The world is chaotic and scenes come and go, but this raucous four-piece is sticking together through the shitstorm.
Desert Sharks are not messing around. Frontwoman and bassist Stephanie Gunther, guitarists Stefania Rovera and Sunny Veniero, and drummer Rebecca Fruchter know the Brooklyn scene inside and out, and their newest record, Baby’s Gold Death Stadium, takes listeners on a scandalous tour. Recorded in the basement of a Brooklyn studio, the albums sees the grunge-garage punk quartet reckoning with the political climate, toxic relationships, and the inevitability of aging, all while paying homage to the city where they met via Craigslist years ago. Its 12 tracks are gritty and catchy enough to recall Sleater-Kinney or L7, opening up a portal to a chaotic but contemplative state of mind.
We spoke to the band via email about their decision to make an album about Brooklyn, their experiences in the DIY scene, and their methods of coping with a perpetual sense of impending doom. Catch Desert Sharks on November 25 at Baby’s All Right, with Nicole Yun from Eternal Summers, Colatura, and Queue.
AdHoc: What made you decide to pay homage to the venues you’ve played in Brooklyn with the album title?
Desert Sharks: The title of the album honestly began as a play with words. We were discussing all the local venues we’d performed at and were messing around with how bits and pieces of their names sounded together. Baby’s Gold Death Stadium just clicked perfectly and we knew immediately that we wanted to call our album that. It represents the past venues that meant a lot to us (Death by Audio and Shea Stadium) and some of the current venues who are still supporting us (Baby’s All Right, Gold Sounds/Rose Gold). We’ve shaped our sound, met amazing people, and have grown as musicians in those spaces. This album showcases that growth and it felt appropriate to give a nod to the places that helped us do that.
I was wondering if you wanted to share anything you’ve learned over the past decade, be it about your music, yourselves, the band, or the music industry?
This band is the longest relationship for all of us. It’s funny that people used to assume we’re all related, because at this point it does sort of feel like a group of sisters. Sure, we have our ups and downs and our tiffs and arguments, but we know how to work through all of that and focus on what we love: the music. We’ve watched venues and bands grow and dissolve over the years, seen trends in scenes come and go, and through all that we’ve been able to keep our heads above water and grow into our sound, which we’re super grateful for. Recently, we had a fan reach out saying one of the things he loved about us is that we’ve had this original lineup from the start.
Working with other artists can be tough—there’s conflicting input and egos involved, but lucky for us, we’re all on the same page as far as our approach to being in a band. We understand the importance of supporting a DIY scene without getting involved in some of the drama or cliquey-ness we’ve seen plague other musicians. It’s important for us to support those in the community who support us back, whether it be through booking tours and shows with bands we befriend, signing to a small local label (shoutout to Substitute Scene Records!), or including friends, fans, and family in our music videos and projects.
The music industry is totally hit or miss and can absolutely be discouraging at times. We’ve learned that when we focus on writing songs that we love and bring our best energy to our live shows, bigger and better things happen. Yes, you have to play the game a bit if you want recognition, but the more we’ve focused on being true to ourselves and our sound, the more we’ve achieved as a band.
Would you like to share any crazy stories about playing at Baby’s All Right or Gold Sounds or Shea Stadium or Death By Audio?
The most exciting part about playing at venues like Death By Audio, Shea Stadium, Baby’s All Right, Gold Sounds, etc. is the bands we’ve gotten to play with who we really love and looked up to. I’m pretty sure the first time we played with Diarrhea Planet at Shea Stadium, we tweeted at them that we’d just fallen in love, and from that, an incredible friendship began. We got to play with Tacocat and the Coathangers at Death by Audio, Daddy Issues at Baby’s All Right, and the So So Glos and Tournament at Shea. We had our Template Hair EP release at Shea Stadium, and at one point, both Sunny and Stephanie ended up falling off the stage and playing on their backs on the ground. It’s hard to specify an exact moment that was extra crazy because those spaces always had incredible crowds with people dancing, crowd-surfing, and singing along at the top of their lungs. We’re super excited to be back at Baby’s All Right in November with Nicole Yun, Colatura, and Queue. Who knows what mayhem will ensue!
Although the record is exuberant and bouncy, you deal with some heavy themes, especially this sense of impending apocalypse. What does that mean to you, and why did you decide to put a fun twist on it?
I think society is dealing with the fact that we’re in the middle of a super toxic political climate, with all this uncertainty about the fate of our planet and our futures in general. We can’t ignore it, but focusing solely on the negative can feel totally draining and depressing. I wanted to address those anxieties from an honest and open place, but I also decided to approach it with some playfulness because, to me, a little cheekiness is a better way to cope. For example, in “I Don’t Know How to Dress for the Apocalypse” the chorus is, “It’s alright, it’s alright, it’s ok / No one knows what they’re doing anyway.” Like yes, we’re dealing with a total shitstorm right now, but at least we’re all in this mess together.
What are some other notable themes on the album?
The themes on this album range from self-empowerment and embracing aging as a woman (“Sorceress”), to meeting a new love (“Seasick”), to calling out misogyny and cat-calling (“Sick Sad World”). We wrote “Dating?” as an ode to Sunny’s ex-girlfriend, basically noting that their relationship was toxic and pleading for Sunny not to go back to her. We wrote “Serpent” about our old record label and all the empty promises they threw at us. “Don’t be Shy, Alicia” and “Dead Weight” deal with shaking loose anxious and self-deprecating thoughts. We actually played “For Loneliness Sake” at our first show ever, so were super excited to include it on the record. It’s about settling for someone out of loneliness and the disconnection and empty feelings that ensue. There are some heavy themes on the album. for sure, but there’s a balance of owning that darkness and using honesty to call in self-awareness, power, and light.
Are there any moments on this album you can’t wait for anyone to hear?
As our first new release in almost 5 years, we’re really excited for people to hear the album as a whole. We’ve grown and changed so much over the years, and Baby’s Gold Death Stadium shows a clearer picture of who we are as a band and what we can do musically. This album is a lot heavier and grittier than any of our past releases, and we’re pretty excited for people who have never seen us live to get a more accurate idea of who we are and what we’ve been creating.
If you want a starting place, check out our three singles: “Sorceress,” “Dating?,” and “I Don’t Know How to Dress for the Apocalypse.” Those were our three favorite songs we recorded that show our range and dynamic. Another fun one to check out is the 30-second song at the end of the album called “Dead Rat Cake Shop.” We wrote the song on a whim at practice one day using inside jokes (the title is also an ode to one of our other favorite venues in NYC that closed, Cake Shop), but it stuck with us because of its super fast punk rhythms, gang vocals, and playfulness. We have no clue how people will feel about that one, and no one’s mentioned it to us yet either, which is totally weird and hilarious, but we love it!