Bitch on her evolving identity and what she learned from Ani DiFranco

 
 

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Life’s a beach for Bitch—or is it the other way around? Indie singer/songwriter Bitch, now also known as BEACH, boasts a long and eclectic career. From touring with Ani Difranco to starring in John Cameron Mitchell’s Short Bus, to lending her talent to a documentary about the legendary musician Ferron, Bitch does not shy away from ambitious undertakings. Most recently, she launched Beach, an indie-electro rock project. Not only that, but her new album In Us We Trust has been celebrated by Magnet and Vibe.

Before she hit the road to promote her projects, Bitch spoke with AfterEllen.com about what the word “beach” means to her, the importance of inter-generational friendships and a certain alligator.

AfterEllen.com: Who are your influences?

Bitch: I was raised by a mother who constantly sang show tunes, and a father who listened only to jazz.  Along with those two genres, I was very influenced by The Muppets, Stevie Wonder, Cyndi Lauper, Ani Difranco, Sinead O’Connor and Joni Mitchell.

AE: Which musicians working now inspire you?

Bitch: All of the above, plus Janelle Monae, Nikki Minaj, MEN, Emily Wells and Sia.

AE: How do you feel your classical training influenced your technique/style?

Bitch: My classical training is the only reason I can do what I do today.  Sometimes you have to learn something before you can totally deconstruct it.

AE: What’s your writing process like?

Bitch: I write lyrics all the time. For this album, I was thinking about the performance/live setting more than I have in the past.  I was focusing on writing for the super-hero I carry around inside me, who I named Bitch years ago. I usually start with the words. My partner, Billie Jo, would feed me lots of fun beats and I would write to those too.

AE: Can you talk a little about your decision to go by Bitch and your subsequent decision to distance yourself from the moniker?

Bitch: My former band-mate, Animal, and I named me Bitch.  I wanted to reclaim the image of a powerful, out-spoken woman being a positive, colorful force in the world.  I wouldn’t say I’ve distanced myself from that, but more added another layer. BEACH is a feeling of total positivity, inclusiveness and a statement about the ever-changing nature of our world!

AE: Why did it feel important to keep your birth name secret?

Bitch: When we made Bitch and Animal, we decided to keep our birth names secret.  We saw ourselves as superheroes, in a way. We didn’t want to reveal the “inner Linda Carter.” These days, I feel I have less to hide, and that makes me feel even more powerful.

AE: You’ve toured a lot with Ani Difranco. What’s one thing she taught you?

Bitch: Ani has taught me that the world needs outspoken voices. Being unique is a gift. Being strong is a struggle, and one we should never stop trying for.

AE: What was it like working with my boyfriend, John Cameron Mitchell?

Bitch: Amazing!  He taught me so much about patience. About how to be soft-spoken but still get what you need. He is the Yin to my Yang. I will let him know he is dating you now!

AE: Thanks. Because we’ve been together since Hedwig and the Angry Inch came out, I guess he should probably know. Over the years, you’ve brought Ferron to a new generation of fans. Why was this personally important for you to do?

Bitch: As women and especially lesbians, our legacies are often forgotten or invisibilized. When I first heard Ferron sing, I was almost heartbroken that I had never heard her, let alone even heard ABOUT her! It was just so telling of how, as a community, we need to have inter-generational friendships so we can learn from each other. I feel like our queer community is so youth-oriented, and we easily brush off what our elders have done for us. That is something I work to change.

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AE: How did the documentary/accompanying album come about?

Bitch: I had made an album in 2008, called Boulder. It was some of my favorite Ferron songs, re-imagined, how I wanted to hear them produced. It was a great success, very well-received.  All sorts of awesome people played on it—Ani, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers (Indigo Girls), Julie Wolf, JD Samson (Le Tigre, MEN), Tina G from God-des and She, Lyndell Montgomery (Ember Swift), Midtown Dickens, the women from Ulali, Geo Wyeth, etc. They wanted to play on it out of sheer admiration of Ferron’s work. When I met Billie Jo, we began to dream about also making a documentary of her. Of course I couldn’t stop there!  There were still songs I wanted to record her singing, so we ended up making an accompanying album too! The movie is called Thunder and the album is called Lighten-ing.

AE: You identify as a feminist but more and more young women are eschewing that label. Why do you think that is?

Bitch: Women are still so oppressed. The oppression is so deep that most of us don’t even realize we are oppressed. That is super intense. The fact that feminism has gotten a bad name is not at all shocking, considering that our mainstream culture is hell-bent on keeping it that way.  Of course there is a need for feminism. It should be a celebrated thing, the same way any civil right is.

AE: What’s your take on Miley Cyrus? Bad influence or smart rebel?

Bitch: Haha!  We are so obsessed with tearing apart women! We live in a culture that rewards sluttiness. It’s an easy choice. Of course I wish she would go a little deeper, but ultimately I support ANY woman doing whatever the EFF she wants. I just wish she would think more outside the box! But again—if we don’t even know there’s a box there, it’s hard to think outside of it.

AE: Tell me about this…alligator.

Bitch: Alligator is a mad scientist creature, much like the Wizard of Oz, who sits behind the “Machine” and feeds me sonic bliss. On stage, we have dance moves and soon there will be a video element added too.

AE: Take us through a typical day on tour.

Bitch: Today, we woke up and drove to some diner that had gluten-free options. Then we drove to Philadelphia.  Got to the venue early.  Our Lady J (my friend who is on tour with me right now) is off looking for a Halloween costume.  I’m here in my dressing room, while Alligator is setting up our instruments for the show!

AE: What inspired your project, BEACH?

Bitch: I really wanted to make uplifting dance-y music. It was a shift for me, sonically.  This stuff is poppier than anything else I’ve made. So I wanted to name the shift. BEACH is a place that is constantly changing. It’s where the land meets the water. It’s where all of our pollution and destruction surfaces.  We value it and trash it all in one.  It’s a whole mixed bag.  Life is complicated. So is my art. BEACH is a joyous way to name that.

AE: Why is it important to you to develop a community with your fans?

Bitch: Because ultimately all we have is each other. My music is nothing without the people who appreciate it.

In Us We Trust is available now.

 
 

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