by Nancy David-Kho
May 12th, 2016
Michelle Gonzales and I met when we were castmates in the 2013 Listen To Your Mother show in San Francisco. Sure, her sexy boob tattoos hypnotized the audience, but it was her story about joining her son in his elementary school talent show that hooked them (and me) for life. Michelle’s got a new memoir out about her life as a Xicana punk drummer for the punk band Spitboy and I asked her to make us a mixtape inspired by her book, The Spitboy Rules…by Michelle Gonzales
Like everybody else, Perimeno punk rockers probably do get stuck in a rut. Many listen to music from their youth, not bothering to seek out new music. Some refuse to listen to new music produced by their old favorite artists because they’re afraid it won’t live up to the music they were making when you first discovered them. For these reasons, I am thrilled to get this guest spot on Midlife Mixtape – to play some of my old favorite songs and some of my new ones.
Like us mid-lifers, a lot of old music holds up really well and deserves being discovered over and over again, but that shouldn’t stop of us from continuing to discover new music, new sounds, and new ideas. Many of the songs on my playlist are only on vinyl, some are only on CD, some are only on youtube, and all feature Latinos. You probably know this already, but not all Latinos play mariachi music or sing in Spanish – some say Latinos invented punk. I’ll let you all debate that. In the meantime, I’ve got a mix tape for you to listen to that includes some of my music and music made by friends.
The video depicts a closeted trans woman attempting to steal a skirt from a small boutique run by Garlika Stanx and Alice Bag. Let’s just say the punishment does not fit the crime and the whole thing will warm your heart.
The Shhh is a side project of the legendary Alice Bag and Martin Sorrondeguy (Garlika Stanx). I could watch this video everyday, and if they ever go on tour, I am going to beg to be their drummer. If you don’t know, Alice Bag is the most famous punk rock Latina in the world, and the author of Violence Girl: From East LA Rage, To LA Stage, a Punk Chicana Story. Her band The Bags formed in the late 1970s, in the early days of punk. She inspired so many of us. Martin Sorrondeguy is the singer of Los Crudos and Limp Wrist. I’ve been friends with Martin since the Spitboy days. You can read all about our friendship in the book.
Since I just mentioned Martin Sorrondeguy, I have to play a Los Crudos song, my favorite, “Curisosidad.” Turn your speakers down if you’re not used to pure hardcore punk, but don’t worry, like all Los Crudos songs, this one is short — just 50 seconds long. It’s about rejecting shame and gendered racial stereotypes, accessing our curiosity, and questioning everything, and it has a great guitar lick.
This song is a near perfect punk song. In 1979, if someone asked you what punk sounded like, you would describe this song: fast, loud, with a driving beat, and defiant lyrics about a woman who owns her anti-social behavior, who refuses to live up to anyone’s standards. The singer, Alice Bag, is a true punk pioneer for all women in punk and for Latinas everywhere.
I often think of “In Your Face” as one of Spitboy’s signature songs, but that might just be because I wrote it. It’s about the objectification and commodification of women’s bodies to sell products. The lyrics are particularly succinct, and I still can’t believe I wrote it in my early twenties. If you watch the video closely, you’ll see that I break a stick and barely miss a beat when I have to reach out and grab a new one.
I play guitar and sing back up on this track from the three song 7” Kamala and the Karnivores release, “Girl Band,” 1989. Kamala and the Karnivores was a pop punk band that, at the time, was loved by nerdy dudes who fetishisized female musicians, and just about no one else. I was asked to join Kamala and the Karnivores after my first band broke up and before I formed Spitboy. Ivy, the singer/song writer, painstakingly taught me to play each guitar part, which I’d forget easily, so she’d have to teach them to me all over again. I said “yes” to playing rhythm guitar player because I was already hooked on being in a band, all female bands. Kamala was the drummer, so I couldn’t have taken over on drums for the person the band was named for.
I’ve noticed that in recent writing about Lookout bands that Kamala and Karnivores are finally getting the respect they always deserved, and when you hear “Love Like Murder,” you’ll get what I mean.
There are actually no Latinas in the female fronted hardcore band, I Object, but “Seriously” is a Spitboy song, our first song, a song that I wrote. It’s a simple three chord song (it actually may have four or so) that I wrote in advance of Spitboy’s very first practice. It’s a song about sexual harassment, and I Object ’s version is so great. There’s nothing like hearing your own song covered the first time and hearing a band improve on it too.
“Xicanista” is the newest release on my playlist, and the latest by Bombon Band, a surf rock trio of Xicanas from San Pedro, California. It’s a surf rock meditation whose only lyrics are “Somos Xicanistas. Somos Feministas!”
We are Xicanas. We are feminists!
When fellow writer Tomas Moniz told me about cholo goth group, Prayers, I was all in without even hearing a single song. This song “Gothic Summer” sealed the deal, and then I heard singer Lefar Seyer/Rafael Reyes discuss the importance of self-love and how loving his band mate was a form of that love. I think I’ll be a fan forever.
You can see evidence of the affection he talks about it in the beautifully shot video. And who doesn’t love a video shot in a cemetery with black and Latino kids of various ages running around having the happiest water balloon fight ever? Prayers’ forthcoming EP is called Baptism of Thieves. The song “Gothic Summer” came out in 2014, but I’ll be rocking it all summer 2016. I hope you will too!
Want to read more? Michelle is giving away a copy of The Spitboy Rules to a lucky Midlife Mixtape reader! To enter for your chance to win, leave a comment below…we’ll use Random.org to select a winner on Wednesday, May 18 at 5 pm PST!
Want to see Michelle’s fancy tattoos in action? Join us on Thursday, May 19 at A Great Good Place for Books in Oakland at 7 pm where she’ll read and dish about life as a Xicana punk rock drummer!