Sweat are something different. Representing Flint, Michigan they continue a growing tradition of local talent on the Berserker stage. Creators of some of the most adventurous music at the festival, Sweat blur the lines between metal, alt-rock and noise to mesmerizing effect. I caught up with guitarist/vocalist Krista Loutner and drummer Valerie just before the start of Berserker’s final day to chat about their unique sound, political activism, and the experience of women in the metal community.
The couple of releases on your bandcamp are very different from one another and I wanted to get some insight as to why that is and your approach to music.
Krista Loutner: The second EP we released is a prequel to the album that we’re coming out with in June, which is called Gloom Pride. Even the lyrics on that EP are on the actual album, but in a completely different light. It was like a setting up. Like when you get to the end of the EP, it’s set you up for the full album. But as far as the dynamic between the two? There’s a lot of movement on the new album that’s closer to Sides but it’s still heavy; maybe just a different translation of that stuff.
I’ve always been in awe of artists who can craft these big slow-burn epics like that. How does this come together?
Loutner: I honestly write songs ten times before they’re finished. Like, I re-write and re-write until it’s the way I know it’s supposed to be. Like Sides is a perfect example. I wrote those songs a certain way, and you’re gonna hear those songs–none of the same chords–but you’ll hear the same lyrical content, but you’ll hear the transition between how I write them on my own and then how I write them with the band.
I noticed you play a lot of really small DIY and house shows. How does it feel coming from that background to a festival stage like this?
Loutner: It’s a transition. There’s nothing better to me than being in close quarters in a space where people can really be themselves which is why I like DIY venues like the Trumbullplex and Crow Manor. To me it’s a lot more intimate, but it’s also really fun to work with a full system and hear things almost the way they were recorded and get the full effect.
I read that you recently played an LGBTQ youth benefit show at the FAR House in Ann Arbor. Do you feel like the band has a political or social stance or statement?
Loutner: Absolutely. I’m a feminist. So is Val, actually we all are. I feel like, especially right now, you have to have your point of view figured out. With the way things are you have to be able to defend yourself in the modern age. And I’m super for gay rights, trans rights, Black Lives Matter, you name it. I love doing benefit shows for things like that. Because it’s weird to be a metal girl, or even just a female in metal, it’s an intimidating situation. I feel like just doing what I do or doing what [Valerie] does is good for the younger crowd of girls that wanna do that but it’s a scary thing because we’re outnumbered.
Valerie: There’s so many of us, and yet you just don’t see enough of us.
I was just reading an article on the Reverb blog calling for an end to the term “female bassist” and just let all musicians be musicians.
Valerie: Exactly. There’s nothing we hate more than people being like “oh, you’re a chick drummer.”
Loutner: She hates it; it’s literally her least favorite thing to be told.
Valerie: And I know that nobody means it in a demeaning way, well some people do, but mostly nobody realizes that they’re saying something that’s super inappropriate. Yeah I would never take it personally, but that’s how it is.
We haven’t had many opportunities to have this kind of conversation in metal because of the lack of female presence and the tendency for metal to focus on apolitical escapism. Do you feel like you’re models for other women in the community?
Loutner: Yeah. I feel like, especially in metal, a lot of the women that make it are the complete polar opposite of what I do. They’re usually sexualized, you know?
The Revolver “Hottest Chicks in Metal” bullshit.
Loutner: Yeah! And I try to do the complete opposite of that. A representation of a gay metal girl who wants it to be about the music. It’s why we dress the way we do and we’re all covered up. I mean, you can see my face, but I want it to be about the music. That’s really the whole point of this, as opposed to it being some crazy show that people sell. What I’m trying to “sell” is my creative output.
So what’s on your plate as a politically active band from a town like Flint?
Loutner: Well, I am political but it’s not the sole basis around what I’m writing. A lot of the music is really emotionally driven, more touching on subjects of extreme depression and suicide.
Has being from of Flint had an affect on those emotions?
Loutner: I’m friends with David Gunn, he said it the best for me when he said that Flint is the best place to be a writer. Because you’re surrounded by hardships and by a lot of people who have to get along and don’t. There’s never a day where you’re not inspired by some fucked up shit that happens. I love Flint, I would choose to live there even if I didn’t have to.
I read something on the band’s page about planning a move to Detroit?
Valerie: We’re actually moving back to Flint; we just practice out here.
Loutner: Because of what we had at the time. We just go with what we have available. When we were practicing in Flint before we didn’t have heat, so when the winter came we had to move.
Valerie: Yeah, I’m the only one who’s not from Flint
So, lots of shows at the Trumbullplex? It’s a great place to go see shows, do you have a good relationship with the Detroit scene?
Loutner: For sure. I think Trumbullplex was the first place where I felt completely comfortable with what I’m doing. I mean, I’ve been doing this since I was 14, but that space had such a good reaction with what I was doing.
Your style really fits well with the kind of things they like to put on.
Valerie: They probably loved it. I’m sure they just went nuts.
Loutner: It was a life-changing experience, first time I played there. I really appreciate that space, more than most, because they really are so supportive. They’re not in it for the money, they’re in it for the music and that’s not usually the situation for a venue.
Between them and the Sanctuary, I feel like Detroit is kinda blessed with the DIY stuff.
Loutner: And they’re not just a venue, they’re also active in a lot of the same causes I’m active in. So just having that like-mindedness is great.
Is there some greater idea you’re pushing that the music is one facet of and the actions are another? Like, when you’re playing this show tonight, are you just playing us one piece of a larger picture?
Loutner: I feel like I am. I feel like just being female in music in general, in this genre especially, is saying something on its own.
On a lighter note, who are you excited to see tonight?
Loutner: I’m really excited for Boreworm. I actually work with the drummer in Sunlight’s Bane, but especially Boreworm. Valerie, you like Immortal Bird?
Valerie: Yes. Also, probably Weedeater and The Obsessed for me. And Fell Ruin. They actually open, so I’m hoping that I can catch part of their first song and then run down here to play our set!
That’s what I was doing yesterday, constantly running from stage to stage trying to see everything. I’m really impressed that anybody was able to pull something like this off, I have no idea how it works!
Loutner: Shawn and Veronica [Knight, show promoters] are amazing and we appreciate them so much. Even just for considering us and having us on the bill. I mean they have some huge names on the bill and they’re still giving consideration to local acts and people who are from here instead of just trying to blast out every single big band.
Which brings us to my next point: there’s a lot of hometown heroes on the roster; bands from Michigan and Ohio.
Loutner: I really wish I could have seen Artillery Breath. That was the one thing I really missed yesterday. We’re friends with the drummer as well.
Is there anything else you want to talk about before you go set up?
Loutner: Just our album release. Gloom Pride is coming out June 23rd and everything will be online. There’s a pre-order situation, and we’re working with Saw Her Ghost and Anti-Magic. I just want to give a shout-out to those labels because they are fronting all the money to press it and they’re great guys; like-minded to us. They’re at an anti-Trump rally right now.