Goopy, glittering, and riotously fun, local punk outfit Mommy Long Legs will blow your face off. With songs that run the gamut from yuppie moms to chic, undead parties, the band–comprised of Lilly Morlock (guitar and vocals), Melissa Kagerer (guitar and vocals), Leah Miller (bass and vocals) and Cory Budden (drums)–is a raucous, irreverent delight, and one of the best bands in the city.
Their two EPs, Assholes and Life Rips, are textured pop-punk gems that showcase Mommy Long Legs’ penchant for wrapping keen critiques in catchy, deeply funny songs. Their live shows are flippant and wild, often featuring glitter and wigs. I imagine they’re something like if four kids got really hopped up on mountain dew and trashed a drag queen’s closet while listening to The Cramps. Essentially, awesome.
This year, Mommy Long Legs will be playing Capitol Hill Block Party for the first time. I caught up with the barf-core prom queens themselves as they prepared for their Saturday set. Over tea, we talked about their new record, music festivals and 2000s celebrity crushes.
So you guys just put in a bunch of work on a new record! How’d that go?
Leah: It went really well!
Melissa: We only have about half of a record so far.
Leah: But we’re working towards a full one. We’re trying to tour on it, whatever it turns out to be, early next summer.
Cory: We’re gonna release a 7-inch through Youth Riot Records and hopefully a tape that goes along with that. Four of the recordings we made will be on that and then we’ll have a full length at some point.
You took off all of May to do it, right?
Melissa: Yeah, to write.
Lilly: We wrote a lot of songs!
Leah: It was really productive, even though it didn’t totally feel like it at the time. I think we were trying to do more than was possible in a month, but we did end up getting a lot done.
It’s interesting that you mention songwriting, because I think you folks are one of the best bands in town right now, in terms how you craft song. What’s your process like?
Leah: It’s kind of all over the place. It’s not really just one formula.
Melissa: And it’s changed a lot, especially with the month we took off. It used to be that we would all kind of brain storm and Lilly would put together most of the lyrics but it’s evolved. In May we would pair off, so like, Lilly and I would go work on a song, and the Lilly and Leah would go work on a song and sometimes we would have big group sessions.
Leah: All of the ideas for songs are things that we’ve talked about or things that we bring to practice that happened to us and we’re pissed off about or whatever. We’ll just kind of rant on stuff and write it down, and we’ll end up pulling from there and piecing everything together.
Lilly: I think a lot of it comes from just hanging out with each other. I like pairing off too, because it felt more focused. And then when we’d bring things back to the group, everyone could have a say in it. Most of the lyrics on the new record came out of a group process Which I think is pretty rare. Usually there’s just one songwriter because it’s really vulnerable, we have a pretty similar experience so it works.
I think that collaboration really comes across in your performances too. Obviously Lilly is doing most of the vocals, but you guys do kind of a volley with the vocals and the focus that is pretty striking.
Leah: We work hard at that! We want to make it feel like everyone is the lead person or whatever. This is such a part of all of us, without any one of us it wouldn’t be a thing. So that’s something that we strive for. It’s cool that it shows.
Lilly: In May when we were writing songs we specifically wrote things so that Melissa and Leah don’t have to play an instrument and get to be the lead singer. As an all-female group it’s really important to all of us to uplift each other’s voices and for each person to have that type of strength.
I hate using the term “girl-band,” because it feels weird and gross, but you are a band made up entirely of people who identify as female, and you get pigeon-holed as a feminist punk band pretty often. Seattle is obviously going through a renaissance of that kind of thing right now, and you guys tend to get lumped in with bands like Chastity Belt, Tacocat, Childbirth, etc.
Cory: None of us sound the same [laughs]
Does that ever feel reductive at all?
Lilly: You know, I feel like the scene as a whole is really uplifting and I’ve never felt like it’s reductive. I don’t mind being lumped in with them because I really like those bands and I really respect those bands. If I didn’t, maybe it’d be a different story.
Cory: We’re all being allowed the space to be the type of “feminist punk” band that we want to be and we aren’t getting any flack for sounding the way we sound from anybody. And we love and respect all of those bands for the way that they sound. There’s no judgement or expectations for anyone to sound a certain way or say certain things. It’s all very communal and supportive.
Melissa: I read a recent interview where Tacocat was talking about how when they first started, a lot of people told them they couldn’t be a feminist punk band because of what they were singing about, and it sucks that they had to deal with that. But honestly we haven’t had to deal with any of that.
Leah: I feel like a lot of those bands paved the way for us.
Switching gears a little, you guys are playing Capitol Hill Block Party this year. Are you excited?
It’s funny because CHBP gets some flack, maybe deservedly…
Leah: It can be a shit show…
Totally. And in some ways it’s representative of the demographic changes that are happening in the neighborhood that really marginalize long-time residents. But at the same time, as a festival it’s a great model for integrating big-name acts and a ton of local bands together in a way that highlights both.
Melissa: I’ve actually never been to Block Party, but I know that it uplifts a lot of local musicians, and I think that’s really cool.
Cory: Especially compared to Bumbershoot, which I think is changing a bit this year to incorporate more local acts. But Block Party has done that pretty consistently. I do think that the rising costs of tickets to those kinds of events innately changes the demographic of people who are going, because you’re only going to get people who are willing to spend a ton of money and travel there.
Melissa: I’ve seen people on Facebook saying like, “who wants to leave Seattle this weekend?” And it’s because of Block Party.
I think sometimes festivals kind of create a bizarre space, because they sever bands from the people who normally go out to see them at shows, who maybe don’t have that disposable income.
Melissa: That’s true. But I also find those shows kind of…fruitful? It’s an audience that we wouldn’t otherwise get. Often times we’re playing to people who are pretty receptive, so it’s pretty cool to realize that the people who come may have never ever listened to us otherwise.
Leah: It’s definitely expensive though. I mean, we saw Ozzy for fifty bucks at the Tacoma Dome, and there were pyrotechnics so….
The last time I saw you guys, you were at the High Dive with DoNormaal and Casual Hex, and I loved that lineup because it felt like a bunch of people from different scenes were all kind of mingling. And you put that lineup together.
Melissa: I feel like those kinds of shows are important
Leah: Super important. I’ve been to some shows where it’s apparent that people are from separate scenes and they’re not going to talk to each other. It’s ridiculous. We all go to a lot of shows, and we’re all familiar with different artists, but they don’t usually play together. Bookers will usually offer to book us with the same few bands.
Cory: It’s always Childbirth. People always want us to play with Childbirth. And Wimps.
Melissa: We love both of them! But we don’t want to play only with them all of the time.
Leah: There are so many cool bands right now, just look around a little. I felt like people were really excited about that lineup too.
Cory: I think the geography of Seattle makes it really easy to isolate yourself and to only go to the same venues and see the same types of bands. You can find new music in Seattle, but because so much of it is so cool, it’s hard not to get sucked into what you like and just stay there.
Ok, so my last, very professional journalistic inquiry is this: who is your 2000s band crush?
Melissa: Does Conor Oberst count? [laughs] I think he counts. Or maybe the guy from Sum 41.
Leah: Oh, Deryk??
Melissa: Yeah! Those are my two.
Lilly: Davey Havok from AFI. [all laugh] No I’m just kidding! I was just obsessed with him when I was younger.
One of their videos was in heavy rotation on my MySpace
Leah: Julian Casablancas from The Strokes. He was all dirty and I was into it.
Lilly: I don’t want Davey Havok to be mine. I was just saying things. I have to think about it longer.
Cory: Mine’s embarrassing, but I had a huge crush on Ben Gibbard. I loved Death Cab For Cutie.
Leah: That’s not embarrassing. That’s attainable!
Lilly: I guess Tom DeLonge when he got all emo. But he’s an idiot. Or maybe that guy from My Chemical Romance. Like when he sang that “Helena” song and his eye makeup was running. That song…oof.
Melissa: I liked a lot of the sad boys.
Lilly: I liked crazy and sad boys. I want a weak boy.
That might end up in print.
Leah: We like ‘em weak. [all laugh]
Mommy Long Legs play Saturday, 9/23 at 4:45pm on the Cha Cha stage at the 2016 Capitol Hill Block Party.