When life gets too complicated, it’s always best to return to the basics -- basics like punk music where emotions can blare freely without walls and hidden meanings.
In the year that Minneapolis band Naïve Sense have been together, the quintet -- Natalie Grace Krueger, Jeff Truckenmiller, Noah Paster, Mikey Hansen, Thomas Rehbein -- have forged a community that finds strength in each other.
Even if you don’t often listen to hardcore punk, their new album -- to be released on cassette at Wednesday’s show at Reverie Cafe + Bar -- sticks out. Like talking to someone in another language, Body Trauma captures that feeling of not understanding the words specifically, but the meaning somehow blasts across the cultural void.
We chatted with Naïve Sense ahead of their record-release party about hardcore's place in the Twin Cities music scene, dismissing haters, and how the trans experience informed Body Trauma.
City Pages: In a city full of singer-songwriters and hip-hop, what draws you to this type of punk and hardcore?
Natalie Grace Krueger: For me hardcore has offered a specific emotional release. I've always been into other genres of music that this city has had to offer. But a lot of things are pretty contrived.
Yeah, we have a hip-hop scene, but it's one that is dominated by white dudes. Yeah, we have a singer-songwriter scene, but I'm tired of hearing sad bastard love songs. Where are the politically confrontational lyrics like in the '60s? Just because you have an acoustic guitar doesn't mean you have to write feel or not so feel good love tunes. Yeah, there are exceptions. But mostly I find white cis people with a middle class upbringing singing songs relevant to that experience. It's just not me.
While I can attest that the hardcore scene is dominated by lackluster bro dudes who really want to "Make Hardcore Great Again," this scene at least offers me an outlet to be abrasive, authentic, and challenging. There is more to life than being in or out of a relationship.
Thomas Rehbein: Abrasive music has always appealed to me and that element is certainly to be found with hip-hop and solo artists, as well. I subscribe more to the notion that punk is an attitude or worldview vs. a look/sound.
So, in that regard, someone like Francis Brown or Bricks & Bones is punk. But I enjoy the fast, loud, and furious aesthetic of hardcore punk. It's a good frame for addressing things that anger us and to let off some steam. Plus, it's fun!
Noah Paster: The energy and sense of unity at the shows. I have a huge amount of respect for the folks doing singer-songwriter and hip hop -- Andrew Broder of Fog is one of my all-time favorites -- but punk and hardcore will always be my jam.
Jeffrey Truckenmiller: Punk and hardcore are my roots. Reversal of Man, the Locust, Combat Wounded Veteran, and Converge were/are some of my favorite punk/hardcore bands growing up and I still find it very exciting. Hip-hop and singer songwriter stuff can be pretty cool but I just never personally gravitated toward it as much as I do punk and hardcore.
CP: In the year that you have been together, what's the most impactful thing you have learned being in this band?
TR: It's okay to let go of toxic people.
NGK: This is my first band. I didn't know what to expect. But I definitely think I learned that anything and everything is possible. I've had the opportunity to do so much cool shit, and we've barely left [the Twin Cities]. We've barely scratched the surface of what is possible to do when you and some of your best friends get together and make music.
JT: That within a year of being in this band, so much cool shit can happen in your life. Like for instance we get to play the Song of Zarathustra reunion show in October. Shit's wild. I'll never take it for granted. I hope I never do.
CP: I saw Tommy recently posted about people accusing this band being a gimmick in being that it is led by someone who is transgender. What do you say to people like that? Does it bother you to be defined as a band that has a transgender member? How do you want to defined as artists?
TR: Someone told me directly the band is just a gimmick. It was pretty dismissive and snarky.
If you're a promoter, definitely ask the bands you're hosting how they would like to be represented before slapping "[blank]-fronted band" on a flyer because different bands will have various and valid reasons for using or avoiding certain descriptors.
For us, we play a genre of music that has been predominantly full of tough guys, so it felt necessary to challenge that idea, create visibility, and also let people who identify as queer/trans/non-binary there's a show where they'll have some representation onstage and where the environment is more inclusive of people who do not fit the usual hardcore mold.
People have described us simply as a "hardcore band" or whatever and I'm not going to correct them. In some ways, labels can create barriers. On the flip side, certain descriptors also help to remove them, you know?
NGK: So is my entire life a gimmick? In a scene that is dominated by the same type of cis, het, white men, is it a gimmick to let people who are normally on the fringes of the rest of the world know that there is someone who is just like them on stage? Is it a gimmick to build a safe space for your community?
I might be an artist, but I bring every part of my identity to the stage just as everyone else does. I bring my passions, anger, hopes, anxiety, and every other emotion to my art. It doesn't bother me to be defined as a transgender musician because that's who I am. What bothers me is when people let out their own bigotry and accuse my friends of using me as a gimmick.
So what if we label ourselves as a trans-fronted band? This has brought people to our shows and given them a safe space. Fuck the haters.
NP: Thankfully this hasn't come up with any friend or family member. I'm guessing each member will have a different take but if people view Naive Sense as a "gimmick"? ahh ... well ... piss off then? I'd like to think we live in a progressive enough city and the scene we're apart of is mostly progressive. It doesn't bother me to be known for having a member of the band who is apart of the LGBTQ community.
On the other hand: I played in a group for four years and our singer was gay. It never really came up with the press and always thought that was cool. Folks treated us like we were a band that had cool music. I'd hope the public would define Naive Sense as a band that's good and makes unique art. However, I hope that the public knows we really embrace LGBTQ, people of color, and women at our shows, and hope that tough guy wankensteins of yesteryear hardcore stay away.
CP: Tell me about the album name Body Trauma.
TR: The entire concept is Natalie's. Musically, it's a nod to some of our powerviolence and grind influences. The whole thing is like seven minutes long.
NGK: I like to play around with words. My notebooks are filled with gibberish; a lot of words that I put together and think sound cool. When writing for this release, I had been processing a lot of emotions relating to being a trans woman. Most of my thoughts at the time drifted toward the trauma one experiences when your body and life don't fit into what is perceived as "normal."
That's what Body Trauma is about. It's not to tell people what I think about big social issues or the hardcore and punk scenes. It's about processing the trauma of being a trans woman in a world dominated by white patriarchal colonialism.
CP: Where did the song "Femme As Fuck" stem from? How do you decide on lyrics without it straying into too preachy or redundant?
NGK: Having shorts songs help keep things from being too redundant [laughs]. With the song “Femme As Fuck,” I just wanted to write something as a trans femme that made me feel empowered.
Too often I feel like I'm being treated as a fetish or that any time I stand up for myself I get treated as a "crazy bitch" -- FYI, that's dude talk for having threatened a man's perceived superiority over a femme. There was and always will be zero intention to preach when I write lyrics. It's about my experiences. But sometimes my intention is to just tell people to fuck off.
CP: Why did you decide to release on cassette?
NP: Vinyl is spendy and tapes are the bomb.
JT: Cassette's are affordable to do. Hopefully we can do vinyl some day but unfortunately we don't have the bloody wherewithal at this very point in time!
TR: There's a demand for cassettes from the audience and they are relatively inexpensive to make. CDs have fallen out of favor and we do not have the funds for vinyl. Plus, we can listen to it in the van's tape player!
CP: If people have not seen you perform live before, what can they expect to see at the album-release show?
JT: Angry. Noisy. Fast. Loud.
NP: Come out for Mikey's last show. I only joined this group a few months ago and will miss the hell out of him. One of the last times you'll see us as a five-piece! It'll be loud, fast, and sweaty.
TR: It's Mikey's last show with us, so we'll be throwing him a going away party before the move to Seattle. Probably lotsa hugs. Maybe some cake! And tapes for sure!
With: Degenerate Era, Victor Shores, the Reptillian, Lucas Herrera
When: 8 p.m. Wed., August 24
Where: Reverie Cafe + Bar, 1931 Nicollet Av., Minneapolis
Tickets: $6; more info here