The members of local all-female postpunk outfit Necking assemble on a bar patio on a Sunday night, struggling to hear the Georgia Straight’s interview questions over a cell amid the hustle and bustle. As her bandmates laugh, ever-resourceful guitarist Nada Hayek creates a makeshift megaphone out of the packaging for her JUUL pods, instantly solving the problem.
Hayek, singer Hannah Karren, bassist Sonya R., and drummer Melissa Kuipers released their first full-length album as Necking, Cut Your Teeth, on July 5 and are planning a “hot party” to celebrate its release at the Red Gate Arts Society this weekend.
“We’re giving out free toothbrushes at the door, so when you go home with the person you want to go home with, you can brush your teeth in the morning,” says Karren.
Even over the phone, it’s clear that the musicians have become so close they can get away with mercilessly making fun of each other, frequently interrupting and trying to get their own quips in.
When the conversation moves to Karren’s explosive, distorted vocal delivery, Kuipers audibly rolls her eyes and says, “Oh, the Hannah question.” The irreverent humour that you find in Necking’s music is fully present in the energetic group dynamic.
Most of the songs on Cut Your Teeth present satirical and sarcastic ruminations on the band members’ relationships and the state of living and making music in Vancouver, catchy bass lines backing up Karren’s full-voiced shout and unapologetic, in-your-face lyrics, most of which Kuipers penned.
“I think that we just don’t know how to use metaphor,” Kuipers said. “I’m a very straightforward person to a fault. I overshare, and I don’t understand what’s appropriate and what’s not.”
Kuipers notes that she sometimes even regrets putting some of the things she says in her lyrics out into the world.
“Even though I have so much embarrassment and a hard-core shame-over the day after sharing something like this, I don’t know what else to do,” she says.
A quick Google search of the term shame-over offers the definition “A hangover, but for your feelings.” The track “Still Exist” sees the newly heartbroken narrator listing some mundane chores, constantly reminding herself that she can function as a human on her own.
“I got into this neurotic state where I would be like, ‘You know, Melissa, you still exist,’ ” Kuipers says. “I’d be frantically washing my dishes and be like, ‘You’re human, you’re a person,’ even though it felt really bare-minimum. Like, ‘You got out of bed? Good for you, bitch. That’s what you have to do, dumbass.’ ”
Three of the band’s four members were going through breakups while writing the new material. Although most of the lyrics deal with Kuipers’s specific experiences, frontwoman Karren doesn’t mind serving as her friend’s voice.
“Whatever I’m feeling is entering her and coming out the way I felt it,” Kuipers says. “I would chalk that up to us being really good friends and feeling like we can be open with each other.”
“Going through a breakup is nothing new, and Melissa’s tapped into some pretty relatable stuff,” Karren adds. “It’s like being friends with a person and knowing the whole situation, and feeling angry for someone.”
Ensuring that each of the bandmates had the full support of their friends as they dealt with their romantic troubles, each held off on breaking the news until the previous one had appropriate time to recover, essentially staggering their breakups.
“No one’s going to be that asshole who breaks up a day after you do. Like, ‘Fuck that attention shift,’ ” says Sonya R., as Karren laughs and adds, “You’re going to enjoy your shitty relationship until I’m over mine.”
Necking centres its project in a very specific time and place with some topical cultural references, including the gentrification of the arts scene in this city. An entire track, “Habbo Hotel,” is devoted to the online social-networking game of the same name.
Still, the group feels the general sentiments of its songs are universal.
“Insert the name of whoever’s doing it in your city,” Karren says.
“No Playtime” goes further into the consequences of gentrification, one darkly hilarious lyric suggesting that musicians move to Montreal. The song “Boss” offers another satirical twist, imagining a scenario where the speaker sleeps with their boss to get ahead.
“I think it’s trying to justify playing into the cycle of power abuse, and also living in the city and trying to make it no matter what. People are like, ‘Wow, she really slept her way to the top,’ ” Sonya R. says in a deeper, mocking voice. “Like, so what?”
The band’s natural humour seems appropriate for a group that is proud of not taking itself too seriously, especially given that the band’s formation was somewhat of a joke.
“There was this very intense moment when we were at a party, and there were these two dudes talking to us and we were like, ‘Yeah, we’re in a band, like whatever.’ They were like, ‘What do you play?’ and I was like, ‘Drums,’ ” says Kuipers, as Karren loses herself laughing in the background.
“She had never touched a drum!” Karren finally manages to get out.
Hayek, of course, has her own take on the story. “I didn’t know about this plan of you guys lying about being in a band, and one of the dudes came up to me later at the party and was leaning against the wall. And he’s like, ‘You’re in a band, huh?’ and I was like, ‘Fuck, Melissa!’ So I was like, ‘Well, I gotta go with it now, or I’ll fuck things up. And it worked,” she says.
“I guess sometimes you’ve got to lie to make shit happen,” Kuipers says definitively.
You might come away from Cut Your Teeth feeling like the members of Necking are angry about a lot of things. Deeper down, though, their songs promote positivity and self-love in the midst of some bad situations.
“I don’t hate life, I really like it,” says Kuipers. “I mean, a lot of the lyrics are about shitty relationships, being broke, whatever. But really, the thing that we focus on the most is friendship and growth.”