The Chew Toys’ self-titled debut LP, released in August on their own label, Noise Barn, was an overlooked lash of trash-punk snarl. It jumped around some—a bit smashy garage, a bit pop punk chirp, fuzz-rock, fast sludge, even some acoustic flights of fancy—all in service to tales of drunken revelry or rage. Not only have the Los Angeles pair given us a premiere of their new video for Leather Sweater, but they whipped up some thoughts about it, bears, Xmas hate and much more.
Dig the new video below, and read on to learn about the world of the Chew Toys.
Jay (drums/vocals): We just had a silly idea to get drunk and write songs about our friends and take the piss out of stuff.
Kev (guitar/vocals): I had a two-piece punk outfit with my ex, Greg, who’s actually in the “Leather Sweater” video with us. That band kind of fell apart, and then a band Jay was in imploded just before they were to play this big party out in Joshua Tree. We decided to throw together a set to see if we could pull it off, and we kept on going. We just started playing out on the punk scene in L.A. and the crowds got bigger, so we decided to make a record. It felt preposterous, so of course we had to.
Do you consider yourself a part of any musical scene out in California?
K: Yeah, we’re pretty happy in the scene that’s sprung up in North East L.A.—NELA for short. It’s a small, close knit scene centered around Cafe NELA, El Cid, Permanent Records, the Black Boar bar. It’s a ton of cool little bands and some bigger names like Thee Oh Sees or Ty Segall.
J: Yeah, the NELA scene is really exciting. And there’s a queercore scene happening too with us, Sapphic Musk, Clutch The Pearls and others. We straddle both scenes, but we mainly hang with the NELA crew.
Who are some favorite current bands you’ve played out with?
K: We love playing shows with Lamps because we’ve loved their records for years, and we’ve played a ton of shows with Endless Bummer who are insanely good. We’ve played with a lot of the new unsigned bands too, like Clutch The Pearls. We are setting up a show with the Birth Defects because they’re astounding and their record is going to blow people away.
J: There’s also VIAL, Meatbodies, Way To Go Genius and Jesus Sons and so many more. It feels like everyone’s starting a band at the moment and people are coming up with really exciting stuff. We got to support Pansy Division a few years back, that was big for me, they were a huge influence on me when I was growing up.
You guys are married. Haven’t you ever heard the warnings of being in a band with your significant other?
K: We stupidly ignored those warnings, and recording, self-releasing, self-managing and self-promoting has nearly killed us this year. It was nearly death by DIY. However, we also get to work all that stuff out on stage, and as a result our shows have gotten more painfully intense. In a good way.
J: Yeah, we’re not good with warnings.
How much have you toured? And if you play a show in Texas, are you still legally a “married punk rock duo?”
K: We’re actually kind of reclusive as a band. We’d rather play ten house parties in L.A. than do the opening slot west coast tour thing. We’re open to it, but we don’t have a machine behind us. We also have to wait until our work schedules sync up, then we can consider a tour. A couple bands have asked, so we might venture out in 2015, but we’d also rather just keep writing and recording. We don’t have anything to prove on the live front, and it takes us a couple of days to recover from a good show. We played the Eagle a few weeks ago and we destroyed it. Loudest, bloodiest show we’ve ever played. Jay puked during the last song. He was telling me he needed to stop, but I thought he was telling me to play faster. We smashed stuff. I nearly blacked out. Since it’s just the two of us, it’s hilarious to pull yourself back from that, peddle your merch and then load out and drive home. We always forget to sell our crap after our shows. And we’re legally married America-wide, it’s federal and shit. So, yep. Texas counts until it secedes.
There’s a persistent assumption that gay men predominantly prefer dance/club music. Do you feel like that is definitely a stereotype; and/or have you’ve found consistent support in the gay community in town?
J: Gays like what most people like. Seems like everyone is into dance music these days but you can still find people, gay or straight, who are into blues or punk or metal or whatever. It’s just a matter of reaching people. We’ve played like fifty shows and only four of them have been in gay bars. I wanted to compete on the regular circuit. That said, we do have a huge core of gay fans and their support basically got our album made.
K: We don’t really go to gay bars. I’d imagine that laptop music would still be the music you’d hear in a gay bar. One dude wants to do some remixes of a couple of our songs for that market, which would be so hilarious that we might actually do it. L.A. does have a queer rock ‘n’ roll bar scene, but they’re not playing our songs either, at least not that I’ve heard of. We get support from our friends and the bands we play with, and that’s community enough.
Can we also assume the bear community is more receptive to your burly sounds?
J: You know what they say about assuming, right?
K: Yeah, apparently not. We approached some of the bear press directly for album reviews and they didn’t even answer. We don’t identify as bears, or any of that shit, we’re just dudes. However, as a gay dude, if I’m gonna write a song that’s sexy, it’s gonna be about a guy. We set out to have those same dumb sex songs like Kiss had on Rock & Roll Over, but about guys. It’s not a gimmick, it’s how I’d write about sex. And Crying On The Inside is definitely about gay identity crises, but it’s calling folks out. If anything we might be more alienating to bears than other queer subsets.
I saw John Waters do some stand-up the other night, and he hipped us all to the term “Otter.” But I drank too much and already forgot. So, please explain.
K: I don’t even know. It’s subsets within subsets. It seems so old fashioned to me. I sweat like a whore in church when we play live so I need a ton of bandannas, and dudes are always asking what the colors mean like on that old 70s hankie code. I’m like, this isn’t a Village People show. It’s 2014. These are the four that were clean in my laundry basket.
J: An otter is a hairless bear, I think. Which doesn’t really make sense. A hairless bear would be like a lab experiment.
That was at an Xmas-themed comedy show, and you’ve said that Chew Toys hate Christmas. You also reportedly hate: “daddy chasers, the absence of Quaaludes in the world, and Bear Week.” Please explain each hate.
J: We’re not haters. It’s more like we’re annoyed by these things.
K: Except Christmas. It’s safe to say we hate Christmas. Christmas just sucks. It’s mania, it’s hysteria, it’s consumerism and forced family guilt. Nothing good comes from this celebration. It’s shallow, stupid emotional disruption. Makes it too expensive to go snowboarding. Christmas songs are like Gitmo torture anthems. The whole thing is horrible. We’re a Chinese food and a movie Xmas day family.
J: I fucking hate it. Black Friday, zombies piling into the mall like cattle, wasting money on dumb crap like socks and watches. Nobody wants those gifts. If the meaning of family is bludgeoning another human being to death so you can buy a 200 dollar flat screen TV, then you’re doing it wrong.
K: Daddy chasers are whatever. Anyone who pursues a stereotype is asking for it in our songs. Our song about them is definitely tongue in cheek. I mean, I’m older than my husband. I’m making fun of myself. This song is the apex of our dumb songs. I can’t even sing it live any more. That’s why we had to start doing it in Spanish. This was like the second song we wrote.
J: Yeah, I’ve been known to chase daddies. For instance the guitar player in my band.
K: Our song Fat Heathers is about the bear community. I went to Bear Week like five years ago, and people were very unwelcoming of people who weren’t like them. It was like a group of people who’d been marginalized their whole lives finally being able to get their revenge. It was like the movie Heathers, just fatter.
J: I don’t get the bear events. They’re a bit dull. I’d rather spend my money going overseas. I’m too young for Quaaludes personally. I’m optimistic they’ll make a comeback and debauchery will resume.
K: Quaaludes made a brief comeback in Sydney in the ‘90s. It was chaos. Obviously they’re dangerous, but we wanted a song about missing the open, heady madness of the ‘70s. I remember seeing photos of Joan Jett in hospital after she OD’d on Quaaludes and thinking it was kind of a glamorous thing for a punk to end up in a hospital for.
The great Tex & the Horseheads are mentioned in your press release as an influence. But for those in the un-know, please tell us why you love them so.
K: They were so influential and they just never got the same recognition as the Gun Club, for whatever reason. Back in the day their performances were so unhinged. [Texacala Jones] was a great front woman, she wrote killer lyrics. They veered into a spectacular punk country area, much dirtier than X, less bluesy than Gun Club. Even on their last reunion tour, they were so intense and sharp. The first EP is always lauded, but the full album is a scuzzy underrated masterpiece and the live LP is a fitting testament. It sucks that they’re fighting because it would be great to have them playing out again.
J: They’re before my time but we play their records a lot at home. The demos that Jeffrey Lee Pierce did for them are incredible. I’ve only heard a couple, but it would rule if they got released one day. They definitely shaped our record. We’ve talked about covering them. We covered Suburban Lawns and it was fun, so I think the Horseheads should be next.
Upcoming plans for the band?
K: We are demoing some songs for a new EP that we will record in late January, and then we go straight into pre-production for our second album. The EP is going to be insanely heavy, but the album is shaping up to be more tuneful. There’s some straight-out country happening, and some hootenanny music. Maybe a touch of math rock. We’re focusing on riffs and melody. It’s going to be a step up from the first one.
J: Uh, and play more shows. PLAY MORE SHOWS.