Cheap perfume lingers in authentic punk style
A crowd engulfed in a state of passivity, with the thundering first riff and a display of swelling vocals, Cheap Perfume transforms the audience into a transfixed audience – a testament to the band’s appeal. Seven years into the run, the band continues to garner admiration and contribute to Denver’s ever-evolving punk scene. From the unleashed energy of their stage presence and lyrics that denounce Nazis and sexism to the heavy drumming and powerful female vocals, punk is at the heart of every aspect of the band. Subscribing to a punk image and sound, however, was not a fixed intention for the band upon their realization.
“We didn’t mean to say we had a sound in mind that we wanted to sound like, it was more like what came up when we played together and when Stephanie and I got together – actually all of us – and wrote lyrics or Stephanie would say hey I wrote these lyrics and I think at this certain rhythm, it just happened like that. It just came naturally, our sound did it, and then instantly people were like, this is feminist punk,” said guitarist and co-vocalist Jane No.
Putting their emotions at the forefront of their music, the band produce a surging punk sound that is both retro and innovative. Much of the frantic nature of their music comes to life through the frank lyricism the band employs. While writing their lyrics, Jane No described writing, “Just whatever pissed us off at the time. I mean, not all of our songs are angry, but a lot of them are. Everything that pisses us off at that time, whether it’s sexism, racism, capitalism… those are our main topics.
Being a girl-fronted band, audiences have compared their sonic and thematic content to bands from the Riot Grrrl era of the 90s. With the same feminine rage and vulnerable lyrics, Cheap Perfume resembles the girl punk bands that came before them. . Yet, in the face of a new era of feminism, the group is progressive in its own way. “I think we’ve evolved quite a bit and we’ll continue to sing about the experience of what it’s like to be a woman. I would say we’ve always been inclusive from the start, but maybe without know as much about what it means as we know now and more…i just know we like to sing about feminism and what it’s like to be a woman and that’s not gonna change…but i would say our idea of what that means has broadened,” said Jane No.
Openly addressing its own sexual assault trauma as well as the blatant sexism present in society, Cheap Perfume is not afraid to speak out on hard-hitting issues. Coming from a place of authenticity in their music, the band have created pathways for acceptance and activism. “One of my favorite phrases I’ve ever heard that I think revolves around what happened is that healing happens when stories are told in safe spaces. I think without the know, we were able to give some people safe spaces. It brings me to tears just to think that there is healing within us just by being authentic ourselves,” said lead vocalist Stephanie Bryne.
The group expressed their gratitude for the reception given to their opening by the listeners as well as for the impact they were able to have. Along with the responsibility of addressing moral issues in their music, they also noted the challenges they encountered. “Because we have topical songs that people like, you have to. As a collective, our activism writes these songs. We do things in our own lives, but there’s just this expectation of being what everyone else wants you to be because you said something in a song,” bassist Geoff Brent said.
Along the same lines, Bryne said, “It’s a very harsh expectation that’s set in activism that you can be everyone and everything all the time. We’re just people all doing our best to pay our own bills and do the things we need to do, and then be kind to each other and be kind to the world around us. Jane No resonated with her bandmates, stating that in response to such comments, she explains that their art is what speaks loudest to them, which is why they choose to use it as a platform for ‘activism.
Ultimately, Cheap Perfume is not a band that lets anything stop them from expressing their opinions and sparking discussion about common issues. They are in many ways political, while simultaneously ignoring politics to focus on moral issues that they feel need to be brought to attention.
Having addressed a plethora of issues in their discography, Cheap Perfume are only scratching the surface of their impact with what’s to come from the band. “They were writing [on the first album, 2016’s Nailed It,] about things that now it almost seems like you’ve heard so much about. But when the first album came out… I was so impressed. They identified a lot of problems. There’s a song about cops, there’s several feminist songs and just stuff that I don’t feel like a lot of people were talking about at the time. I think the stuff that Stephanie and [Jane No] are writing right now, when they become real songs and a new album, will be a bit similar – it’s not so obvious now but in two years everyone is going to be like, ‘shit, those were real problems that you didn’t really notice sowed at the time,” Brent said.
Stay tuned for what’s to come at Cheap Perfume and catch local shows in the Denver area.