As Chastity Belt progressed from playing college parties in Walla Walla, Washington, to major European venues in support of Death Cab for Cutie, the band remained remarkably unperturbed.
The trick, if you can even call it that, says guitarist Julia Shapiro, was just being themselves and doing what they do. Since Chastity Belt formed almost as a joke, with no real agenda other than having fun, the band had time to become comfortable and confident before ever leaving the Whitman College scene for the major music metropolis of Seattle.
The name came before they were even a band, something to chant at parties. Then Chastity Belt began writing songs to play at those same parties, with in-your-face humor and titles like “Nip Slip” and “Pussy Weed Beer.” Now, after more than three years steadily touring behind two records, 2013’s No Regerts and 2015’s acclaimed Time to Go Home on Hardly Art, there’s a sharper edge and different focus that defines the band.
“We’ve learned a lot since our last album. It’s kind of crazy how much we’ve toured. I’ve been gone just as much as I’ve been in Seattle,” Shapiro says. “Being on some major tours and supporting big acts has made us closer and made us grow as musicians.
In addition to Death Cab for Cutie, Chastity Belt toured with breakout Australian songwriter Courtney Barnett. All that experience has Shapiro and her bandmates — guitarist Lydia Lund, bassist Annie Truscott, and drummer Gretchen Grimm — in a position to leverage growth as musicians as they move on with writing and recording Chastity Belt’s as-yet-untitled third album.
“We’ve gotten better at songwriting, and there are some more personal songs on there,” says Shapiro, taking time out for a phone interview while the band was in Portland, Oregon, to record. “But it’s not anything too drastically different. I think it sounds like us still.”
Gone, for the upcoming record at least, are the joke songs that made the band such a hit at college parties.
The songs on Time to Go Home began taking on a more serious tone, dealing largely with maturity, identity, feminism, and the sort of bigger questions that emerge after the party is over. The humor that helped spark No Regerts had turned edgy in songs like “Cool Slut,” “Joke,” “Trapped,” and “On The Floor.” And while the band’s sharp wit remains, Shapiro says the new material won’t remind fans of “Nip Slip” and “Pussy Weed Beer.”
“We don’t really have any [songs] like that,” Shapiro says. “I’d like to think some of my lyrics are a little bit funny, but nothing too jokey.”
With the recording sessions progressing to a close, Chastity Belt feels they have their strongest music yet. And though Shapiro was hesitant to divulge much in the way of specifics, she said the new record should be released early next year.
For now, it’s out of the studio and back out on the road, ready to showcase the new material and give audiences a glimpse of what’s to come for Chastity Belt in 2017 and beyond.
“We’ll be playing a bunch of new songs on this upcoming tour,” Shapiro says. “I’m excited about our new songs, excited to get to play some new stuff. It feels good.”
Chastity Belt is scheduled to perform Sunday, August 14, at the Rebel Lounge.