Interview: T-Rextasy

T-Rextasy thundered into our lives like a dinosaur...get it? Seriously though, the five piece of "dino dames" charmed their way into hearts with their spunky, but sweet and defiant brand of riotous rock. Their debut full length Jurassic Park will be out 5/20 through Father Daughter Records & Miscreant Records, and ahead of that release the band took some time to let us bug them via e-mail. 

Photo: Andrew Piccone

Photo: Andrew Piccone

The Grey Estates: Going off your note then - if you're at four different colleges - how do you make the band work and do you write songs/be creative even when apart or do you all come together for that?

Annie: It isn’t easy! We have a million different communication hubs, a facebook group and chat, countless text groups, etc. We write individually when we are apart from each other and share what we’ve worked on when we come together. Even though it’s tricky, it feels really good when we get together and have all these things to share with each other. We all promised that this summer before our tour we will have a week long retreat/ writing pow-wow where we hide away from the world and write a whole new batch of songs and i’m really looking forward to that.

Lena: Yeah it can get a little frustrating at times! We have recently been trying google hangout which I felt was more productive! Wanna do more of those. But it’s hard even trying to find a time that works for us all to talk. Sometimes there’s a lot to take care of, like booking shows, emailing and being updated on some of the music videos we have coming out, emailing about our merch and schedule of releases with our label managers, things like that! We also have different breaks too from school which kinda blows but also gives us the opportunity to visit each other at our colleges. Although we have yet to visit Ebun in Vermont and Vera in Iowa, it’s been really fun going to Oberlin and having everyone come to Hampshire.

TGE: You formed in 2013, when you were graduating high-school? Did you know each other then or how did y'all come together?

Annie: I knew Lyris because we went to high school together, and admired her from afar until we became friends over an argument about Beatles lyrics. She came back from summer camp with this grand vision of starting an all girl’s punk band, which was my dream even though I couldn’t play any instruments. Luckily, because she is an angel, she said I could play bass anyways and that everyone would help me figure things out as we went along. I was so excited about it that I told Vera, who asked if there was a way we could include her too and we decided to add a rhythm guitarist.

Lena: Ebun and I went to middle school and high school together! We’ve been in a couple bands together too. We met Lyris through a mutual friend who wanted us to play music together. And we started playing for a bit, getting to know each other a little better, then Annie and Vera joined in on it! It was really interesting starting a band with people I had just met, but it worked out so awesomely.

TGE: Stereogum mentioned how you previously had EPs and a few demos. How does it feel to have a debut full length and what was like that - going from live shows to a recorded experience?

Lena: We recorded our previous EP with a friend which was a fun experience. And we recorded our demos on a sound recorder at my house. It was fun to figure out where the best place to put it would be and configuring the amps and drums to be able to hear everything equally. We had a recorded live show from our first Shea Stadium show with Frankie Cosmos, also! The recording was super fun for me, I really enjoyed the opportunity to add stuff that I might not normally get to do like extra guitar parts, we added tiny synth stuff, and extra percussion stuff. It was all so much fun! We got to be there for the mixing process as well, which is something that was super cool because it allowed us to really communicate exactly what we wanted. Actually having that control was a really good experience for us.

Annie: I think before we recorded with Chris I was really anxious about recording. I had this idea about our live shows being so special that we would never sound right recorded. And for a while, we had trouble recording “professionally”, we liked our demos that we did on our iPhones best even though we had fun in studios. But when we started recording with Chris in New Paltz I realized that it was possible to make a really special recording that we cared about. Also now I get to have our music on my iPod, which I love. I listen to our album all the time, it’s really embarrassing.

TGE: What are the tracks on this record inspired by and is there one that you really love or have a connection with, or are they all really special?

Annie: A lot of the songs are about things we experienced in high school, for example me and Lyris always noticed this really melancholy lunch lady getting teased in our cafeteria, and then Lyris wrote “Ms. Dolores”. I feel really connected to “Gap Yr Boiz” because that was the first time I wrote a song that felt really *cathartic*, which feels cheesy to say but felt really special at the time.

Lyris: I love all of them but two that emerge are “Daylight Lover” because it’s the first song I wrote for this project and then “Sorry Not Sorry”. That song is different from our other songs which are longer and more lyrical, but this song pretty much consists of the lyric “sorry not sorry,” and then a bunch of indecipherable sounds and clocks in at 1:08. It was Vera’s idea for a song and I didn’t quite understand what she wanted at first. It was like a puzzle I had to solve. Then one night I was walking around at home in NYC and I listened to the instrumental recording I had on my phone a ton and I came up with ideas about how to sing it. After performing it at our next show, Vera said it really came together, and I felt real proud. It was also special recording that because I improvised the harmonies and we went with the first takes. Improvising harmonies was not something I had much experience doing yet, and it was awesome to be like “whoa that was like not off-key and sounded really cool”.

TGE: What's been one of your favorite moments as a band or maybe just the most surreal?

Lyris: Three moments come to mind. I can’t choose one! The first is that one of our first shows was at Shea Stadium opening for Frankie Cosmos, when all we had online were two songs we recorded live on Voice Memos on an iPhone. You kind of can’t even hear the actual songs because the quality is so bad (although they still hold a place in my lo-fi heart). It was really incredible that Shea saw something in us in those recordings to have us play with one of our favorite artists.

The second was finishing recording Jurassic Punk with Christopher Daly last summer (we had started it with another engineer). He was really kind and a great listener, and it was also so cool to take the bus up to New Paltz and be in this big magical musical house for three days straight. Our other recording experiences happened in NYC and were always kind of broken up...we’d go into the studio for a few hours, go home and check out of the process and come back a few days later to record a bit again. In New Paltz, we banged it out in three days, living and breathing this album. Sleeping in the same building where we made it. Having travelled from NYC to this town just to make it. It was pretty intense. For three days, all we did was make music. The only thing is that Vera was not able to be there for this part of the recording process, and I wish she had been able to. Next time!

Finally, during the practice that we put “Ms. Dolores” together, we went through it this one time and I could feel something happened when we all sing “and now she knows” at the top of our lungs, and some cosmic thing happened where we all felt really connected... we finished the song and we all kind of looked at each other and were like “Yeah, something just happened.”

Vera: Whenever we play shows and people know the words to the song, it’s the most humbling and exciting thing. Also, whenever we’re all singing in harmony together, like in the a capella section of “Gap Yr Boiz” or at the end of “Ms. Dolores”, there’s nothing else I would rather do. We all just sing our hearts out, together.

Annie: I feel this way about that recording experience, too. I remember being awake at 4AM sitting with Lena and Ebun on a couch and arguing with Lyris about one line in “Chik’n” while it played over the speakers and thinking that it was one of the best nights of my life so far.

Lena: I really love all our sleepovers and also travelling together. Those moments always make me super happy to be doing this kind of thing with such close friends!

Ebun: Wow, I literally cannot think of just one moment!  However something that sticks out to me is when we first started the band and we would all mosey on down to Lena’s house on Friday’s for band practice from our respective high schools and we would just catch up with each other. For some reason those were the moments that invoked a strong sense of sisterhood. Sometimes, we would get so engulfed in whatever that it is that we were talking about that we had to actually force ourselves to practice.

Another moment was meeting Lyris for the first time and her telling me that she wanted me to be apart of her  all girl punk band called T-Rextasy. I laughed and said sure, meanwhile in my head I knew it was going to be one of those things that you say you want to do but never actually manifests. And of course, here we are now.

I am constantly in awe of how far we’ve come, but Lyris knew from the beginning we were destined for great things.

TGE: How did each of you get into music and what inspired you to start a band?

Lena: I begged my mom for guitar lessons. I was very tomboyish and liked Nirvana and Green Day and looooved Avril Lavigne. I think she was my biggest inspiration for wanting to get into music. And I stuck with it, even though it was hard at times, because I loved it and could feel myself getting better the more I played. It’s really important to have pop stars like that when you are younger. If you see someone you relate to and think is cool, when you are that young, all you want to do is be like them! Avril really gave me that motivation to start playing music. Being in bands was always fun for me, I went to various music programs and camps, but I never really saw those going anywhere. Starting a band with my friends was really when I started to take myself more seriously as a musician.

Ebun: Ever since I was able to speak my mother plopped me into music lessons from djembe classes to piano and even guitar. And of course none of those really took. I didn’t really get into music until I joined WIllie Mae Rock Camp for Girls when I was about 12/13 years old. I decided to take up the drums because they were most foreign and most interesting to me. I am so glad that I did, because it literally changed my life. Ever since I attended that camp I have always been in some form of a band (usually with females) and I usually play the drums. I cannot imagine my life without music or playing the drums or some kind of percussion instrument. But there is something really powerful, at least to me, about laying down the beat with the kit.

Vera: My Think Pink Barbie CD and cassette and doll. I listened to Think Pink on REPEAT as a lass.

Lyris: Ever since I can remember I was absolutely obsessed with music. Most of my life has been spent listening to music, thinking about music, writing about music, dancing to music, looking for music, talking about music...it was only natural that I would start making it at some point. My best friend taught me a few chords on guitar my freshman year of high school and I’ve been seriously writing ever since. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Breeders, Patti Smith, The Velvet Underground & Nico, and No Doubt helped to teach me that women have a place in music, and Animal Collective and Frankie Cosmos changed what a song could be for me.

TGE: Everyone always asks this but I like asking because I like encouraging females - what would you say to a gal who wanted to start a band or might want to start one but is afraid to?

Annie: You can do it, I swear. Before T-Rextasy I couldn’t play bass, I couldn’t sing in public, I had never written a song. And now I do all those things! Play with people you love, people you trust. Don’t worry about how you sound and don’t be afraid to ask those friends you love to help you.

Lena: Playing with people you love and trust is so important! It’s way easier than you may think to write songs and start a band. You can start anywhere, by learning a song together, or just teaching each other what you know. Collaboration always makes me feel way more confident in what I’m playing than just playing by myself!

Vera: Just do it. Pick three songs that you like and know well, pick an instrument, and drag two or three friends along. Writing songs and virtuosity are NOT prerequisites for starting a band. Covers are a great way to solidify a groove and figure out what kind of music you want to write down the line.

Lyris: Just do it!!!!!! Now!!!! Before you take another breath!!!!!!! It doesn’t matter if you are “good” (I mean what does that mean, anyway?) or what other people think- it’s about your own personal expression.

TGE: Which dinosaur matches your personalities?

Lena: Kind of feel like I’d be of the chiller, herbivore variety. I would go with a triceratops I think.

Annie: I’m the tiny, flying kind that no one believes is a dinosaur, but is. Pterodactyl.

Ebun: Possibly the stegosaurus, but honestly I’m really not sure.

Lyris: Obvi I must claim the illustrious T-Rex if no one has yet!

Vera: Triceratops. I’m all about those horns.