Gay Witch Abortion aren't afraid to get weird.
The stoner/noise duo—Jesse Bottomley on guitar and vocals, Shawn Walker on drums—has earned a fair amount of notoriety from its name in the decade-plus the two musicians have been twisting distortion and thump into an implausibly catchy racket. They don’t have a bassist most of the time. They’ve played shows on rooftops and rafts and from the back of vans, even at the now-defunct 22nd Avenue Station, the strip bar that launched a thousand Nordeast sweatpant boners.
As consummate professionals, Gay Witch Abortion take this rock and roll shit pretty seriously, which is probably why Walker responded to my e-mailed questions with a photo of a Japanese cookie jar shaped like a cat.
This month, Learning Curve Records is releasing GWA’s new split LP with San Antonio, Texas instrumentalists The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, and the band will celebrate with a show featuring Tongue Party (who are releasing a split 7-inch with the UK’s USA Nails), Seawhores, and MURF at the Terminal Bar.
Wait, the Terminal Bar?
“Well, the lady at the Terminal said OK,” says Walker, once I get the two on the phone. “I just didn’t tell her the band names.”
“We always like to try to do something a little unusual for release shows, and we just thought about the Terminal Bar,” says Bottomley. “Neither of us has played there in 20 years or something, so that’ll feel weird. Plus, thinking about the Triple Rock closing and all that, we didn’t know what places were going to pick up the slack. It’s kind of funny to think about people starting to play at other places that aren’t established.”
Bottomley’s awfully laconic for a guy whose band invites an element of danger to their shows. Even stunts that would be odd for any other band—like the time they played seven sets in front of seven different venues in a single night—are just another day in the life. As Walker animatedly puts it, “Getting the gear on the roof of Memory Lanes or having to screw gear into the deck of that raft going down the river [at 2009’s Art-A-Whirl]—that was weird.”
But it’s precisely Gay Witch Abortion’s laid back attitude toward taking risks that makes ‘em so damn good. Formed in 2006 or 2007 (even they’re not sure) the two members were music scene vets-- Bottomley in the Pollen and Vinegar Madonna, Walker in a number of bands, including Ouija Radio and Chooglin’. “When we started it was our intention to have bass or another guitar, but it never seemed to work out,” says Bottomley. “Playing in a two-piece is pretty liberating after all the time spent thinking you need vocalists and other instruments to make a band.”
Their caustic sound and crazy name drew the attention of Learning Curve Records’ Rainer Fronz, who would put out both of their full lengths and was instrumental in putting together the split LP with The Grasshopper Lies Heavy.
“The three times The Grasshopper Lies Heavy have played in Minneapolis they have had killer shows,” says Fronz. “Every show has had Gay Witch Abortion on the bill. The guys in the bands clicked pretty well -- both bands are face-melters in a live setting.
“The bands are really a nice mash of current noise rock,” he adds. “The Grasshopper tracks are unique because they are mainly an instrumental band and the tracks on the split have vocals which is a departure from their normal output. So this is more of a pop record for them and the GWA stuff is so driving and abrasive yet seamlessly catchy.”
Recording this latest batch of songs took about three days at the Terrarium with Jacques Wait engineering. “Jacques always does a great job,” says Walker. “He’s really great at letting us just come in and say, ‘we’re going to play a bunch of stuff, can you just record us and make us sound good, or not?’ And he’s like, ‘Yeah, I can do that.’”
“We’re really comfortable around him,” says Bottomley. “The way it actually transpired, it feels really good and natural working with someone like that.”
A few of the new tracks also include contributions on bass from Amphetamine Reptile honcho Tom Hazelmyer. “It’s been good to have Tom playing bass on some of the last recordings and helping to write and record. Now when we play some of those songs without him it sounds kind of… twee.”
“Twee” is not a word I’d ever use to describe Gay Witch Abortion, who punch out dirty riffs based in ‘70s rock then distort and grind ‘em up to the point of no return. They’re a band of sheer volume both in sound and the amount of songs they write. In fact, GWA has so much material that it’s actually harder to keep track of what songs they’re putting out sometimes.
“Whenever we can we just try to record what we have that’s worth recording and come up with what to do with it afterwards,” says Bottomley.
“I didn’t actually find out what’s on the new record until about a week ago,” says Walker. “My record player doesn’t work so I got the test pressing and I was like, ‘Awesome! I don’t know what’s on this. Cool. I don’t even know what this thing sounds like!”
“When we were making up the set list for this show we actually had to look up the record online,” adds Bottomley. “I forgot what we titled the songs,”
Gay Witch Abortion
With: Tongue Party, Seawhores, MURF
Where: Terminal Bar
When: 9 p.m. Fri. Dec. 1