by Melanie Crew
Kate Jan, New York transplant and guitar slingin’ skateboarding badass punk rocker chick and her beloved debaucherous band and partners in crime, SEX BBQ [current lineup: Kate Jan (vocals/guitar); Steve LaBate (guitar); Rob Bellury (bass); Steve Brown (drums); and Steve Albertson (everything else)] will be shakin’ a tail feather this Saturday, April 4, at the Drunken Unicorn, with Young Rapids and MammaBear to boot! So, come on down and have a smut slingin’ hell-raisin’ ruckus with SEX BBQ at the Drunken Unicorn this Saturday at 9pm!
Kate, not your typical psych-punk space cowgirl, has been slingin’ her guitar and writing music since childhood, major influences including Riot Grrrl punk rockers, Bikini Kill, as well as the Breeders, ‘90s skate thrash punk and even Chuck Berry. In 2012, Kate voyaged to the southern underground to continue her Neuropsychology education and decided to add a little rockin’ debauchery to the mix! SEX BBQ formed shortly thereafter and have shared bills with Hospitality, Single Mothers, Beach Day, Little Tybee, Concord America, Belle & Sebastian and Warehouse, just to name a few. They’ve also been featured in several national music outlets [PunkNews.org; Under the Gun Review; Speakers in Code; and Magnet Magazine]. SEX BBQ’s first single “Locus of Control” b/w “Wake Up” was recorded by Ed Rawls and Justin McNeight (The Black Lips; The Coathangers; Those Darlins) in the summer of 2012, with both tracks appearing on their new album, SEX NOIR CITY, debuting this spring. The album’s nine new tracks, recorded by Damon Moon [Rrest; Iron Jayne] in East Atlanta, are chock full of surf riffs and garage punk elements, destined to satisfy the retro rockers in us all!
ATLRetro caught up with Kate for a quick interview about SEX BBQ’s debut album, SEX NOIR CITY; her New York City underground roots; and her take on the band being described as “garage, surf, psych, prog, metal, dream pop, indie rock, Tom Waits-style junkyard blues, B-52s-esque, Spaghetti Western weirdness!” And while you’re checking at our little Q&A with Kate, get an earful of SEX BBQ’s vintage, noir rock ‘n’ roll sound, here!
ATLRetro: What a cool name for a band! Sex BBQ! Can you fill our readers in on the funky story behind the name and how you got together?
Kate Jan: Thanks! Steve L. and I started playing songs together in my apartment in Atl – we just started writing, playing and having fun. We gradually found Steve #2 (drums), Steve #3 (keys and percussion), Laura Palmer (vocals and organ) and Everett (bass) through friends. The extremely talented and creative Laura Palmer introduced the name SEX BBQ to our vernacular from a satirical guide to decoding your teen’s text lingo (SBBQ). After briefly entertaining and then ignoring the possibility that we’d be set aside as a joke band or a frat-rock dad-rock sextet, we embraced it as the best combination of all words ever. And so SEX BBQ was birthed.
As a skateboarding, guitar-slingin’ neuropsychologist and rockin’ New Yorker chick to boot, what brought you to The Dirty Dirty?
I came for a Neuropsychology Post-Doctoral Fellowship at Emory after getting my PhD, and stayed for the medium bowl at the Old 4th Ward Skatepark.
The band’s sound has been described as having a “garage, surf, psych, prog, metal, dream pop, indie rock, Tom Waits-style junkyard blues, B-52s-esque, Spaghetti Western weirdness,” which of course sounds like a helluva good time! How would you describe your sound and your live show?
That pretty much nails our sound. Thankfully we’ve got tapes and records now! Our live show is a party all around. We don’t mess around with stage banter but we play, dance and mingle while we sling those axes and sing our hearts out.
We see that you picked up a guitar pretty early on. Can you tell our readers a story about how you got started playing music?
I got two stories. My mother was a huge Joni Mitchell fan and played acoustic guitar. She played and sang for me. My Dad played piano and actually now plays church organ, which is kind of weird because we are Jewish. But, you know, when music calls it calls. When I was 6, I picked up a guitar and wrote her a song for Mother’s Day. It went something like “I Love You. You’re My Mom.”
I took a few lessons when I was 12 or so, and learned the basics, you know – songs by The Muffs, Seven Year Bitch and most of THE CROW (1994) soundtrack. After that, lying on my floor devouring mid-90s punk and – after Kurt Cobain died – listening to Nirvana day & night went hand in hand with writing my own songs.
Your top retro influences are listed as the B-52s, Bikini Kill, the Pixies, Pink Floyd, and even film composer, Morricone, famous for so much, including his Spaghetti Western film scores. What influenced you the most with regards to such a wide-variety of music makers?
It’s a collective list from our variety of band members. I don’t even know who Morricone is, and I always liked the Breeders WAY better than the Pixies. I cried when they broke up way back when. Like bawled. My major influences are Bikini Kill, Blake Babies and all of 1990s’ skate and thrash punk and NY Hardcore. Recently, I’ve been heavily influenced by The Delmonas, Chuck Berry (at least I hope) and Grace Slick.
As a musician coming from New York, the metropolis of underground music, how would you rate Atlanta and its rockin’ underground music scene? And who are some of your favorite local bands?
My favorite Athens band is straight-up grit-dirty garage party rock trio Free Associates. They rock my world. In Atlanta I really dig Concord America, Todaythemoon, Tomorrowthesun and Jungol. I spent my teenage years going to CBGB, ABC No Rio and Tramps seeing bands like The Skabs, L.E.S. Stitches, Agnostic Front, Bouncing Souls and my friends’ bands. It was just way easier then – there was still punk and hardcore. I think all those clubs are closed now. While living in Queens in the 2000s, I honestly couldn’t afford to go out. To be verrrrry honest, I spent lots of time writing electronic music on Reason in my tiny apartment. I was dating a hip-hop producer for awhile – shout out to Beatnik & K-Salaam – and got to go to shows and meet people like Talib Kweli, M1 from Dead Prez, Pharaoh Monch and Wordsworth. I almost bowled with Talib Kweli when Brooklyn Bowl first opened. I also hung out with a metal engineering crew and got to see and chill with Lamb of God and my favorite indulgence, nu metal stylies Killswitch Engage. If I had lived in Brooklyn it would have been different in terms of exploring underground/indie music, but holy rent!!
If you could put together a dream line-up of bands to play with [still around or not], who would it be and why?
Free Associates, Gun Party, Blake Babies, The Delmonas, Jefferson Airplane, Sick of it All, H2O and The Black Lips. Because they all have unique ways of playing energetic shows and they’re all really great. And the Descendents.
You’re touring in support of your debut album, SEX NOIR CITY. Can you tell our readers a little about it?
We haven’t released tour dates for this spring and summer. We are playing April 4th at the Drunken Unicorn and that’s all I can reveal now. Tehee!
Anything scandalous planned for your shakin’ shindig happening this Saturday at the Drunken Unicorn?
I could tell you, but then I’d have to involve you in our Master Plan and you might get in deep, deep shit. Seriously though, once, during a Drunken Unicorn show we created our own micro-economy by distributing SEX Bar-B-Bucks. It was the genesis of the sharing economy and our gateway to taking over the world. It was Everett and Laura Palmer’s idea. In sum, expect wizardry.
What’s next for Kate Jan and Sex BBQ?
We are SO STOKED for our release of SEX NOIR CITY, and we will have tapes and a limited run of white vinyls with hand-painted jackets for sale. I think we are even more excited about the new music that we’ve been writing in the meantime. I have a jam space and recording studio in my basement so I think we’re going to record an LP there soon in a collaboration with Jones Maintenance Revue.
Can you tell our readers something you’d like folks to know that they don’t know already?
Music and medicine are both great, but growing flowers and raising a puppy rock too.
What question do you wish somebody would ask you and what’s the answer?
Q: What does your wisest and oldest mentor say about SEX BBQ?
A: My grandfather is 94, fought in the Royal Air Force as a pilot after escaping Poland, is wildly into classical music, and recently discovered the genius of Brian Jones and the Rolling Stones: “Keep enjoying, Katie, the world of music, which adds a disproportionally large percentage to human happiness on this earth.”
All photos courtesy of SEX BBQ and used with permission.