Moss Lime, Bonnie Doon, Vulva Culture
Saturday, May 23, 12pm
The Bus Stop Theatre, 2203 Gottingen Street
"There was a girl at our show in Newfoundland who told me 'You guys sound like a lot of drugs on a rocking chair underwater,'" says Vulva Culture drummer Bianca Palmer. "I was like 'Shut up, that's great!'" It's hard to top that near-perfect description of Vulva Culture—a slow, dreamy, dirge-obsessed band whose sad songs soar with harmony. Songwriter, vocalist and guitarist Amy V. does this by design, creating a perfect mix of tragic and hopeful—the peanut butter and chocolate of popular music.
"I listen to doo-wop and opera and classical music, it's about balancing tragedy with hopefulness," she says. "It's what I grew up listening to. That's my personality too, I'm a total train wreck of a human but I say things with a wink and a giggle."
Vulva Culture began last summer, though Amy had used the name for a while before that, mostly for one-off solo shows. "I had an interview with a woman about our name—the name came out of nothing but the reason I kept it is because it's a comfort thing, me being part of women playing music, it is a culture. Every single female I know has had problems dealing with their sex in this artistic community," she says. "I'm glad that our band name is celebrating the fact that we're all women and we're doing something that people are really liking. It makes me happy."
With a background in audio engineering and a long history of playing rhythm in Halifax bands, a tumultuous summer brought her own songs to the surface. "I never thought I could make anything on my own," she says, "but then I had a lot of change in my life so I thought 'Well, fuck it, I have all this energy that's only going to sad places, so I might as well make something cool with it.' I didn't have anything to lose so I went ahead and did it."
Assembling her dream team: guitarist Kayla Stevens, drummer Bianca Palmer—Evan Matthews picked up some drum duties while Palmer's ankle healed after a break—and bassist Hannah Guinan, the songs have migrated to a more collaborative place. "Our tour [promoting the split EP with Mauno, Rolling in the Creep] was really great, it was awesome to be trapped in a van with everyone having the same drive," says Palmer. "I've been in a lot of bands where we weren't on the same page, but we are and it really works."
"It's been great to feel so creatively free," says Stevens.
Vulva Culture's songs aren't exactly feel-good summer jams, but sometimes nothing quite hits the spot like a melancholy dive into some good old fashioned wallowing. The band is collecting these songs on a series of upcoming EPs, one in June titled In Vain, which will include the showstopping track "Human Garbage," and another in the works titled Arias, an ode to Amy V.'s love of opera: "All I talk about is opera and Columbo."
"All of my songs are 100 percent journal entries," says Amy V. "It's completely visceral, it's from inside of me."
"Kind of of like a guilty pleasure when you're going through a breakup and want to listen to Brenda Lee and sing these notes of sorrow," says Palmer. "It's letting people into your bedroom while you're crying."
"I don't need to be a super-energetic rock and roll band," says Amy V. "I want to make songs that make people feel like they're in Twin Peaks—make them feeling something different than they would at a typical rock show."