Girl Guts: Full of Heart

by Jake Werrion

For the past three years Girl Guts have been creating and performing some of the most energetic, beer fueled alt-punk music in Bellingham. Anyone who’s been to a Girl Guts show knows how incredible they are, having left the venue sweaty, sticky, buzzed, sporting an ear to ear grin and some minor hearing loss. They’ve become a huge part of Bellingham’s music scene, not only as an act, but a magnet that brings bands up the interstate to perform. They’ve been building a solid body of work that includes a self-released full length album, Victoria, and are preparing to release a new album this summer.
Girl Guts consists of Andrew Wild, Ryan Baily and Andrew Beer, all of whom spent most of their lives growing up in the Midwest. Beer migrated to Bellingham around 2008 in an attempt to reinvent himself far away from his Michigonian roots. Wild and Baily were in a band called Here’s Johnnie that relocated to Bellingham from Wisconsin, along with their friend and former bandmate Justin Taylor. Here’s Johnnie was active for about a year in Bellingham before Justin decided to head back to Wisconsin. Justin was a keystone of the band, there wasn’t much for Andrew and Ryan to do but retire the project and focus on something else. Fortunately, just before the end of Here’s Johnnie, Wild and Beer were introduced to each other through one of Beer’s co-workers who thought (correctly) that the two Andrews really should meet.
Girl Guts formed shortly after. It seems perfectly natural; both Andrews bring in ideas for songs, switching the roles of bass and guitar with each other (usually depending on who is writing the song) while Ryan holds everything together on drums. The Andrews usually operate with a near 50/50 split on guitar and vocals, based on whose ideas become the framework of the song. The ease of cooperation creates a strangely harmonized sound for how different their styles and influences are.
The beginnings of Girl Guts take place around May 2011, down in the basement of the Lil’ Wisconsin (the house that Here’s Johnnie originally landed in Bellingham) up on Pacific Highway. Despite the fact that the basement smelled rat-dead of mold and mildew, it was the perfect place for them to begin writing music, somewhat reminiscent of the Midwest where basements are far more common, and with no limit on how loud they can be. “The Horses Got Out” and “Two Kids” came quickly and naturally, setting the sort of style they’d be working around for the next couple of years; fast, heavy, distorted guitars and bass, lots of brass on the drums with incredible fills and rolls, and often a subtle sort of melancholy in the vocal melodies that counterbalances the weight of the music.
Within a few months, they had recorded a demo of five songs and were playing shows in their basement, gaining a reputation as both an amazing, refreshing band as well as a venue with no real threat of being busted for noise pollution. The shows were getting bigger and the basement eventually flooded (the sump pump died) so they took the music upstairs where the scene grew even more notorious, governed only by the philosophy of “be nice, party hard.”
The concerts at the Lil’ Wisconsin started attracting bands from as far away as the Bay Area and inspired the organization of small festivals in their living room (Beerfest, for example). This allowed for some of the most epic parties and house shows in recent Bellingham history, as well as giving Girl Guts a chance to develop themselves as a live band. Despite how relaxed and nonchalant they often appear with their constant banter with the crowd and complete lack of the usual rockstar arrogance, they take their performance very seriously, realizing that music (live music especially) is a necessity.
“The music needs energy, needs to let loose” said Andrew Beer as he discussed the importance of live music and mosh pits. “It’s like a $5 therapy session.”
One could say that they’ve become experts at eliciting catharsis, but the truth is, Girl Guts just has fun and it’s contagious as hell.
Girl Guts decided early on as part of their namesake that they would try to pay homage to feminism by naming their releases after notable women. When they reissued their demo through Hazetapes on cassette, they titled it Madge, for Madge Bellamy, the disenfranchised actress (star of 1932’s White Zombie) who shot her cheating lover. Their first official album was called Victoria, after their friend (also a transplant from Wisconsin) who helped the band in uncountable ways to get their name out by talking them up and networking. Continuing in this fashion, they’re naming their newest album Susan B. and Elizabeth C. after Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth C. Stanton, two very influential figures of women’s suffrage whose successful influence was framed by mutual cooperation.
As an album, Susan B. and Elizabeth C. has a very unique twist in terms of how it is being presented. It will be released initially on vinyl before it sees any other formats as a sort of mini double album. Recorded at the Purple Church, side a is named Susan B and mixed by Alex Ferrin, while side b is named Elizabeth C and mixed by Brendon Silk. The subtle differences in the sound mixture gives the album the effect of being two separate entities working together, even though it was recorded in the same room. The new album was recorded live with each side done in two takes, using a large group of friends to sing backup vocals and Joshua Black to contribute an impromptu trumpet line. It will be a very solid representation of how Girl Guts works; fast, off the cuff, intense, and built for friends.
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