(Photo by Nony Dutton @hey_nonster)
Washington D.C.'s Bacchae is taking the world by storm. Their 2020 record Pleasure Vision (via Get Better Records) is a gut punch filled with unconventional melodies, passionate and progressive lyrical content, and a whole lot of brilliance. Since forming in 2016, Bacchae have also released a demo, a self-released cassette entitled Down the Drain, and a S/T EP (also released via Get Better). Bacchae uses their platform to discuss the trials and tribulations of various relationships, the disgusting reality of harassment, as well as their distaste with a capitalist society.
We caught up with Bacchae - Katie McD (vocals/keys), Rena Hagins (bass/vocals), Eileen O'Grady (drums), and Andrew Breiner (guitar), and asked them a collection of burning questions - check it out below!
1. Hello! Please introduce yourself, your pronouns, and what you each do in the band.
Eileen O’Grady (she/her), drums.
Andrew Breiner (he/him), guitar.
Rena Hagins (any pronouns), bass.
Katie McD. (any pronouns), keys.
2. I know that your band’s name Bacchae (pronounced Bock-Eye) derives from an ancient Greek tragedy. How did that name come about, and what other names were considered?
EO: We made a list of a bunch of possible names, culled it down to a top 5 and then voted. I contributed the name Bacchae because I loved the Greek play for its chaos, tragedy, a potential to upend the ways we think about gender, sexuality, and liberation. And so that’s what we voted for.
3. You released your 2018 S/T EP, as well as your 2020 full-length Pleasure Vision on (one of our favorite labels), Get Better Records. What made you all gravitate toward Get Better, and what are some of your favorite artists on their roster?
RH: We had been following Get Better Records online for a bit and met Alex Lichtenauer in real life at a Control Top show in DC. The artists released on the label are all so amazing and it was really exciting when Alex asked if they could put out the S/T EP. We admired all of their previous releases and were so blown away that they wanted us to be a part of the GBR family. It’s been an incredible experience working together!
KM: We feel honored to be alongside all of the other artists on GBR! There are too many good things to say about everyone on the label. In terms of live music and recent music releases, I will say that HIRS has moved me to tears twice with the ecstasy of their live performances and Teenage Halloween's album (and album artwork) are two examples that immediately pop into my head right now!
4. Speaking of releases, your newest album Pleasure Vision, is incredible. How did you all come up with the concept for the title/album cover (Rorschach tests), and what was the writing process like?
RH: Thanks so much for the kind words, really happy you are enjoying the record! For the artwork, we started a thread of album art ideas in October 2019 and I randomly emailed the following when we were brainstorming:
“Just had another idea about album art, currently imagining a Rorschach test image but in color instead of black and white.”
Katie found some public domain images of the ink blots, added some color and shading, and played around with layout options. The layouts were shared with everyone and we voted on our favorite. When the album was released, Eileen received an amazing message from her parents.
EO: My parents are psychotherapists, and when they saw the album cover they freaked out because they didn’t realize the Rorschach inkblots are in the public domain and literally thought I had stolen them from their office. There’s understandably some discomfort with the blots just being out and about nowadays, and the original controversy about their release is pretty interesting to read about. Anyway, when the dust settled my parents just wanted to know what subconscious desires motivated us to choose those images for the album cover haha.
5. What are some of your musical and non-musical inspirations?
RH: There are so many amazing people that are constantly inspiring me. For example, our friend Farrah Skeiky is an incredible photographer and has captured almost every show we have played in DC, Baltimore, and even NJ. She is so creative and recently put out a coloring book with photos she’s taken at various shows. I am always so blown away by the photo projects she shares with the world.
KM: This year I've felt very inspired by TikTok; I know that sounds weird. It's exciting to see people make videos just to make other people laugh or feel better. Obviously TikTok is also a terrifying place because it's a reflection of the entire internet and there's a lot of bad stuff there too. But the types of ideas that people release into the world without being concerned about reception or economic gain are truly amazing; making good music also requires letting go of fear and riffing on other people's ideas. There is an evil, capitalist side to TikTok and all apps that run on algorithms, but I feel better about humanity when I see videos ranging from fart jokes to the tribulations of being a queer woman. I've seen a lot of videos this year regarding "taboo" subjects like period blood that I never would have seen or heard about any other way. It's really comforting.
Lyrically, I've been very inspired by Megan Thee Stallion for the past couple of years. She's a lyrical genius and her music brings me up when I'm feeling low.
AB: I’ve been learning to identify mushrooms recently. Finding a topic that has a whole universe of information I don’t know anything about and just starting to dip my toe in is exciting. It reminds me just how much there is in the world to experience and learn and communicate.
6. When looking back at 2020, I see portions of it as a year of self-exploration/self-discovery. What are some things that you all learned about yourselves during this time?
RH: I did a bit of journaling and learned to set goals and boundaries.
KM: I learned to treat myself kinder and approach others with less negativity.
AB: I’m pretty ok with not leaving the house on a day-to-day basis, but it’s the “big” stuff like large gatherings and parties, traveling, and of course shows as audience or performer, that I really miss.
7. Grrrls Like Us is all about featuring bands/artists that we enjoy listening to, as well as ones who carry a similar ethos (inclusivity, progressive thinking, feminism, etc.), all of which tend to be on the more political side of the spectrum. What kind of issues do you all tend to speak up/speak out about? Do you feel like there has been a progression with those issues?
EO: I have worked in the labor movement for most of my adult life, so by default most of my day-to-day activist work ends up being geared toward union organizing. And I’m a socialist so I am overall focused on fighting for working people to have power.
RH: I live everyday as a Black person in a country that has failed to admit to the unjust treatment of the Black community, so I honestly feel like existing in my skin is a form of protest in itself.
It is clear that 2020 was a turning point for the Black Lives Matter movement, particularly with national coverage of the horrific murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. There has been a lot of momentum with protests, and fundraising efforts, to fight for justice. I do hope that this energy continues, and also feeds into uplifting the Black community and celebrating Black joy. We are more than just a fleeting hashtag when our lives are taken away at the hands of the police.
AB: Clearly, there are so many things wrong right now. I think the problem that links all of the things together is that our existing system is not capable of fixing things, and is a major force making them worse. So I’m in favor of people taking a more adversarial attitude towards the rich and powerful: they are our enemies and we have to work together to take power away from them, because they aren’t going to give it up without a fight. I think there has been progress on this recently, with BLM the reaction to the way disadvantaged people have been treated during the pandemic as good examples.
8. If you all could tour with any band, who would it be and why?
EO: Screaming Females because I will never get sick of seeing them live.
RH: Mannequin Pussy. I’ve had tickets to see them a few times in the past couple years, but something always came up last minute and I didn’t make it to any of the shows. They are one of my favorite bands and it would be truly incredible to tour together.
9. What is something you all cannot live without while on the road?
EO: Naps and alone time.
RH: Snacks, iced coffee, and good driving music.
KM: Coffee and Pepto Bismol.
AB: Getting to eat before a show. Having someplace interesting to check out near the venue when we’re there hours before the show starts.
10. And last but not least, what do you hope for the future of Bacchae?
RH: We started working with Brian Gorsegner at Wired Booking at the beginning of 2020 and had some exciting tours lined up. We only got to play one show before we cancelled the rest of the plans, so we are really excited to tour on Pleasure Vision when it’s possible. Hopefully people wanna see these songs live when it’s safe to do so!
KM: We are also currently working on more songs. It would be fun to tour on two albums in 2022!
AB: We’ve contributed alternate versions of songs and a cover song to a few different compilations in the past few months, with another one to come. I’ve really enjoyed working on these smaller projects where we feel freer to try things out and stray from our usual sound. So I hope we get to do more of those!