5 Questions: Katie McD (Bacchae)

(photo credit: Megyn Elyse)

There’s a good reason why DC punk quartet Bacchae has garnered a lot of attention in our nation’s capitol over the past few years. Even when Bacchae is at its most spastic and aggressive, the band never loses sight of what’s most important: the quality of the songs.

The band’s love for a well-constructed song owes a great deal to the talents of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Katie McD, who writes the bulk of Bacchae’s material. Katie’s songs remind us that punk can be far more varied and quirky than the monochromatic, pure aggression style of yore. Punk can even be — dare I say it — fun.

And yet — McD’s lyrics sting with a power and purpose that is as undeniable as her Dischord forbearers. Take the track, “Read,” for example, which is about an all-too familiar experience for women: being chatted up by someone who just won’t leave you alone. “Read my lips, I’ll tell you now,” McD declares, “your words are sick; your face is foul/I think it’s time this asshole knew/I do not exist for you!”

When Katie McD played a rare solo show at WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE in Fall 2018, I was struck by how powerful and compelling her songwriting is. Stripped away from other instruments, her songs shimmered with a sparkle and flourish that caught me by surprise. The audience was enraptured. Katie was clearly enjoying the experience.

Naturally, Katie was asked back to play another solo show at WFTBO. To our delight, she said yes. Katie doesn’t do many solo shows. So when they happen, you don’t want to miss out.

To mark this special occasion, I reached out to Katie via e-mail to learn more about her approach to songwriting, her attitudes toward “punk,” and what it’s like to play solo versus a full band…

1) When did you discover you had a knack for writing songs? Were you making your own music before Bacchae?

Katie: I’ve been writing songs since the age of 13. I started recording some of this stuff on cassette tape and later on the computer. Most of these songs are objectively bad. I kept writing for years, but rarely played in front of people because I had horrible anxiety. I think I’m only truly getting a handle on songwriting at this very moment!

2) In what way has working with your fellow band mates in Bacchae shaped your approach to writing music?

Katie: Writing songs with a band is so much better than writing alone because you feel more accountable to finish the songs. It’s easier and faster that going at it alone. I would have never written songs with screaming if I wasn’t in Bacchae; I really love writing dirges and songs that are like, less than 120 in tempo and Bacchae have pushed me to GO FASTER. All of us have very eclectic tastes in music and we share new music discoveries with each other all the time’ listening to music together in the car and discussing it on the way to gigs is one of my favorite band activities.

Bacchae – “Dig”

3) We may have reached a point where the term “punk” is meaningless because it’s been applied to so many things, but what’s your reaction to Bacchae’s music and your own being labelled as “punk?”

Katie: Punk is more driven by ethos that many other genres, and we definitely relish the do-it-yourself part of making music together. Some of our songs are political in subject matter and some sound very hard and heavy. Personally, I’m just trying be genuine and write catchy melodies with interesting lyrics.

4) I know you don’t play live solo shows very often, but what’s it like for you to play without a band compared to playing with Bacchae? Is it something you would like to do more of when you get the chance?

Katie: Playing alone can be very scary; I prefer playing in a band. I’m currently writing a bunch of music alone right now, but I plan on keeping the solo performances pretty sporadic for the time being.

Bacchae with J Robbins

5) You are keeping very busy with Bacchae — I am especially excited about your LP, “Pleasure Vision,” which comes out in March. You worked on the album with J. Robbins. How do you feel about it? At some point in the future, would you consider putting out a solo record?

Katie: Everyone in the band is very excited about Pleasure Vision! We spent a lot of time working on the songs and it feels really good to have accomplished this complex creative project with my friends. I’d like to record some solo music in the future, but I’m moving very slowly!

Be sure to check out Bacchae’s new LP “Pleasure Vision,” which will be released on March 6 on Get Better Records. The first single, “Leave Town,” is now available to stream. You can listen to and purchase Bacchae’s music on Bandcamp, follow them on Twitter and “Like” them on Facebook.

And don’t miss Katie McD’s rare solo set on Friday, Feb. 7th at WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE in Mt. Pleasant, NW DC!