I Was Raised by Raving LunachicksPosted: July 14, 2011
By Joey Koneko
I can still feel the rubber rings of the binoculars around my eleven year old eyes. I was at my very first concert. I was witnessing the most incredible, eye-opening, intensely ferocious group of people playing music on a stage. It was The Lunachicks. The bill was Lunachicks, Weezer, and No Doubt. I was there for No Doubt….(Ok, it was 1996, I was 10 and I thought my friends older sisters were really cool, so I painted my walls dark purple, put hippie patches on things and wore Jncos. I got No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom record so yeah, No Doubt and their lead singer Gwen Stefani were my gateway drug to music, specifically music made by women. I’m not going to lie and say when I was 10 that I magically discovered a Huggy Bear record or something. That came 2 years later…)
When we first got to the concert, my parents asked the couple sitting next to us who the opening bands were. The guy replied “Uhh..some all-girl punk band *he rolls his eyes* from NYC and Weezer…We are here for Weezer.” But seriously, the way he said “Some all-girl punk band…”, all super-macho-sarcastically hurt my eleven-year-old heart. I went to the concert thinking how awesome it was going to be to see a bunch of girls rock out to No Doubt– my 10-year-old queer boy self really needed to feel that vibe. But my mood changed from sour to sweet quickly once the Lunachicks hit the stage. It felt like a blur– a blur of the most awesome thing I had ever seen! Trashy, wild, punk rock being played by all women who were obviously rejecting the idea of beauty standards. Lead singer Theo Kogan donned huge spider-like false eyelashes, clown style barbie makeup smeared over her, pretty much, entire face, 6 inch platform boots, an intensely layered blue and silver gown, and of course, the biggest teased out blonde wig I have ever seen in my life. Honestly, Lady Gaga can eat Theo Kogan’s dust.
The Lunachicks started in 1986 when Theo Kogan, Gina Volpe, and Sydney “Squid” Silver were classmates at La Guardia School of the Performing arts in NYC. Being fans of metal and punk rock, they decided to start a band. For most of the Lunachicks career the main lineup was Theo on vocals, Gina on guitar, Squid on bass, Sindi on rhythm guitar and Chip English on drums. Becky Wreck also served as drummer from 89-92. Sindi left the band in 1997 and Chip was replaced by Helen Destroy in 1999. They were first “discovered” by Kim and Thurston of Sonic Youth at their second show. They were then signed to Blast First Records in the UK, released a double 7″ and in 1990 released their debut album “Babysitters On Acid”. As well as having a rabid fan base in NYC, after their first UK tour, they had solidified a fan base in Europe. In 1994 they released an EP in Japan with a successful tour. (Apparently they were being chased down Tokyo streets by schoolgirls, Beatlemania style.) From 1994 on, they released their material on Go-Kart Records based in NYC. Between 1989 and 1999, The Lunachicks released 5 LPs, 3 EPs, and three 7″ singles. (I didn’t have to Wiki that, I know their discography by heart.) They toured constantly for 12 years, opening for acts such as Marilyn Manson, Luscious Jackson, No Doubt, and The Offspring (who previously used to open for Lunachicks before hitting it big) and playing the main stage at Warped Tour in 1999 and 2000.
So why is it that such a talented, fun, energetic band, with a great underground following, an amazing live show, and awesome records hardly got any sort of media attention? And why do I feel like people don’t remember them? Around 1993 when the Riot Grrrl movement was starting to get press (as out of context and messed up as it was at times), The Lunachicks were swept under the rug. Maybe some clues can be found, perhaps in this interview with the Lunachicks in 1995 from Flipside magazine:
Flipside: So I was going to avoid this question, again, but do you think being an all-female band has been an advantage or a hindrance?
Everyone: Both. Totally.
Squid: We got our first break clearly because someone was like “Wow! A girl band!” And that started our careers. They bought us amps! We didn’t have anything, you know, in the very beginning.
Gina: Now it goes in the opposite direction. It’s like “Oh! A girl band! A novelty.”
Squid: Really, it does. We get grouped in the sense of the business, too. I mean like how much money other bands make that are signed to certain labels and shit, determines what people think of us!
Chip: The biggest hindrance is when like you can’t get on a label because they already checked out a girl band. You know, they already have their one token female band.
Flipside: Oh man! That’s when you must be insulted.
Squid: In Europe we were literally, they told us they denied us…We had lots of coverage in Europe before…
Theo: In England.
Squid: …before like a lot of the other…you know, they started profiling a lot of American girl bands at the time. They told us flat out “we can’t give you a feature article in our magazine because we have too many all girl bands this month.” Which means “one” or “two”. And then we got refused a gig, headlining, because they said “we can’t book them (the Lunachicks) because Babes in Toyland played here a few weeks ago.”
I think this interview kind of speaks for itself as to the sexism this band had to deal with, I don’t even need to divulge or dissect it.
There are many people who loved and still love and listen to the Lunachicks. They inspired me in so many ways. Through them (via internet searches in the late 90’s… Yahoo search engine anyone??) I found out about bands like Bikini Kill, which helped me really discover feminism and activism and gave me even more of a sense of empowerment as a young queer boy and musician. I call for a Lunachicks Renaissance! I do not want to see this band erased from cultural and music history. So tell your friends about them! They totally rule.
For more info on Lunachicks visit this awesome fansite, it has tons of interviews, pictures, and loveliness.
To purchase Lunachicks music, visit their Itunes store!