Queer Punks GRLwood Makes Screaming Great Again

PHOTO: Jordan Lanham

PHOTO: Jordan Lanham

The South has a reputation for being somewhere cool queer folks move out of to make their art and be themselves. We at WUSSY know that’s not always the case.

There’s a whole contingency of punk rock southern queerdos who parade in front of conservatives every day. One of the louder voices for these queers comes from the band GRLwood.

The Louisville Kentucky dou makes “Scream Pop” that dials the intensity of punk and indie rock up to 11. Lots of bands make loud music peppered with bloodcurdling screeches, but few successfully invoke an emotional reaction like GRLwood.  They sound a lot like early Yeah Yeah Yeahs sped up through a blender. Their minimal tunes owe a lot to the back-to-basics approach of the indie bands of the early 2000s, but GRLwood flies in the face of the straightness and maleness of that scene. Songs like “I’m Yr Dad” and “Vaccines Made Me Gay” mock conservative culture’s attitudes on masculinity and sexuailty.

I took a moment to ask Rej (guitar, vocals) and Karen (drums) about their recent run of shows in New York, what they like about Louisiville, and what they got up to on Halloween.

You just did a run of shows in New York City, 4 shows in a week at a variety of venues. How was that experience?

Rej: New York was awesome!

It was lovely getting a taste of the variety of spaces that the city had to offer! ::)

From cozy intimate rooftop shows to a daytime cafe back room.

Karen: New York was fucking bananas! We went in there with everyone telling us that NYC was a really tough crowd but everyone that came to the shows got down and danced/moshed. We were there for almost two weeks and by the end of it it really felt like NYC had welcomed us with open arms. It was crazy and I can’t wait to go back!!

What do you like about being located in Louisville / the South?

R: What I like about the south is that it is cheap, and genuine. And the queerdos that are here are valuable and it’s important for GRLwood to stay here and help support them.

K: Louisville is punk cowboy as fuck and they really know how to get rowdy at shows. The house shows here are insane. We’ve seen ventilations systems torn out and heads going through ceilings. We’re situated in a very interesting pocket where everywhere surrounding us is super conservative but Louisville is a weird-ass exception where we pop the fuck off to combat those conservative values.

PHOTO: Will Fenwick

PHOTO: Will Fenwick

Do you ever anticipate leaving your scene?

R: Leaving our scene as in play varying music style, yes. We play all kinds of stuff but I don’t see us totally abandoning angry music totally. Leaving our scene as in our city? No. The scene here in Louisville is very important to me. The people here have done so much to support us and there are a lot of kids here that we help give supportive space to involving sexuality and identity and it is important to us to retain it.

K: Louisville definitely seems to be our HQ. We obviously wanna travel and play everywhere but we will never abandon Louisville and forget about the people here that made us who we are. We love Louisville.

How do you maintain humor and joy, both in your music and in your lives?

R: Karen and I are both goofs.

Some days are goofier than others.

K: Personally, I’ve always been a big jokester. Having a good sense of humor and being light-hearted can take you a long way. There will always be super serious times within humanity but there’s nothing better than cheering up people while they deal with all of the frivolous political bullshit.

PHOTO: Will Fenwick

PHOTO: Will Fenwick

You just put out Daddy in June (superb). Are there already plans for the next release?

R: Yes, there are already plans to put out another album around spring.

K: We’re working on new material for a new release currently. The prettier stuff will be prettier and the heavier stuff will be heavier.

Finally, what did y’all do for Halloween?

R: For Halloween, Karen organized a festival composing of 10 bands, mostly local.

An all-ages throw down at an indoor skatepark here in town.

It was beautiful.


Mo Wilson is a writer and sometimes DJ living in Brooklyn. He also throws indie rock/punk shows with the booking collective Booked By Grandma and loves plastic jewelry. You can find him on Twitter @sadgayfriendx and Instagram at @djgaypanic