The women of Tacoma’s Lozen want to destroy you
The title of Lozen’s debut EP, Enemies Against Power, sort of says it all. In fact, it could serve as the Tacoma, Wash., duo’s mission statement. For the past five years drummer Justine Valdez and guitarist Hozoji Matheson-Margullis have been cranking out sludgy anti-establishment, anti-corporate, anti-everything rock in basements and clubs up and down the West Coast.
Valdez and Margullis have kept Lozen steamrolling despite splitting time with other musical projects. Valdez plays in a double-drum duo called Thunder Over Fire. And for the past three years Margullis has been pulling double-duty as drummer for Seattle psych-metal trio Helms Alee, something that influenced her style early on.
“I think playing drums influenced me more when Lozen first started because I had never tried to write guitar for a band before,” says Margullis. “Since we’ve grown together as a band I feel my writing is more focused on the melody and the song as a whole.”
And while there are melodies, the songs are far from pretty, veering more in the direction of the spaced-out bilge of the Melvins and the laser-precision of Helmet, where odd-timed beats thrash about with boulder-heavy riffs.
Lozen is not alone. The cold, drizzly Pacific Northwest continues to be a hotbed for snarling rock ’n’ roll made by women who frankly don’t give a fuck. Along with contemporaries like Portland’s Purple Rhinestone Eagle and New Bloods, Lozen has kept the spirit of its ’90s Riot Grrrl foremothers Bikini Kill and Bratmobile alive while leaving its own dent in the area’s history.
Margullis and Valdez formed Lozen in 2005, but their friendship goes back nearly 15 years, when they were skipping classes during their freshman year at Stadium High School in Tacoma. Of course, life on the road and making music might be even more life-altering than, say, proms and first dates.
“Writing music and touring has made us grow and change together,” says Margullis. “We’ve shared a lot of life-changing experiences in the last five years.”
They also share a love for heavy music. Margullis turned Valdez on to the Melvins, Unwound and cult prog-instrumental trio Stinking Lizaveta—bands that were lighter on testosterone and heavier on noise and time signatures that left you scratching your head. However, Valdez’s uncanny ability for nailing beats normally perfected by seasoned jazz drummers wasn’t a result of years of analyzing weirdo prog records.
“When my [music] teacher told me I had an odd sense of timing, I said ‘Uh oh, what’s wrong with me?’ Now I’ve sort of embraced it.”
Valdez’s spastic drumming is all over Lozen’s latest EP, Oona, especially on the aptly titled opener “Rumbles,” which scuttles beneath Margullis’ barked vocals before the mid-section gets ripped open by a Sabbathian guitar riff. Oona was produced by Matt Bayles, who’s manned the boards for some of metal’s biggest evil-doers including Isis, Giant Squid and Mastodon.
It’s perhaps not the type of company one might expect from a couple of petite young women from Tacoma. Which is exactly the point. Lozen—which takes its name from a female Apache warrior who fought alongside Geronimo—continues to floor audiences by doing what comes naturally.
In a perfect world, Lozen wouldn’t be considered such an anomaly. And as the band gears up for its upcoming cross-country jaunt, there’s no reason to doubt that the ladies of Lozen will have a hand in changing perceptions. Valdez puts it simply: “I think the more people see women rocking—and not just in pop bands, but in more aggressive bands that are associated with men—the more it will be accepted.”