We both find a kinship in our love for happy melancholy. I recommend a song to her – ‘You Should All Be Murdered’ by Another Sunny Day, which I’m confident she’ll like because of its similarity to The Smiths’ brand of jolly cynicism. For context, Jonny Marr once complimented the band on their guitar sound, and revealed himself as a fan. Fittingly, there are tinges of Morrissey’s tongue-in-cheek lyricism in Shapiro’s words, too, and they’re refreshingly devoid of cliché unless it’s knowing or intentional. I get the impression that she is meticulous – cautious, even – when it comes to writing lyrics. “I’m pretty picky when it comes to writing lyrics,” she agrees. “A lot of things make me cringe. I try really hard not to write anything too cheesy, because I’m going to have to live with singing the lyrics night after night when we’re on tour. I have to try extra hard not to write cheesy lyrics when a song already sounds kind of emo already.”
I talk to Julia about a couple of my favourite songs on the new album, one of which being a track called ‘Complain’, about looking at things pessimistically. I ask her to elaborate. “Yeah, ‘Complain’ is sort of about me being a negative Nancy. Not that I’m like that all the time – I still go out and have fun – but it’s about being angry and not being able to have fun and wanting to complain about it,” she laughs.
“I get in moods like that especially when it’s been raining nonstop for three months straight, maybe that’s it. You guys get a lot of rain there, too, right?”
Shapiro explains that the rise of ‘tech bro’ phenomenon is partly to blame for nights out not being so fun anymore, with it being particularly pervasive in Seattle where the band reside. Unfamiliar with the term, I ask her to explain what ‘tech bro’ meant, and she replies with baffled resentment: “Do you not have tech bros in the UK? You are so lucky! They are computer programmers who move here to work at Amazon or Microsoft without any sense of the culture of the city. They live in nice condos that were recently built to accommodate how many people are moving to Seattle for tech stuff. It’s happening everywhere, but it’s especially extreme in places like Seattle and San Francisco. Some of them are really oblivious and obnoxious and a lot of them don’t tip very well.”
Despite this, Chastity Belt are still heavy party-goers. Their first album in particular focused primarily on getting wasted and having fun. But while the likes of, say, Best Coast depicted partying with near child-like simplicity, Chastity Belt have a tendency to make the subject sound almost profound, yet playful. Shapiro’s lyrics are smart, literate and completely devoid of the usual platitudes that many of their contemporaries are guilty of using.
There’s a song that reminded me of myself on ‘I Spend So Much Time Alone’ called ‘5am’. It’s about being drunk, and that desperate search for gratification to make the night worthwhile. We talk about the sadness we feel when we know the night is over and everyone goes to sleep.
“I’m glad you got that from 5am,” she says. “That’s totally one of the feelings I was trying to express. It’s like; whenever I’m fucked up I’m searching for some kind of answer that will make me satisfied and able to go to sleep feeling like I accomplished something. I wasn’t sure how many people felt like that, so it’s cool that you’re able to relate!”
“A lot of the time, when I get to a certain level of drunkenness, I’m only trying to have deep conversations – cut the bullshit; I want to talk about something meaningful. I have a couple of friends who will get down with me, but a lot of people are like, what the fuck, I’m just trying to have a good time here.”