In the lobby of Philadelphia's Union Transfer, the four members of Chastity Belt blend seamlessly into the crowd of twenty-somethings attending Courtney Barnett's sold out show. Wearing a black and red floral dress, vocalist and guitarist Julia Shapiro approaches the merch table where drummer Gretchen Grimm tries to buy a Courtney Barnett sweatshirt, only to find out that it's sold out in her size.

After they fail to be served at the venue's bar - the band left their IDs backstage - Chastity Belt head to their backstage green room, where styrofoam boxes of vegetable lo mein and scallion pancakes are strewn across the table. Before heading back to finish eating their Chinese takeout, they stick their heads into Courtney Barnett's green room and make faces at her band's drummer and bassist. Giggling, they run back into their own green room and collapse onto a black leather couch.

"Touring is fun," says Shapiro, running a hand through her curly, dirty blonde hair. "Every city that you go to is so different, and every show is so different."


Chastity Belt

For the past month, Chastity Belt have been touring the States in support of the Australian punk star Courtney Barnett, along with Darren Hanlon, an Australian singer-songwriter.

"We went to the Smithsonian American Art Museum in D.C.," says Grimm, reflecting on her favorite places she's visited on tour. Bassist Annie Truscott and guitarist Lydia Lund enjoyed swimming in Austin, Texas and Durham, North Carolina.

The Monday night show in Philadelphia is the last gig of the tour, creating a bittersweet atmosphere backstage. As soon as Darren Hanlon begins his set of acoustic folk songs, Chastity Belt runs to the side of the stage to see their friend perform one last time.


Chastity Belt

Between songs, Hanlon says, "Thanks to Chastity Belt who have become good friends. Good souls." Shortly after watching Hanlon's set of storytelling songs, Chastity Belt return backstage to get ready for their set.

"We're Chastity Belt, and we're from Melbourne, Australia," Shapiro yells onstage with a fake accent. Hailing from Walla Walla, Washington and later Seattle, Chastity Belt is the only band on tour from America.

With Chastity Belt's honest, straightforward music and down-to-earth attitude, it would be hard to believe that the band wouldn't become close friends with their tourmates. "We just want to be ourselves," Shapiro says with simplicity. As a post-college four-piece discovered via Seattle's vibrant DIY scene, Chastity Belt still retain the enthusiasm and energy of a young band on the verge of exploding nationally.


Chastity Belt

"Just being part of a small community helped us in the beginning," says Grimm about Seattle's DIY scene. She holds onto a grey stuffed bear, which she would later place on her drumset during Chastity Belt's performance.

"I've been hearing over and over again in every city that the DIY scene is so supportive of each other," agrees Lund. After receiving such overwhelming support in Seattle, Chastity Belt began to tour the country.

On stage at Union Transfer, Shapiro's long, voluminous hair drapes over her face as she plucks her black Fender Jaguar; Lund bangs her head ferociously. Opening for an act with as much hype as Courtney Barnett is no easy task, but Chastity Belt manage to command the crowd's attention with their upbeat, melodic punk music. Still, they feel comfortable on stage - between songs, Lund looks out into the crowd and says, eyes wide, "There's a mirror behind the bar and I can see myself. It's really weird." The crowd laughs.


Chastity Belt

Chastity Belt's music is both comedic and bitter, combining the band's young demeanour and affinity for fun with their awareness of the world around them. The band's first album No Regerts - typo intentional - is more representative of Chastity Belt's sarcastic side, featuring songs like 'Pussy Weed Beer' and 'Giant Vagina', which Shapiro revealed were written just so that she could scream those words into a microphone. But the second, most recent album Time to Go Home expresses the band's daring attitude in a more controlled, meaningful way. On the album's opening song, 'Drone', Shapiro repeatedly wails, "He was just another man trying to teach me something," a line inspired by Sheila Heti's novel How Should a Person Be? Later, on 'Cool Slut', Chastity Belt finds a neutral zone between the tones of the two albums - Shapiro sings, "To all the girls in the world/Trying to take off their shirts/Ladies, it's okay to be slutty," urging for women's sexual liberation while still retaining the carefree simplicity of a twenty-something touring the country with her friends.


Chastity Belt

"It's definitely easier for me to write joke songs," says Shapiro. Though the band works collaboratively when writing songs, Shapiro usually spearheads the process, writing chords and preliminary lyrics. "Sometimes I'll come up with something that's very sentimental sounding, and it'll be harder for me to write lyrics for that."

Chastity Belt says that the band started as a joke, but that doesn't mean that they aren't to be taken seriously. Though no members of Chastity Belt had played in a band before, Shapiro and Lund had played guitar since they were in middle school, and Truscott had been playing violin for the majority of her life, so it was easy for her to transition to the bass guitar. "It wasn't just like, we didn't know what we were doing completely," Truscott says.


Chastity Belt

Performing in an up-and-coming indie punk band wasn't the original post-grad plan for Chastity Belt - but the band is happy that their fate played out the way it did.

"I have no idea what I would be doing [if I weren't in Chastity Belt]," says Shapiro. "I'd probably still be doing music." With a smirk, Grimm says, "I'd probably be teaching math or something."

Though Chastity Belt love to have fun, their music shows a strong maturity with its ability to balance tongue-in-cheek jokes and meaningful messages. When they finish their last set opening for Courtney Barnett, the four women head out into the crowd to dance to the Australian powerhouse one last time, celebrating a fulfilling, successful tour.

Read our review of Time To Go Home by heading here.


Chastity Belt