Interview by Maria Catamero. Photos (in
order) by Ron Avila, Sean Kelly, Matt Alcock.
Gossip is definitely one of the more entertaining rock groups
of late. Almost a year and a half ago, the band surprised the
entire nation when they opened for Sleater Kinney. I unfortunately
was unable to make any of their New York shows, but was told
by many people, who unaware of the Gossip’s infectious
grip, that they wandered into the most amazing and surreal musical
experience ever. In fact, The Gossip was described to me as
"a Jon Waters movie on stage as a band." After listening
to their K Records release the only thing I could come away
with was simple bluesy beats and crunch and a vocal track that
carried everything - the melody, the soul, the character...
It was like Janis Joplin coming to life and capturing the essence
of this garage band. The first time I saw The Gossip, I was
under their spell within minutes. Front woman and punk rock
gospel singer Beth stepped on stage and with just her presence
alone commanded the audience. She took control of the room and
for the rest of the set had everyone hanging on her every word,
her every move and every blow of Kathi’s spinal back beat
drumming. Most recently The Gossip has released That’s
Not What I Heard on Kill Rocks Stars and have toured several
times since their astonishing debut as opening act to Sleater
I didn’t get to see you when
you opened before Sleater Kinney - before I knew who you were
- because I had to work both nights at the bar. My friend Jenny
got to go and she came home that night and was like "Oh
my god! O my god! This band the Gossip... I wandered in during
their set and holy shit!" And I was told earlier that day
by Slim that you guys were like a Jon Waters movie come to life.
So I was like, "Hmmm... the Gossip. I wonder what that’s
all about." When I finally did see you at Ladyfest in Olympia,
I was like "Whoa." Beth, you come out onto the stage
and you just command the attention of the entire audience.
Beth: It’s really important, I guess...
I feel if they’re not into your music then they’re
not there for the right reason. They’re just there to
be seen, which I guess... it’s really annoying. It’s
really depressing. If you’re going to go to a show, then
you should have a good time. You should dance. You should pay
attention to the band. Why did you pay five bucks to see this
band? It doesn’t make any sense. You know what I mean...
Yeah. It’s just that the
music is very powerful yet so concise and simple and you have
this Janis Joplin thing and totally take the whole song to another
level. Did you guys play together in the South?
B: We’re from Arkansas. We never played
music together in Arkansas. Kathi and Nathan did a little bit.
Nathan was in a band with my best friend Jerry, who is in Olympia
also... my roommate, actually my soul mate - they played in
a band. So we never played together. It wasn’t until we
moved to Olympia that we played music together and that was
out of complete boredom. We were so bored because Olympia isn’t
the most pick-up-and-go, happening, something-to-do-all-the-time
kind of place. It’s a town; a sleepy little town. So we
had to find something to do.
B: Kathi moved to go to college. Kathi and Nathan
were dating. Nathan moved out there for Kathi, Jerry moved out
there for queer scene and to be with Kathi and Nathan, and I
moved out there to be with them.
Nathan: Why did I move to Olympia... for Kathi,
yeah, for moral support.
Did you go for school?
N: No. I just went there... She went to college
and I was stuck in Arkansas, totally bored, and I was like,
what do I do...
Do you find that Olympia feeds
B: I think it can...
N: There is nothing else to do, so all you have
to do is concentrate on music.
It’s really hard to live
in New York and find time to do your art and music because you
spend all your time working to pay the rent. It’s really
expensive out here. I noticed in the Pacific Northwest, especially
when I have been there for Yo-Yo and Ladyfest, that everyone
seems to support everyone else and inspire everyone else. It
seems everyone is really creative and encourages everyone else.
You don’t really see that kind of a network out here in
B: It really is like that. I think it’s
really supportive. It’s a really good community. But it’s
really not like when you see the festivals... that’s not
the town. You’re not seeing the town.
What did you do before you started
playing music or before you moved to Olympia?
B: Nothing. I worked at a market. I washed dishes
and played guitar while I listened to records.
Do you find that it’s easy to be really
creative living in Olympia?
N: Well yeah, I don’t live there anymore.
I live in Portland now, but it’s only a half an hour away.
But when I lived in Olympia, all I did was draw or write or
eat candy or cereal... play music, watch movies every day. It
gives you a lot of time. You can survive in Olympia off like
a dollar because it’s so cheap and rent is like $80 to
$100. You can work one or two days and have your rent and the
rest of the time just hang out with your friends, play music,
and concentrate on things.
Nathan, how did you get into
N: I lived in Arkansas and I always liked music
my whole life, ever since I was little. I never liked sports
or anything like that. I grew up on a farm surrounded by kids
who wanted to shoot guns or fish or play sports. It never seemed
right for me to do that kind of thing. So, I got a guitar when
I was like 15 or 16 years old and I still to this day never
took lessons and I still don’t know a lot about guitar.
What are your influences?
N: Like guitar wise? I’m really into old,
old music. I like the guitar sound. I like a lot of blues,like
Muddy Waters and Blonde Willy... and then I like lots of other
B: But that’s not what you’re into
N: That’s kind of the weird thing about
me. I like blues and I like oldies, and I listen to that a lot.
But I’m more into... I guess my main bag or whatever is
the spasticness. I like lots of late Seventies No Wave and lots
of noise stuff and fucked up rhythm and off time. It’s
weird because I don’t think it shows through. All of the
other bands in Olympia and Portland are weird off time, fucked
up rhythm guitar, totally D-tuned stuff. But the Gossip is kind
of my take on blues or classical blues or gospely soul, you
know. My take on it.
That’s why I like you guys.
Everyone is doing the spastic noise stuff. Your music is very
bluesy and, Beth, your singing is very gospely. You don’t
really see that in a lot of punk music.
B: It’s a different soul. Like punk is totally
soulful, but it’s a totally different soul than gospel
or blues or soul music, like soul-soul... and it’s totally
heartfelt and totally there. It’s just different. It’s
the same principle, but like a different sound.
N: It’s the soul of being poor and being
a kid... being white kids like us and living in the South and
growing up poor and being harassed everyday by people. I mean,
thats attributes a lot to this.
Did you take dance, acting or
B: Never, never have. Never will, like ever.
N: We’re pretty anti-lessons.
Beth, what are your influences?
B: Mahalia Jackson, the gospel singer. Janis Joplin,
Aretha Franklin, Gladys Night, Bessie Smith, even Bonnie Rait.
Tori Amos... like different kinds of scenes. It’s just
all different. I really love country music... I love Reba MacIntire.
I love Patsy Cline. I love Garth Brooks, fucking Johnny Cash.
I love it all. I look up to a lot of different people...
A lot of people probably wouldn’t admit
to like country music or probably don’t even really know
that much about it.
B: It’s true. First of all, I love the people
I’m in a band with... Our roadie Otto brought this country
mix album that has "Friends In Low Places" by Garth
Brooks on it and I’m like, this is good! This is real.
This is what I would listen to in my room. If this were on the
radio, I would totally stop and sing to this in my room. It’s
kind of crappy that people wouldn’t admit to that stuff.
It’s "cooler" to admit to being into Bessie
Smith or Gladys Knight... but for me, fuck it. This is the music
I listen to and this is what I like. This is what I grew up
listening to. I love that stuff because it’s a different
How did you start The Gossip?
You all moved out there as a group of friends and then... I
mean, you have this amazing theatrical presence.
B: But it’s not. That’s the thing.
People have said "this is your act" but it’s
not our "act", this is my reaction to music and this
is my response to the music I play. This is how I feel about
music. I’ve done this my whole life. I used to dance to
the reflection in the television. It’s the stuff I’ve
always been into. Nathan’s been into music, Kathi’s
been into music... like in all of our own different ways. It’s
no act. There’s no theatrics and if there is it is totally
accidental and coincidental. That’s just what comes out.
We grew up in a town where if you didn’t dance or didn’t
play music then you didn’t have shit to do. And it was
kind of looked down on if you weren’t playing the piano
in your church then you weren’t playing the right kind
of music or if you weren’t playing country, you know.
If you didn’t want to play it then you were bored out
of your fucking mind. And that’s what it comes out of.
We’re dancers... when I go to shows in Seattle, I’m
like "what are you thinking, why are you just standing
there!!!" It’s totally obvious to me that these kids
are taking this for granted. They took advantage of the fact
that they fucking had music there their whole life and they
could go downtown and have something to do or just go to the
community center and just hang out with the kids, you know,
because we didn’t have that and we were totally on our
Did you guys sing in church when
you were young? Did you sing in choir?
B: We all did. Nathan went to church... I don’t
know if he was in choir. Kathi was in choir; I was in choir
in church. I was in choir in school. Kathi was in band in school.