"We're Not Sexual Blobs!"
"I mean, we aren't sexless blobs," says Amanda Brown, one of the two lead singers of local psychedelic band Pocahaunted. She plops down at an outside table at Eagle Rock coffee shop Swork and immediately launches into a tirade about media sexism and everyone else's obsession with her band's boobs. All six of them. (It should be noted that Pocahaunted also contains two dicks and four balls.)
Her hair is bed-head-tousled and she's wearing a pink-silk kimono over tight black pants. Purple toenails peek from black, vintage platforms and tiny red lines bleed out around her mouth when she flashes a toothy grin. She's wearing Jackie O glasses but the creases of her eyes escape to the outer reaches of her face.
"Anyway, so I got asked recently in an interview if I thought I was ghettoizing women by only playing with women. Which first of all is so stupid, I mean, to begin with, what about [bandmates] Ged and Britt? It's like every time we do a photo shoot they want Diva and I to stand up front and I'm standing there looking at Britt, going, 'Doesn't this bother you? Are you mad?' And he just looks at me like, 'No, man, go ahead, you two be in the picture.' And then it's like, well, 'Who do you think we are? What is this supposed to be about? Are you selling us as your chicks? Your hot chicks?' The truth is, Diva is very sensitive to how we are portrayed and so if we're all taking pictures and the two of us are in the front and the boys are standing in the back, she will immediately go, 'Everybody stop, stand up and scramble. I don't want there to be a picture where the men are standing behind us.'"
L.A. WEEKLY: It's interesting that you would start our conversation this way because that's actually something I wanted to address.
BROWN: It's so infuriating. I mean, I bet that reporter wouldn't go up to Paul McCartney and say, "Hey, do you think you're ghettoizing men by playing in the Beatles?" I mean, am I ghettoizing musicians by playing in bands? You know, when it was just Bethany [Cosentino] and I, just two women, before Bethany started playing in Best Coast, we actually got fewer questions about our gender. There wasn't this "us versus the guys" thing going on.
So you feel like this "the girls versus the guys" agenda is being pushed onto your band?
Absolutely. You know, I've heard some amazing, amazing women say some amazing things about being women, you know, I'm a feminist, I love paintings of flowers that look like vaginas. If someone interviews Judy Chicago, she's putting that out there, but I just play in a band. It's rock & roll. But every view is valid. If you're trying to push feminism and you're into riot grrrl, that's incredible, but if you're also a musician in a band and you're like, "Look, I don't want to be confined by my gender," that's totally valid. But like I said, we're not sexual blobs and I like to feel sexual and I'm a sexual person and I like to move my body and I like to be seen as a woman. I mean I'm not wearing lingerie when I perform, but I still wear things that make me feel my body. So clearly we like being women. If I wanted to be sort of sexless, I would just stand there and cover up. But I don't want to be sexless. I mean, I think part of the reason people like Lady Gaga is not because of her music. Her music isn't very good.
Yes, it's terrible, but because she not only does sexy, but in a way does antisexy. She does gross stuff with our ideas of what it means to be attractive. She's playing with people's ideas of what's acceptable in terms of how we look. That's what's exciting about her, not her music. She's playing with her sexuality and it's intriguing to people. But really, I love being a woman. I've never wanted to be a man. In fact, I'm glad I'm not one.
Tell me about the craziest, most unexpected show Pocahaunted has played.
Oh, man, the first one that comes to mind was in Toulouse, France. I mean, this turned into Adventures in Babysitting. We get to this place and it's the most beautiful landscape I've ever seen. Just beautiful flowers and tables and chairs, and we're thinking, Ohmigod, we're going to play outside in this beautiful place, French people are going to be smoking rolled cigarettes, people are going to be eating baguettes, just lovely. But then we do an about-face and realize that that's the property. We are going to be playing in the property's dungeon. Like, the dankest, moldiest, oldest dungeon. Literally a dungeon, you go down a staircase that's no wider than your body and when you get down there, obviously people have been playing shows there for years so it's disgusting, no windows, no ventilation, like if there's a fire, you're dead.
So we all waited till the absolutely last second after we set up to go down there, and were thinking, Toulouse, France, a dungeon, there won't be that many people. Wrong. The place was mad-packed wall-to-wall, I could hardly breathe it was so hot, and we were stripping, Diva and I are in bikini tops, the boys have their shirts off, Ged is playing in his underwear. And, like, people were so excited, they were screaming louder than we were playing, everyone was dancing and singing. It was an amazing show. And when we were done, we have no more songs to play and everyone is screaming for us to play more and we're just, like, we have nothing left to play, literally, nothing left, that's everything, but they won't stop. So then, as a joke almost, I go, "Well, we've kind of been fucking around between sets, just to warm up with that song "California Love" by 2Pac and Dre, so Diva starts playing the bass lines and Ged's playing the drum beat and I'm, like, "California knows how to party," and they're crying from laughing so hard, so jubilant. It was wild. Toulouse, France, who knew?
Okay, what's Pocahaunted's Los Angeles "spirit band"?
I know Diva likes the Beach Boys and Britt would say the Germs, but for me, I think Madlib is the greatest thing and Stones Throw is the greatest thing.
Pocahaunted's got a little hip-hop?
Yep, we've got a little booty and I think I bring most of it. Ha! As a band we've gotten really into beats and we don't want to rock, that's not our agenda. We'd like [to be] Parliament Funkadelic for a new generation. I mean, you know, except that we aren't as talented. Those people are amazing, but we are into the live show and we want to move. We really want people to dance and I feel like bands have moved away from that unless their trajectory is dance music. Like, Vampire Weekend, okay, I can see that they're doing their thing, but you go to one of their shows and nobody's dancing and they're not dancing. We like to call our music body music, because with this re-emergence of world music or whatever, which is what Abe Vigoda does or what Vampire Weekend does, I feel like it's a little condescending to use the word "world." I mean, it's a bit Western and it's a bit white. Let's be real, people, none of us are making world music. So we call it body music.
And finally, if Pocahaunted had a spirit animal, what would it be?
Hmm, I'm kind of not really into animals.
What? But you're a raw-foodist, hippie type; I thought you didn't eat them because you loved them.
No. I know that's a weird thing to say, I kind of think they're gross. I mean, I'm going to get in trouble for saying this, but I love leather. I would cover my walls in leather if I could, but I don't! I think animals are awesome. They belong in the animal kingdom. I don't want them on my plate, near me where I can see them or smell them. I like them on the Nature Channel and in the wild. I don't even like them in zoos. I like a separation of church and state. So, I guess I would say [my spirit animal would be] Garfield.
But he's not a real animal.
I know. I just like his aesthetic. He doesn't like Mondays or exercise. I guess I would want it to be a fat, lasagna-eating cat.
Pocahaunted are: Amanda Brown, vocals; Diva Dompe, vocals, bass; Leyna Noel, vocals, keys; Britt Brown, guitar; and Ged Gengras, drums. They play the Echo Curio this Friday, May 28, before starting a U.S. tour in June, which will wind its way through Canada as well. They will embark on a smaller, Los Angeles–San Francisco tour with the band Mi Ami in July. Also, you might wanna track down their new video for the song "All of Is Of," from their latest album, Make It Real.
"We like to call our music 'body music'": Pocahaunted
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