Upset might be the first supergroup formed via Twitter. When Ali Koehler (formerly the drummer for Vivian Girls and Best Coast) discovered that Patty Schemel (ex-drummer for Hole) followed her, she DM’ed her to offer her babysitting services. Eventually, of course, they got around to talking about music, which led to talking about playing together, which led to recruiting guitar player Jenn (who was in La Sera) and forming a band last November. The group’s debut album, She’s Gone, recorded in a week and released on October 29, features shoegaze-y pop-punk songs written mostly by Koehler. The women still maintain their day jobs (Koehler is a nanny, Prince works in IT, and when she’s not on tour Schemel is a full-time at-home mom), and next month they will be touring the West Coast in Schemel’s minivan, opening for Screaming Females (those dates are listed here).
In the meantime, though, we’re proud to bring you the world premiere of Upset’s very first music video, for “You and I,” a musical brushoff to deadbeat significant others.
I recently spoke with the trio about the new record, using music to erase bad vibes, and the allure of junk food on the road.
KATIE BAIN: Why are you called Upset?
ALI KOEHLER: I saw this definition of the word that said [reading from her phone]: “Disquieted, afflicted, or marked by anxious uneasiness, trouble, or grief.” I feel that way a lot. It really resonated. I also liked that it didn’t sound like any specific genre of music. It felt like we could manipulate what the name makes you think of. It can be like you’re upset, but it can also be an upset. It had a lot of room to grow into.
I’ve been describing your music as “pop punk”—is that the right label for it?
ALI: Well, I like pop punk a lot—it’s maybe my favorite genre—so if that’s what people want to say it is, that’s cool by me. But we’re not singing about, like, farts, like Blink-182. Although I loved Blink 182! And “Adam’s Song” was about suicide, so I guess they had range.
How much of the experience with your other bands did you bring into the writing process for this new music?
ALI: A lot. The only way I know how to write songs is through experience. I’m not going to write a song about a made-up situation. That situation had a lot to do with what this album is about.
I’m assuming you’re referring to your no longer playing with Best Coast. Has making this record been cathartic?
ALI: Yeah. I feel much better than I did a year ago.
Since you and Patty are both drummers, how did you decide who was going to play drums in Upset?
ALI: That was never even a question. I just needed to do something totally different. I was very burned out on everything that I had done with music before. I didn’t want to go see bands. I didn’t want to have anything to do with music. At one point I thought I was going to go to medical school! It was sad, because music has been the thing that my entire life has revolved around since I was a little kid, and I was like, “Fuck this entire world.” But now I’m glad that I’m back and looking at it through a more positive scope.
JENN PRINCE: I think we all feel validated playing in this band. We’ve all been in situations where we’ve felt disempowered while playing in a band. It’s nice to be in a group where we all feel empowered to play together.
Do you enjoy touring?
ALI: In 2010 I would have said that I hate touring. It was miserable. We toured so much in both bands I was in that it wasn’t fun anymore. If you tour that much, you can’t even get along with each other as people. It’s really lonely, and you miss a lot of stuff at home. I missed my brother’s wedding while I was on tour. So now I’m actually excited to tour again since I’ve had enough time away, and we’re not keeping a psychotic schedule.
PATTY SCHEMEL: We’re not kidding ourselves. We all have jobs and families, and those things are important to us. Music is as well, but we’re relaxed about it.
What’s your favorite junk food to eat on tour?
ALI: I’m really dreading that, because for me being on the road is so painfully boring that I’m like, “Well, I guess I’ll just eat.” Every time we stop, it’s like, “What snack have I not tried before?” There have been so many times I’ve bought groceries that were healthy and they just rolled around the floor of the van.
Is She’s Gone a coming-of-age album?
JENN: Yeah, I think it touches on a lot of topics that young women deal with.
ALI: Basically, life is high school. It doesn’t ever end.
JENN: Growing up is a myth. You just get more money and you can buy cool stuff.
PATTY: [Laughs] I remember when I walked into the first rehearsal and saw Jenn’s gold Gibson Les Paul guitar and thought, Whoa, these girls are not fucking around. ♦
Katie Bain is a writer living in Los Angeles. She is the senior music writer at the L.A. Weekly; her work also appears in VIBE and SPIN and on her blog, Noted. Tweet her music and dumb jokes @bainofyrexstnce.