The Julie Ruin (Kathleen Hanna and Kathi Wilcox of Bikini KIll)

The Julie Ruin (Kathleen Hanna and Kathi Wilcox of Bikini KIll)

In 1997, while on break from the iconic punk band, Bikini Kill, Kathleen Hanna wrote and produced a solo record under the pseudonym of Julie Ruin. The album is considered a classic of subversive pop and has been praised by artists ranging from Kim Gordon to Mykki Blanco. Kathleen had always planned to perform the songs live, so in 1998 she and her friend Johanna Fateman went down in a dingy East Village basement and tried to learn how to play the Julie Ruin record, but instead began writing the first Le Tigre record, a hugely influential album from a band who went on to release three full-length albums and tour extensively until 2006.

In 2010, with Le Tigre on hiatus, Kathleen tried again. She had heard that her Bikini Kill bandmate, Kathi Wilcox, was moving from Washington, D.C. to NYC and asked her if she would consider playing bass in the new project. To Kathleen’s delight, Kathi agreed.

Kathleen had seen the legendary punk cabaret act Kiki and Herb (Justin Vivian Bond and Kenny Mellman, respectively) shortly after she moved to NYC in 1998. In that act, she found solace and a sense that she wasn’t alone in her art-making. Like her take on feminism, Kiki and Herb took queer activism, mixed it with the traditions of cabaret, added in a punk sensibility, and created an enduring act that lasted the better part of 16 years, toured the world and was nominated for a Tony Award. Kenny once sent Kathleen a gushing fan letter only to be surprised when she wrote him one back. After Kiki and Herb ended, Kenny continued working in the downtown scene and was a co-creator of the cult show Our Hit Parade. As a solo artist he has opened for The Magnetic Fields and recorded with the Stephin Merritt side project, The 6ths. Kathleen emailed Kenny in 2010 and asked if he might want to try writing country songs together. They got together once, worked on a song, and even though the song never materialized Kathleen knew they would work well together. The next email Kathleen sent him was to ask if he would play keyboard in The Julie Ruin. He, of course, said yes!

Kathleen met Carmine Covelli when he joined the Le Tigre world tour in 2004 as the video and lighting tech guru. During that tour he filmed a chunk of live performance and behind-the-scenes footage that ended up in Who Took The Bomp?, the documentary about Le Tigre’s final tour. Carmine comes from a musical background of metal, hardcore and punk. He is also an actor, performer and sound artist in the experimental downtown theater scene, performing at such places at PS122, St. Marks Church, DTW, and The Kitchen. In 2007, Kathleen saw a solo show of his called “Are You There Galapagos? It’s Me, Carmine.” She found the show so smart and funny that she couldn’t stop thinking about it. She had also seen him play drums in a few acts around town, so one night during her birthday party she asked him to join the band.

Kathleen met Sara Landeau in 2006, when they taught and coached bands at The Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls in Brooklyn. Sara studied at the New School and Juilliard, and graduated from Columbia University. She now runs her own music school and teaches guitar and drums to young women all over NYC. She spends her days advocating for girls of all ages to learn to play rock music, form bands, and develop self-empowerment through music. Sara had been in a host of punk bands that played shows around NYC, and had a unique killer surfy guitar style that Kathleen loved and thought would enhance The Julie Ruin sound.

The group began practicing even before Kathi moved to NYC and was able to join them. They loved the challenge of taking the solo recordings from the Julie Ruin record and recrafting them for a full band. At the end of most rehearsals they would just jam. Those jams turned into the songs that now form Run Fast, the band’s debut album. From the raw opener, “Oh Come On,” to the soulful “Just My Kind” (produced by LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy), to the synth-heavy title track, “Run Fast,” the album captures the band’s many sides. Through it all, Kathleen’s vocals connect all the dots.
Besides the James Murphy track and a couple of songs that Kathleen mixed on her own, the album was mixed by Eli Crews, who tracked and mixed tUnE-yArDs album, whokill.
As to why Kathleen took so long to return to music, the answer is to be found in the documentary film The Punk Singer, that Sini Anderson and Tamra Davis made about her. A hit on the festival circuit, The Punk Singer follows Kathleen for a year, during which she discovers that she has Lyme Disease which had gone undiagnosed for years. After extensive treatment, Kathleen’s illness is now in remission, and she has become an advocate for Lyme Disease education.

The Julie Ruin is very excited to be launching a tour to support the release of Run Fast, with dates starting in September of 2013.

Swearin’ co-frontperson Allison Crutchfield is only 23 years old, but she’s been in the game forever already. A truncated history: She started the Ackleys as a ninth grader in Birmingham, AL, with her twin sister, Katie; they were on Warped Tour as high school students. After that band called it quits, the sisters formed P.S. Eliot in 2008, releasing two full-lengths and an EP over the course of their three-and-a-half-year existence. The sisters relocated from Birmingham to Brooklyn in 2011, months before pulling the plug on P.S. Eliot. When the band split, Allison and Katie’s musical paths diverged, too: Katie went solo under the moniker Waxahatchee; Allison put together Swearin’ with Jeff Bolt (drums), Keith Spencer (bass), and P.S. Eliot bandmate Kyle Gilbride (who shares guitar and vocal duties with Crutchfield). Swearin’ unveiled a 6-song demo called What A Dump last December. Earlier this year, they released their self-titled debut LP on Salinas Records. With 2012 coming to a close, it seems safe to say Swearin’ will be included in the conversation of the year’s best indie-rock records.

The words “indie rock” are crucial here. While the term has long since ceased to have value as a descriptor, Swearin’ deliver a sound that could serve as a definition for what the genre used to be. The band’s combination of melody, distortion, and energy brings to mind the emo bands of the mid to late ’90s, especially the Get Up Kids, Rainer Maria, the Promise Ring, and Jawbreaker. Gilbride’s vocals are a dead ringer for those of a young Mac McCaughan; Crutchfield could probably stand in for Anna Waronker on a mid-’90s That Dog LP without anyone noticing. The pair’s guitars have a furious squeal that brings to mind Built To Spill or Sebadoh; their instant-classic melodies are obscured by feedback and fuzz, an ancient indie-rock trick perfected by the likes of Archers Of Loaf and Pavement. Crutchfield was born in 1989 (the year the Pixies released Doolittle), and those tendencies are in her blood: In a short documentary about the Ackleys, filmed when Allison and Katie were still in high school, both sisters namecheck Guided By Voices as their primary songwriting influence.

We’re two decades out from Slanted & Enchanted, and “indie rock” is enjoying something of a retro-chic revival (cf. Yuck, Japandroids) — meanwhile, the Promise Ring just concluded a brief (and no doubt profitable!) reunion at Fun Fun Fun Fest, and next month Jawbreaker will reissue Bivouac to celebrate its 20th birthday — but Swearin’ doesn’t sound like an attempt to cash in on the moment; the album’s style:substance ratio is weighted heavily toward the consequent. The songs are compact, tightly constructed, smart, explosive, and very catchy. The highlights for me change as my relationship with the record grows, but I can’t imagine anyone not being captured immediately by “Here To Hear,” “Kenosha,” or “Movie Star.” The band moved from Brooklyn to Philadelphia earlier this year, and this week, they’re headed out on tour for some shows with Japandroids. Tour dates are below, along with a full-album stream. Play it loud.

Untamed and Plastic Hearts, made up of teens from the Philadelphia area, formed at Girls Rock Philly's 2013 Summer Rock Camp this August. They met the Monday of camp, some learning their instruments for the first time that morning. Others had never been in a band before, but they all wrote and performed original songs at their first show that Saturday at Underground Arts.

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The Julie Ruin (Kathleen Hanna and Kathi Wilcox of Bikini KIll) with Swearin', Plastic Hearts, Untamed

Thursday, September 5 · Doors 8:00 PM / Show 8:30 PM at Union Transfer