Phoenix is bustling with LGBTQ+ musicians. QueerSounds explores how queerness affects the underground Phoenix music scene and the musicians who are part of it.
To join The Pübes, you have to pass a series of tests. One, do you know where Four Peaks is? Two, are you a lesbian? And three, can you bring your own drum set to rehearsals?
In 2009, Roc Smith answered "yes" to all three and joined bassist Ivana Pluchya and guitarist Baretta Lynn in the long-running punk act. Now, founding members Pluchya and Lynn couldn't imagine the band without her — not that they take the project too seriously.
“When we started, it was honestly kind of a joke,”
According to Lynn, the root of all Pübes songs typically starts with one question: "Wouldn't it be funny if we have a song called this?" Since 2006, this creative process has yielded tracks called “Cameltoe,” “Razor Burn,” and “Red Riot," and even more graphic lyrics.
The band has endured for more than a decade for a pretty simple reason: The Pübes make up their own rules.
“I equate The Pübes with just having fun,”
“The Pübes are a release of lady magic,” Lynn says. “Some people go to the gym or run a marathon, some people collect stamps and we drink beer and write songs about cameltoe. It’s our workout.”
“I’m hitting the gym again today,” she says, taking a big gulp from her amber beer.
There's a certain level of self-described "douchebaggery" involved when playing with The Pübes. That's one of the reasons each member has a jokey lesbian-rockstar alias. Pluchya says there's a certain fun to be had hiding behind a stage name — especially since this creative outlet is a far cry from their day jobs as an educator, web developer, and an operation manager.
"There was a certain consideration for our jobs, not that we ever felt threatened or anything,"
Lynn finishes that thought: "They're either going to hire me and come to every show, or you're not going to hire me."
"For me, my douchebaggery and jackassery are rattling this cage in my psyche," she continues. "So, for me, an alias provides an outlet so I can be like 'Baretta's here, oh shit, guys.' It's an excuse to turn it up to 12."
When The Pübes are working on new music, like they are now, they don't adhere to rigorous writing schedules. Instead, the focus is on collaboration and mutual respect.
"We constantly have a bank of little riffs and things that were playing with," Lynn says. "We'll just play them until they turn into something and that's how it happens. So, it's always collaborative and collective. In previous bands, like Roc's former band was a metal band. They were very specific, with odd timing and key changes. But ours is like, 'You're the drummer, play the drums.'"
The Pübes have never felt rushed to make a new album, but they are working on new material that could turn into an EP. They're waiting for Smith to move into a new house that has a studio place for them to record a preliminary cut of the project. Yet untitled, it will be their fourth release. They've recorded two studio albums and a live album.
There might still be some copies around, but the pre-Smith record is mostly lost and forgotten. They recorded it in a closet ("We were those lesbians, in the closet" Lynn noted) on a digital eight-track. The group's bonafide first album, Pretty Fresh, was recorded in 2011 at
In 2016, the trio recorded 10/10 Live Again at the Cash Inn Country, a club they've played throughout their career that's now known as The Cash Nightclub and Lounge. Smith recorded the album, which proved challenging, but showed off The Pübes' live show atmosphere.
"We did have some logistical nightmarish pieces because someone got their hands on a cowbell and a fork," Lynn recalls.
A suspicious smirk appears on Pluchya's face. "Well, I gave her the fork,"
Said fork-and-cowbell-bearing concertgoer banged on the instrument a bit too hard in front of the audience microphone, which interfered with the quality of some tracks.
They recorded their third album, Better, Better, Better, in 2016. The title comes from Kactus Kate's, a bar that The Pübes sometimes play in Cottonwood, Arizona.
"Kate is usually walking around this
The trio didn't know how to take her backhanded compliment but thought that it was funny enough to make into an album title. On the album they discuss menses, fulfilling sexual desires, and other topics, some specific and some universal.
Despite The Pübes' crude, honest sense of humor, or perhaps because of it, they attract fans of all sexual orientations.
"We're not like, 'We're a lesbian band and fuck you if you're straight,'" Lynn says. "We're a lesbian band and we're going to make you love women just as much as us. And gay guys love us, straight guys love us, and lesbians love us, and straight women are like, 'What the fuck is happening? Can I make out with her?"
Sometimes, The Pübes are sometimes better received outside of the gay community. And they take their role as bridge-builders for understanding the gay community very seriously. That's why the play shows at straight bars where "straight dudes jam to songs about their period," according to Lynn.
"We aren't that man-hating lesbian punk-band," Smith says. "That's why we make a point to call us a queer-core comedy band. We're not going to Ani DiFranco this shit."
They recall coming out B.E. — Before Ellen.
"Martina Navratilova, that was like it," Smith says of famous lesbian role models around the time that she came out to her mom. "I was like 'please no, don't lump me in with them, I'm not going to be like them.' And then you grow up and you're like 'I am.'"
Now, the three take pride in their identities.
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"I've never identified as queer and that's only because it's not my vernacular," Lynn says. "I'm a lesbian, I'm
Pluchya prefers to call herself "butch," and says that she hopes for a world of racial and sexual fluidity, eventually.
The Pübes next show is at Pho Cao, 7436 East McDowell Road, Scottsdale, on Friday, March 30. They're scheduled to play at 11 p.m. Other acts on the bill include Carol Pacey and Andy Borunda, The Blood Feud Family Singers, and