PART 2 [continued]

TONY TRINH: Can we talk about that? We were talking about juxtaposition and this interplay of themes. Take the name Tearist. The name sounds like “terrorist”, something violent combined with this sense of emotion, it’s (the music) emotive. Stop me if I’m reading too much into this. Not just the name, but the whole package deal, this dichotomy between the two, there’s a commentary on feminism and possibly gender roles?

YASMINE KITTLES: Oh my God, thank you!

TT: You have the violence going on, not to stereotype gender roles, but man is about being animalistic and violent and you’re (women) also emotive, right? The feminine side of it.

YK: This has come up a lot with me. Nobody asks about this. This is awesome! This is great. These are great questions. I’m inspired by the people that blur the lines. I’m not (just) a female lead singer. You know, I’m half of this band, I’m not the female “frontwoman”. I’m more inspired by things that don’t have me thinking I’m looking at a female. Or she’s trying too hard to be masculine. It’s like, focus on what it is. Don’t be distracted by all these other things. And this is the way I dress. I mostly wear these t-shirts, it’s comfortable to me. And I really wanted to get away from these roles we are put into. You know, the girl has to wear this thing, and be this Katy Perry type. It’s more of a blurring of lines and feminism has changed. For me anyway, that word (“feminism”) is so…people are so allergic to that word.

TT: It’s a loaded word.

YK: You associate it with, basically, “bra-burning”, “I hate men!”  You know, it’ so specific, you’ve pigeonholed yourself by saying you’re a feminist. I’m a feminist in the sense of I’m a person. Equality in the sense of not even addressing it…not like, “You have to accept me as an equal and I’m trying to be on the same level,” it’s like, “Let’s not even talk about that because it’s not even an issue.” It’s not even something you should be even thinking about. For me, feminism is about being an empowered person, so much so that you don’t have to go, “Well, I’m doing this for women!” Yeah, I’m doing it for women, I’m actually just doing it for people. I want you to feel because you should want to feel. That’s more powerful to me as a woman is for you to not even think as a woman. You know? “Like, you know a lot about this stuff for a girl.” That’s not even a part of it. Like, get away from that, it’s so toxic. You’re just kind of asking to be pushed to the side. You’ve done it to yourself when you kind of make it about male versus female. So recently, since we’ve been put in this spotlight…we’re opening ourselves up to criticism, we had nothing but amazing…before we even had our EP out, we had over a hundred pieces of press, just based on videos and live performances. Now that we’re more “here we are”, it makes you more vulnerable to criticism, and whatever, and people don’t understand or know how to talk about it. And also, I think it’s hard for some guys that I’m a female doing certain things. You know, like I’m not playing the role that you’re expecting me to play…

TT: Like the whole Katy Perry syndrome. This objectification. This cheesecake model.

YK: Right. So recently there was this thing about this old school sexism that has come into play and people basically saying, in reviews, like they wanted to rape me and that I’m asking for it. Just all over the place! There’s a magazine, that I won’t mention because I don’t even want to give them enough credit, said that…first they talked about a blowjob, a review of our album, which they probably don’t know is a live album, because they didn’t listen to it. But they just wrote about me basically, and then they said that I liked a lot of “choke sex”. So it’s irresponsible of me to not address these things. But I think what I’m doing, already is addressing it by continuing to be strong, I guess. But it was really hard…but it is weird because all of a sudden it’s accepted…you know these jokes about black people, “Oh it’s sooo funny, ‘cause you shouldn’t do that…”

TT: Taboo. People being taboo for the sake of being taboo, but they’re just being assholes, chauvinists or racists.

YK: Right! When did it become okay for you to say that you wanted to rape me? And that’s funny?! Or you want to use your whole interview to talk about your boner or how hard you are because you don’t know how to talk about the music? You feel emasculated by something I’m doing that the only thing you can do is to put it down? To put it to a level where you’re above it and so you can make a joke and never…and some of them are really trying to be complimentary, but they just don’t know how. So it’s put me in this position where like (to confront)…but not in this Tegan and Sara way. You know, with that shit that just happened.

TT: With Tyler? Yeah, I wrote an article about that.

YK: My friend…she’s like, “Oh my God, they must be looking for publicity because they never wanted to be about that.” You know? And Tegan and Sara are really trying to…so I feel like the way they’re approaching this thing with Tyler is totally the wrong way. You know what I’m saying? Unless they’re looking for publicity, it needs to be called out, but maybe I don’t know enough about what was said.

TT: Not to play this card, but Syd (Tha Kid, Odd Future’s DJ) is lesbian and she has said she doesn’t have a problem with it (use of the word “faggot” and any alleged misogyny).

YK: They’re (rappers) playing parts. Like 50 Cent…I know for a fact that the head of his PR is gay. It’s all an act. He’s playing this role.

TT: Which doesn’t excuse it at the end of the day, but, it’s also art.

YK: It’s a part and I do feel like it would be irresponsible for me to not call it out. So it’s about choosing your battles and basically (asking) when was this okay. Kind of making fun of it. I think the only thing you can do is make fun of it.

TT: Ridicule it.

YK: Yeah, because you’re an idiot (sexist writers). Old school sexism is really what it is. That’s so dumb, you just have no idea how to write about it and it just shows me…it gives me more power. Like, my friends, you know, Vivian Girls, I’m not going to be like…I could never see someone be like, “I’m want to rape the shit out of them! Blah, blah, blah,” continuously. I think when you’re being confronted with something you don’t know how to deal with other than to try to control it. That could be even in a relationship, like the other person is so strong that it makes you insecure and so you want to control them so you berate them, put them down.

TT: It’s insecurity.

YK: Exactly. It’s all insecurity. So to me, it’s like, “I win!” I have made you need…you don’t know how to talk about the music, so you’ve never talked about the music; you’re just talking about fucking me. So you can’t say anything about the music, “So…all right!” You know it’s like Sarah Silverman making these jokes for shock value…whatever. It’s like, “Oh my God, I can’t believe she said that about every gender!” But it’s like, c’mon. It was making me cry, I was just in bed…because all of a sudden I’m in this position where I’m afraid. And it’s always violent. It’s like, “I want to violently rape her, I want to fuck her violently.” Things I’m reading and being forwarded to me.

TT: I think it’s time you stop looking at that stuff.

YK: But it’s always been so positive and I like it when it’s negative, if it’s interesting. Or if someone’s like, “I hate it!” And then I enjoy it.

TT: At least it’s a reaction.

YK: Exactly! You hate or love. So angry you have to write something mean. But when you’re trying to dumb me down to a girl that wants a bunch of choke sex?! Like, wow. You didn’t at all talk about the video. You didn’t at all talk about the music. It’s interesting. I mean, it’s interesting. It made me really uncomfortable and then once I snapped out of it, I immediately…I was like, “We have to practice right now.” I was so stoked, this is actually positive.

TT: I’m curious of the demographic of the fanbase.

YK: I don’t know. Everything. I really don’t know. I really don’t. In Europe, there were a lot of older people. There were a lot of younger people, that’s the cutest. When there were really young kids. And you talk to them, they can’t believe it.

TT: What do you mean, like after the performance?

YK: Yeah, later on, I like to watch my friends, we were playing with Glasser a couple times, and they’re a bigger known band, they’ve played Coachella. We opened for them and I went out to watch them and nobody could believe that I was standing out there. (feigns a stare as if starstruck) I have changed into another shirt and I’m still sweating. And they were whispering, “That’s not her.” I’m specifically thinking about this one show and it’s so funny. I saw this group of people and every now and then they would elbow each other and it was happening all around me, like, “Why is she watching the show?” (chuckles) What do they think I’m doing?! (sarcastically) You know, I just got limo’d over to the hotel like I could care less about the other bands?! No, I’m interested. These are my friends and I like what they do. So this group of boys came over and kind of inched over slowly and then one of them was like (whispering), “Thank you, thank you so much for, uh, coming, we, we trekked from Zurich,” or something like that…

(an acoustic cover by Matt Weddle of Outkast’s Hey Ya comes on)

YK: Oh my God! It’s a cover of…Hey Ya! (laughs) This is a cover of Hey Ya! Oh. My. God.

TT: Oh it is! It’s all folksy.

YK: Holy shit! I’m going to cry, this is so dumb. This makes me want to cry, it’s so funny.

(cackles with delight)

TT: Acoustic Outkast? Wait a minute, there’s a pun there. Outkastic…Outcustic? This is ironic. Good ears! What’s that one app’?

SAM IRAVANI: Shazam.

YK: Holy shit, this is too retarded. I want to record this. I can’t do it anymore. Anyway, so these kids were kind of looking over at me and had trekked from Zurich and I was like, “Thank you so much for coming.” And there weren’t a lot of people at this one show and so we were, “Whatever, that’s fine.” It was a tiny town, so most of the people that knew about music were probably there. “Every crowd’s different and…” and they were like, “Are you insulted?” I was like, “Nooooo, this is a fine group of people.” “But, you’re so famous,” that’s what they said. I was like, “Okay. Huh?” And then, “Why didn’t you play first?”  And I was like, “You know, different bands play first. We alternate,” I didn’t know what to say, I was so confused and then, “Uh yeah, we thought that we weren’t going to be able to get in. We got here an hour early and this is ridiculous that there aren’t many people here. You’re so famous! How famous are you in the U.S.?” And I was like, “Really, really famous…”

(we all laugh)

YK: I was like, “I don’t…not…like…not as famous as here…I don’t know!” And the one guy was, “Why are you talking to us? You’re so famous.” Kept saying “famous” and couldn’t believe I was talking to him and standing there. And then he gave me his necklace because I thought it was awesome and he put it around my neck…

(we are again thrown off by the reprise of Hey Ya)

SAM IRAVANI: (referring to song playing) Is this Jack Johnson?

TT: Naw. It’s a Jack Johnson wanna-be. I kind of like it. I can’t hate on it.

YK: Gotta Shazam this. This is ridiculous. I’m going to cry.

TT: What’s next? Acoustic N.W.A.?

YK: Oh my God, I hope so.

TT: Your release, Living: 2009-Present, it has a very bootleg-ish quality to it. There’s this lo-fi thing happening that kind of adds to the Tearist experience…

YK: Exactly. Oh! We never talked about the name of the band. Ultimately, we were drawn to artistic movements and we have so many of the same interests but they’re all over the place. You know, I listen to so much rap and hip-hop, but I also know my roots of crazy noise music, like Laurie Anderson. Laurie Anderson was really blurring lines, gender roles and whatever. She always dressed in a suit. It was never like, “Oh, she’s being like a man.”

TT: She was just doing her thing.

YK: She put theater with music and it was very…it wasn’t like, “I’m trying to put theater with music!” It was (just) accepted (as it was), for me anyway. So I have all of these influences that are coming from different places and so did he (William). The first time we went to hang out, we just looked at art books at the MOCA and it was the most fun, looking at different proposals, performance books. So we were sitting in this park and talking about wanting and starting a movement and what that would mean and how’d we do that. And we kind of kept that consistent. Like, I’ve always wanted to start this…it’s a weird thing to be, “I want to start this movement!” But, I was like, “Something needs to happen.” Something needs to change. I’m sick of what’s going on right now. All of these lazy bands, I’m so sick of it. I don’t get anything.

TT: Repetitive.

YK: You’re just doing what you know is accepted or what you know people will like. For the same reason I’m against musical training because who’s to say, I mean, I can respect it, but I am drawn to the people that taught themselves. Because you’re listening and making it happen as opposed to what you know you should be playing. You know? But, ultimately Tearist was about tearing up everything we knew and starting again and piecing together what it was and trying to make it more from the inside. And the –ist, was obviously, the movement…accepting of as in simulacra and simulation, accepting…

TT: Baudrillard?

YK: Yeah. Accepting that it’s all simulacra. We have all these influences. We’re inspired by so many things. Yes! And it might sound like some of those things, not on purpose, but because these things make up who we are. This society we live in, the way we speak, everything is based on our surroundings. Our dialect…

TT: Context.

YK: Exactly. Where we are. Where we live. The way our parents spoke. That’s all encompassing. That makes you you. Accepting all of those things and then being freed by it. Let something come through that you don’t understand.

TT: Let things emerge and discover them.

YK: Exactly. And if sounds scary and if sounds bad, to be like, “Yes, it sounds bad?” do more of that. That sounds like a weird part? Do more of that weird part. I’m sensing that I don’t know what it sounds like and it’s scaring me? I don’t know what to do with it… more of that. So accepting everything that we’re told is not right and trying to understand…

TT: And breaking from convention.

YK: Exactly. Tearing it up.

TT: This whole idea…the performances are improvisational. You’re kind of learning and making as you go? Within the performances or the songs, what is your guys’ process?

YK: Before it was different, with our first shows, it was mostly improvised. I’d have pieces of words taped around and I’d go into some type of chorus that I come up with and it was based, a lot, on what happened at the show and developing this song with this need to have…

TT: Reacting to the setting and the people that are there.

YK: Exactly. The first show, it was all reaction to what was going on. But now, it’s very much more…we have our parts, we know these parts, this, this, this. Sometimes, when we can’t get a song fully figured out with certain changes, we’ll put it on stage and see what happens. But we spend a lot of time over and over, practicing, practicing, practicing. After every practice, we have one or two new songs. We’re constantly (producing). Sometimes we’ll forget we made up this full song that we practiced for four hours and had parts to it and we’ll be like, “Oh yeah, that song!” And bring it back. So it’s a very quick process because we’re immediately reacting to each other. I have an immediate sense of what I hear as a harmony or melody and where it should be vocally affected. Like, should I affect it at all? Does this need reverb? Is it a flat song? All of these things I can immediately hear in a strange way, based on him (Strangeland-Menchaca).

TT: You’ll latch onto structure? Like, this has good structure, we’ll go from there?

YK: I’ll catch something and now I’m dancing. I’m moving, I’m wanting to move, so I’ll just catch that.

TT: It’s intuitive.

YK: Right. If I don’t want to move then it’s not right. I’ll be sitting on a stool, writing stuff and tearing up pages. That’s really how it first started. I would always come into practice with torn pieces of paper and tape them together. I would be like, “I really like this sentence, oh, but these words really work over here. This is inspiring.” I’ll see this word that strikes this, this means this and then I’ll look at what the words mean together and that, sometimes, would be really powerful to me. Or also in songwriting, it would be sometimes just directly about what was going on with he and I. Like, we had a period of where…we…I hated him very much. So I was writing specifically about hating him. For a second, you wonder if you should be together and maybe try, sort of, but it’s like, okay, maybe not. And then somebody gets hurt by that. And I was not the one that was hurt like that. God, that’s like, a lot of information. But, um, we were having tension because we tried to be a couple…and it not working. And so, I felt like he was being really mean to me and so I hated him and so I wrote based on…like this one song, basically, “I could kill you if I wanted to. I could,” very specifically at him.

TT: Just working things out with your writing?

YK: Yeah, because it was really the only place where I felt I could speak. Like I said, be vulnerable. So I would straight up say exactly what it was. And it was very, very much us. You know, trying to get through this time and be a band. It was crazy though.

PART 1 [previous]
PART 3 [continue]


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Tearist: Yasmine Kittles Interview Part 2 Thread