Babysitters On Acid

I was both startled and enthralled when I first laid eyes upon a vinyl import that I noticed in my Dad’s record collection. The year was ’90 or ’91, and little did I know this album would forever change my life. The all-girl rock group called themselves The Lunachicks, with their debut release titled Babysitters On Acid. I opened it up and dropped the 12” black circle of wax on the turntable to give it a spin and was blown away. This vinyl gem was by one of the greatest punk rock bands that ever existed! Their music kicked my teenage ass and I knew I was hooked for life by their unpolished sound and disturbing lyrical content, which is not for the easily offended. The album’s title track is a trip, to say the least, about roasting a baby while baked on acid.
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Gina Volpe onstage with the Lunachicks, Vans Warped Tour Detroit, MI ’98

“Take the tab, stick it on my tongue
This crummy job might be some fun!
Lord I hope they never come back
Okay kid, step on the oven rack”
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The Lunachicks were like cartoon comic book characters that were fun and witty and with songs about buttplugs, sporks, childish pranks, and feline friends. They mixed props, over the top make-up, wigs, and costumes while delivering an authentic message through their music, and their guitar riffs were on fire! I saw the Lunachicks perform live a handful of times in multiple states and they always put on a high energy performance!
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After a near 20 year hiatus, shows were announced and quickly sold-out in their hometown of New York City,  however, the Coronavirus proved to be a real show-stopper.
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In this exclusive interview, Gina Volpe, guitarist, and vocalist gives us a look inside the formative years of the Lunachicks, playing with The Ramones, touring with bands like NOFX and No Doubt, and taking a ride on her bicycle to Rockaway Beach during the pandemic.
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At home, I stumble across a black and white cartoon biography of what I thought may have been included in Babysitters On Acid. I sent Gina a snapshot of it with the message, “Not sure how I acquired this, but I know I’ve had it for quite some time, decades,” to which she replies, “That was our bio that I drew, we used it to send out to press. Did you have your magazine back then? If not pretty fortuitous no?” And so we begin.
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It’s been noted The Lunachicks would write material and rehearse in your bedroom in the formative years of the band. Tell us more.

We were teenagers in high school at the time, just learning how to play our instruments and had no idea how to write a song much less tune our guitars. We would try and figure out how bands we were obsessed with wrote and played songs. We didn’t have amps yet and mostly we just fucked around getting high and cracking each other up. It was several months before we actually made it to a rehearsal studio and plugged in for the first time, which by the way sounded pretty awful since we knew nothing about how to use any of the gear.

How did the name come about? 

We couldn’t decide what to call ourselves, and we were unnamed for a while.  One day we were sitting there discussing it and not coming up with anything and Sindi just off the top of her head remarked, “well I don’t know, we’re all just a bunch of raving Lunachicks who can’t make up our minds,” and we were all like Whaaaaat? Raving Lunachicks?!! Sindi you are a genius!

What are the musical influences of The Lunachicks? 

We loved The Ramones, they were definitely a huge influence on us. We loved all of the classic punk bands (and the obscure ones as well). We listened to The ClashThe Damned, X-Ray SpexThe Dead BoysThe Buzzcocks, and The Misfits. We also loved glam rock, T-Rex, and The New York Dolls as well as early metal and classic rock like AC/DCMotorhead, and Black Sabbath. Nowadays on top of all of the above, my personal tastes include  Death From Above, The Yeah Yeah Yeah’sTV on the Radio, and newer bands like  All Them Witches  and Shame.

I absolutely loved Luxury Problem! My favorite songs include “Less Teeth, More Tits,” and “Say What You Mean.” The cover is iconic as well, I absolutely love the contrast of the photograph. 

So glad to hear you say that. We wanted to capture the contrast between opulence and depravity. I loved shooting that cover (and Luxury Problem is my favorite Lunachicks album) even though we froze our asses off since it was mid-February and we were all barely dressed, worth it! I was working on film and TV sets at the time and had the connections to rent all that furniture and the props to make the scene. Our good friend Jon was a trooper letting us oil him down in nothing but a speedo. Poor guy, he was so cold he was desperately trying to stop his teeth from chattering for the shot. 

 

Gina Volpe and Theo Kogan live in San Diego ’98

Let’s talk about some of the music artists you’ve toured with and performed live concerts with.

We’ve had the good fortune of playing with so many of our heroes. Obviously playing with the Ramones was a huge highlight. The GoGo’s turned out to be super fun to tour with, we had a blast hanging out with them.  NOFXRancid, and The Offspring all felt like family to us. Brothers from another mother. The last night of our  NOFX  tour we switched stage outfits with them and watching Fat Mike rock out in Theo’s nurse outfit and Eric sport my green glitter tutu was a sight to behold, we were in tears laughing. The No Doubt tour was one of the biggest tours we had ever done, with the largest audience being 24,000 people. We loved that tour, mostly though we hung out with Weezerwho were hilarious. Luscious Jackson were our good friends so we loved hanging out and touring with them but their audience didn’t really take to us.

Who was your favorite band to go on the road with?

NOFXRancid, and The Offspring were probably our favorite tours, but there were also The BuzzcocksThe DictatorsDinosaur Jr.to name a few more. Honestly, there were so many great tours that we did. Each tour had its own kind of feel and personality, it’s kind of hard to pick a favorite one.

Tell us about Bantam and your own label Heavy Nose Records

I started Bantam after Lunachicks decided to take a break -we never really thought we’d break up we just felt like it was time to take a breather from it all. I had always wanted to sing but was scared to really do it. Forming Bantam forced me to get over that and get out there. This was right around the time that the industry started to transform in the digital age. It suddenly became a lot easier to self distribute your own music through platforms like CD Baby, so I just decided to put out our records myself. Incidentally, Heavy Nose was the name of a side project I had in the ’90s with my friends Mark and Mike. I like the name so I stole it for my label too. Years later I am still releasing my own music, all of my solo work is on my label.

Lunachicks sign copies of Luxury Problem at Ladies Lounge booth on Vans Warped Tour 98

Are the Lunachicks coming out with any new material? 

We’ve talked about it. We’re not really sure what the future holds right now. We’ve been busy working on a book that will be coming out next year, and there is also a documentary in the works.

The Lunachicks announced their first reunion in 15 years with sold-out shows, sadly everything’s been postponed.

We’re all so bummed to have to postpone our shows but in the scheme of things, it seems like such a minor issue. We’re heartbroken for our poor city, and the world right now with so many lives lost and so many still sick.

Gina Volpe photo by Michael Lavine Feb 2020

I’ve been writing songs and trying to finish up on one of the music videos I started last year. I did recently put out a silly little song called “Don’t Touch Your Face” animated by Leah Shore. I’m working on getting another one out called “30 days Of Isolation.”

‘Don’t Touch Your Face’ is such a catchy tune and the music video is rad!

Thanks! That was something that just came together all in the course of about a week at the beginning of the shutdown. I started singing it to myself while washing my hands. It was just so silly and stupid and I was feeling so anxious about the whole pandemic that I needed something to laugh at and have fun with. I recorded the song at home in a day and sent it off to an animator, Leah Shore who knocked it out of the park with her hilarious cat cartoons and it was done within 5 days. I released it as soon as she made the last edit. I figured there was no time to wait, just get it out there!

What are you doing to stay healthy in this pandemic?

I try to keep physically active by going out on long bike rides. Last week I rode out to Rockaway Beach, and all around that area. 

 

 

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 Interview by Maggie St.Thomas