SEX STAINS: WE WERE ALL SEX STAINS
photography by debi del grande
The name Sex Stains is certainly provocative—think images of pay-by-the-hour motels and dirty mattresses stacked up on street corners. But it’s much more than that. In fact, it might be the essence of all things: it’s creation, a messy explosion of life coming into being, thrust into existence without even fully understanding its own strange and miraculous beauty. And it’s a metaphor that truly sums up the wonder that is Sex Stains the band. Sharif Dumani, Allison Wolfe, Mecca Vazie Andrews, David Orlando, and Pachy Garcia came together from disparate corners of the artistic world—as well as the actual world—and out of chaos, they make so much sense. Influenced by 1970s post-punk with a collage-art approach to lyricism, Sex Stains is a fun, animalistic force for good, full of attitude courtesy of its vivacious front-ladies, and musically as infectious as something you might find on one of those mattresses on the street … but not as itchy. Their self-titled album is out now on Don Giovanni and their record release show is Sun., Sept. 4, at the Echo. This interview by Daiana Feuer.
I know you met each other through being in the same tribute bands—but how did Sex Stains actually come into existence?
Allison Wolfe (vocals): For me, I really wanted to be in a band, and I’d been doing all these tribute night bands that David organized. That’s kind of how I got to know everyone who would come to be in Sex Stains. The Slips is how I got to know David, and then the Crass tribute night was how I got to know Mecca and she was by far the best singer in that. I was like—whoa! Sharif and I got to know each other better through the Rough Trade All-Stars. I’d seen Sharif play before, too. In each case, I thought each of them were such interesting people in addition to stand-out musicians, and it came together bit by bit.
Sharif Dumani (guitar): And we started hanging out more. Allison’s band Cool Moms wasn’t really doing anything and I was like, ‘Shit, we could start a band?’ And Allison was like, ‘I would start a band with you!’ I remember thinking Mecca was incredible and Allison agreed—two girls, two singers, that would be so cool—and she said sure. At first David didn’t respond to our email but we were persistent and he finally answered. And then Dante White Aliano [of Dante Vs. Zombies] was originally playing with us. The first one I brought in was ‘Oh No Say What.’ We were fucking around—we had some things that sounded garage but we didn’t want to go that route, and we had one song that sounded like a Nissan commercial so we chucked that. Then Dave came on board. Dante had just gone through the split of his band and some personal relationship stuff so he had bowed out. Dave mentioned he knew a bassist that worked at NatureWell down the street from his house— Pachy—and he had a band Prettiest Eyes. He came in and was so sweet and finally the band was complete. It took a little while. Allison was kind of stalking David for some time. But definitely all those cover band shows threaded us together—even musically you can see the traces of ideas and tastes that inform our sound from those bands.
AW: None of us knew Pachy at all, except David. But he came in and learned every song the first take. He’s such an excellent musician. He’s a keeper.
SD: At first we wanted a female bassist. For me, less dude energy is cool, and girls are more fun.
At least Pachy had long hair.
Mecca Vazie Andrews (vocals): He had two long hairs! Those two long dreads. And he’s sweet.
Mecca, your background is primarily dance. Had you been in a band before?
MVA: Once, for a very short amount of time. It was called Precious Medals with Paloma Parfrey and Inez Parra. We switched out instruments and played for about two years.
AW: Paloma had recommended you and I really wanted to be in a band with two singers. I’m kind of sick of being the sole front person in a band. I’m bored of myself. And bored of my voice and my shtick. Not really … but kind of.
How do you write vocals for two?
MVA: It’s an organic process of building scaffolding. Sharif brought in music for ‘Oh No Say What’ and we puzzle-pieced on top of it. Allison and I would write things and kind of mold it as we continued scaffolding, as Pachy developed his bass and David his drums. That’s what’s beautiful about it. We do have similar interests but we all came from different backgrounds and didn’t know each other that well. It was magical in that we came to know each other through collaborating, and through puzzle-piecing the sounds we were developing. It wasn’t like we had a clear concept of ‘let’s make a post-punk band.’ It was more the shaping of this collage—my pulling back as Allison pulls forward, and vice versa. We are also respectful of each other musically.
AW: Mecca and I have such different styles. I definitely have to hear the instrumentation first and each of us would react to the song, and whoever came up with something great first, we worked off that and weaved together. Sometimes it was verse or chorus, sometimes it was every other line. We don’t often even discuss things, so the lyrics might be pretty different—what I’m talking about, what she’s talking about—but somehow they make sense.
Like you’re singing about apples and she’s written a song about zebras and it just makes sense.
SD: It’s like collage art in that sense.
AW: I feel like Mecca is about sounds. Her voice is like an instrument.
AW: Does that sound stupid? You guys know what I mean. You make sounds with your voice that sound more like instruments or effects more than words.
It’s like the sound communicates more than a sentence would.
SD: Like, hoo, ha, hoo, hoo hoo, ha! Whatever it is—the grunts and abstract factor—it makes the song. It paints a picture.
How did you link up with Don Giovanni Records?
AW: It actually was the first label I contacted. And the only one. I knew the bands—Downtown Boys, Priests, Screaming Females, all bands I love and all bands that are politicized. That’s totally what I wanted to be a part of. He wrote back within 24 hours: ‘Hell yeah, I listened to all your songs and they’re great. And I know who you are anyways. You played in my wife’s basement a long time ago in Jersey.’ It was a relief. I didn’t want to beg anyone or convince anyone that we were right for them. I just wanted them to feel it right away, and for us to feel it right away.
You mentioned the term ‘politicized.’ Why is that important to you?