Talking "Rock and Roe" and Birth Control with Russian Arms and Optics

Behold, sluts! You can now combine your love of live music with your desire to get the government to cover your floozy behavior. 

Just kidding. Sort of. On March 15, those of you who aren't at Radiohead can visit Crescent Ballroom with Crash Coordinates, French Girls, Chicano Power Revival, Barefoot and Pregnant, and Russian Arms and Optics as they align their uteruses (and honorary man-uteruses) for a night to benefit Planned Parenthood Arizona, with an appearance from Planned Parenthood Federation of America president, Cecile Richards. 

We talked to Russian Arms and Optics vocalist Liz Tavarez about birth control, abortion, and writing songs that don't win friends.  

Up On the Sun: Obviously Planned Parenthood has been pretty prominent in the news lately thanks to Rush Limbaugh's "slut" comment and the birth control debate. Were you signed on for this show before all of this went down? What do you think about it?

Tavarez: We were signed on to do the show before Rush Limbaugh comment, but after reading what was going down, it became even more important to us to support this fundraiser, and Planned Parenthood of Arizona. I've always seen Rush Limbaugh as a douchebag, but his comments took it to even new levels. I see a huge double standard when it comes to women and how many sexual partners that they have, versus men. If a woman has slept with a large number of men, she is a slut. If a man has, he is some kind of legend. I'm not saying it's a good or bad idea for anyone to sleep with a bunch of people, but for Rush Limbaugh to compare Sandra Fluke to a prostitute? There is just nothing OK about that. And the fact that he said that she should make sex tapes for everyone to watch? He really just seems like a dirty pervert, right? Women need access to health care and birth control, and assisting in that neither makes them have more sex, nor makes them prostitutes or sluts. Why does Russian Arms and Optics support Planned Parenthood? 

Honestly, we are not a political band. We never set out to "make a statement" or anything. We just wanted to play great music that we enjoy, but when the opportunity came up to support Planned Parenthood, we were really happy to help. GOP lawmakers are currently pushing for reactionary legislation to severely restrict women's most basic reproductive rights. The Rock 'N' Roe show is bringing together people who believe that each individual has the right to manage his or her own fertility, and who don't want discriminatory laws passed. Whether you agree with it or not, taking basic health care rights away from people is not OK. Planned Parenthood Arizona provides health care, education and outreach services to more than 90,000 people per year. People who live in areas that would not normally have access to life-saving screenings are able to get the health care that they need, because Planned Parenthood Arizona exists. To me, there is no reason not to support this.

Tell us a little bit about the new single, "Whisper Sick." 

[It's] part of our yet to be released EP. We are currently in the studio (Blue Light Audio with Cory Spotts) and are seriously having the best time recording this. The song is about this person who is basically only happy when they are the center of attention. They are just trying really hard to be something that they're not, and it makes me sick. Pretty much if you are my friend and you piss me off, I'm going to write a song about it. This is why I have no friends!

So then what's the band's birth control method of choice? 

[Laughs] Ummm... not having sex? No, I don't know, really. We don't talk about this. I don't want to see any of the dudes doing it with a girl. That stuff doesn't happen to us, or at least not at shows. The bass player is my husband, so he's out of the question. The keyboard player is my brother, so I do not ever want to know about anything having anything to do with that. Gross. The guitar player and drummer are both in committed relationships, so you know. I have occasionally yelled "WRAP IT UP!" when someone left practice on their way to a date though. That's pretty much only because kids are a lot of freaking work and don't fit in too well at bars when we play. What else do you want people to know about the show?

There are going to be a lot of great people there - cool bands, and even the President of Planned Parenthood! All of the proceeds from the concert will go directly to Planned Parenthood Arizona to support health services, education and advocacy statewide. I'd say that if you don't know what Planned Parenthood is really all about, come to the show. There are going to be a lot of knowledgeable people there who I'm sure would be happy to share information on the organization. And if you aren't really sure whether you support it or not, you can still come out and support the bands! We need some love too! What's next for the band? 

Well, the EP will be released, and plans are in the works for a music video. After the EP is out, we'll be writing and recording the next album. I'm so excited because I just have no idea what it will be yet. I'm hoping that we can get more shows this year, and that people start to know our name. It's hard because, you know, we're not barefoot when we play, we don't all wear flannel, I don't sing naked or spit on people. I mean, don't get me wrong, we put on a show, but it seems like you've got to have a weird gimmick to get everyone's attention. Choreographed dance sequences? Wouldn't that be amazing? I just want people to enjoy what we put out, and know that we're playing music we love, and really having a good time. Seriously. Best band I've ever been in.

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Christina Caldwell