Chastity Belt: “I might always feel sort of lost and stuck, but that’s okay”

CHASTITY BELT‘s fifth album ‘Live Laugh Love’ encapsulates their journey of living, laughing, and… err… loving with sincerity and a touch of sarcasm. Check out new track ‘Chemtrails’ and read our latest Upset cover story.

Words: Linsey Teggert

Live Laugh Love. It’s a phrase you’d likely associate with a tacky cursive wall sign or a cheesy wellness influencer, not an album title from one of Seattle’s coolest indie bands. Yet for Chastity Belt’s fifth album, it kind of makes sense: the four-piece have never taken themselves 100% seriously, but they’ve always been sincere, poking fun at themselves and the world around them, but in a way that feels authentic rather than glib. “It’s kind of sarcastic but also earnest because if you think about it, the songs are sort of about living, laughing and loving,” explains guitarist and vocalist Julia Shapiro.

In the fourteen years that they’ve been a band, they’ve certainly done a hell of a lot of living, laughing and loving to the point where they share both the same musical language and an unbreakable bond. Despite currently living in various states and even countries – Julia and drummer Gretchen Grimm are both based in Seattle, bass player Annie Truscott lives in LA, and guitarist Lydia Lund is currently studying in London – Chastity Belt didn’t let distance or a pandemic get in the way of creating their fifth record. It may have taken them almost five years to finish, but there was no rush or worry. It was always inevitable.

“At this point, it feels like we’ll be together forever, so I don’t think not creating another record ever crossed any of our minds,” Julia states. “We all have an unspoken agreement that we’ll keep doing the band at whatever pace feels good for people. I realise that the last few years haven’t been easy on other bands, but we felt this sense that we’d been together for so long that we were going to be okay at the end of this.”

With three separate recording sessions set across three years, some bands may have lost momentum, but Julia explains that for Chastity Belt, it was refreshing to not put pressure on themselves to go into the studio and immediately have an album afterwards. It allowed them to actually be present and enjoy the time they managed to get to spend together.

“We don’t have much time when we’re all free to get together to record these days, so we had the attitude of we’ll organise it when we can and just see what happens,” says Julia. “We even had a session over Thanksgiving where we ended up having a couple of Thanksgiving feasts together; we played charades and made paper bag hats and wore them around the table for a candlelit dinner!”

‘Live Laugh Love’ is the sound of a band who are completely at ease with one another, the interplay between instruments seeming effortless and almost intuitive. It’s the first album where each member of Chastity Belt has their own song that they sing on, and it continues in the same introspective vein that the band first really leaned into on 2017’s ‘I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone’.

“People run out of new narratives when you’re on your fourth or fifth album”

Julia Shapiro

It’s almost impossible to read any feature on Chastity Belt that doesn’t discuss the band’s goofier, more raucous beginnings and make a point of how their sound has matured. Sure, you can’t blame people for picking up on earlier song titles such as ‘Nip Slip’, ‘Giant Vagina’, and ‘Pussy Weed Beer’, all of which feature on the awesome bad tattoo referencing ‘No Regerts’. One review from a publication that will remain unnamed, described the band as sounding ‘wearier,’ which seems slightly unfair given that ‘No Regerts’ was released over a decade ago and the sound of any decent band should evolve over time.

“People run out of new narratives when you’re on your fourth or fifth album… ‘I guess they’re old now?’ Let’s roll with that one!” laughs Julia. “We did start out really goofy because we met in college, and none of us had been in a band before, so of course, the comparison to now from when we first started out is very different. We weren’t necessarily confident in what we were doing, so we’d joke about it. I don’t think I would have started playing music in a band that was really serious in the beginning; I needed that space to joke around and have it be fun before I could be confident enough to write a more serious song.”

“I think we’ve all gained more confidence to be more comfortable experimenting, but also accepting the feeling of first thought best thought,” explains Lydia. “There was a point at the beginning where I could only play certain things because I was only so good at guitar, then as I got better, I felt more pressure to play something that was more interesting. Now I know sometimes it’s best to keep it simple and have the confidence that whatever comes up is probably good enough!”

“It’s not having to prove anything,” adds Julia. “Yeah, I could play more notes… but why bother?” she laughs.

That sense of self-acceptance and quiet self-assurance is also something that appears thematically throughout ‘Live Laugh Love’. “A lot of my songs end up being about that,” Julia muses. “Realising I might always feel this way, sort of lost and stuck, but that’s okay. It’s about sitting with that rather than trying to fight it, realising that this is just me and it’s part of my personality.”

Amongst all the living, laughing and loving, over a decade of playing together has provided a whole lot of learning, too. “I feel like my main piece of advice to myself would be you don’t have to do anything; it’s fine to say no,” says Gretchen. “Even though there are some good stories, we played some insane shows back then that we wouldn’t say yes to now! It’s about realising that it’s okay to do whatever feels right.”

Maturity and introspection aside, Chastity Belt will still always have time for their goofy sides. While ‘Live Laugh Love’ is more subtle with it – there’s no ‘Cool Slut’ or ‘Pissed Pants’-esque titles here, there’s still room for playfulness, as if that wasn’t already signalled by the wacky waving-arms inflatable guy that graces the front cover. Check out the video for ‘Hollow’ that pokes fun at influencers and features Chastity Belt having their own go at a TikTok dance, trying on clothes fresh out of ‘Sheit’ packaging and rocking out in front of a neon ‘It’s a vibe’ sign. Fingers crossed, we get to hear that Medieval jig they recorded during the ‘Live Laugh Love’ sessions, too… ■

Chastity Belt’s album ‘Live Laugh Love’ is out 29th March. Follow Upset’s Spotify playlist here.