Teresa Suárez, AKA Teri Gender Bender, is evolving. Having started Le Butcherettes with a close friend in 2008, she was best known in her hometown of Guadalajara, Mexico as a teen girl who could shred a guitar, while stomping in kitten heels among the carcasses of pigs and fish on stage. Amid cries of “¡payasa!” (or, clown) from misogynist audience members, the riot chica kept her blood-spattered apron tied to her waist and continued to strum resolutely in the name of feminism.
But six years later, Suárez has not only left Guadalajara, but has transcended the corporeal squalor of her early stage show in favor of deep introspection. The fruit of this change is Le Butcherettes’ second LP, Cry is for the Flies. In a conversation by telephone, she speaks quickly, not with haste, but with an urgency to share her passion.
Since leaving Mexico, she says, “The meat wasn’t doing anything for me anymore. When I moved to LA, I went from feeling anger to [feeling] guilt. I wasn’t with my family. They had to leave Guadalajara because of all the corruption; they got threatening phone calls. My mother was a widow with two children by herself. I felt guilty for leaving home, for leaving my roots behind.”
Whereas her scathing groans used to be directed at the narcos and the patriarchy, Flies sees Suárez turn her repulsion inward, rummaging through her own psychic decay. Joined by Lia Braswell (Gothic Tropic) on drums and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (The Mars Volta, At the Drive-In, Bosnian Rainbows) on bass and production, Suárez comes out swinging, more furious than ever, but saturated with remorse. Her soul-searching becomes a horror film in itself, supplemented with the violent screeches of a synthesized organ. Opening with the sinister ghost tango of “Burn the Scab,” the band captures the severe stench of a rotting corpse and fashions Flies into gnarly, free-form garage rock poetry. Punk icon and Butcherettes fan Henry Rollins even makes a guest appearance with his spoken word piece, “Moment of Guilt,” delivering dark, probing prose with an unexpectedly gentle purr.
Recorded and produced in Los Angeles, Flies was complete in 2011, but its release was put on hold after Rodriguez-Lopez lost his mother. “[We were] going thorough a whirlwind of poop,” says Suárez. Yet the silver lining of it all, she says, was working with drummer Lia Braswell. Like a knight on her quest for a princess, or drummer, she likens meeting Braswell to having a fated, holy vision. “I saw her at SXSW,” says Suárez, “And her skin was glittering. I was like, ‘Wow, I’m watching this mermaid play.’” She continues, “But it’s like dating. I was so nervous. Omar got me to approach her. He said ‘C’mon, it’s not like you’re going to get your heart broken! You have to learn to love again.’”
As harrowing as her howls are, Suárez speaks with much more optimism these days than she lets on in her music. She gushes over the current state of women in music, citing fellow Latina musicians like Lila Downs, Sister Crayon and Ximena Sariñana as inspiration. “As the days go by, I feel more women are taking over,” she says. “Men need to step up their game!”
Despite its near release, and its immaculately crisp production, Flies already seems like an old time capsule that she’s already locked and buried into the desert of the past. ”My mother always taught me to expect the worst in everything,” laughs Suárez. ”It’s such a Mexican thing, expecting the worst. Everything there is about the dead. But — sorry mom — sometimes you just have to open up. You also have to be prepared for the best.”
Cry is for the Flies will be out in its entirety on May 15th, via Rodriguez-Lopez’s own label, Nadie Sound.