Rats in the Louvre are no strangers to playing aggressively subversive music. The trio cut their teeth on distorted protest, getting their start by playing Bikini Kill standards for fun. Now they're setting their sights on shaking up the local scene. Both vocalist/guitarist Veronica Cruz and drummer Melissa Posod agree that music in Southern California can be overwhelmingly “consumerist” at times.
“I felt like a lot of aggressive angst in music had gotten lost and I wanted to bring it back,” says Cruz.
Cruz unintentionally started Rats in the Louvre in September 2014 after agreeing to assemble a crew to perform Bikini Kill’s CD Version of the First Two Records for Album Attack, an event where musicians perform an iconic album for one night only. She convinced Posod along with friend and former bassist of the prolific but short lived digi-punk act Le Shok Rusty Cavender to learn the set. After tearing through Bikini Kill’s feminist anthems, they felt inspired to write some of their own, adopting a subversive trajectory and critically embracing “low art” with their namesake as proof. “I read about how the Louvre garden is infested with rats and found it kind of funny and ironic,” says Cruz. The “image it conjured resonated with us, [exemplifying] low art subverting elite art, or low class subverting high class,” she said, noting that those same ideas guide the band’s writing process.
Their music is somewhere between art punk, experimental indie, and riot grrrl, blending angst with darkness, noise, and syncopation. Cavender’s experimental bass tones explore harsh dissonance, and ethereal, atmospheric soundscapes, while Cruz employs swirling futuristic effects under gritty tones, yells and growls. Drummer Melissa Posod’s background as a writer is obvious in her intention, utilizing dynamics and linear phrases to build the feeling of a story through percussion, vacillating between grunge and indie aesthetics.
Being artists and women impacts Rats in the Louvre’s music and process. Cruz believes writing and “arranging cohesive compositions while not being boring is very similar within art and music.” Posod believes that her gender is one of the biggest influences on her approach to music. “Ari Up said women have different rhythm [and] I think that’s true” Posod says. Her style behind the kit combines the DNA of drummers like Maureen Tucker, Palmolive, Lillian Marine, and Lislot Ha, who Posod believes have contributed a deconstructive view of rhythm. “There's a way female drummers interpret anticipation which is wholly female. Women are asked to be masters at creating anticipation, at least in a gender role kind of way, so drumming is [an extension] of it.”
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The band got their first chance to record recently with the help of San Pedro-based Water Under the Bridge Records. The label pressed their debut LP Rats in the Louvre on vinyl, featuring album art made collectively by the band, comprised of collage constructed from 1960s National Geographic magazines. Eight songs clock in at just under 25 minutes, ranging from smart-yet-heavy bangers like “Time & Space” to noisy jams like “Tiny Box.”
After spending 2015 perfecting their craft and opening up shows for the likes of Mike Watt and Bella Novela, they’ll share the fruits of their labor Saturday at 4th Street Vine in Long Beach where they will perform a mix of new and old material celebrating the release of their record. “The new songs are a bit more refined” Cruz says, “we are more in tune with each other now and know how we musically think.” This year, Rats in the Louvre are aiming to release some video content as well as a few new 7” singles. The goal, Cavender says is to continue “making music [Rats in the Louvre] wanted to hear that no one was doing.”
Rats in the Louvre perform with Prima Donna at Slidebar tomorrow. For details, click here.