Over the last year or so, screamy punk rock duo GRLwood have exploded onto Louisville’s music scene with their raw, abrasive sound and a pair of blunt I-don’t-give-a-fuck attitudes. Hearing their 2 FAGS DEMO for the first time reminded me of that scene in Weird Science when Gary and Wyatt were throwing that party with Lisa (the super-woman they created) when that crazy biker gang showed up without warning. Everyone’s having a swell time when all of a sudden this pack of weirdos busts through the wall on motorcycles putting everyone on edge. Yeah, that’s how I felt while being introduced to noise GRLwood makes as I was pleasantly taken right out of my comfort zone.
In case you were wondering, my favorite song from their demo is “I’m Yer Dad”, an uptempo ear drum blaster with savage vocals; listen to it below:
As GRLwood continues to relentlessly play out around town, more and more people have taken notice leading to their recent signing with sonaBLAST! Records. The duo is set to release a record soon with their new label, but what’s the plan going forward? And what the hell is GRLwood? Who are these two ladies, and what are they all about?
To get you (and me) better acquainted, I reached out to Karen Ledford and Rej Forester for an interview to which they kindly obliged…
Never Nervous: How did GRLwood as a musical initiative come to be, and who does what?
Rej Forester: GRLwood was a solo project before Karen, and it was my independence statement as a musician after splitting from a controlling and unhealthy relationship/band that I was in with my partner at the time. GRLwood was my release from everything I had kept inside through the last 4 years, and through GRLwood I really began to blossom, musically speaking and with my vocal ability as well. No one saw music the way I did, when I got back to Louisville. The last 6 years, I had dropped everything and traveled for 6 years through 22 countries, living in the streets and playing guitar for coin. Nobody around me had that experience, nobody in the city was crazy enough to put music first in their lives and nobody really wanted to work with me, (’cause believe me, I asked almost everyone I knew involved in music here in Louisville). So, I played the suitcase as a drum and said fuck it and played all solo. Until I met Karen.
Karen Ledford: Last August I went to Time & Space Bar to see my friend’s noise project (WET) when I saw Rej performing solo as GRLwood and met her for the first time. I asked her if she wanted to jam a few days later and we’ve been working together ever since. Two weeks from meeting each other we played our first show together at Surface Noise Records. At the beginning of us playing together, Rej was still using her suitcase drum and doing 2-3 solo songs during the sets. After a few shows, we added some new songs and I became present full-time on stage with her.
“The last 6 years, I had dropped everything and traveled for 6 years through 22 countries, living in the streets and playing guitar for coin.”
NN: How does the song writing process work for you two? Is there a formula?
Karen: I think our best formula for writing music is when we record ourselves jamming and then go back to listen for potential songs in the mix. You can sort through so many ideas that way. When your write something that comes from improvisation, it often carries a natural, sincere sound. On the other hand, Rej also has a library of songs written in her head it seems. That fig can write a song.
Rej: Yeah more or less what Karen said. I have a SHIT TON of little guitar riffs sitting on my back burner from songs that never became from my last music project, but most of what we write is all improved. So we do a jam and are like, “dang, that was fuckin good, let’s go back to that.” And then like, the words are never planned. Lyrics are also improv, and for a lot of the songs, they stay phonetic/improv until it’s time to record the song.
NN: What inspires the two of you to create? Whether it be related to music or not, what gets you off as a musician?
Karen: I feel like I’m in a really good spot in life where I’m surrounded by so many delightful people that I always feel driven to play music and create. My life is nothing but me looking forward to the next time I sit behind a drum set. Rej and I have a lot of fun when we jam together too so that is how songs like “You Make Me Wet” and “Vaccines Made Me Gay” come to form. Sometimes we’re just goofy and wrestle each other though.
Rej: What inspires me to create is… it’s what I have always done, I guess. I am a sucker for making pop music. Catchy riffs, and honestly it’s not for anyone but myself. I know that when I craft a new project, and it’s so damn catchy that I can’t stop humming it (or Karen can’t get it out of her head), then I have succeeded, because I typically am dissatisfied with my creations, regardless of how good I know they are. And that’s what gets me off as a musician, I get myself off.
“Rej and I have a lot of fun when we jam together too so that is how songs like ‘You Make Me Wet’ and ‘Vaccines Made Me Gay’ come to form.”
NN: Where’d you get the name “GRLwood”? Is there a personal meaning behind it?
Karen: Rej made the name GRLwood before I came along. I loved it as soon as I heard it though. I thought it was giving homage to the riot grrrl bands of the 90’s.
Rej: I initially wanted to be “ladyboner” but there was already “boner city” and I didn’t wanna impose in anyway. And also ladyboner kind of felt not super serious of a name. Because at this point, I’m trying to name myself, but the only thing I have on the internet is a dream pop song that sounded nothing like my guitar driven sound. So I tried girlwood, which essentially means the same thing to me, and it fit better. Except I spell it GRLwood, and that felt more fitting to me too. I actually had never listened to any riot grrrl stuff and wasn’t aware of what it was until Karen showed me.
NN: How’d you describe the music that GRLwood makes to someone that has never heard you?
Karen: I would describe GRLwood’s sound as being dreamy, reverb-filled punk. It lullabies you and gets you comfy before it rips your head off, sometimes when you least expect it. Dream Punk? Hmm, maybe
Rej: If someone doesn’t listen to a lot of alternative music, I usually say pop/punk. But if someone does induldge in typically aggressive music, I’d say scream/pop.
“(Our music) lullabies you and gets you comfy before it rips your head off, sometimes when you least expect it.”
NN: In your bio, you describe yourselves as “2 angry lesbian genderfuck feminists screaming at you”. Can you elaborate on what exactly your message is as a band?
Rej: The message of being a angry lesbian genderfuck feminist is who we are as a band but also who we are privately as people. And I wanted to carry those pieces of myself into this music project because I am a newwave queer generfuck/fluid, oldwave queer lesbian, I am a feminist, and I am angry. When I started playing music solo in the street, I would present as “male” and it would make my experience safer, and I would make me more money. So when I came back to the US and began GRLwood, I wanted to keep that part of my musician self, so I began expressing myself in that manner on stage. Being fluid, I began GRLwood appearing more masculine presenting, then genderfuck, then femme presenting, and honestly it is a giant gender pendulum for me. It is my way of self expression, and if people identify with that and find strength or awareness in that, then that’s lovely.
Karen: I think the biggest message of GRLwood is empowerment. Embrace your inner self, respect others, and stand up for those who do not always have a voice. We live in a society where people are put down constantly for having the “wrong sexuality,” the “wrong color skin,” and the “wrong gender identity.” GRLwood speaks out against this and stands for equality
“I am a newwave queer genderfuck/fluid, oldwave queer lesbian, I am a feminist, and I am angry.”
NN: Now that you’ve signed with sonaBLAST!, what’s the plan moving forward? Is there a record on the way? Touring?
Karen: We just finished recording our debut, 10-song album with Anne Gauthier at La La Land last month. We did it all live and all in one day. It sounds a bit crazy to do an entire album in one day but it actually went pretty smoothly. Anne was wonderful to work with and I would work with her again in a heartbeat. I believe the next step for us is to film a couple of music videos and let those create a little buzz before we drop the album. We have not decided on a release date yet but it should not be too terribly long from now. Touring is definitely in our near future as well. With the label’s help, we will be able to purchase a van and get on the road this year.
NN: Seriously though, would GRLwood really play at my racist grandfather’s funeral?
Rej: That’s Karens thing and If the opportunity arose, and I had space to asses the situation, I am deff not opposed to it. As long as someone cried, was terrified that we were there and left in a fit, I’d be happy. (That actually happened at our last show at Tap room)
Karen: With family consent, I would totally perform at your racist grandpa’s funeral. I have this belief that when someone dies, they are shown what an asshole they are so your dead grandpa would probably be cool with a couple of fags playing his funeral in the end. Just tell me when and where.
“With family consent, I would totally perform at your racist grandpa’s funeral.”
NN: If you could teleport a fart directly into someone’s mouth, anyone on the planet, who’d you choose, and why?
Karen: I would teleport a fart into the mouth of a dude I know named Malachi *******. He stole all of my N64 games when he robbed my house. The only game he left me with was Mario Tennis. That is pure evil.
Rej: Anyone that I have a distaste for is honestly already living sad miserable lives, and their mouths are pretty much full of farts already. Fuck em, let them rot in their misery. Oh, but fuck the fucking Cheeto guy with the hair piece, what a meanie.
NN: Before you head out, tell us about your favorite song from 2018 thus far — what’s so damned good about it?
Karen: My mind is blank on what music has come out this year so I’ll just name a song that I’ve been stuck on for a while: “Your Brain Is Made Of Candy” by Mourn. They are a super rad 4-piece from Spain.
Rej: The whole album Damn. by Kendrick Lamar.