Gravy Train!!!! is the band that shocked you, thrilled you, made you laugh and got you dancing, and you just had to share their music with a friend while hoping your mom never heard it. Electroclash, queercore, new wave hip hop, lo-fi dance disco- this band was all over the place, in the best way possible.
Funx, founding member also known as Carolina, also known as one of the coolest cousins to corner at a family holiday party & ask "what's Kathleen Hanna really like?" She graciously obliged & agreed to spill the beans on her time as an underground rock star.
So how did GT!!!! come about?
Chunx and I moved to the Bay area when we were 18. She used to go on these dates with shitty dudes, and at some point we started writing songs about these guys. It was just dumb roommate fun, until we decided to be a real band. We recruited two friends, Drunx and Hunx- the four !!!! stand for the band members. Hunx and Chunx did most of the writing, and Junx and I danced around on stage when we weren’t playing keyboard (we mostly danced).
We used to show up at parties and chant “Gravy Train!!!! Gravy Train!!!!” in between other bands’ sets, as if we were waiting for GT!!!! to go on. Eventually we started bringing our instruments and equipment even though no one asked us to. We’d just show up at a party and start playing! It’s amazing we were never kicked out.
We got a dinky little 4-track and recorded the Menz Ep. The sound was 80s hip-hop and Gary Glitter inspired. We’d leave our CDs at Amoeba, which I guess is how you promoted your shit before the internet. But Spam Records ended up releasing it when “Hella Nervous” caught on with college radio.
Was that your first big break?
Our big break would be touring as an opener for Bratmobile. Bratmobile took us on a Pacific Northwest tour, then a national tour. We learned a lot about being a band then.
We were never overtly political, but obviously feminist and queer. Our schtick was to be like a band parody; we hardly considered ourselves a “real band.” But, whatdayaknow, after the Bratmobile tour, Kill Rock Stars signed us for a full album!
Kill Rock Stars Records!
Yeah, that was a legit moment. But then Junx left the band- she wanted to “be normal” or whatever shit. We started a rumor that she got pregnant and that’s why she left, ha. No ill will, just being dicks. But then we got the wonderful Drunx! We always wanted to be like Fly Girls, but with gay boys as backup dancers, so that dream came true.
Yeah, I don’t think I ever saw a GT!!!! performance that ended with everyone fully clothed.
Junx stripped to his underwear all the goddamn time. It was the best! Actually he took his underwear off a lot too. And at All Ages shows to boot. Again, it’s amazing we were never kicked out anywhere. (Katie - I remember this. He also made out with dudes in the crowd and licked things. Pure awesome) We really wanted our shows to be like that- just a super fun time, a really energetic spectacle. We danced and jumped all over the place, and yes, stripped (laughs). When we traveled we got a lot of looks. Especially in Texas.
So your first full album, Hello Doctor was released in 2003?
Yeah, we released another EP and then Hello Doctor came out, and we started headlining our own tours up and down the coast and all over California.
I remember our rider basically asked for Coronas and limes cut into the shape of pentagrams. That never happened, but we tried.
What was it like headlining shows, and having fans come out to see you?
It was a trip. But great. Seeing little marginalized kids, little gay kids in small hometowns singing along to “Pussy Thrusts” and “You Made Me Gay, Girl!” and just having a blast rocking out, that was so satisfying.
We even got to do a Euro tour. This was still before the internet was what it is now, so I was always surprised that these kids so far away had even heard of us.
Sweden was the best. I remember kids were asking us about Duff beer, what is tasted like. We were like “No that’s just on the Simpsons! It’s not a real beer!” but they couldn’t believe us! They were convinced it was real!
Our next album was Are You Wigglin? (also on Kill Rock Stars) and that came out in 2005. We went with a 60s girl group, 70s hair rock, queercore sound for that one. No synths, heavy keyboard.
And you toured with LE TIGRE i am so so jealous
Yeah that tour was fuckin awesome! Riot grrrl was always a huge influence on us. That, and gay disco. But yeah Le Tigre, that shit was rad. We did a European tour with them.
It was funny, Le Tigre had this swanky double decker tour bus, and we followed along behind them in a converted mail truck.
I have to ask what it was like hanging out with Kathleen Hanna
Kathleen Hanna is as amazing as you think. She’s just a super genuine, fun person. I used to stretch before the shows, and Kathleen would just pop out of nowhere and join me in backstage yoga.
I gotta ask-- Ghost Boobs. where did that come from? I love that song
Ghost Boobs, ooooh we hardly knew ye! Ghost Boobs are when you had bazongas but then go on a fad diet and your thighs and tummy stay but you lose your boobs. It’s a real problem.
I remember seeing your parents at a GT!!!! show and thinking they were very chill with it all, even though you were singing songs like “Kottonmouth BJ” and “Titties Bounce”
I love my parents, they are so supportive, but I definitely hid the fact that I was in a band from my mom for years. She kept asking to hear our music but I wouldn’t play it for her, so she finally went to Virgin Records and bought a CD. She took it home, listened to it, and cried her eyes out!
Thankfully my dad kinda rescued it by saying “It’s just about young people looking for love.” Okay. (laughs) I mean, whatever, after that they would come to shows and be the proud parents. I’d meet fans after the show who would go “I met your mom! She’s so nice!” My mom would go around doing the “That’s my daughter!” thing. She became a proud mama bear when she realized all the profanity was a cry for love (laughs).
It cracks me up that you hid your band from your mom. You were in school (UC Berkeley) at the same time- were you like a mini celebrity on campus?
(Laughs) oh NO. No I wasn’t really telling people at school either, unless they asked. It would’ve been cool, but no.
I do remember one time, I was in a class and the girl in front of me was wearing a Are You Wigglin? shirt. That made my day! I didn’t tell her who I was or anything, but it was rad.
And then your fourth album, All the Sweet Stuff, was released in 2007
Yes, that one had a more dance-y sound, not as lo-fi. And we toured with Jonny Makeup!
Jonny Makeup is hilarious. When we first met him, he was moonlighting as a phone sex operator. He can fake a woman’s voice real well- his working girl name was “Bunny.” So we used to make him do his phone sex bits for us in the tour bus. So effing funny.
He used to say “I’m just a coal miner’s daughter and you girls took me out of the tri-state area.”
What other memorable acts did you play with?
We got to open for the Go-Gos, and one time I got to meet Billy Joel. Oh, and Gloria Steinem spoke before one of our shows!! She’s fabulous, I love her.
What! Jealous! What about memorable fans?
Well I loved the Duff-loving Swedes for sure. Oh wait- the best fan moment, or at least the most memorable- we had a 14-year-old girl jump onstage once, and she had a whipped cream can with her. She sprayed whipped cream on my chest and licked it off! Straight up! That was the only time I ever broke character, out of shock that this tiny person just up and did that. And then after the show when we were leaving, I saw her outside. And her mom rolled up in a minivan and yelled “Joy! Come on!” and she jumped in. Joy’s mom picked her up in a minivan after the show. I crack up every time I think about it.
Ah, GT!!!! shows were SO fun
Yeah, I was in the band from age 19 to 28. It was a kick-ass way to spend my 20s, and I met so many amazing people. Hunx was my Gay of Honor in my wedding. Good memories :]