Seriously: Spitboy’s First Song

Spitboy.NMTour

“Seriously” was Spitboy’s first song. We started working on it the night guitarist, Karin Gembus, came to play with us, the night she joined the band. I had written the song using a few of the only chords I knew on guitar and wrote the lyrics about a night I was sexually harassed at a party at my house in West Oakland by two guys in a band from Salt Lake City, Utah.

It’s quite a kick ass song, in spite of my obvious amateur song-writing skills, with the odd loping opening and even odder break. What it lacks in musical maturity it makes up for in straightforward toughness and a certain vulnerability. Plus it has those three quick hard stops in the second verse right before the chorus.

We stopped playing “Seriously” live after a couple of years because it didn’t quite fit what would become the Spitboy sound, but it lives on as a track on the Ebullition Give Me Back compilation. The odd opening does allow for a welling of emotion and the satisfaction of screaming “Well, honey, I got news for you!”

https://youtu.be/Ma-NtIA8X-g

Seriously

Subtle cues warn me

I’m on to you

You’re spewing your best

but babe

manipulative charm does not have me impressed

 

Not interested wasn’t good enough for you

All girls play hard to get

You ain’t no fool

Consideration for how I felt wasn’t important at all

To you a girl, is a girl, is a girl

(chorus)

Well, honey, I got news for you

It doesn’t work that way here

I don’t listen for the shots you call

Babe, you take me seriously or don’t take me at all

Looking Like Alice Bag

1f548427e16a37abb25f9bb134bb099cAlice Bag lookalike

Last summer, I went to a bay area’s women writers’ gathering at a pub downtown Oakland. It was a pub, so just about everyone was drinking artisan beer. I ordered a glass of red wine.

The purpose of this gathering was to network with other female writers. I went by myself with no idea that I was about to come down with a violent stomach virus. I attributed my sudden, but familiar, feelings of standoffishness to a comment from one of the gathering’s organizers, a white woman, just five minutes after I arrived.

“You look like Alice Bag,” the women smiled and shook my hand.

My hair, which parts on the side, was cut in an asymmetrical bob, dark with bright red pieces opposite the part, and I had just told her that I was working on a memoir about being in a female punk band.

 “I do?” I said.

 I could see the woman’s face fall in a sudden realization.

“Because I’m Mexican? Or maybe it’s my haircut,” my voice trailed off on the word haircut. I decided that I should try to give the woman the benefit of the doubt.

The woman stammered something inaudible, then turned and introduced me to her friend standing nearby. The friend and I exchanged the requisite writer information, what kind of writing we do, publications, and what we’re working on now; then I decided to sit down. I needed to think carefully about what had just happened.

Had I stood up for myself and questioned a potentially rude comment, or had I nearly accused the organizer of being racist, or at least of stereotyping?

It is actually a good thing, in the writing world, if you resemble another writer in some way, writing style, genre, or region because it’s a convenient way to give a frame of reference for your own work, to demonstrate that your style, genre, or region already has an audience, so I know that writers do this, make these convenient comparisons, but telling one person of color that she looks like another person of color, always smacks a little “they all look alike.” Of course, Alice Bag had recently released her own memoir about growing up Chicana and being in a punk band.

 This was all getting a little hard to sort out.

When the movie Lone Star came out in 1996, many people told me that I looked like Elizabeth Peña (RIP). This seemed like a convenient comparison too – a Latina in a movie seen by many people that I knew, a film that got attention for its content and good critical reviews, and I all of a sudden looked like her. It felt like the fact that I now supposedly looked like someone in a movie, a woman deemed pretty by the movie industry, legitimized my face, my slightly Mayan nose, my heavy-lidded, almond shaped eyes, my full lips. Most people probably didn’t really mean for the comment to feel this way, but I can’t help having a lot of baggage about standards of beauty growing up in a small town in the 80’s when perfectly blond feathered hair and blue eyes reined supreme.

ripezliabethpenaMG.Mexico.bw

The irony, I’ve realized, is that while Elizabeth Peña and Alice Bag look nothing a like, I do actually look a little like both of them. I look more like Elizabeth Peña around the eyes and maybe like Alice Bag around the mouth (or is it the shape of our faces?) but perhaps more so because my hair is often cut and died similar to hers and we are both Chicanas who were in punk rock bands, though years and years apart – superficial things?

It’s confusing isn’t it, which is why you might want to be careful. Those of us on the receiving end may want to be careful too, because I quite like the way Alice Bag looks, and looking like Alice Bag, looking like a fierce, not-so-light-skinned Latina is what I look like and what I want to look like after all.

In Your Face

I am super excited to announce that in Spring 2016, The Spitboy Rule: Tales of a Female Punk Band, a memoir about my days in Spitboy will be published. The book contains about eighteen separate pieces (a few you may have already read here on this blog). What follows is an exploration of Spitboy lyrics, an effort to explore the most important aspect of the band, what we actually stood for. I hope to write a few other brief pieces like this one — let me know what you think, as they won’t likely be as narrative as the previous Spitboy pieces.

Everyone in Spitboy wrote lyrics, but Adrienne and I wrote the bulk of them. After Spitboy was together for a couple of years, we realized that Adrienne tended to write songs that made the personal political, and that I wrote the overtly political ones. I wrote the lyrics for songs like “Motivated by Fear,” “Seriously,” “In Your Face,” “Ultimate Violations,” and “Wizened.”

 To date, I believe “In Your Face” to be one of my best lyrics because I was able to able to use the structure of the lines to help me say what I wanted to say, and in very few words, about how the words people choose tend to illustrate the way they think, and how the way that they think is often powerfully influenced by media images, including the widespread acceptance of (an enthusiasm for) using women’s bodies to sell products.

 I think that I wrote the guitar riff too, though I could never play bar chords. Karin would take any riffs that I wrote at home on my acoustic guitar and turn them into searing power chords.

In Your Face

(chorus)

It’s in you face.

It’s on your mind.

Out of your mouth

It’s what you say

The words you choose

The way you think

 

On television

On your mind

On billboards

On your mind

In magazines

On your mind

 

(chorus)

It’s in you face.

It’s on your mind.

Out of your mouth

It’s what you say

The words you choose

The way you think

 

The images

The pretty faces

Sell sex

The sexual connotations

Sell sex

The sexual objectification

Sell sex

The sexual exploitation

 

Who’s to blame?

Who do you point the finger at?

Who’s to blame?

Who do you point the finger at?

 

Sell sex

The sexual connotations

Sell sex

The sexual objectification

The images

The pretty faces

Sell sex

Don’t buy it!

I’ve never been a fan of rhyming lyrics, but I did use a lot of repetition and parallel structure. The rhyming that does take place here was not on purpose, but it was convenient, and Adrienne’s vocal on “In Your Face” on the True Self Revealed LP is brilliant.

I was only like twenty-one or twenty-two when I wrote this song.