INTERVIEW: Philly Duo Trophy Wife Make a Righteous Noise, Love the X-Men, but Not Dick Cheney!

Pictured above: Trophy Wife get mad rowdy with mics and instruments!
Photo Credit: D1LO

There is an elegance to Trophy Wife, the queer/feminist punk duo from Philly, that gives way only to a seething kind of fury that permeates much of their music. Comprised of drummer Katy Otto and guitarist Diane Foglizzo, both who share vocal duties, the pair formed in DC before moving on, touring the country along the way. This upcoming weekend, they are playing as part of the Louisville Outskirts Festival, a celebration of women in music, at The New Vintage along local acts like the delightfully avant-garde Cher Von or the wonderfully mellifluous Sandpaper Dolls, or national acts like the venerable and definitely not to be missed Shannon Wright. We caught up with them to talk about how they fill up so much space as a two-piece, how awesome the Outskirts Festival is, and who they would fight if they could.

Never Nervous:  How did Trophy Wife start? Given the loaded name and the emphasis on queer/feminist politics, was there a specific motive at play when starting other than to just play music? Put differently, how does the socio-political aspects of the band inform the musical side?

Katy Otto: There is a definite element of snark or perhaps cheekiness to the name. I think part of why the name works and has impact is because of who we are. The idea of female-socialized people who are trying to self-actualize in their lives taking on a moniker of women as ornaments kinda drains the power out of that concept a little. (Hopefully?) Music to me is about connecting across boundaries and expressing things that are urgent to you. Because of this, there is a political component to our band.
NN: Relative to that, what was the impetus behind the name?

KO: Pretty much what I mentioned. But also, it would be silly to not take it a step further and say that it’s worth thinking about how and why we all have viewed our partners/lovers as props/foils/ornaments. That’s kind of the second point of interrogation the name could lead you to.

Diane Foglizzo: Though there is some thought behind the name, I remember we came up with it pretty quick and didn’t spend too much time thinking about it. It just popped out of Katy’s mouth and felt perfect so we moved on.
NN: Have you ever been confused for The Trophy Wives from Louisville?

KO: We’ve actually played with them and are friends with them! Quite a good band. We have been confused less often with them and more often with a British band (now defunct) and another band in PA.

NN: How do you compose? Is it collaborative or are the band duties delegated accordingly?

KO: We write collaboratively – music and lyrics. This is rewarding and ideal in many ways. Sometimes we will write a song on a day we didn’t intend to. Sometimes songs don’t come quickly. I think we sort of give ourselves over to the process. While we do collaborate on lyrics, sometimes we will do some of the writing for those on our own and then bring them to each other. Many lyrics are born out of conversations in the course of our friendship/relationship.
NN: What, if anything, have you learned from working as a duo? Has that impacted your writing? Has it impacted how you approach your instrument?

DF: Being in this band has been wild – amazing and challenging while being super encouraging of my growth as a human and musician. It’s no different really than dating someone for a long time- it comes in waves.. consistent but at various intensities. There are times when it has felt like it consumes my musical identity – that can feel good and sometimes not. Creating from one particular place with one other person really forces you to dig deep and find the inspiration and love that with increased familiarity can feel far away.

I am lucky because in this band, when I find myself in those moments when I know that I need to take space and reconnect with myself musically, I have gotten total support from Katy. Playing alone on a guitar with no goals or expectations is something I can forget to do but when I do it, I find myself more grounded and calm and like my heart, brain, limbs and lungs are all connected again. Sometimes that leads to trophy wife songs and sometimes i just keep that stuff separate. I don’t know how I’d play or who I’d be without my musical/songwriting relationship with katy.
NN: Do either of you use effects for the music? I’ve done a few duos and found effects to be integral in filling out that sound. If you do, what do you use?

DF: I use two pedals – distortion and delay. And I also play out of a bass amp and a guitar amp. I don’t want to hide that we are a two piece. Mostly just figure out different ways to engage the space and sound.
NN: What do you think about the Louisville Outskirts festival? A quick Google search tells me there have only been a few, which seems pathetic, although encouraging at least that there are multiple people out there trying to organize.

DF: I’m thrilled to be playing and to have been invited to play. I think it’s really cool that the organizers are bringing folks from around the country in addition to highlighting local artists! We’re excited to see old friends like Lozen, play alongside long time heroes like Shannon Wright, and see awesome Louisville musicians like Cher Von.
KO: I love Louisville and have had the pleasure of going there both just to visit and to play music before. A number of bands and artists I love(d) are from Louisville. There was always a neat DC/Louisville connection, so growing up in DC meant that I got exposed to a lot of Louisville bands. In particular I am thrilled to see Tara Jane O’Neil play because she’s someone I admired since I was a teen. And of course all the bands Diane mentioned! I also love the rockshops for girls and think it’s really cool that space was created.


NN: My mind is blown every time I realize that there are women that hate feminism. I’m not a woman and I love feminism. I mean, what’s not to love about the idea of equal treatment for everyone (unless you’re an asshole). How do you all respond to these sorts?

KO: There are a lot of forces at work to make feminism unappealing, and all humans respond in one way or another to incentive. To me the question seems to be – how can we frame feminism as something with the potential to better everyone’s lives? Historically, the movement has had flaws particularly related to centralizing white, cisgender women’s experiences. But the feminism that appeals to me is what bell hooks speaks of – a politics opposing domination. There is something innately appealing to me about liberation in practice and when it’s doing what it should, feminism is just that. It’s important that people see feminism in all its forms – artistic, cultural, social, political, etc.
NN: You all tour a lot right? I know I’ve seen your names out there plenty, and knew about the band well before the Outskirts festival. What are some of the more interesting places you’ve played and why?

DF: I’m not sure if there is one place in particular that stands out but I feel mostly psyched that we get to play so many different kinds of places. here are a bunch of places we’ve played over the years! … occult bookstore, church basement, indoor skate park, art gallery, girls rock camp, decades old squat in Germany, all-ages community space, queer bar, etc…

KO: We once played a pizza shop basement in Malmo, Sweden on the same day the local roller derby team was celebrating a win. That was a fantastic and unexpected night. We’re open to playing lots of different kinds of spaces, if they seem interesting or make sense for us.
NN: What constitutes a good show and why?

KO: I think a good show happens when the audience and band are on the same wavelength and feel like space was created for them to share in something. Also I like shows that are curated in interesting ways. Those spark my imagination. And of course it’s always nice for bands and show organizers to be transparent and communicative with one another.
NN: If you could fight any one historical figure (with words, fists, or weapons) who would it be and why?

KO: Oh boy. I can think of a number of people I would at first blush like to fight with words, but it can sometimes be more powerful to not even give horrible, misinformed people the time of day. To instead pour your energy into uplifting beautiful, positive people. Also, some of the most disturbing people throughout history didn’t really seem to care that much about dissenting voices in the first place, so I doubt my words would matter much. Weapons and fists aren’t exactly my thing except in sheer, necessary self defense, and I don’t think I would need to go back in time to exact that. I hold Dick Cheney in a position of high disregard, for example, but he is still alive so I wouldn’t have to go back in time.

NN: What is your favorite superhero movie and why?

KO: I have a fondness for the X-Men. I like the idea of mutants with superpowers. Though admittedly I’ve just seen the film and haven’t delved much into the comics.
NN: What are your non-musical interests lately? Any books, movies, or television we might want to check out?

DF: I’m currently reading these books and enjoying them all

KO: I am revisiting the TV show Queer as Folk which was first on Showtime back in 2003. Some of the dialogue is cheesy and it’s not perfect, but I think a lot of the story lines about the challenges and joys of gay life in an American city are pretty compelling. I’m also reading the latest “Love and Lust” issue of Bitch Magazine, and as usual every piece is compelling. Subscribe!!!
NN: What have you been listening to lately and why should we?

DF: I’ve been listening to a few different things: 

KO: Ben FrostAurora” album – my first exploration of him. Really neat, tons of layers, and the most emotional feeling experimental/minimalist stuff I have heard in a while.

PinkWash tape – awesome Philly duo, in the vein of things like Karp, heavy and fantastic.

Kendrick Lamar – New song “i” – I had heard friends talk about him for a while and hadn’t had a chance to check him out. This new song is about self love, reminds me a lot of old Outkast, and is awesome.

Also been jamming some old riot grrrl/Olympia stuff like Excuse 17, Heavens to Betsy, Two Ton Boa, and Bonfire Madigan (who recently came to play Philly!).

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