Diva 93 is the musical brainchild of Jess Buns, who describes her current endeavor as a "bitchy, lusty, rusty vocal+synth+bad beats project." Since 2012, Diva 93 has put out a wide array of compelling releases that fluidly blends experimental electronic numbers and tone poems. The results are often arresting and challenging, providing (along with Buns other musical outlet, Yoni Yum) a distinctive sonic layer to the modern Twin Cities sound.
In anticipation of Diva 93's PUNISH/ABANDON/REWARD tape release show at the Hexagon this Friday, Gimme Noise caught up with Jess to chat about the show's eclectic line-up, how hyperbolic fantasies weave their way into her lyric-writing process, and the responsibility that comes with being an engaged feminist in the local punk scene.
Gimme Noise: How would you describe Diva 93?
Jess Buns: Diva 93 is a personal experiment I started in 2012. I am very lucky that I have a lot of love in my life--some dear friends and a former partner gave me new instruments and tools to play around with and encouraged me to try something different on my own. That's what I did and now it's this ever-evolving fun thing I get to do.
I never am able to play the songs the same way twice because I'm not like, a trained musician, and I mess up a lot, so if you see me play once, the next time it's going to be different. Maybe that is a negative thing for some people, but I think it's more exciting, and that's just who I am. I am incapable of being a perfectionist and it's only me up on the stage, so I just hold myself accountable.
Why a cassette release?
My personal preference for music listening is cassettes, because they usually sound great, they're easy to pack up and take somewhere, they don't get scratched like CDs, they're cheap to produce, and I like being able to afford to buy a $5 cassette and a t-shirt when I go to my friends' album releases. Maybe someday I'd do vinyl but I can't afford that now!
How'd you pick the show's line-up?
I've seen Breakaway perform probably ten times now and every time I have seen him I shed a few tears because his music is unlike anything else I've ever heard; it's otherworldly. I've been lucky to play with him a few times and had him play a brunch show at my house which was so lovely. I'm a huge fan.
Homebirth is two of my best friends' instrumental organ and drums project. It's Sam Molstad (who also plays as Orchard Thief), and Britta Anderson. They recently returned from living in Montana and I've been seriously missing hearing them play.
Well is a new band I haven't even seen yet but I listened to their recordings and I was very impressed! Murder of Bros: A Dudechoir is a group I don't think many of my friends have gotten to hear yet, and I think they deserve to be seen and heard! They are a group of male identified, experienced singers, doing choral arrangements of 90s grunge songs, and obviously nobody else is doing that in Minneapolis!
I found out about them through my friend Scotty Reynolds who I met when I was volunteering at Interact Center. I love going to see shows where each band is so different from each other and I feel better about booking shows like that.
What sets your bands (Diva 93 and Yoni Yum) apart from the stereotypical punk band?
Well, Diva 93 is definitely not punk. I don't even know what it is to tell you the truth. I've played Diva 93 at punk shows and felt bad about myself afterward because it seemed like people were very bored or confused, because you can't dance to it and it's not party music.
I'm not even sure how to categorize Yoni Yum either because we were never like, "Let's be a punk band!" but we've become known as a party punk band. Our friend Graham said we were shock rock which I thought was hilarious. We're working on writing things inspired by disco, goth, and Middle Eastern psychedelic stuff right now, which I also do with Diva 93. It's all related I guess.
What's a typical song-writing process like for you?
I start with a beat, either by recording a simple drum loop with a microphone, or messing around with a half broken drum machine, and adding various clicks and sounds with my mouth, a roommate's guitar or bass, or sometimes my trombone which I don't play very well. Then I add sounds from a synthesizer, and the vocals come in last.
Or it can be the other way around and I start with the vocals. It's songs that I wouldn't really want to play with a band because I don't exactly want to talk to collaborators about the material, and it's really fun to work alone sometimes. The lyrical content is mostly abstract, dreams and fantasies, secrets, shameful tales that I don't need to elaborate on.
You've mentioned before that you've been trying to use your current acclaim as a way to foster awareness on misogyny and assault in the local punk scene. How would you say you're accomplishing this?
I don't know if I necessarily have acclaim status yet, but this is about more than misogyny and assault in the local punk scene. It's about rape culture in general, and the way it has affected all of us. I have definitely gotten angrier about it since I have been single and spent more time in the punk scene and made more female friends who have opened up to me about their experiences with sexual assault and rape in our very small scene.
I'm really fed up with it and I am sick of seeing my friends silenced and ignored and unable to feel safe at shows. I didn't talk about my experiences as a teenager and young adult until a few years ago when I realized that what happened to me was so unacceptable.
I read something new every day about this or that college fraternity being shut down because of a gang rape, women in India who can't leave their homes without the threat of rape; a ridiculous number of friends have shared their traumatic experiences with me here and in other cities and it's just so overwhelming. I think 85% of my friends have experienced abuse of some sort. It feels wrong to keep our mouths shut anymore.What can you divulge about your music video? [Which premiered today on Local Frames
The music video is all about learning how to be alone after an epic breakup, which is kind of what most of the album is about too. It was shot by Joe Berns (of Melodious Owl, American Cream, Palmers Skaryoke, and The Atmospheres fame), with help from Ray Jackson. My friend Ronnie Droher (who also plays my "boyfriend" in the video) did the costumes and makeup. Ronnie also designed the art for the album, PUNISH/ABANDON/REWARD which was recorded by Trent Urness at Blank Wall Recording.
Tell us about the digital MP3 compilation you're planning to release.
This is on the back-burner at the moment because of so many other commitments I have currently, but I am hoping that this spring I can finally put it together. I have a small list of bands that have said they are interested in participating. The idea is to put together a digital compilation of awesome Minneapolis bands on bandcamp, and have people pay what they want for it, and any proceeds will go directly to a local organization that helps victims of rape and abuse.
I understand you're incorporating a donation drive into the Diva 93 release show that ties to April as Sexual Assault Awareness month. Can you elaborate on that?
I am really fortunate that I have a full time job and I am getting by just fine with that. Music is not about making money for me; music is about expressing myself and sharing with people. I don't need money- the Sexual Violence Center does. They get assistance from the government, but they still always need donations so they can keep doing what they are doing, which is helping people who need it.
They also need brand new underwear for patients to wear when they leave the hospital, because after a rape examination, underwear is often kept for evidence, and the victim is left with either no underwear, or underwear that isn't appropriate for their preferred gender. So I hope that some of the people who attend the tape release bring new underwear for SVC! If anyone plans to do that, keep in mind that it is best to keep it gender-neutral.
What's next on the docket for you, show-wise?
On April 10th, I will play for Orchard Thief's tape release at a secret location with Robust Worlds, Molly Raben & Bryan Hitchcock and Brenda's Friend from Bloomington, IL. April 11th, Yoni Yum will be playing at the Seward Cafe with Mary Allen and the Percolators and The Sex Rays. Also, Yoni Yum will be playing on April 16th for The Wake's 13th Birthday Party celebration alongside The Miami Dolphins, B.O.Y.F and Human Kindness.
Then on May 6th, Syko Friend and I will be opening for our sweet friend Sara Century from Seattle at Madame. She will be performing an 85 minute musical! After that, I will probably chill out and maybe do a tour in the fall.Diva 93's Tape Release show is at the Hexagon Bar on Friday, April 3 at 10 p.m. The show is free and 21+.
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