Wretch wants to free your nipples.
Over mid-afternoon hot dogs in Northeast, the members of the Minneapolis glam-punk trio Wretch reflect on their unified sex-positivity — in fact, they might even be the first band to meet through Tinder.
Wretch bassist Jeremy Warden and drummer Seth Tracy befriended each other in high school, and played in various configurations as a duo for years before finding a singer. Looking for a new element to add to their attacking instrumental sound, the pair turned to every social media network they could to find a female singer, including Tinder.
Sonja Johanson was the only match that followed through with an audition.
“I’m not going to lie, I use Tinder for pretty unconventional means, as opposed to the traditional means that I think it’s made for,” Johanson says. Immediately, her Pat Benatar-via-Kathleen Hanna howl solidified the trio’s concise, crunchy sound.
In their first rehearsal together, Johanson flipped through a notebook of poetry and shouted along to the band's jams, resulting in gems like “#1 Punk,” featuring provocative lyrics “Free your nipples, free ‘em / I really wanna see ‘em.” The song pairs well with Wretch’s provocative image, including a press photo in which all three members appear blindfolded and topless, electrical tape covering their nipples (see above).
Johanson says it’s a subtle fuck-you to websites like Facebook, with its policy on censoring the female anatomy.
“The interesting thing about female nipples is that they’re technically illegal,” Johanson says. “The nipple tape is an idea of solidarity. Even though [Warden and Tracy] could be totally topless in those pictures, I couldn’t be.”
Onstage, the band’s sharp doom-punk aligns with their Mad Max-style costumes, with Tracy and Warden dressed in masks, tank tops, and short shorts while Johanson’s doused in gold.
“We look like weird, male athletes,” Tracy says. “It’s a macho spoof.”
Theatrics have always been important to Wretch, who count Flaming Lips, Of Montreal, and David Bowie as live influences. “When there’s so many shows and so many bands, I feel like it’s important to make your show spectacular,” Warden says. “If you’re performing, you have to be the most interesting thing happening in that room at that moment.”
Johanson’s rollicking, wide-eyed shriek was exactly what Tracy and Warden craved, as the pair felt their minimal setup needed a feminine dichotomy.
“It was important to us to find a woman to sing for basically every reason,” Warden says. Tracy adds, “basically anything but a CIS man. A feminine voice is what we wanted.”
When Johanson found Warden and Tracy’s Tinder account, she immediately reached out the pair for an audition.
“I believe what [Warden and Tracy’s] Tinder bio says that had me most interested in joining the band was, ‘We’re looking for a rad lady to come and dance and scream and shout with us onstage,’” Johanson says. “Those are all things that I do pretty frequently.”
They played their first show as a three-piece two weeks after Johanson’s first audition.
“When I came to the first practice, I was like, ‘This could go one of three ways: I could get murdered, I could join a really badass punk band, or I could pass on a couple guys just making music in a warehouse,” Johanson says. “As soon as [they] started playing, I was really blown away.”
Since that initial warehouse jam last winter, Wretch have carved a niche in the local music scene, taking influence from acts like Yoni Yum and Kitten Forever while maintaining their own identity. In fact, Kitten Forever is playing with them for Wretch’s “Kink” EP release show Monday at the 7th St. Entry, a show that will celebrate how far the trio’s come this year.
With naming their debut release Kink, Wretch continue to cultivate their origins colliding punk with gender and sexual politics, maintaining their “sexy band” status, as Tracy puts it.
Hot dogs packed away, I suggest to Johanson, Tracy, and Warden that they once again create a Tinder account for Wretch and invite matches to the release show.
Immediately, the band receives an abundance of positive feedback from lonely hopefuls.
“Hey congrats on your EP release,” one match, Brendan, says. Another, Lex, keeps the vibes going. “You guys just gave my Tinder experience a much needed boost. Thank you for being awesome.”
It’s a weird concept to hook new fans via Tinder, but Warden says that Wretch is all about being weird.
“The idea of a wretch, someone that’s not accepted, [is] fitting because then we can be that and make everyone else feel comfortable in that solitude and that independence,” Warden says. Tracy echoes the same idea. “Everyone’s an outsider.”
The trio’s openness as a band reflects their feminist values, especially Johanson’s efforts to level the Twin Cities arts scene to all genders.
“I think it’s important to stress equality not only in everything, but especially in the Minneapolis music scene. It’s been a boys' club for a really long time here, and it’s finally starting to shift. I don’t want it to be a battle between men and women at all, and that’s why I love being a feminist band with two guys,” Johanson says. “Our lyrics straight-up say, ‘Feminism is for everybody.’”