Formed in 1990 by guitarist Stefanie Sargent, bassist Elizabeth Davis, drummer Valerie Agnew, and singer Selene Vigil, 7 YEAR BITCH are currently one of the hottest up and coming bands in the underground music scene. Despite the death of Stefanie on June 27, 1992, the band has continued to carry on. Joined by guitarist Roisin Dunne, a long-time friend of the band, 7 YEAR BITCH have completed a European tour, followed afterwards by a tour of the U.S. Due to the publicity currently surrounding "girl" bands, 7 YEAR BITCH are prone to be compared to other hot "girl" groups of the moment--Babes In Toyland, Hole, Lunachicks, and L7, with whom they played several dates (and who was featured in the #9 issue of THE ROC). Nonetheless, these four musicians are putting out some of the best music out today, a fact which is eventually bound to overshadow any press about the band's gender. Targeted by the Washington Erotic Music Bill (see #9 of THE ROC for details on the bill), the band was kind enough to take time out and let me talk to them about it before their show with Silverfish at Emo's in Austin, Texas. Thanks to Selene for loading the film in the camera for me; otherwise, I wouldn't have had any pictures to go along with the article!!
Jane (ROC): What do you think about censorship?
Elizabeth (E.D.): Well, you know, of course, it prohibits people's freedom.
Roisin (R.D.): You mean those little stickers that they put on records? Is that what you're talking about?
E.D.: Well, I don't know...I don't care that much about parental guidance stickers. I think it helps increase record sales myself.
R.D.: I think it's pretty cool the way L7 incorporated the explicit lyrics censorship sticker into their logo on the...umm, I think it was the last album.
E.D.: They put it on Bricks Are Heavy.
ROC: Do you think that prohibition only fosters what it's against?
ROC: If they say they're against this, then they're only going to sell more?
E.D.: Yeah, but that's good. It's good for musicians to have a little bit of censorship and a little bit of fight from the right wing, because it makes people a lot more forward about what they're singing about and what they do. But, the bad by-product is that a lot of people just write about a lot of stupid, sexist, violent, racist crap just to be outrageous, because they know that it's a hot thing to be censored. But I don't know...
R.D.: That's a good point.
E.D.: I was raised with a lot of, like, religious discipline and so on. That was really inhibiting, but in the end, I'm glad that I was because it...I don't know, I think it keeps you on your toes.
R.D.: I like the fact that things can rattle somebody's cage, but in a general statement, no, of course, I don't agree with censorship. And a good example is, you probably have it in one of your questions there, is a bill they tried to pass in Seattle--I'm sure you're aware of it. If it had passed, I would've gone mental. I mean, that's insane, and it's actually...Where is it now? They're trying to pass it again.
E.D.: Yeah, well, we testified against it with a bunch of other bands in an affidavit, and it got thrown out, but they're going to try to put it back through again. But I don't think it's really going to affect things at all if it passes, really.
R.D.: But that's an actual law, though, because you got places like Tower Records and major corporations where some, like, 15-year old kid's gonna lose his job, and some, like, assistant manager making $2000 a month or whatever is going to lose his position at Tower Records because he sold some Body Count record to a kid under 18. I think it will actually have an effect, and that's where I do actually draw a line.
E.D.: Yeah, but I don't know about that...
R.D.: I have no qualms about going and buying the Body Count record for the guy, you know.
ROC: From what I heard, they want to prohibit selling anything to people that are under 18. If a person that owns a record store sells it, they'll get put in jail.
E.D.: They'll get arrested like that guy in Florida.
ROC: Doesn't it, like prohibit recording of the stuff?
E.D. & R.D.: Nah...No.
ROC: Do you think it's the parent's responsibility or the government's to say what their kids should listen to and how they grow up?
R.D.: I think it's the kid's responsibility.
E.D.: It's the parent's, definitely, I'd say. I mean up until you're a certain age, your parents tell you what to do. That's the way it is.
R.D.: I mean, I didn't really have any guidance from my parents as far as what I listened to. If I dug up a Black Sabbath record when I was 5, I did, and that was just the way it is. I don't think it fucked me up; I don't think anything happened, you know. But if the choice is between the parents and the government, obviously it's the parents. But ultimately, it's the kid.
ROC: Do you think that censorship stems from fear of younger people finding out certain things that maybe parents don't want to talk about?
R.D.: I think there's a lot of things that people are singing about, and even myself, I'm 27 years old, and I've actually listened to stuff that's kinda shook me up a little bit and it kinda freaked me out. You know, in the long run, it's fine; I would never, like censor that. Body Count's a perfect example of a record that totally, like, kinda fucked with me for a while by living in L.A. And I was just like, "Whoa! This is some really weird shit." It made me kind of pissed off about a lot of things that were happening down there. What was the question!?!
E.D.: I think that parents...it's just, like a desperate bid to control their kids. I mean, kids are having sex younger and doing drugs younger, and so they're just trying to find something to do to make it seem like things aren't so crazy for young people.
ROC: I can remember being in the fourth grade and going and asking my Mom what sex was about, and she had no problem with it. But I have friends that their parents wouldn't talk to them about it at all. And as far as I'm concerned, it's like the parents have this fear of talking about sex because they think their child's going to go out and do it. I think it's better to have information about it.
R.D.: It's a tricky issue, though I mean, 'cuz there are definitely situations where--and I stress isolated situations--where people discover certain things through records and music and peers that, had they been informed properly by their parents, they might not be in the situations they are now. Drugs are a good example, too. They're isolated situations, though. I can't stress enough. But that's where the courts and the government...those are the situations where they hone in on it, you know. The kid that committed suicide to an Ozzy Osbourne record or whatever. That's why it's not a surprise to me that there is something called censorship, because these situations do arise. They are totally legitimate things that do happen.
E.D.: Yeah, that's because rock 'n' roll is evil, and it should be evil. If everyone accepts it and all the parents are like, "Yeah, that's great," buying their kids...
R.D.: Yeah, it's weird. I mean, there's definitely negative sides to it, weird, twisted things.
ROC: Do you think your music is erotic? What's your definition of erotic?
E.D.: I think the way that the bill was explained is really different than the title of the bill. The title of the bill I think is a really bad call on their part by calling it "erotic" because...I mean, that's just so stupid. Like, okay, so it's an erotic music bill--that means you can sing about, like, killing somebody because of what race they are or whatever: that's not erotic, certainly, but it's really violent. I guess that does not come under the...I guess there's no violence aspect to the erotic bill. I don't know; I just think it sounds like a weird title for a bill, doesn't it?
R.D.: Yeah, I agree.
E.D.: I don't think any of our songs are erotic, but the things that have been a problem with us has just been, like, the name of the band. But so what?
R.D.: It's kinda funny. I mean, like the fact that Fred Meyer (major record chain in the Pacific Northwest) won't put--we were on the cover of a local magazine (The Rocket), and it's a free zine, and they would not give away the zine at their store in the little zine rack that month. Right?
E.D.: Yeah, just little stuff like that.
R.D.: Because "7 Year Bitch" was on the cover.
E.D.: We have a lot of swearing in our songs.
R.D.: I think it's funny. I can only laugh at that. I think it makes the whole thing more interesting.
ROC: Do you think it's a question of obscenity instead of what's erotic?
E.D.: Yeah, I think it should have been "obscenity" or "violence" instead of "erotic." That was a really weird way to title that bill. I thought, because, "erotic"? You don't even have to have lyrics to have a song be erotic.
ROC: You don't even have to listen to songs to think of sex. (Laughter from Elizabeth and Roisin) Well, that's my opinion.
E.D.: Frank Zappa was censored on an instrumental album. Yeah, because he has a bad reputation.
ROC: Were you all just plaintiffs in the Erotic Music Bill; what else did you all do?
E.D.: Well, basically what happened was they had a bunch of really big bands, and then I think somebody said, "Oh, we should have some women do it." Just to make it more politically correct. So, we're one of the only all female bands in Seattle, so that's why they asked. The other bands on the bill are Soundgarden and Heart and Nirvana. I think we are like the token females kinda.
ROC: So, you think they stuck you in there just to be politically correct?
E.D.: I think so. Plus the name of the band. I don't know--maybe because of the name of the band or maybe they think we would have some problems selling music in certain stores because of the title of the band.
ROC: I think you all answered about what's going on with it now. I think they're still trying to pass it.
E.D.: They're going to try to put it back through the House.
ROC: Do you think that your music reflects society and the problems that face people today?
E.D.: Most of our songs are about relationships. Selene writes a lot about relationships. No, I think she writes about herself; she doesn't try to make herself an example, but I think people relate to the words a lot. I think there are some songs like "Dead Men Don't Rape"; I think that's a song a lot of people can really get behind it, because they're like, "Yeah!" It's a really strong song, you know--killing rapists. I mean, that song appeals to definitely a basic emotion. But the rest of them are pretty personal.
ROC: What about the song "Gun"?
E.D.: "Gun"? Yeah, "Gun", too, is about when people really piss you off and you just wanna blow their heads off. It's just about being violent. I'm kind of a violent person. Everyone in my band, except for Roisin is kind of violent-oriented. We are all like pro-gun and so on, except for Roisin.
ROC: I got a letter from the NRA the other day asking me to join for 3 years for $68.
E.D.: Well, we're hoping they'll sponsor us.
ROC: What about the song "No Fucking War"? Was that about the Gulf War?
E.D.: We wrote that, like, three days after the Gulf War started.
ROC: What inspires you, and who are your influences?
E.D.: My Mom is probably my biggest influence. Musically, I don't know. I grew up listening to a lot of different kinds of music. I mean, I really love Jane's Addiction, I really love Babes In Toyland, I really love the Velvet Underground.
R.D.: And she loves Helmet.
E.D.: David Bowie, Soundgarden...
R.D.: Soundgarden, Black Sabbath...
E.D.: Grunge! Grunge!
ROC: What do you think of Tipper Gore and her resigning her position at the PMRC?
E.D.: I think Tipper Gore is completely inconsequential.
(Drummer Valerie Agnew, finished with setting up her drum kit, joins in.)
E.D.: Tipper Gore.
V.A.: Who gives a fuck about her?!
E.D.: I think she's embarrassed.
ROC: Do you think she's going to affect legislation?
V.A.: She's just a puppet like a President is. She's just a figure-head. Some people target her. There's a whole bunch of shit going on behind the scenes. Like, people that made these decisions six years ago, you know. That shit's going to go through no matter who's there.
E.D.: She's even more of a puppet.
R.D.: She's way more of a puppet than the President.
ROC: Valerie, what do you think about censorship?
V.A.: What do I think about censorship? I think it sucks.
ROC: That's the stock reply.
E.D.: I told her I thought it was good, because it makes the underground really underground.
E.D.: It makes the devil's music really the devil's music.
V.A.: No way, man! Censorship?
E.D.: It's good man. It keeps you on your toes.
V.A.: You were just going off the other day about how much you hated people censoring stuff.
E.D.: It's good though. I mean, in a way, it's good. It's good to have a super right-wing...
V.A.: You were just going off...it goes into the whole drug thing. It's just like saying if someone wants to do a whole bunch of drugs and go in their room and die from it, that's their prerogative. It's the same thing with, like, pornography or any of those things.
E.D.: I still think that by having these people that are really, like, super conservative and really right wing, I think it makes rock more exciting, you know? If it was all acceptable so easily, then nothing would be, like, crazy or radical.
V.A.: I don't think that by not having censorship you don't have things be acceptable.
E.D.: It's the idea. There's always the threat of censorship, and it keeps people on edge.
V.A.: But that's the big difference between legal censorship and, like, thought censorship.
E.D.: I know, but she said, "What do you think about censorship?" and that was my answer.
ROC: Don't you think prohibition only fosters what it's against? It will just make the person want it more.
V.A.: I think people are gonna do it anyway. I just don't think the law...I don't think there should be a governmental body, particularly made up of white men, making a bunch of laws telling me what's going to be censored and what's not. I don't wanna follow any of their laws, and certainly not ones that have to do with artistic, creative outlets. I think that's bullshit.
ROC: Do you think it's the parents' responsibility to raise their kids and pay attention to what's going on...
V.A.: I think it's people's responsibility to take care of shit themselves. I think when people are really young, yeah, obviously, parents are the first people that are going to affect a child, but I also think that once they reach a certain age, you know...I mean, children are affected not only by their parents but by, like, schools they go to and the communities that they live in. So, I don't think that it's solely just the parents' problem. Like, if there's a mother of five kids, and she doesn't have the ability or the time to teach those kids really well, I don't think that's her fault and that she's responsible for having corrupt kids in the world. I think that people are affected as much by, you know, neighborhood kids down the street or the daycare that they go to or anything like that. So, I think you have to have community standards, and you have to have people involved on a conscious level. And that's up to people themselves. I'm not comfortable with the government coming in and me how the kids in that district need to go to school and what they need to learn, because they don't know fuck all about it. They're not from that area; they live across the goddamn, fucking country, and what are they doing telling me what people in Atlanta need to learn, you know? So, I just think there's something fundamentally wrong with the way everybody sets shit up.
ROC: What's erotic to you, and do you think your music is erotic?
V.A.: Sure, yeah. I think music is erotic. I think that rock music is extremely erotic.
R.D.: We already answered these questions; I don't really agree. But, you know...
E.D.: I wouldn't say all music is erotic.
V.A.: I mean, music as idea is erotic. It appeals to that side...
E.D.: I said the same thing. I said it doesn't even have to have lyrics to be considered erotic.
V.A.: Yeah. It's not a political thing. It's just, like, anything I get excited about or I do. I mean, throwing bottles against a wall can be erotic. It's just something that you throw yourself into that much. I mean, everything's based around sex, right? We talk about that all the time. Well, not everything.
ROC: Who are your influences, and what inspires you?
V.A.: Uhh...I liked a lot of different stuff. I grew up with a lot of pretty basic rock background. A lot of, like, Van Halen, Black Sabbath, that kind of thing. Then I got into high school, and I got influenced by a lot of punk rock. I was really influenced by Chrissie Hynde, Patti Smith. But mostly I'm influenced more, a lot of people that I know, like...Right now, I think, like, the best drummer I've ever seen in my life was just the other night, Bruce from Bomb. He's totally great. I think Lori Barbero (of Babes In Toyland) is a really cool drummer. I like watching her. I'm influenced by her.
ROC: Do you think your music is relevant to what's going on in society today? Do you think we're dealing with the same issues as we were a long time ago?
V.A.: I think a lot of the issues are the same. Like, on a philosophical level, people are always struggling with all the questions about nature and life and all that shit, so on that kind of level, yeah. It's the same old thing coming down from generation to generation. I think our music is relevant to what happens to us now. Selene writes about what's happening to her now and her thoughts about things and things that affect her, so we're not writing about what happened in the labor movement in the 1920's or something like that.