Butch vs. Femme keeps it fluid, keeps it fun
The Sacramento queercore band smashes gender stereotypes, the patriarchy and other outdated expectations
“Which one are you?”
This was not the question that Chavez D’Augustine and Kim Aparicio expected to hear when they formed their high-energy, spastic, punk-rock queercore band Butch vs. Femme in 2003. And yet they’ve been asked this question several times over the years.
The band may be a duo, but it seems some have missed the point. They weren’t assuming nicknames when they chose their name—instead, they were commenting on gender issues and stereotypes they’d witnessed within the queer community.
“When I was growing up, I felt like I had to be either butch or femme,” Aparicio says. “I never felt like there was anyone in the middle, especially on TV, there’s always this femme woman with a butch lesbian.”
The whole notion of gender, D’Augustine adds, is something more fluid than such narrow stereotypes typically allow for.
“We fall somewhere in the center of that spectrum—and I think that a lot of people do,” D’Augustine says.
Gender identity comes up in the band’s songs, but it’s not the full extent of what they sing about. Rather, their songs are mostly about having fun, being themselves and engaging with the things that make them passionate.
Their simple keyboards and drums lineup might bring to mind indie bands such as Mates of State and Quasi, but the pair plays with pure, unhinged punk-rock fervor. D’Augustine plays keys and sings lead. His vocals are frenetic rather than hook-driven. On the drums, Aparicio takes on the more melodic parts, which complement D’Augustine’s keyboards.
Their biggest connection to punk is the collection of their influences, which from day one has always been ’90s-era riot grrrl bands such as Sleater-Kinney and Bikini Kill and queercore bands such as the Need. Bands that waved the punk flag with a combination of driving energy and rebellious spirit against patriarchal standards. Bands that always took an eclectic approach to music.
“I felt like a huge connection to those bands and relate to those bands. I think it’s important to both of us to say that we are queercore because there are probably kids who are looking for queercore bands to relate with, like I did when I was 15,” Aparicio says.
The pair’s chemistry as musicians was instantaneous. Even though both were very new to their instruments when they started, they say they were able to feed off of each other and create songs for which their parts were closely stitched together.
Together they’ve been able to keep the energy high, but still be experimental. Some songs even clock in at eight minutes long.
“We try to be epic sometimes. Punk is such a broad spectrum. We fall on the eight-minute side of it,” D’Augustine says.
Butch vs. Femme’s initial run lasted until 2007. During that time they played a lot of shows, and even toured. They never put out an album, however—something that will finally change this Saturday when they release an LP, Eat Yr Heart Out, which seems to officially mark the end of their hiatus. Now, D’Augustine and Aparicio say they’re ready to keep the band going for the foreseeable future.
Still, as much fun as they are having again, both admit they’re a little surprised to be doing this again. Though the band’s initial run ended with the pair still close friends, there was no intention to reform. The reunion happened after D’Augustine created a Butch vs. Femme Facebook page to archive old photos and fliers. That inspired him and Aparicio to meet up and jam.
“It just came so easy. It was like it was meant to happen,” D’Augustine says.
A lot has changed in the years since that initial break. They’re older, better musicians and have a much stronger idea of how the business side of music works. What hasn’t changed lies at the core of who they are as people, just the two of them.
“We’ve tried to jam with other people but it’s never worked out. The synergy that happens, like when we first jammed, was instant,” D’Augustine says. “It’s hard when that dynamic is already set in place, to add another element. It just happens so easy.”