Somewhere out there, Etta James and Iggy Pop are scratching their heads and asking, "How in Christ's name does The Gossip come up with this shit?" This Portland-by-way-of-Arkansas three-piece crushes their garage rock crescendo with more soul than BET and more angst than a pack of small-town teenagers. The band's latest offering, Standing in the Way of Control, is a potent blend of R&B and spasmodic rock that's got asses bouncing and bodies crashing from coast to coast. Lead singer Beth Ditto explains it all while hanging curtain rods.
How did you hook up with Kill Rock Stars?
I was 18 and we just moved from Arkansas. I didn't know shit about Kill Rock Stars. I literally thought that they were a tape label out of a bedroom. We started playing house parties, and Carrie Brownstein from Sleater-Kinney saw us, and Calvin Johnson from K Records saw us and asked for our 7". Then Carrie was like 'You should go on tour with us.' So we put out the 7" with K, did a six-week tour, and right before we left to go on our tour with Sleater-Kinney, they were like 'How do you guys feel about putting out a full length?' And I was like, 'OK.' That's how we got stuck with them.
How does it feel to play bigger venues as opposed to house parties and basement shows?
I miss little shows because I really hate business. I like money, but I hate business. I like energy. If we play a show [in a big venue], and there's 30 kids, that's a shitload of kids. That's like half of my graduating class. It just feels weird because you're in a huge venue and you're being treated all weird. But if you're in a basement, it just makes sense. I always find that I'm at my best–I perform better, I sound better, I feel more comfortable–when I'm at a show with 30 people. It's just more fun. I miss basement shows a lot.
Do you feel the spirit of punk is still alive and well?
I am a punk who makes music and I feel like I'm in a punk band. I think the spirit of The Gossip is very punk. It comes from a raw place.
Your new record definitely reflects that raw place.
When the record was made it was all about encouragement. This major label wanted our record, but we were doing it with Kill Rock Stars. We were like 'We're going to do it the way we can and make it as big as we can and spread this message, and make a living off of it'–which is capitalist, but necessary. What else am I going to do? Work at McDonald's?