New band playing at CBGB


By Sharon Gordin

Bantam is a band that you are sure to hear plenty about soon. Having most recently played The Bowery and Brooklyn’s North Six among others; this caustic trio has a lot ahead of them. I met with guitarist/vocalist Gina Volpe over brunch at the East Village café, 7A, to discuss this onetime Lunachick’s latest project. Backed by drummer Pete Asarisi and bass guitarist Matt Oosterhaus, Volpe conveys feelings of hopelessness through songs such as Come Undone and Waiting for Rescue.

“It’s my inner pain!” she quipped. “There is a lot of desperation and despair in the lyrics, mood, emotion, and tone. It is an enormous outlet for me to expel all those feelings of sadness, loneliness, fear – all those lovely dark emotions that we all have inside of us.”

Formerly of the Lunachicks, Volpe founded the group a little over two years ago with Asarisi when they were the backup band at the SoHo nightclub Don Hill’s Squeezebox party.

“We played covers behind the drag queens every Friday night. I always loved playing drums with him. We talked about for years getting a band together because we have the same musical tastes and we liked playing together, but I was in The Lunachicks, and I was so busy that I didn’t have time to do anything about it. It wasn’t until The Lunachicks stopped touring that Pete and I actually, finally got together and did this after talking about it for years.”

The band’s name stems from Volpe’s affection for certain animals. “I was obsessed with gorillas and chickens. I wanted something to be [part] gorilla and chicken. I always liked the word ‘bantam’ – I like the definition of it – that it means ‘small, but tough and strong and combative’. I liked the fact that it was a type of chicken, too – a rooster. I always thought it was a cool word. I also like the fact that it’s so generic in a way that so many companies use it. Like Acme. There’s a certain familiarity to it that I really liked. There’s Bantam Books, and there’s thousands of Bantam products.”

Although Bantam performs edgy hard rock, Volpe feels that she is inspired by a variety of artists.

“I have many influences, but I can’t honestly say that my band sounds like any of them. I have tons of influences –Queens of the Stone Age, PJ Harvey, The Pixies, and so many punk and metal bands. I listen to many different kinds of music. I also listen to a lot of blues, country, and world music. I love Brazilian music. Everything that you take in somehow manifests – however subtle – manifests in your work. I think that it’s important to have an open mind when it comes to any kind of art. There’s so much to be learned by listening, looking, or experiencing other people’s music.”

When she’s performing, Volpe likes to keep it simple and comfortable.

“My favorite things are my Levi’s jeans, my wife-beater (a tee shirt), my favorite belt, my star necklace, and my Adidas shell-tops. If I could wear that every day, I’d be happy.”

Volpe is also a supporter of other bands in the local New York scene.

“The record I can’t stop listening to – I listen to it everyday since I got it – is the new Yeah Yeah Yeahs record. I love that record. I think that they’re great – I think that they’re awesome!”

An East Village resident, Volpe has a strong affinity for the downtown area and a variety of venues that she enjoys frequenting.

“I like going to the Lakeside, Niagara, and Manitoba’s. I like going to Palodar’s on Houston and Stanton for mojitos – I love that place. I also like going to Meow Mix.”

Hang downtown with Gina and the rest of Bantam at CBGB’s on November 14th.