I first heard Seattle’s Chastity Belt via their 2013 album No Regerts, a winningly smart indie rock record. Their new album Time To Go Home (out later this month on Hardly Art) doubles down on that album’s strengths I mean, I’m in my late 30s, and Tsumani’s A Brilliant Mistake comes to mind when I hear this–it’s got that same blend of sharp-edged lyrics and music that can burn slowly or channel essential punk energy. And it doesn’t hurt that there’s a lyrical reference to Sheila Heti early on. We checked in with singer/guitarist Julia Shapiro to learn more about the album’s origins, the band’s taste in books, and much more.
Your new album opens with “Drone,” which has a lyrical nod to Sheila Heti’s How Should A Person Be? When did you first encounter her book? And what prompted you to write a song that referenced it?
I picked up How Should A Person Be a couple years ago after reading an interview with Carrie Brownstein where she referenced the book. Once I started it, I couldn’t put it down. It felt like I was reading something a close friend had written. A lot of the conversations the main character has are conversations I’ve had with my friends. It just felt super relatable. There’s a line in there about mansplaining that really hit me, and I was inspired to include it in a song.
Is this the only time that you’ve referenced a book in your lyrics?
There are also some subtle references to The Bell Jar in “Drone.” On No Regerts, the song “Full” was inspired by a short story by Ray Bradbury called “No Particular Night or Morning.”
Your first album was called No Regerts; this one is Time to Go Home. Is there something of a give-and-take there?
Yeah, I see what you mean. But isn’t it possible to have no regrets and also know when it’s time to go home? “No regerts” is more of a motto than an absolute truth. Of course we all have regrets or regerts, or whatever, but think about how many regrets you’re avoiding by knowing when it’s time to go home.
In an interview you did for The Stranger in 2013, you talked about experimenting with different structures as you wrote new songs. How did that ultimately affect the new record?
Our songs on this record are a lot looser in a way. We end a lot of them with long jammy parts. Some of the songs have a more simple, basic structure, but I don’t purposefully sit down and think, “okay, I’m going to write a song with a bridge, two choruses, and three verses.” The structure of our songs just happens naturally based on how the song flows.
From what I’ve read, all of you met in college and relocated to Seattle afterwards. What’s your take on the current state of shows there? It seems like, much as in New York, a number of venues seem to be in a state of flux right now.
Some of our favorite venues and DIY spots have closed within the 2-3 years we’ve been here. When we first got here it felt like there were a million different places to play, but now not so much. Even though a lot of venues are turning over, the music community still feels really vibrant. It’s great to be surrounded by bands that we’re excited to play with, even if there are fewer and fewer chill places to play with them.
The arc of Time To Go Home strikes me as an accelerating one; “Drone” has a very measured, focused pace, but by the time you get to “The Thing,” it’s become more chaotic, the drums are everywhere, and screams can be heard. What was the process of putting the album together like?
Well, to be honest, a lot of it had to do with making Side A and Side B equal lengths. It’s sort of a puzzle trying to find a track order that flows nicely. On this record, Side A ends with this hypnotizing jam part at the end of “On The Floor”. Then you flip the record over and it starts loudly and aggressively with “The Thing.” I’m glad that we have some diverse songs on this record. I think it keeps it interesting.
Where did the concept for the cover art come from?
Gretchen and I have dressed up as ghosts for a couple of Halloweens, and we realized that every mundane action is funny when you’re dressed as a ghost. We were ghosts again this Halloween and took a bunch of selfies and instagram pictures of us eating pizza and smoking cigarettes. They looked so good we decided to shoot some similar photos for our album cover. Also, after visiting Venice beach last year, we all became obsessed with bucket hats, so that’s why the ghost on the cover is wearing one. We’ve had the couch that the ghost is sitting on since we moved to Seattle, and it’s made an appearance in a couple of our music videos. We even played a show once where we were all sitting on that couch.
One of the new photos of the band features a clarinet, so I’m curious: are there any other unlikely musical instruments that you have in reserve?
Annie grew up playing violin… maybe we’ll have her bust that out on the next record. Also, Lydia owns a harp. That probably won’t make an appearance though.
Image: Angel Ceballos