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A brief chat with Babes in Toyland


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Reformed riot grrls Babes in Toyland play Riot Fest this year, so we chatted with drummer Lori Barbero.R

Yellow Scene: It’s been 20 years since Nemesisters – do you have any plans for a new album?

Lori Barbero: That’s a long time. See, ever since we got back together, I think it’s been really difficult with the bass player being in LA, and I was in Austin, Texas, but I moved to Minneapolis to be closer to Kat [Bjelland]. So Kat and I rehearsed, but between touring and Kat and I not being in the same room, it’s been really hard to write. The time that we are together, we’ve just been rehearsing the stuff that we know for these tours. Because, in my personal opinion, and I believe Kat and Maureen [Herman] agree with me, when bands reunite after all of these years and they tour, people want to see the old stuff that you used to play because there’s a new generation of people, maybe two generations of people, that never got to see us and they want to hear and see what they know and what they’re familiar with. If you go on tour and just start whipping out stuff that they aren’t familiar with – they want to hear the old stuff. That’s what they’re going for. So with this first bout of touring, we’re going to do our old stuff. Then we’ll whip out some new stuff later.

YS: You have L7 on Riot Fest with you, who are in the same “Riot Grrrl reunion” place, and new band Skating Polly is on the bill too. Is it gratifying to see girls picking up the baton?

LB: Skating Polly has been playing for a few years and Kelli is old 15 years old. Her sister is about 18. They live out in Oklahoma. They’re just the best. They were our support act in Europe. They’re super-great and I love them, and I’m glad to see L7’s playing. I’m glad to see any band that’s reuniting that was really fun back in the day. For me, I thought that if the Replacements can do it, and look at how much fun they’re having, I want to do that. Those are my boys from Minneapolis, and I was very envious. If they’re having so much fun, I want to have fun. When it’s not fun anymore, I’m not going to do it. That has been the bottom line since the band started 30 years ago next year. So we just thought that we could do it and with the help of Powersniff, the guys that are funding all of this, they were kind enough to say, “If it takes just money to get you guys to roll together, we can do that.” Without them, this would not be happening. I’m sure that we could have gotten back together but financially it would have been difficult. We wouldn’t have been able to go to LA and all of this stuff. We like the punk rock ethics. We like touring just in a van. I couldn’t care less if we slept at people’s houses. That really doesn’t bother me. I don’t need a hotel room, I don’t need fancy-shmancy anything. On this next tour, we’re gonna have a vehicle that’s not quite a bus but it sleeps seven people and then you can put your stuff in the back. You can sleep on it, and I think instead of going to hotels we’re just gonna go to campsites outside of town. We have a driver who will be sleeping in the daytime and then he’ll drive overnight to find us these great little routes in-between cities. So we don’t need hotels. That’s the excitement of going on the road. Living it up. Not having the luxury of your own house. Nobody said it would be easy, but I think it’s fun to do that. This will be the first tour we have a vehicle we can sleep in, besides Lollapalooza when we had a bus.

YS: Do you like playing Colorado? Any memories?

LB: I think Colorado’s a beautiful state. DeVotchKa is from Denver and I really love DeVotchKa. I really like Colorado – I love the mountains. The United States is a beautiful country, and I like going back to places I’ve been to. I love to travel. Kat and I are both vegetarians, and we have wings on our heels. That’s a vegetarian’s trait. It’s really hard to tie us down. There’s nothing that I love more than travelling, seeing old friends, meeting new friends, having new adventures, going to art galleries and thrift stores and antique stores, just adventure. Getting up early and taking a walk wherever you’re at, and checking out some new stuff. A lot of people don’t really leave their own hotel room. That’s not any fun. Live it up. Go to a new café and eat a new pastry you never ate before. Say hi to a stranger. I don’t know. That’s what life’s all about.

YS: What can we expect from the Riot Fest set?

LB: I hope that there’s one song we can learn, that Kat and I know we want to play. It’s an older one, but we haven’t had it on the set yet. We have an hour set. Believe it or not, it’s tough to play an hour. I’m actually surprised that I can play drums for an hour. Even Kat says that she couldn’t play drums for more than five minutes. It’s pretty physical and an hour is a long time, but when you’re doing it and having fun it actually goes by fast. It does take a lot out of you. There are a couple of times on this tour that we’re playing two times in one night and I’m freaked out about that. It’ll be a challenge but I committed to it so I’m gonna do it. I think we’ll just whip out the old ones. We’ll have fun and it’ll be good.

YS: When Riot Fest is over, what’s next?

LB: We’re also doing Voodoo Fest in New Orleans on Halloween with Ozzy Osbourne, Jane’s Addiction and stuff, so that’ll be fun. We’re playing Bumbershoot Festival in Seattle with a bunch of friends. We’re doing Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin, which is a great festival and I have a bunch of friends there because I used to live there. I know the people that run it, so it’ll be like an old home reunion show. I don’t know what we’re going to do after the six weeks of touring. Probably after the New Year, we’ll start trying to write an EP or something like that. I don’t know. I like the idea of Eps, instead of a whole album. I DJ a lot, and I only play 7”s. I don’t carry albums around but I only play vinyl. I’m a real VJ. I don’t plug in a computer or an iPod or whatever. Power to people who do that – I don’t even know how to do that. I’m not very tech savvy. I still just play vinyl. I have a lot for 7”s. I mean, I wouldn’t play our own stuff. I haven’t listened to us before. I just like 7”s. In more than one way. Ha!

Babes in Toyland plays Denver Riot Fest; August 28-30; riotfest.org/denver.

Author

Brett Calwood
Brett Callwood is an English journalist, copy writer, editor and author, currently living and working in Los Angeles. He is the music editor with the LA Weekly. He was previously a reporter at the Longmont Times-Call and Daily Camera, the music editor at the Detroit Metro Times and editor-in-chief at Yellow Scene magazine. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brett_Callwood

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