Artist Spotlight: Strange Breed
Community comes first for the queer women behind this rock n’ roll four-piece
Strange Breed finds strength in how they fit into this city—even if, at times, they don’t feel like they fit in at all.
“We’re always a little bit different on every bill. We’re either the heavy band of the night or the soft band of the night, or we’re the band that sounds too much like mainstream rock, and that’s okay,” says vocalist and rhythm guitarist Nicolle Dupas. “It’s cool to stick out like that.”
Dupas, drummer Megan Bell, lead guitarist Terra Chaplin, and bassist Ally Von Wallis, are the four queer women behind the band’s larger-than-life rock sound. Their lyrics are frank and feminist, with Dupas’ glam metal wail belting “consent is cool!” and exploring issues from American gun laws to predatory behaviour from men in positions of power.
“We touch on as much as we can in a three minute song or less, and we try to make it applicable to anyone who identifies with any gender or any sexual identity because, regardless of if you’re gay or straight or anywhere in between, you’ve experienced something that we’ve talked about in most circumstances,” she says.
It’s heavy subject matter made accessible through the group’s playful songwriting and boisterous personality, both in the studio and in front of a crowd.
Even the most catatonic show-goer might find it hard to sit still during one of Strange Breed’s sets. If you’re not moving, the band will do it for you—sometimes by dancing with an enormous plush shark during their fittingly-titled track “Sharks”, sometimes with a leap into the crowd from Dupas.
The bandmates often speak their minds on stage, explaining the context for their songs or commenting on current events. Unobstructed opinions are consistently at the forefront of the band’s image, and while the members do share lived experiences, they readily acknowledge how their differences factor into their musicianship as well.
“We’re all women and we’re all queer but we’re all somewhere different on the spectrum when it comes to gender identity and sexual orientation,” says Dupas. “We’re all pretty different and we all experience life differently, so I think it came together pretty well that our music can be experienced from different perspectives.”
Dupas explains that she and Von Wallis, as more femme-presenting people, often find themselves being flirted with or talked down to after a gig while Bell and Chaplin are more likely to get simple congratulations.
“The same people who are giving hugs to Nicolle and Ally are giving us handshakes, you know?” says Bell, adding that the celebration of differences in the queer community is part of what inspired them to start the band.
”We really took strongly to owning our identities in a way where we could include more people,” she says. “The message is that who you are is enough. Come join us!”
Every member of Strange Breed came from a radically different place before they started playing music together. Dupas had been itching to start an all-women group for a while, and had tried her hand at it a few times before finding Chaplin through Craigslist. She and Bell—long-term partners and proud parents to a pug affectionately nicknamed Meatball—were living together when she started looking for drummers and slowly realized Bell was the right one for the band. The trio had already been jamming for a while when they found Von Wallis, a barista who had never picked up a bass before Dupas asked her if she wanted to learn.
Now Strange Breed has put out a couple of EPs and a handful of singles, with more material on the way. They’re gearing up to release a new record in September and are teasing it with a single coming out next month. On July 6, they will be playing with North by North (Chicago), Cawama, and Colour Tongues at Static Jupiter on East 6th Street.