Profile: Summer Cannibals
We talk about how we all like cheap beer, and agree that Budweiser is underrated. Even aside from the fact that their Amazonian, primal, sweaty brand of throwback rock and roll instantly gets into my bones and writhes around in there like a downed power line spewing electric sparks, I think to myself that I could get to like this band. I mean, they like Budweiser. Boudreaux, inspired, starts quoting a song by Los Angeles band Fidlar: “I drink cheap beer! So what! Fuck you!”
Summer Cannibals are getting revved up for their upcoming record release show at Mississippi Studios on Thursday, August 1, with openers Grandparents and XDS. The debut album is called No Makeup, and the band is releasing it themselves on their label New Moss Records.
Unlike many self-release labels, Moss isn’t a fly-by-night operation. Previous to releasing any music, Boudreaux and Swart actually sat down and wrote a business plan. Then they found Sun Angle and released its debut album, Diamond Junk, in May, and the project took off. “We didn’t start the label with the intention of releasing our band’s stuff, necessarily, but it worked out,” Boudreaux adds. Swart mentions that he hopes the label will turn into a full-time career. These are responsible rockers.
Both Boudreaux and Swart are transplants—Boudreaux from Louisiana, Swart from Minnesota—who have cleanly converted to a love of Portland. The band is rounded out by Lynnae Gryffin on bass, and Valerie Brodgen on drums, and a mascot. Lemon, Boudreaux’s Australian shepherd/lab/poodle mix, figures prominently in the band’s promo materials and on the cover of the album (where she sports Boudreaux’s black leather jacket). “It took us, like, an hour and a half to get that picture,” Boudreaux laments. Swart adds, “She was super bummed out the whole time. She hated it.” But she looks happy in the picture, I venture. “That’s because there’s a piece of meat, like, right in front of her face,” Swart laughs.
Summer Cannibals is what a rock band should be like. None of that throwing-TVs-out-of-hotel-windows, guzzling-whiskey-at-5-in-the-morning, dying-prematurely-in-Paris decadence. None of that sleazy R&B or slickly produced electronica that currently tops the Billboard Hot 100 (that’s Robin Thicke and Daft Punk, respectively). Summer Cannibals is just a straightforward rock band whose members are straightforward music fans. They’re into classics like Patti Smith, the Pixies, the Breeders—and newer rock icons like Savages and Ty Segall. “I just knew I wanted to play rock music,” Boudreaux says. “Nothing makes me feel as good as when I’m playing this kind of music, you know?”
August 1 at 9 pm
I ask about Boudreaux’s feelings regarding her role as frontwoman. Does she dress up for shows? What’s her image? “For a while there I would only wear jeans and T-shirts, and always felt like I needed to cover up,” she says. “I didn’t want to be sexualized.” No dresses, though. For one thing, the dresses got played out in her previous band with Swart, a dreamy retro-pop outfit called Your Canvas. “I think I only wore dresses for Your Canvas [shows],” she says. Now she doesn’t want to come across as too feminine. Still, she’ll try on a few outfits beforehand—and do a wardrobe-malfunction check. “Marc makes me lean over to see if my boob’s going to come out,” she admits. “We call her the queen of side boob,” Swart says, laughing.
What’s important to her, Boudreaux explains, is setting a good example for girls who hope to be in her shoes one day. She feels her biggest responsibility is not to be the sexy singer, but the frontwoman who can also play the hell out of the guitar. “I think it’s funny whenever people—guys—are like, ‘You can really play the guitar!’ I’m like, ‘You’re saying that ’cause I’m a girl.’”
I ask about their musical guilty pleasures. Fittingly, Britney Spears’ “I’m A Slave 4 U,” starts piping through the bar’s speakers. “Oh my God,” Boudreaux says, “I love Britney.” They discuss the notorious music video. “She’s all greased up, and she has a snake,” Swart says. Boudreaux adds, “That video is top-notch.” It makes sense. Summer Cannibals don’t take themselves too seriously to admit to a fondness for Britney, and that kind of sums up (as much as anything could) what makes them so damn likeable. They’re just cool people you could hang out with every day, who also happen to play badass rock and roll. After all, the oft-quoted lyric from the single “Wear Me Out” tempts the listener to pretend Boudreaux is a favorite dress: “wear me every day and ignore all the rest—wear me out,” she moans. Yes, please!