IMAGINE A COMIC where the latent powers of a group of badass superheroes are activated only when they all fortuitously meet. Subtract the capes and you've got Portland's Bitch'n, five friends whose casual jam sessions organically turned into empowering gatherings for collective artistic expression.
The funky punk band is Rebecca Rasmussen (guitar), Nefertiti Porter (bass), Emily Overstreet (keyboard), Shana Lindbeck (percussion), and A. Walker (drums). The individual members have previously played with bands like Point Juncture WA, Duover, Sallie Ford, Orquestra Pacifico Tropical, Ioa, and Great Wilderness. Everyone contributes equally to the vocals, which are sometimes yelled in unison.
This collaborative feeling permeates Bitch'n's music: Each musician possesses a unique talent, but together they're driven by the same force. When Lindbeck returned after spending several months abroad, the other four agreed that everything seemed to fall back in place for the band. That being said, Bitch'n is characterized by its lack of a frontwoman—all members are critical, but no individual is the leader. While this happened as a result of their friendship, Bitch'n's decision to have no distinct bandleader subverts the hierarchical power structure that's often present in collaborative music-making.
Last month Bitch'n released their debut, Messed Out, which they recorded at Portland's sci-fi themed recording studio Destination: Universe! Although their vocals can sound punk, Bitch'n's music isn't confined to one genre. Riding what Rasmussen calls Porter's "fire-starter" basslines, their music freely explores its own boundaries, pushing into the realms of psych and funk. Where some bands might be wary of the uncharted territory that exists at the crossroads of multiple genres, Bitch'n is unafraid to mix bold sounds.
"There was never any deliberation or intention, as for styles," says Walker. "Some of us play in other bands and we all have different backgrounds genre-wise, different levels of experience. It was really just all about getting together and jamming, and naturally we would just get into conversations about things we're passionate about. I've played in other bands and have tried to tone down my political ideas... in this band I don't feel like I have to, because we're already outside of a mainstream idea of a band in many ways—not just all being women, but us not having any influences, really."
Rasmussen explains, "We just wanted it to be really raw and unapologetic."
"And fun," adds Lindbeck with a smile.
Bitch'n began when the friends came together to hang out, play music, and vent. "There's a lot of good stuff worth bitching about," Walker half-jokes. But these free-flowing sessions turned out to be a productive channel for expression—their lyrics often deal with the things they first came together to vent about.
"The issues are super varied and wide-ranging, from little things to global issues to city issues, personal issues," says Rasmussen.
"We all have that element of humor," Overstreet says. "We don't want to take ourselves too seriously, but we still have things we believe in that we want to stand up for." This gathering really did unleash their superpowers—almost inadvertently, the members of Bitch'n created a safe space for expression, musical and otherwise, allowing each other to explore new ideas without fear of judgment.
Porter says it best: "We're definitely not afraid to let it out in practice. We always encourage each other to go hard all, all the time. That's very unique about this group, I'll say that."
Rasmussen adds, "Being allowed to fuck up."
"Exactly—and almost being encouraged to," Porter says. "I sometimes have a hard time playing the wrong notes on purpose, and they totally encourage that and that's how we get really good stuff. 'Don't stay rigid, color outside the lines!' So that's what we do, and I think that's a big part of Bitch'n—we're not afraid to color outside the lines and speak our voice, speak our soul, into the songs."