Tag Archives: The Spitboy Rule

Dear Bean: On Being A Second Wave Woman in Punk

Dear Bean,    mg-bean-claudia2

You recently asked me which women in punk that I looked up to when I was first starting out playing drums in punk bands, and I have a confession to make. Aside from the women who were my friends, the women who I was playing music with, the answer is none. In some ways, because there were so few women playing punk rock music, we felt like we were the only ones. We named our band Bitch Fight because we were women and because we were young and we fought a lot over petty things, but we didn’t always want to be referred to as a girl band, and while we were excited to be feature in MRR in 1989, we were a bit disappointed to be in the Women’s Issue. We had a range of mixed feelings about what we were doing because of the messages being sent to us from the scene, messages that made it clear that women in music were just a novelty, and we wanted to be more than that. At the same time, we like many other women in the scene, bought into the idea that punk and punk ethos was defined by men. We didn’t exactly want to be one of the boys, but we also didn’t want a label that we knew was used to downplay our importance in the scene, or to only play girl band night at Gilman.

I developed a love for music and a desire to become a musician at a very early age, learning to play the flute in third grade. I loved Linda Ronstadt, Joni Mitchell, and later the Go Go’s. In my early teens, I, for obvious reasons, became fascinated by Poly Styrene of the X-Ray Spex and Annabella Lewin of Bow Wow Wow. It was a downer, though, to discover a band like X-Ray Spex after they were already broken up. In fact, it seemed like all the first wave punk bands with women in them were all broken up. For this reason, my punk idols became men: Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Jello Biafra, DH Peligro, Dave Dictor, save one woman, Lynn Perko of the Dicks, a voluptuous blonde, who beat her drums and sweated so ferociously, I was hardly ever able to tear my eyes away from her each time I saw The Dicks play. I also looked up to bands like The Clash, Dead Kennedys, MDC, and the Dicks because of their overt political lyrics.

I never, however, in those early years, looked up to Alice Bag. It pains me to say this. I loved the idea of the Zeros, the Xicano punk band from Chula Vista. When I  learned of them, I wished I had never left LA and had been old enough to see them play, but Alice scared me. I first learned of her, like so many of us did, when I first saw Decline of Western Civilization, a movie in which so many others in bands featured in the filmed were interviewed when Alice was not. All those interviewed came off as dangerously self-destructive, and there was Alice, dominating the stage with her ages-old, indigenous power, her short hair a fuck you to Mexican and Mexican-American parents everywhere. Combined with the deranged depiction of punk and Alice’s intensity, I became afraid of punk, and women in punk, because I wasn’t sure I could match such power, was up for it, or could handle the responsibility, the responsibility that came with defying dominant culture, female gender roles, Mexican-American culture, American standards of beauty, and a multitude of social mores all at the same time.

If I just tried to blend in, I thought, it all might be less exhausting, of course, as you may know from reading my book, I was wrong.

There were several bands with women in them, or all female bands, that Bitch Fight and Spitboy played with that I’d like to mention, bands that were not riot grrl bands: Gag Order featured Wendy-O-Matik on vocals; Paxton Quiggly had Bronwyn on vocals too. Blatz featured Anna Joy, and the Gr’ups featured, Danielle Sea, Deb Dupas, and Kamala Parks. The all-female bands include Fright Wig, Tiger Trap, a jangly melodic band, whose drummer I also had a big crush on, Tribe 8, 7 Year Bitch, a metal-tinged outfit from Seattle, and the Trash Women, who featured Bitch Fight’s guitarist, Elka Zolot, and Kamala and the Karnivores, a band that I was actually in for a short amount of time, even getting lucky enough to play on the 7”. I mention the Karnivores because they are a band that was truly ahead of their time (even Mr. Ask Kent thinks so), and because in the spirit of supporting women, they asked me to join them on guitar after Bitch Fight broke up, which had left me depressed and broken. They picked me up, and helped me learn to own my place as a woman in punk, playing mixed gender bills and playing women’s nights, and via their camaraderie and the tongue-in-cheek title of our Lookout Records 7” “Girl Band.”

I am happy to say, being so subsumed in punk, playing in bands, starting at an early age, and meeting and making friends with so many women in the scene, I stopped having idols, and began having allies. And now you, you’re my ally too.

All my love, respect, and admiration,


The Spitboy Rule Book Tour: Back Home

Zocalo Coffeehouse, San Leandro, CA


IMG_33331 (1)My last reading was Friday night at a punk show in Kansas City at Minibar. The touring band Magnet School from Austin opened for the local band Emmaline Twist, and I opened for

Emmaline Twist

Emmaline Twist

Magnet School. Dominique, Spitboy’s second bass player and bassist of Instant Girl, came with me, while our husbands stayed home with the kids. I was scheduled to go on at 10:00, which is both late for a reading, and frankly, past my bedtime. There were a lot of late nights while touring with Spitboy, and I was always tired by 11:00 even though I tried to pretend I wasn’t. I was always the first one awake too because I’ve never been one to sleep that late either. In fact, I got up just a bit after Dominique got up with the kids at around 6:30 in the morning.

This guy named Sean who is in the Kansas City band, Red Kate, reached out to me on Facebook and helped me set up the reading. He even made a flyer for the reading using my book as the image. This is one thing Spitboy was always really impressed with: the kindness of people that you meet on the road. While there were definitely more people in the audience later when the bands played, there were at least twenty or so people in the audience when I read, and Sean said that a few people came just to see me read, and I sold 8 books, which is a good amount, definitely some gas money.

Dark bar photo with Dominique and Sean of Red Kate

Bar Selfie with Dominique and Sean

The band Emmaline Twist were great with an amazing post punk, Echo and the Bunnymen or Killing Joke – the kind of band that I’d like to be in if I were ever in an active band again. They are a female fronted band too(who also plays guitar), and they have a female bass player, Kristin, who saw Spitboy play in 1992 in Sioux Fall, South Dakota. When she met Dominique and I said that going to that show “was a very big deal.” It was a pleasant surprise to read with such a great band, and to share the stage with these women. When they release some music, I will listen to it all day long.

On Saturday we took my son to the Jazz Museum at 18th and Vine in Kansas City, and I got to hang out with Dominique most of the day before we got back on the interstate and headed back to Minneapolis, back where we started the tour and from where we’d fly back home. It was a 6.5 hour drive, our longest on the tour, but we got to see Iowa again, and drive along side a cool lightening storm.


Jazz Museum

As it turns out, I was pretty sick the whole trip. It started with a sore throat that turned into swollen glands, a stiff neck, congestion, sneezing fits, and a bit of a cough. I didn’t really say that I was sick out loud until nearly the end of the trip, but I went through nearly a whole bag of lozenges, and a lot of tissue. I must have made it through the readings on pure adrenaline and old-fashioned work ethic, but I know I could not have even done that if my marido, Ines, hadn’t done all the driving, and if my son hadn’t navigated the roads, so I could rest in the back of the car. I was thrashed by the time we got back to Minneapolis. We all were, and I slept off and on all Sunday. We all slept off and on all Monday too after getting back home, and we slept well knowing that we done so much and seen so much in just six short days.

It might be a bit too early for real meaningful reflection on this book tour, but here’s what comes to mind now:

  • Do include your family and bring them with you when you can.
  • Your kids won’t always want to, but you should make them at least once.
  • Stay with friends if you can.
  • Staying with friends can make such a trip possible because it’s more affordable
  • Staying with friends is also often better because you’re more likely to see more of each city and be with people who actually know it.
  • Don’t forget to bring each host a small gift of appreciation.
  • Take a chance on the kindness of strangers, like Sean in Kansas City!
  • If you publish with a small press, try not to do all your readings in bookstores because you can’t sell your own books in books stores, and it’s nice to make a bit of gas money.
  • Do read in some bookstores because bookstore people are your kind of people.
  • If you can allow more time for sightseeing if you can, but since time is money, know that it might not always be possible.
  • Consider doing a fund-raising campaign, complete with cool perks. I didn’t want to at first, at all, but I also didn’t feel comfortable spending all my family’s money on a trip that revolves around me.
  • Find ways to make the trip to not feel all about you.
  • Lastly, always keep a journal.

The Spitboy Rule Book Tour: Day 5


Interstate 80, en route to Kansas City

Tonight we get to see, Spitboy bass player, Dominique Davison. Dominique was Spitboy’s second bass player, and I was in her wedding in 2002, a few years after Spitboy and Instant Girl broke up. We’ve always hoped to visit her where she lives now, but I was never sure we would because one does not often plan to go to Kansas City. Tonight, will be the last reading of the book tour. It has gone by surprisingly fast.

I booked most of this tour myself, but I had a lot of help from my Mid-West friends. I’ve also had a lot of help from my family. This is how it works for us on tour. My husband drives our rented car, and my son sits in the front and navigates. In the early days of Spitboy, we all had specific jobs too: I fixed the van door latches when they got jammed; Adrienne kept things tidy; Karin was the expert map reader, and Paula was our mechanic. Later Dominique, who was younger than the rest of us was good at just about everything. My son is way better with cell phone apps than I am, and he gets car sick sitting in the back, so we’ve made him the designated copiloto. Just like in Spitboy, we pay him $10 a day for his services, which make it possible for me to sit in the back of the car, post to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, read, plan what I’m going to read, make contact with our next hosts, and write these blog posts. Even though I had a sore throat since Madison, I’ve only slept a little on these drives, which are usually about four hour long. Since my son has always hated long car rides, I tried to keep the drives at this length. He won’t like the drive from Kansas City back to Minneapolis, which is around 6 hours. He has, however, seemed to have enjoyed these drives, judging from the way he looks out the window, and the conversations he has with his dad about the scenery, reading music, and how many tolls we missed by accident. It’s really nice being, literally, this close together for extended periods of time.

Last night, I read at Prairie Lights Books in Iowa City, Iowa. I’m pretty sure that Spitboy never played Iowa City, but I think we did play in Cedar Rapids. Iowa City is a very cute college town, the city center has many shops and restaurants, pianos outdoors on the plaza that anyone can play (in fact, an older-looking man all dressed in black who came to my reading and napped a bit while I read was playing one of the pianos when we walked by afterward), and the neighborhood streets are lush and tree-lined. I would love one of those houses with a screened in porch to write in and drink coffee and wine.

Before getting into Iowa City, I got a notification on Facebook from Shell, my Wayward Writer hermana who got me hooked with Prairie Lights Books, and who introduced me when I read, that the Daily Iowan article was up on the website. The piece turned out great and featured a photo of me taken by Ace Morgan. It was a real thrill to get press in the Mid-west. Ines thought to ask if the article also ran in the print paper, and we found out it did, when the cashier at the bookstore said that they had a copy in the bookstore café that I could take have. The print copy has a banner of a photo of Spitboy playing at Gilman at the top of the front page, and the Arts section had a full spread of photos that weren’t featured on the website, including a photo with Ines! Shell couldn’t believe it either, and she said that Steven King was in town about a week ago, and even he didn’t get a full page.

The reading itself was well-attended by about 25 people. One of Shell’s students came, her family, and Ariana Ruiz and her husband, who name I didn’t catch (sorry vato). Arianna supported the Indigogo campaign, and is friends with Mimi Thi Nguyen, and originally from the Bay Area. She brought a student of hers too after teaching my whole book already last semester. I know! I read an excerpt from “A Band is not an Identity” and “Not a Riot Grrrl Band,” and then Kathleen moderated a Q & A session, complete with a cordless mic that she took around for audience members to ask questions. Kathleen, who I adored right away, listed off a bunch of Clash songs, including “Guns of Brixton” when I couldn’t remember the name of one of the songs off of Combat Rock — “Rock the Casbah.” She also prompted me to talk about my book in relation to the other rock members written and published recently, which I think is a particularly interesting topic. We spent so much time at Prairie Lights Books and we liked the people there so much that we wound up buying four books. Normally, I would try not to buy books while on a trip because they are so heavy, but we came with so many books in our suitcases that we’ve since sold, we’ll have the space going back.

After the reading, we did one of my favorite things, went back to Shell’s and hung out in the cool air on her back porch. Shell’s partner, Sean, BBQ’d, including this cheese and garlic bread (not store bought), which almost gave me an orgasm when I bit into it, and Shell and I drank a bit of wine. LM finally ate after not eating since breakfast, which made Sean super happy. When you’re on tour, there’s not much time to sightsee, but we could have done a bit. Still, I preferred sitting still, eating, and having a good laugh with Shell and her family.

Spitboy Rule Book Tour Diary: Day 1


LM having an okay time after all.

LM having an okay time after all.

Roseville, Minneapolis

June 20, 2016

After feeling like I was in a holding pattern all last week, a holding pattern of doing laundry, packing bags, getting subs for my spin classes, sending work e-mails, and listening to my son complain about how he didn’t want to go on a stupid book tour, and not writing, I am finally on the Spitboy Rule book tour.

The three of us my husband, son (14), and I took a red-eye from SFO to Minneapolis. Our friend Evan (who happens to be a lawyer and business instructor who I used to work at the college where I teach) picked us up at the airport at 6:00 AM, took us to his house, where I took nap to sleep off the 1/4 xanax I took on the plane to sleep, and got up at 8:00 to do a phone interview for Madison, WI’s WORT, 8 O’Clock Buzz radio show. The host, Brian Standing, was a real pro and totally did his homework, reading up about Spitboy, and asking all the right kinds of questions, not shying away from race or class at all. They lead the interview with the Spitboy song “What Are Little Girls Made Of” which I’m sure woke up a lot of people half asleep in their cars real fast. When that interview was over, I had an e-mail from Tessa, from the Daily Iowan, who interviewed me Friday. She wanted more photos for the piece. Tessa asked great questions, and I’m really excited to get Mid-West press, to maybe have a chance to reach midwestern latinx/punx. After all that I went for a walk around Evan’s neighborhood while my son slept — it sure is lush here, flowers blooming everywhere, and very mild. 

Tonight I read at Moon Palace Books in Minneapolis with local writer Venessa Fuentes who was recently published in the anthology, A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota. Moon Palace is owned by Jamie Applebutter, or at least that’s what I call him. Applebutter is the punk name that I gave him. I think it’s because he really loved applebutter. I do too, and it will be really great to reunite with him after about fifteen years! 


My Very Own Midlife Mixtape

20160304_190747 (1)

Me & Ivy of Kamala and The Karnivores

My friend, Nancy Davis Kho, writer, blogger, and other mother extraordinaire invited me to be a guest on her blog Midlife Mixtape, and she’s giving away a free copy of my book The Spitboy Rule Tales of a Xicana in a Female Punk Band.

Nancy and I met when we both earned spots on the San Francisco Listen To Your Mother cast in 2013. I loved the name of her blog Midlife Mixtape the moment she told to me; little did I know that I’d be going into perimenopause within a year or so of meeting her. 

Now a proud perimenopunk, I’ve made a guest post on Midlife Mixtape, and I got to make my own mixtape — check it out here! The Spitboy Rule Mixtape  and enter the free drawing for my book!

The Spitboy Rule Book Release Countdown

When PM Press said, yes, they would like to publish my book, the first thing that I thought was, now I just have to not die before it comes out. Writers are always writing against the clock, but now I only need to hang in here for about a week because there’s  word that the books have shipped from the printers. I have written two memoirs, and this is the first one to be published, and the whole process, getting this book published, has been really fun and collaborative. I was assigned an editor, then a cover designer, a copy editor, and an events planner. Everyone at PM Press has been super cool to work with, and they see me, the individual, and that is, wow, really nice.

At the end of March, I will begin doing readings for The Spitboy Rule with the book in hand; in the meantime, there are a few things you can do to lend your support:

  • Watch the book trailer created by my old friend Owen Peer and Martin Salazar. Spitboy and Owen’s band, Good Grief, used to share a practice space in Oakland, and Owen came to the hospital the day my son was born. It was fun working on the book trailer with him, and given that we go way back, there was very little that I had to explain. 
  • Read the Remezcla profile piece written by my new camarada, Michelle Threadgould.
  • Plan to come see me read in the East Bay or in LA on April 2 with Alice Bag and Keith Morris (Circle Jerks)
    • March 15, 2016, Get Lit, 7-9 PM,  Ale Industries 3096 East 10th Street, Oakland CA
    • March 29, 2016, 6:30,  Oakland Crossroads 3234 Grand Avenue, Oakland CA
    • April 2, 2016, Reading with Alice Bag (the Bags) and Keith Morris, (Circle Jerks), Pehrspace, 325 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles, California 90026
    • April 17, 2016, Gilman Zine Fest, 924 Gilman, Berkeley CA, 10 – 6PM2349 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704
  • Pre-order the book from PM Press or Amazon (if you have to)
  • Like my Spitboy Rule Facebook page.
  • Follow me on Twitter @xicanabrava

The Spitboy Rule Book: Fall 2015 Update


A lot has happened since I wrote the June Spitboy Rule book update.

  • The book cover happened! I could barely steady my fingers to open the e-mail when I saw that John Yates, Spitboy Rule: Tales of a Xicana in a Female Punk Band, cover designer, sent files with book cover options. Seeing the book’s cover art for the first time is pretty surreal. Seeing the photo of me on drums, the word Xicana, and my full name on the cover, wow.
  • Spitboy put out a record on John Yates’ old label, and he designed all the art for that release. It’s great to be working with him again because he’s so nice and great at what he does, asking about color palettes, choosing fonts, listening to my layperson suggestions, and laying everything out on some fancy program. We both agreed that Karoline Collins’ live photo of me in Australia captures the blur of my moving head and sticks was the right shot for the cover.

       I initially thought that the whole band should be on the cover, but my husband                    disagreed. At first, I thought it was cute he thought that I should be on the cover.                Then I realized that he was right.

      “You wrote the book,” he said. And it became clear real quick that live band photos              that feature the drummer prominently at all are a hard get. Spitboy was very wise               taking friend and photographer, Karoline Collins, as a roadie on the Pacific Rim tour           because she had full- stage access, and she just got up in there to get the shots she             wanted and thought we should have.

  • I also collected blurbs or endorsements; you know the nice things that people say about the book that are printed on the back of the jacket. It turns out that getting these endorsement can be very tricky. I upset an old friend in the process, but I did get several other great endorsements, including one from Alice Bag — that one was practically required. In spite of what I perceived to be a misunderstanding – the friend would say I was being too businesslike, trying to sell books.

      That part is true. I do want to sell a lot of books. On a small press, selling a lot of                   books will not mean making a bunch of money, but it could mean a bunch of readers.         Writers, including the upset one, love imagining people reading their words.

       It’s also true that I had to get an endorsement from Alice Bag. I know this sounds                strange, but I’ve gotten the sense that this how these things work. Alice Bag wrote              one of the first, if not the first, punk rock Latina memoirs, not having her                                endorsement on my book which follows hers by about five years (at time of release)          would not go unnoticed by people in the business. 

        She could have said no. She could have been too busy, and actually I think she was,             but Alice Bag read, liked, and wrote nice things about my book.

         Pinche me, seriously, pinch me!

  • Another thing I did over the summer was spend a lot of time sorting through my own collection of Spitboy photographs and reaching out to people who photographed us. A bunch of really nice people and great photographers have been kind enough to send photos they took of Spitboy back when we were all still using film. This means photos had to be scanned and organized digitally – thanks to everyone who helped out – Ace Morgan, Chris Boarts Larson, David Sine, Karoline Collins, and Lyn Lentil.
  • I was, along with news of the upcoming book, featured on two websites Paste Magazine and Flavorwire, thanks to Shawna Kenney and Jess Skolnik. I was featured along with Alice Bag in Paste Magazine’s “8 Old-school Punks Doing Cool New Things” and interviewed by Skolnik for Flavorwire as a part of her “Forgotten Women in Punk Rock” series. Jess Skolnik did a lot of homework before she interviewed me, which helped her to write great questions, which made me sound really smart – something I know I am, but I am often credited for other things, things like being articulate, driven, feisty, businesslike, feisty, and exotic, yes, exotic.
  • The official release date for the PM Press publication of The Spitboy Rule: Tales of a Xicana in a Female Punk Band is April 2016, but there will be copies available at AWP, which takes place in LA in March, and I will be there all excited and trying not to cry because I’ll be so happy. There will be some readings too, so watch out AWP, here comes one Xicana that you never saw coming. I don’t write about corn, goddesses, the Catholic church, bright colors, or the homeland, unless that homeland is California, and I don’t teach in an MFA program, but I do teach community college.
  • In the meantime, come see me read from the book and play drums in Alice Bag’s band at 111 Mina in San Francisco – Punk Rock Renaissance Show on Friday, September 15. Yes, I get to play music with Alice Bag. Pinch me!