Lil Tits

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Art by Kriss Stress | Words by Richard Giraldi | Recording by Damian Wiseman | Photos by Sebastian Buffa

Art by Kriss Stress | Words by Richard Giraldi | Recording by Damian Wiseman | Photos by Sebastian Buffa

If you’ve been to any number of DIY house shows in Chicago over the past few years, it’s likely you’ve witnessed the visceral noise-punk of Lil Tits. The band has taken the city’s underground scene by storm with their intense live shows and chaotic punk rock jams. More recently, however, Lil Tits’ music has bubbled up to the surface and caught the attention of the tastemakers at Pitchfork.com in addition to being included on our “15 Chicago Bands To Watch In 2015″ list. I recently sat down with all three members of the band – guitarist Hanna Johnson, bassist Madalyn Garcia and drummer Karissa Talanian – for a casual conversation about Lil Tits’ beginnings, what punk rock means in 2015, growing up in Chicago’s DIY scene and more. Finally, be sure to listen to Lil Tits’ new song “Bowser,” which, as always, was recorded exclusively for LoudLoopPress.com by our very own Damian Wiseman and is available for free download at the conclusion of this post and/or can be streamed in the Bandcamp sidebar to the right.

Photo by Sebastian Buffa

Photo by Sebastian Buffa

LLP: Let’s start at the beginning. Can you tell me about the formation of the band?

Hanna: We played our first show in December of 2010, but Karissa’s been in the band since September 2014. We had a drummer – one of our good friends. After a while it was kind of obvious she didn’t want to play music anymore. But we had a record coming out, and we didn’t really want to stop. I’m not a big fan of bands changing a bunch of members and staying the same band. That always really bothered me – even with my favorite bands it was bothersome. But I was in a situation where we had a record coming out. This person didn’t want to do it. We had to keep going at least for a little while.

Madalyn: We were going on tour right before we found out too.

Hanna: Yeah, and we’ve known Karissa for a couple of years. It was just suggested that we try to jam with Karissa, and it worked out. We knew her through her boyfriend Ian. I think we were talking to him about it, and it worked out. It worked out so well, it wasn’t just to finish the tour. It was like, “Alright, let’s do this. These songs are awesome.” Playing the same stuff but with different drummer is an insane difference.

Madalyn: One time the other drummer, and I couldn’t get to a show. So, Karissa actually filled in and did soundcheck.

Hanna: Oh, yeah! I forgot about that. Is that how it happened? Our drummer couldn’t make it to a soundcheck at the Empty Bottle, and Karissa was there. I needed help loading gear, and I was asked, “Can someone help me load gear and souncheck with me?” And Karissa said, “Yeah I’ll do it!” We ended up sounchecking, and it was so fucking good. You were like just play something, and I played “Coke Stroke,” and you fucking nailed it. It was insane.

Karissa: I didn’t even know what I was doing.

Hanna: I totally forgot about that story. Yep, there you go.

Karissa: Then the night you texted me about being in the band, I was at a White Fang show. I got the message and was just like, “Fuck yeah!” I was in Strychnine, and that kind of fell apart. I was also in this other project that wasn’t really working out for me. Right away it was something I could get behind.

Hanna: The thing is the original lineup is that Madalyn, Pixie and I didn’t ever…I had an acoustic guitar in middle school and played the talent show. But I wasn’t learning how to play guitar, and Madalyn wasn’t learning how to play bass. So, I was in Beauty School doing this girl’s hair, and she had a band called Jigsaw Youth that was a cover band. She needed an extra band, and I made the joke, “Oh, my friends and I have a band.” She was like, “Oh, well it’s next Friday, can you play?” So we ended up playing. We were the first act, and we were just clapping and dancing around the drum kit. It was stupid.

Madalyn: We had a stick with jingle bells on it.

Hanna: So for years, we didn’t actually know how to play music. Then Karissa shows up at practice and Madalyn’s like, “I think I counted like 13 beats,” and Karissa’s like, “It’s 16 and I’m doing fours…” We’re like, “Wait, what?”

Madalyn: I just look at Hanna, and she tries to explain it to me.

Hanna: I try to mediate because I kind of get what Karissa’s saying, and I know what Madalyn’s saying. I’ve known Madalyn since we were 15, and we’re both stupid with music.

Madalyn: But Karissa’s learned our language.

Hanna: Yeah, so we speak a hybrid of dummy and real music lingo.

Photo by Sebastian Buffa

Photo by Sebastian Buffa

LLP: Your song “Peaking” was on Pitchfork’s “11 Very Best Punk Songs of 2014” list. So, I wanted to talk about punk rock as a concept in 2015. What does being punk rock mean to you in the age of social media and the Internet?

Hanna: The best I can answer this question is saying that when that Pitchfork article came out, the funniest thing to me is that song is the least punk song. That’s not punk sounding to me. That’s not raw. It was very catchy. To me, that was the poppiest song that Lil Tits has ever written.

Karissa: Right, but challenging the notion of what sounds punk.

Hanna: Yeah, so that’s the point. In Chicago, it’s more about trying to play music and do-it-yourself rather than say a sound. You know what I mean?

Karissa: I feel like it has a lot to do with the community and everything, and how labels and house venues and bars all work together.

Hanna: I think there’s a very punk aspect now with, like you said, with social media and the Internet that there’s a very interesting thing happening where everything is so digital that everyone still tries to keep the shows on analog. So there’s a Facebook page, and there’s no address. Or certain venues, like Situations, wont put anything online. Maybe a flyer, but that’s it. There’s an email list. If there is any sort of digital interaction, it’s all very underground. It sounds funny because I cut hair, so I have so many clients and people I see that ask, “Well how do I find out about this stuff?” I sound like such an asshole to say literally it’s about getting in and finding somebody who’s going to invite you. It’s not like you can just go to a website. There are tumblrs I’m sure that are around that list shows, but there’s no catalogue of venues anywhere.

Karissa: There used to be. Like Acid Marshmallow and Victim of Time used to do that a lot. But now everyone can make a fucking Facebook event, which I think is sort of going out. People don’t pay attention to them.

Hanna: It’s 20 invites a day, and you’re like, “What the fuck?”

Madalyn: What’s funny is that sometimes I don’t even get invited to our own show. [laughs]

Hanna: I think that’s the only thing that can attest to being punk is trying to keep everything so off the radar.

Photo by Sebastian Buffa

Photo by Sebastian Buffa

LLP: I remember writing about Lil Tits back when there were only two photos and scant information about the band on the Internet because you all were staunchly underground. Can you talk to me about your experience growing as a band in Chicago’s underground scene?

Hanna: I was very lucky that the first couple of friends I made were very active in bands like Bad Drugs, and Cacaw and the Coughs. Those were the people I met first, so I remember seeing shows and thinking I could totally do this. I want to do something like this. If this person is confident enough to get up there and do that, then I could fucking do that. Karissa’s boyfriend Ian runs a space, and he asked us to play one of the first shows. We didn’t have our shit together, but making acquaintances and everyone being so nice led us to getting more shows.

I think the shitty part of it, I will say, is that we’re a female band, so we got asked to play a lot of like all-girl shows. That stuff was cool in the beginning, but now I absolutely hate shit like that. But anyway, our music video was filmed at a house space. All of our friends at those spaces are the ones that helped us screen print our shirts, draw our logos or dub our tapes. It’s really mind-blowing because you think when you move here and meet all these people that everyone is so close. At first, you feel like such an outsider. But everyone is really kind in Chicago. Everyone is really kind in this community, no matter what genre your band is or who the fuck you are.

Karissa: Totally. That’s what happened to me too. I moved here for college six years ago, and right away I went to some party and met the dudes in Great Society Mind Destroyers, and I met Rabble Rabble the weekend afterwards. From there, I started playing music with them, and here we are. I moved into the houses I saw shows at when I was 19 and did shows there. It was awesome.

Hanna: All three of us were lucky enough to know people who were running house venues or have run house venues. We’ve made friends that have nice spaces, so they’ll be like, “Hey, do you want to play this festival that we’re hosting at our house?” Or, “Do you want to do this weird thing?” We didn’t stop playing. We got some shitty shows, but the fact is we just did it for so long it finally got better.

Madalyn: I feel like, though, when we first started, like Hanna said earlier, it was “Hey, let’s start a band!” Then four days later, we had our first show. It’s kind of like, “Oh my god!” Everything since day one has kind of come together, and I feel like at the beginning people really didn’t take us too seriously. A lot of people didn’t like us. If it was our music or it was the way that we looked. But then we knew these other people who kept giving us chances.

Photo by Sebastian Buffa

Photo by Sebastian Buffa

LLP: So, what’s coming up for Lil Tits?

Hanna: In two weeks, we’re recording at Electrical Audio, and we will have a record coming out at the end of the year. We’re going to try to go on tour in September or October out east. Maybe with Foul Tip. We have a bunch of new songs, which is awesome. It’s all going to be new songs. For years, we’ve been playing our same songs that have been carried over and have gotten better with time. But now we’re done with all the songs we’ve played for like five years.

LLP: Can you give me an idea of what these new songs sound like?

Madalyn: Should we say what we’re calling it?

Hanna: Oh, yeah. It’s Freak Flag.

LLP: Nice! A little exclusive! [laughs]

Hanna: Yeah, I mean the song we did for you guys is a concept song about Bower’s castle slash being on drugs.

Madalyn: Which is the longest song we have.

LLP: 3:32 exactly!

Hanna: I mean it’s really…what would you say, Karissa? You sum it up since you are the music word genius. What would you say the new record is going to sound like?

Karissa: What it’s going to sound like?

Hanna: I mean, I don’t know.

Karissa: I don’t know either. I haven’t heard it yet. [laughs]

Madalyn: I always feel like every time I come up with a new song, I’m always like, “That sounds like Zelda!” So, it kind of reminds me of this creepy battle excursion.

Hanna: This album is going to be a lot more…I don’t want to say instrumental, but its not like we sing every fucking line. We were singing a lot before to carry the cadence of the songs.

Karissa: The new songs have super weird structures.

Hanna: Yeah, so a lot of music stuff.

Karissa: We’re really looking forward to, well I know we only have two days, but just spending some time getting creative in the studio. Not just like going in and playing like we’re playing a set.

Madalyn: And it’s awesome because we’re going to be at electrical audio again, where we did Rat Mansion.

Photo by Sebastian Buffa

Photo by Sebastian Buffa

LLP: Finally, can you tell me about the song, “Bowser,” you recorded for Loud Loop Press?

Karissa: We had this one thing. Sometimes Madalyn will play something, and we’ll just work with it. So, we had this weird half of a song…

Hanna: For like weeks.

Karissa: We didn’t really know what to do with it.

Madalyn: I was ready to say fuck it.

Karissa: Yeah, we were ready to throw it out then window, and then Madalyn played something else. And we thought, “Oh, let’s just put these two together!”

Madalyn: Then, I think one of you said it was like Bowser’s castle. So we looked at a picture and were like, “Yeah!” All of us are really big Mario fans.

LLP: I was going to ask about that. So, you all are big old school Nintendo fans?

Madalyn: Oh my gosh, yeah! Old school, Wii and 64.

Hanna: The funny thing about “Bowser” is it was the first time that we had so much trouble with these two separate songs. Karissa looked at us and said, “Why don’t we cut the song in fours and just inter-splice back and forth. And then put in an end and a beginning.” We were like, “What the fuck?” But it was the first time she said something musically that we kind of understood. So we were like, “OK!” It turned out to be…we all just kind of looked at each other and said, “This is weird. Let’s do it!” It’s a very different type of…it’s long. It’s a long Lil Tits song, so…

Madalyn: Yeah, it’s a long song. But it’s fun, though. There’s a lot of screaming at the beginning. I love it.

Hanna: When we were doing vocals, I peed my pants because I was doing vocals so hard. [laughs]

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