Photo courtesy of Erase Errata
What’s up, Erase Errata! It’s been a minute...or nine. Nine years, in fact, since the San Francisco trio last released a full-length album. In the early to mid-2000s, Erase Errata took quavery yelps, sing-speak angst, sweet melodies, ballsy bass, and angular, dissonant guitars to create their own twist on jittery, whip-smart art-punk. There were dashes of post-punk retro-isms, but it was fidget-pop that felt too alive and too present to be relegated to the late 70s and early 80s. People were hungry for it then, and we're stoked to welcome Erase Errata back to the fold now.
Check out a stream of their new fourth album, Lost Weekend, below.
Meredith Graves of Perfect Pussy also interviewed Erase Errata singer Jenny Hoyston about the band’s birth and their hiatus, the Bay Area scene, and the important effects that pot, vodka, and urgency have on songwriting.
Noisey: I wanted to talk to you about the history of punk and the history of all-female punk bands in the Bay Area. What’s changed since the last time you guys were super active as a band?
Jenny Hoyston: A lot specifically has changed in San Francisco, of course, I’m not traveling internationally with the band anymore, so I can't speak for what’s going on outside of the US, but here in Texas as well, I’m seeing more women playing music, more women in punk bands.
What does it feel like to know that you’re kind of a role model for that?
I don’t know if I am. The kids that are playing music these days, I doubt many of them have ever heard of my band. I would think of maybe more like Kathleen Hanna being the role model. I really doubt anyone’s looking up to me in that way, but I do appreciate it a lot. I volunteer for Girls Rock Camp (as does Ellie) and teach ukulele to the LGBT center teenagers who drop in some nights. I think we’re seeing a lot more nurturing of women playing louder music. Women have always kind of historically been told, “Go play the flute, honey, go play the piano.” I think there’s a lot more encouragement, society-wise, for girls and women to pick it up and be loud and noisy.
You guys had a hiatus. and there was no concrete, definitive gesture of, “Okay, we’re fucking done as a band,” right? It seems like that’s why it’s important for you to reunite now. There’s a lot of women-centric stuff going on in music, like Sleater-Kinney doing the same thing; like you guys, they wrote something new.
Right, right. Honestly, this album was recorded and it’s been sitting in the vault for maybe almost two years at this point, by the time it comes out. Generally with Erase Errata, we’ve always been of the belief that we’ll never break up, because we still enjoy getting together and playing music with each other. Because of life and supporting ourselves and just kind of generally branching out in our personal foci, we aren’t able to get together and play as often as we’d like to, but I can’t imagine it not being fun when I play with Ellie and Bianca.
It’s just as easy for us to write a song now as it was in 1999—it’s more about the time factor of actually getting to be in the same spot. Bianca has an infant son, Ellie’s in grad school and is a full time employee of a nonprofit in the Bay Area, and myself, with my other bands and my festival and my full time job, it’s kind of a rare occasion that we actually get that time together. With the Lost Weekend, we got the opportunity to play a music festival in Iowa City, and I happen to be good friends with a guy who owns a music studio there—Luke Tweedy— and he said, “You’re gonna be here, let’s just get in the studio and turn the microphones on.” And we all just kind of knew that we would be able to get together and make an album, if given the three days of vacation time there in the studio, and enough vodka and grass and whatnot going around. I don’t even see it so much as a reunion. We didn’t set out to get the band back together and make an album. Everything fell into place and we did what we’ve always done, we kind of improvised a new set.
Erase Errata has always operated with a very specific sense of urgency. Now, it might be because you’re fighting to find time together, but improvisation always lends itself to a certain kind of urgency.
Absolutely. Even the formation of the band, the very first time we got together, it was kind of a prank we were playing on my and Bianca’s roommate, Luis. He’s the drummer in Pansy Division and plays with the Avengers and lots of great bands. He was away on tour, and we knew he was coming home that evening, and we thought it would be funny to throw his bed against the wall and have a party in his room and take lots of pictures of it. At the time, Bianca and I had our two piece band, and Sara and Ellie had just moved to town, and we all kind of fell in friend-love, and were just enjoying hanging out and listening to records together. Then we had this funny idea that we’d drag all the instruments into the room and do this thing. It was a time crunch: we knew he was coming back and we wanted to put his room back together exactly as he left it. It was funny and it was conceived in urgency.
Even with the recording of the last record, we knew we had a finite amount of time to track the instruments and then for me to go back and put horns and vocals and stuff on everything. Things have always kind of happened with that urgency, there’s always been a time crunch for us. I think it comes out in the music, too. This record is a lot mellower. The sound might be a little more mellow these days, but the urgent situations have continued.
The songs are about three times longer on average than on your past records. Did it feel like a natural extension of having been together for so long to write longer songs?
We don’t have the best attention spans, but I think that they definitely have increased over time, as we’ve gotten older. It used to be that we’d just get bored with a part, or bored with a song, and say “I don’t want to play this longer than a minute.” So all our songs would be about sixty seconds, some of them ninety seconds. Generally now we are kind of okay with finding a groove and focusing on it and letting it evolve, whereas back in the day. we were so ready to move on to the next sound or the next part.
So it’s definitely about keeping thoughts flowing and moving on to the next idea without moving on to the next band or the next people. You’re doing all these actions with this urgency, but you’re sticking together.
I just think when we found each other— especially Ellie, Bianca, and I, who have continued the band as a three-piece for the majority of the band—when we found each other it was so rare and beautiful. To find a great drummer that fits your style, that you love playing with, and that great bass player that’s so unique and creative and takes the bass to a whole new place, it was a rare find. I was a bit older than the other girls when we started the band, I’m 42 now, and I had already been in a bunch of bands by the time Erase Errata formed. When I found these guys, I knew what I had and it’s very special.
Also personality wise—there was probably an eight-year period where we were touring everywhere. Like, "Here we are in Europe, here we are in Japan, now, I’m in New Zealand." We’ve spent months and months and months together in enclosed spaces on the road, and didn’t kill each other. In fact, we had some pretty great memories over the last couple decades. I think it’s very special, what we have, and I think it’s unusual.
What are your tour plans?
We don't have them. We would like to play in New York, and LA, and San Francisco, and of course, Houston and Austin, but I don't know when. Things have been difficult to navigate since Bianca had a baby. It's a lot! We are hoping to do all that, we plan to do all that, but we're not sure when.
Will you be playing SXSW this year?
I will be there, and I'm not sure what I will try to catch or anything… I enjoy attending a festival that is not affiliated with SXSW, called Gay By Gay Gay, that's been going on for about twelve years. It kind of started as a backyard joke party where a bunch of queer and trans people were getting together to put on an alternate party because they weren't being represented in pretty much any fashion (though now, all of that has changed with the introduction of New Orleans bounce into hipster culture). Back in the day, there was zero representation other than, you know, maybe I was onstage sometimes. I'd look around and not see anyone else of the queer perversion, but anyway, it's moved to a giant sound system out on a big piece of land, which is really cool.
As we get older, we see fewer and fewer women our own age in punk. So for people like me, who are in our late twenties, when we see bands like you guys that are still active, we're like, "Okay, we've got to hold out a few more years because we've got to live up to their standard." You guys still being together makes us want to hold on.
I'm 42, I still go to shows, I went to one last night. I got to hear someone yell at Mary Timony and her Ex Hex band, "You all don't need no men up there!; then, my friend turned to me when the next band was playing ,and she was like, "They don't need no women up there!" because of course it was all guys playing in the next band. It's hilarious, same as it ever was when it comes to that dynamic. When Erase Errata first started, the sound guys would come up and try to show you how to plug a quarter inch cable into your guitar, or walk up to your amp and turn knobs. I don't see that kind of stuff happening any more. I do think women kind of have to come out swinging when it comes to establishing boundaries and whatnot with sound guys. Baby steps, I guess.&
Do you think people will be surprised by the new material?
Yeah, we're a little more adult-contemporary these days. I'm not sure, at this point, I think people are expecting that when women get up on stage. that they're going to hear a traditional punk band, or more of a riot grrrl sound. Maybe we might be a little more mellow than people expect these days.
You're contemporary adults.
Coming to a retirement home near you.
Meredith Graves fronts Perfect Pussy and she's on Twitter.