Even as teenagers, the women of the Two Funerals understood that their experiences creating music together would be shaped by their gender. While they toiled in the Blacksburg music scene, guitarist Shannon LeCorre, drummer Dominique Montgomery and bassist Abby Cox began channeling this growing awareness into furious, Riot Grrrl rock songs. By the time they enrolled in respective colleges, the trio had self-released “The Two Funerals Invade Poland,” titled in response to the derogatory label of feminazis, followed by the 7-inch record, “Tell Yr Story.” Kyler O'Brien, formerly of Field Day, recently joined the band on bass, as Cox turned her focus to graduate school. After a Southeast tour in late October, the Two Funerals will finish up a new 7-inch, slated for release on Rorschach Records.
Style: Tell us about that one song...
Shannon LeCorre: We were asked to write a song for a "women in pop-punk" compilation coming out on Paper and Plastick Records. Our friend Lauren, who's in the band The Measure (SA) from New Jersey, asked us (for a song) because she knew we had a certain message, and we're ladies in punk. "Too Late" ended up becoming a song about safety in Richmond and how irritating it is to not feel safe going out at night alone. No matter who you are, man or woman, you're told to be careful at night, because we live in an unsafe world. But there are certain double standards. When women go out at night, they have to worry not only about getting mugged, but they also have to worry about being harrassed, or sexually assaulted, or raped, or murdered. It's a heightened threat. The song basically says "It's too late to go out alone, it's too late to go out at night." I shouldn't have to worry about crossing the street or be walked home by anyone. I want to be able to walk by myself at night and feel totally fine.
Dominique Montgomery: The compilation hasn't come out yet. It's getting mastered and they said it will be released maybe by Halloween. I think (part of the proceeds) benefits Planned Parenthood.
What is the band's message?
LeCorre: We adopted a certain political message after playing music together for awhile. It's harder for us to be taken seriously as women in the predominantly male subculture of punk. We found feminism at the same time we were having these experiences and it just clicked together. It was like, "Oh, I'm having these negative experiences because there's a larger system at work that is rubbing off on this subculture." (Punk rock) is supposed to be stereotypically subversive, but isn't very progressive sometimes as far as being inclusive of race, class, gender, and sexuality. It's a white dudes club, but I don't mean to accuse any of the dudes in the scene of directly perpetuating this or excluding us. It's just that (men) benefit from the privilege of something that's been there before them. It's easier for them to be in a band and to be taken seriously than it is for us.
Were you encouraged by your parents?
Montgomery: Personally, we had really good parents who were progressive (about us being in a band). It's not really that. It's more of a societal pressure. Even in middle school, I was in the band and I played trombone and people would literally say "What? Girls can't play trombone." What does that mean? It's just an instrument. Everyone in school is encouraged to take art or music, but later, when I want to play electric guitar, they're like "What? That's crazy!"
LeCorre: Yeah, and "the guitar's pink, right?"
Montgomery: People have an underlying assumption that we can't do this or that it's different.
LeCorre: If you're a woman playing guitar, you have extra pressure to not only be right all the time, but also be better. There's this standard that if you are a woman and you're going to be included in this scene, you have to match up. But, a lot of guys are shitty at guitar and they're still in bands. If you're a girl AND you suck, that's a double whammy. Even the phrase "women in rock" illustrates how we've been forced into a separate category. I saw something today on the internet about gay marriage and someone said, "I'll just refer to it as marriage, because when I park my car, I don't 'gay' park. When I eat my lunch, I don't eat a 'gay' lunch." It's the same thing with women in rock. I just want to be a person. Since that's not the case, we're always going to be outspoken in order to get people to think about it.
Montgomery: When we started, it wasn't as much of an issue. But when we went to college and all of us ended up being women's studies majors, it all connected. We realized this was happening everywhere, not just with us getting weird comments at shows. We put up with an insane amounts of ridiculous stuff, partly because we're women and partly because we write songs about this specific thing. It freaks people out.
LeCorre: While there's a pretty inclusive scene in Richmond, it's very small and it still has issues it needs to deal with.
Is there less of a spotlight now that you're not an all-woman band?
LeCorre: Kyler filled in at a time when we were doing a high volume of shows and touring. There's still time for discussion about our message and how he fits in. When we went on tour with P.S. Eliot, we played with so many female musicians at every show. I think just him being in a band like this or opening himself up to that, he supports the idea of inclusiveness.
Montgomery: I don't think it's taken the spotlight off of us. Shannon's still singing the same lyrics and at shows will still say "this song is about..." For us, it's hard to write about other things. When you're writing a song, you're like, "What's pertinent to my life?" Oh yeah, bullshit people have said to me or stuff we've had to deal with, because we're women writing songs.
LeCorre: Or things that make us angry about society in general.
Montgomery: We're not into writing love songs.
LeCorre: "Too Late" is not one of our blatantly political songs. The lyrics are more personal.
Montgomery: But the personal is political.
LeCorre: That's true, it relates back to a political issue. For our new seven-inch, we've been trying to steer it in a more personal direction. But definitely not holding back (the politics).
Montgomery: The issues will always be there. Even if a song isn't blatantly political, it will always be in the background.
LeCorre: I've been focusing more on my gut reaction to an issue or dealing with somebody confronting me.
What is your first musical memory?
LeCorre: I've been working lately on a zine about women's experiences in music. So I wrote up this story the other day about my evolution as a musician. I don't know if this is my first musical memory, ever, but one of the first things that I feel is pretty poignant is listening to the Spice Girls. While they are stupid and cliche and not a model of empowered femininity, their "girl power" stuck with me. At the time, I wanted to be a pop sensation. I wanted to be out there like, "peace out, girl power," and kicking boys in the butt. They seemed so sassy and feisty. I think the zine is going to be called Tell Yr Story. It'll be a series with different people and their different experiences and scenarios.
Montgomery: My dad was really into the Beatles, so I listened to them all the time when I was super-little. We'd play their movies all the time, too.
If you could tour with any band in the world, who would it be?
LeCorre and Montgomery (in unison): Screaming Females.
LeCorre: We've known them for awhile and played with them a bunch of times. They are one our collectively favorite bands playing right now.
Montgomery: They've blown up and no one deserves it more than them.
The Two Funerals perform Oct. 12 at Strange Matter, 929 W. Grace St., with Jeff the Brotherhood and TV Buddhas. Doors are at 9 p.m. and the cover is $7. Hear information at 447-4763.