The brainchild of the multi-talented Lauren Denitzio (former The Measure (SA)), Worriers launched has since captured attention for its hook-driven punk topped by smart, introspective lyrics informed both by personal moments and navigating the world at large.
In 2015, Worriers released its debut full-length Imaginary Life on Don Giovanni Records. Produced by Laura Jane Grace, the album explores subjects like shifting relationships, gender dynamics, wanderlust, and police corruption over crunchy riffs and upbeat melodies.
Worriers is at SXSW this week, but before the festival madness kicked off, we caught up with Denitzio to learn more about the progression of the band, how her visual arts and writing inform her music (and vice versa), and the power of writing from personal experience.
Check out our interview with Denitzio below and see Worriers at She Shreds x Punctum Records party with Don Giovanni Records on Friday, March 18th!
Worriers is very much your project, with friends participating on different albums along the way. How do you bring a new member in? How much has changing the lineup affected your songwriting or sound?
When Worriers first started there was a bit of a rotating lineup. I think it affected the sound and shows a lot more than it does now. Since recording Cruel Optimist, especially with Rachel Rubino’s wild guitar style and Mikey Erg on drums, things are pretty centered as far as sound goes. They’re both also on Imaginary Life but John McLean split the lead guitar duties with Rachel on that one, which was specifically to let the songs have more range.
Since recording Imaginary Life, Lou Hanman has taken over on guitar at all of our shows and has to cover all of that territory. Nick Psillas, who sometimes tours with us on bass, also has the distinct challenge of replicating Audrey’s bass shredding. The records really define the sound, so bringing someone into the touring lineup is really about replicating the sound and energy of the recordings. It’s not an easy thing to do, so the lineup really only rotates so much! When we record the next record, I’ll be writing with the same people, including Lou, and I am really looking forward to seeing how we work together, having learned so much from the last recording process.
Do all the creative mediums you work in inform each other? If so, how?
They definitely inform each other and I think the visual material that goes along with Worriers has been a great way for me to combine the aesthetics of my visual art with the things that I talk about in Worriers songs. Most of my drawing and painting is fairly abstract at this point and I really like to play around with disorientation, different levels of transparency, pattern, and ambiguity with how a body is represented in space. It comes from a place of wanting to break apart the way things can be force-fed to you in a heteronormative, racist, capitalist patriarchy. It’s my wanting to see things differently. Making music and writing lyrics is a much more direct way for me to express the things that maybe only come through emotionally or affectively through visual art.
At what point do you feel certain that you’ve created a great lyric or hook?
When it gets stuck in my own head! I used to ride my bike a lot more and would start humming and singing lines biking around at night and would use that as a measure of whether or not a hook was convincing. Sometimes I think a line is maybe too cheesy, but if it gets caught in my own head enough I try to work it out.
Imaginary Life was your first record where you worked with a producer. How did that experience shape your approach to recording and the final result? What are some things musicians should keep in mind when selecting and working with a producer for the first time?
Recording Imaginary Life gave myself and my bandmates the time and space to work more in-depth with the arrangement of the songs and it really changed my approach to songwriting entirely, to be honest. There was an attention to detail that I didn’t have before, for a lot of reasons, but recording was a much more subjective and maybe emotional process before. Having Laura Jane Grace as a producer, someone who has a lot of experience with recording but who is also a songwriter I really admire, was a great fit for us.
I think if a band is working with the structure of a singer-songwriter, in a certain way, having a producer that can really be focused on the songwriting is incredibly helpful. You want to work with someone who understands what you want the recording and the songs to embody and getting there means knowing both how to write a great song and also how to record it well.
Your lyrics often combine personal or first-person narratives with political for example on “They / Them / Theirs,” and “Yes All Cops.” Do you find that this is the most effective way to communicate your message, as opposed to lyrics with more distance from the subject?
There’s a cathartic element to writing lyrics that I think keeps me focused on writing from personal experience. I also think that it’s often the most genuine way for me to get a point across, or impart a feeling. That’s not the case 100% of the time but I do find myself singing along with or attaching most strongly to songs written in the first-person. I think when you can see yourself in a song it can help you process things. That’s definitely a strong way to communicate, I think.
The pop-punk community can certainly have elements of a (heteronormative) “boys club” at times, as your compilation “Are You with the Band?” shows. What does progress look like to you in the pop-punk community, and how do you think it has changed, if at all, during the last 5-10 years?
I’m not a huge fan of labeling a lot of the current music I listen to as “pop-punk” at this point but I do think that punk, especially those bands that are coming at it from a more melodic and indie side of things, are made up of a much wider range of people than those who were in similar bands when I was growing up. I think progress within that kind of scene means a time when a band including someone who isn’t a cis-man isn’t notable in the slightest. It means my not having to watch drunk bro’s mosh too hard when no one else is dancing. It means more people not being particularly impressed when the latest punk band of the moment has a lead singer who performs every show with his shirt off or who tries to be inflammatory on stage just to piss people off. Those sorts of things are still disappointing to me, even when there’s a fast growing contingent of bands who are radical and positive and amazingly talented. Things have definitely changed for the better but obviously there’s more that I’d like to see happen.
Can you tell us about some new projects you have coming up, musically or anything else?
I’m slowly but surely working on a new record for Worriers, so that’s a big focus right now, but I’m also moving to Philadelphia after this tour in a concerted effort to make more time for my artwork and another book of my drawings. I’ve been working on a zine for quite a while that translates the anti-Nazi flyers created by French artists Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore during WWII. I’m looking forward to making some progress with that and continuing to work on some other artwork inspired by their collaboration.