The Birthday Massacre have been hitting stages since 1999, entrancing audiences with their hauntingly beautiful tunes and eerie shows. Almost 20 years after their start, members Chibi (lead vocals), Rainbow (rhythm guitar, backing vocals), Falcore (lead guitar), Rhim (drums), Owen (keyboards), and Nate Manor (bass) are setting out for another tour in celebration of their seventh and most recent record, Under Your Spell.
However, in recent years, lead singer Chibi (Sarah Taylor) has been doing some other forms of writing. While she continues to fully participate in The Birthday Massacre, she’s been working on establishing herself as a published author. In April 2015, her first novel, Boring Girls, was published—something she says is one of her favorite achievements. And in her spare time, she’s been working on other projects that incorporate her drawing talents.
I was lucky to have had the chance to talk with Chibi at the beginning of their tour. We bonded over our love of books and writing, but also talked about what it’s like to be on the road with the band and the release of their newest album.
The tour just kicked off—how’s it going so far?
Well, we’re playing five new songs this time around and a couple of the songs that we haven’t played for a long time, so there’s always that nervousness I guess of like, we have songs that aren’t new, but whether or not we can actually play them, so—other than that, it’s been good.
That’s good, though; how’ve the audiences been reacting to that?
Really good, actually I think a few of the songs we’d released in advance so people would be a little bit more familiar with the songs. But it’ll be much nicer, I think, once the album officially releases.
How did you guys prep for the tour, or figure out what to play?
I think this was our sixth or seventh full-length album—I’ve lost count. You know what I mean? It’s becoming more and more difficult to pick songs to play live. The five new songs that we’re playing on this tour are just songs that stood out to us on just the first few listens. I mean, we’ve listened to the album over and over multiple times and these are the ones that just jumped out at us.
It’s understandable. What are some of the venues you’re excited to play?
You know what, I haven’t even looked at the venue list really. I’ve been more looking at the city list. I don’t remember the names of venues—like yesterday, we were in Kansas and I’d completely forgotten… We were in Lawrence, Kansas, sorry. And I saw the name of the venue and I was like, “Okay, I remember this.” And then, of course I get there and I was like, “I totally don’t remember it.” I just remember what’s around it and, I remember there was this cool pet shop across the street and there are some cities that we haven’t been to in a long time. Like, we’re going to El Paso and we haven’t been there in a few years. Of course we’re looking forward to the Glass House and that’s a venue that we always have a great time with them. But yeah, it’s really hard to remember the venues on the city list. It’s like, “Oh! We haven’t been to Vancouver in a while”—that kind of thing.
You guys have your new album out on June 9. Can you tell me about it?
I think what makes, for me, of course I can’t speak for the guys, but what makes this album stand out for me is that usually, the songs on our albums are kind of ambiguous in terms of vibe and meaning. The lyrics have sort of been, yeah—ambiguous. I think all the songs, they all have this same kind of vibe to them. I think this is the closest we’ve been to having an album that’s been one vibe, one feeling, and one continuous flow of emotion—oh my gosh, that sounds very pompous, but yes (laughs). One, continuous flow of emotion of heartbreak and loss. It stands out in a very pointed way and I think we were all sort of on the same page with that vibe. We work together and when I was working with Mike and with Rainbow, writing and recording the songs, it just became really evident that we were sort of feeling this vibe and going along with it together. That makes it different from the other albums.
Now speaking of writing, you had your first novel, Boring Girls, published in 2015? What was that like?
Honestly, ever since I was little, I liked to write. Like, I was never like a singer, I was never really like, “Oh, I wanna be in a band.” I mean, obviously we all wanna be in a band. But for me, I always wanted to write, I like to draw and I like to write. Throughout my life, I’ve written tons of short stories. Just terrible stuff. I’ve written novels that are embarrassing but having Boring Girls published was one of the main achievements of my life. I’ll always be excited about it, I’ve always wanted to be a published author and being able to have that is just—I couldn’t believe it. It was very amazing and a great experience.
It has to be!
And it was so cool! It took me a year and a half to find a company that was willing to publish it. And I went through that whole classic thing with the rejection letter, the cliché—it’s totally true! But today, there’s that thing where you could always self-publish. That was something that people would say, but I wanted to go through the whole process, you know what I mean? Like, I wanted to try and find a publisher that would believe in my work. You know that whole thing? Like, I wanted to do it that way and I’m glad that I did.
That’s excellent! So, what was the process like for writing the book versus writing music?
Oh gosh. Well, I mean, obviously the first difference was that I was doing it alone and not with the guys. I mean, with a song, it’s sort of like fragments. You can be kind of ambiguous. You know—not like a story or a novel, but like a poem? And really, with the book, I had a bunch of ideas and I picked one and I made like a timeline. Like, here’s where it starts, here’s where it ends—here’s the three major things that need to happen to get from A to Z. And then all the little things in between. With a song, it’s way easier, in my opinion, to write fragmented thoughts of emotion with the feedback and assistance of the guys. But I had had to sit down and write this novel that people may or may not want to read, whereas we knew that with the album, people would want to hear it. That’s exciting! It’s like, “Yes!” And then with the book it’s like, “Oh god, what if it’s a really stupid idea and no one’s gonna tell me?” (Laughs)
Are you working on another book, or are you focusing on making more music for now?
Well, the band definitely takes up a lot of our time. It’s our full-time job, which is good. And I’ll do other things as well. I have other jobs that I do. I try to stay creative. Like we were just talking about poetry—I’m writing and illustrating a poem book, but it’s coming along so much slower than I wanted it to. That’s how it is, right? With so much going on, you’re like, “Oh! I just wanna do this and that.” And then when you have free time, you just wanna lie on your face and watch crappy TV. Or go to bed at 8 p.m. because you’re so tired and it’s hard to be like, “Today, I’m going to focus on doing these illustrations for these poems I wrote.” And then you read the poems again so it’s like, “Nope. I’m just going to scrap theses.” But yeah. That’s the plan, but it’s taking a long time.
Oh! That’s so cool—a complete Renaissance woman.
(Laughs) Well, I’m not saying I do any of this well. But I do things that really make me happy.
That’s what really counts. But back to the tour—while you’re on the road, what do you do to keep yourselves busy?
Show days are pretty full. We wake up and there’s load-in, sound check. We do our VIP meetings with the people who wanted to come out for that. And then we might have an hour here, an hour there to grab some coffee, see what’s on the block. Then we do the show and then after the show, some people will have either a dance party in the bus lounge, or go to bed—depending. So those days are pretty full.
I like to read in my bunk. I’m a book person in the bunk. I can’t watch TV on the bus, it’ll keep me awake. And today we have a day off and we’re driving through farmland and I am sitting on the bathroom floor. Not where the toilet is—the shower room floor, talking to you. (Laughs)
(Laughs) Aw, well I appreciate that! Now, when you’re just about to get on stage to perform, what goes through your head?
Okay. First is, “Where is everybody? Are we all here?” We do the head count because there’s always gonna be somebody like, “I have to go pee really quick!” Because you have to be ready. And honestly, I always get nervous before every single show. You’d think it would get easier, but it doesn’t. I’m always nervous, you know? So, we have a little sort of like an amped-up, “Let’s do this!” cheer, high-five ritual that we do. We’ve been doing that for a long time and that’s cool. But then it’s like, the guys all run out on stage ahead of me, and I’m left back there (laughs), waiting to make my grand entrance. Sometimes I’m just like, “I could just run out the door.” Like, I would think, “What would they do if I didn’t come on stage? What if I went in the other direction?” But I’ve never done it. Not yet. But that would be a crappy thing to do.
How do you get over those nerves? Do you just suck it up and get out there?
You have to. Absolutely. I mean, we’re pretty outgoing on stage when there’s a lot of energy. You just have to fling yourself into it like going into a pool. You’ve got to. We don’t want to let anybody down and once we get out there, it’s all good, right? Just for some reason, I never remember that it’s all good. It’s just like, “Oh no!”
It’s all so understandable! Now, I saw your profile on Twitter and I noticed you were wearing a green and silver tie. Is that a Slytherin tie from Harry Potter? I just have to ask.
Yes it is and you’re the only person who’s ever said anything. I was confused why nobody noticed! Yes it is a Slytherin tie. Actually, on that tour, me and Nate, our bass player, both wore Slytherin ties on stage. It’s the coolest thing ever and you’re literally the only person who ever has said anything about that.
I feel so special!
You are awesome! (Laughs)
(Laughs) Well, I’m a Slytherin, so…
I think I took the test and I think I was a Hufflepuff. But the Hufflepuff tie isn’t as cool as the Slytherin tie.
For the final question, is there anything you’d like to add?
Sure! You know, it’s been a really long time as a band and I am just really, really grateful that people have followed us this long, or even people who’ve just found out about us. I’m just always—we’re all always grateful for the support that we get and how happy we are that people like our music, and that people wanna do interviews—and that people wanna come to the shows and that people care. It just means so much to us and The Birthday Massacre has just been this huge thing—it’s been our lives and I was just blown away that people care (laughs). Just thank you for this interview.
Catch The Birthday Massacre as they pull into Trocadero Theatre on June 17, The Stone Pony on June 18, and Webster Hall on June 19. For more information on the band, visit their site: thebirthdaymassacre.com.