Portland rockers Summer Cannibals released their fourth full-length this June, Can’t Tell Me No, which has proven to have a number of our favorite summertime jams… although not in the traditional sense… The album rings heavily of the best kinds of ‘90s rock, blending riot grrrl swagger with the kind of riffage that was often found on the second stage of Lollapalooza, in addition to the alt rock balladry that got many of us through puberty quite a few years ago… According to vocalist/guitarist/mainperson Jessica Boudreaux (via their latest press release), “Writing this record and making it ourselves was about liberation from the parts of an industry that have protected abusers for way too long, and about saying fuck you to the people who have invalidated my and so many others’ experiences of abuse.” The band are currently in the middle of a rather extensive US tour that will have them headlining Boot & Saddle this Thursday, August 15th. A few weeks ago I got the chance to chat with Jessica Boureaux about their latest album and what the band’s been up to recently in general and she had quite a bit to tell me.
Izzy Cihak: I realize this is a huge question to start with, but what have been some of your own, personal highlights of Summer Cannibals so far? You’ve been together for the better part of a decade now (which is kind of crazy).
Jessica Boudreaux: Phew, this is a tough one. We’ve been really fortunate to have gotten to play with a lot of our heroes and I think those tours have been the personal highlights. Getting to tour with Ted Leo and the Pharmacists last year was really special and Cursive this year was a dream. Consistently feel so surprised and grateful that bands we love have supported us and that makes this whole thing really special for us.
Izzy: So, I hope this isn’t offensive, but I actually think of Can’t Tell Me No as sort of a protest album, but not in that lame acoustic-guitar/bad hair 1960s kinda way, but just in the sense of being the work of a provoked artist that has a clear goal of communication. That being said, I’m curious if there are any other works of art, musical or otherwise, that you find to be particularly successful or inspiring in their attempts to disrupt the status quo?
Jessica: Not offensive at all! We took our name from a Patti Smith song and I think she is an amazing example of an artist who has been really successful in disrupting the status quo. Sometimes just existing and taking up space is a form of protest in and of itself. Being a woman who commands a stage and a space in a completely unapologetic way is a form of protest.
Izzy: I really dig the whole album, but I especially love “One of Many,” which reminds me of when the heavier ‘90s alt rockers were at their both snarkiest and most sonically quirky. I’m not sure if you know who Betty Blowtorch are, but they were totally ridiculously amazing and have ties to L7, and it reminds me of them. Anyway, how did that particular track come about?
Jessica: Thank you!! That’s the band’s favorite song off the new album. I love Thin Lizzy-style guitarmonies and I love pop music and I think “One of Many” combines those two things in a way that feels really satisfying to my personal taste. I wrote it about falling for someone who was in an open relationship and was EXTREMELY embarrassed by the lyrical content initially but have very much come around to it since then. I’m stoked you like this one 🙂
Izzy: How do you think the album compares to previous releases? Were you trying anything new on this one, or did it feel like a natural progression? I must admit, I like it that bands are getting back to recording an LP every couple of years, instead of like three dozen digital-only singles or EPs over the course of a decade, before putting out their first full-length.
Jessica: I wouldn’t say we were intentionally trying anything new on this album but I do feel like it’s very different from the last three records. It’s been a natural progression for me as I’ve gotten older and started to make other kinds of music the different projects kind of end up influencing each other. Cassi (guitar) and I recorded and mixed this album ourselves, making it the first SC album that was entirely self-produced and engineered… So I think that change had an effect on the sound of the music and the direction the record took as well.
Izzy: I also really dig your music videos (especially for “Full of It,” which I realize came off of a previous release…) They remind me of that point in the ‘90s when the aesthetic of the best of American independent cinema started making its way into the music videos for bands on labels like DGC and Sub Pop. Is there anything that you think especially influences the visual elements of Summer Cannibals?
Jessica: I was a film & video major before I started pursuing being a touring musician and was fully sure that’s what I was going to do with my life. So, I love using our videos as a way to scratch that itch for myself. I’ve been referred to a lot as “angsty” in this band and I think we’ve used our videos as a way to show a lighter side. I’m not a particularly angry or angsty person, so it’s important for me to make sure the band comes across as multi-dimensional as the members in it.
Izzy: How is Portland these days, both its art scene and just in general? I interview a ton of bands from there and I actually spent a lot of time there back in the day, but I haven’t been there since 2003. Any favorite local peers or “institutions?”
Jessica: It’s great! Although-to be honest we are almost never home. We’ve been touring pretty non-stop for the last year and I’ve been out of the loop on what’s going on here. There’s always lots of great bands popping up though-I’m a big fan of a new band here called Moon Shy and have been really into Tribe Mars. I wish we had more all ages spaces (there’s none!) but aside from that there’s TONS of great venues and great food and great art. It’s a lovely place.
Izzy: You’re in the middle of kind of a ton of dates. Are there any gigs you’re especially excited to play or just cities you’re especially excited to visit or revisit?
Jessica: Philly is on my birthday so I’m excited about that 🙂 Also always love playing Brooklyn and Boston. I’m originally from Louisiana, so it’s always fun to get to the south. Sadly, we aren’t going there this tour, but we do have a few Texas dates, which should suffice.
Izzy: What can be expected of the live show when you play Boot & Saddle?
Jessica: <3 loud and fun <3 playing lots of stuff off the new album, which we’re really excited about. Our drummer, Devon, has been working on a light set up that’s pretty dope. Field Mouse is supporting and they’re FANTASTIC and have a new record coming out the next day. It’s gonna be an awesome time!
Izzy: And, finally, what’s next for you, after these dates? How are you hoping and planning to wrap up 2019?
Jessica: After these summer dates we’ve got another headlining run in September in the northwest and Canada. Then we’ve got a lil support tour that we can’t announce yet 🙂 Then hopefully we’ll take the winter off to write a new record and be back next year for more touring!