. On “New York,” she displays a spine-curdling yell that will draw comparisons to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O, and on “The Actress That Ate Rousseau” she shows off a voice that’s ready for an off-Broadway cabaret.
After she relocated to Guadalajara with her Mexican mother after the passing of her Spanish father six years ago, Suaréz said she never felt welcome living with her mother’s family. “It was basically me and my mom taking care of my little brothers in a far more sexist country,” she said of her time in Mexico.
“I was just being hateful toward other people, and I decided I was going to make this band.”
She attempted to escape into the music scene, but that didn’t necessarily help, as she saw acts in Guadalajara simply aping American hard rock/emo bands like Thursday and Taking Back Sunday. Then the local musicians criticized her for singing in English.
“I can’t go to Mexico and just say, ‘I’m not a gringo anymore,’” she said.
Now living in Los Angeles, Suaréz is more at ease, but far from comfortable. “I know there’s kids who had it worse, but I had it pretty bad,” Suaréz said. “Every day a guy would grab my ass. I was so shy and scared that I didn’t say anything. I kept quiet and I regret that so much. On stage, I don’t care. I let it all out.
“Someone asked me what I will do when that rage runs out,” she continued. “It’s never going to run out.”
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-- Todd Martens
Images: Teri Gender Bender Suaréz at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes / Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times