Words by Luke Koz
Photography by Jamey O’Quinn
“Todd’s the only punk guy in the band. John’s emo, Leeora’s a lesbian, and I’m just fucked.”
It’s appropriate that Sweaty Weapons was born in a bathroom at a house party, as the band’s sugar-laced noise sounds cut from a two-inch line of coke on a squat house sink. The band’s music is touched by ’80s Los Angeles punk and ’90s riot grrrl, but singer Leeora Empire’s lyrics are distinctly New York City. The characters who occupy her stories are drug-addled cartoons and sex-obsessed thrill seekers, but with a horse pill sized dose of sarcasm Sweaty Weapons has a self-awareness missing from most punk contemporaries.
Although mixing humor and vitriol isn’t new, it takes witnessing a Sweaty Weapons live show to see how the band perfects the blend. The mood of the songs bleeds into the performance—Empire spits rabidly into the mic, maxing out any monitor. Her intensity is matched by drummer Jon Murray’s caveman-cum-Bad Religion beating. When Empire hits a chorus, guitarist Todd Martin and Josh Jordan join in and the mania is terminal. In between tracks the banter is nearly as entertaining as the noise. Both are characterized by violent, comic charisma. Add to this a crowd chucking bottles, a club with no air conditioning and a “cover” of the Andrew Gold’s “Thank You for Being a Friend” and you’re close to the vibe.
Sweaty Weapons is getting ready to record an 8-song album because “that’s how many songs we have,” says Jordan. Working Class met with the band in the basement of the house where the group first formed (and where some of them live) and talked about their material girl foundation, chasing the dream and herpes.
WC: When did you guys start a band?
Leeora Empire: We had a party and we were wasted.
Josh Jordan: I’m pretty sure ten of us were doing blow in the bathroom and made 6 a.m. plans to start a Madonna cover band.
WC: The initial plan was to start a Madonna cover band?
LE: That’s always the plan.
JJ: The initial plan was to do blow in the bathroom. Plan B, the backup, was to start a band.
Todd Martin: Yeah, like, “if this doesn’t work out, we can probably start a band.”
JJ: Well we nailed the initial plan.
WC: You fulfill a particular ’80s punk sound. Is that by design? Are you all into punk?
JJ: Todd’s the only punk guy in the band. Jon’s emo, Leeora’s a lesbian, and I’m just fucked.
LE: I’m not a lesbian.
Jon Murray: I think what we’re playing is just the sounds we can come up with.
LE: All of them are bassists. This is the first time Todd’s playing guitar and Jon’s playing drums.
JM: And Josh is the most versatile, sexually.
JJ: Should I take off my shirt?
WC: We enjoy the dark comedy of the lyrics, so congratulations on that. A lot them gravitate towards shock humor. Is that natural?
JJ: I came up with most of them.
LE: No, he did not.
JJ: They’re all based on true stories.
LE: How am I getting fucked up the ass in the interview?
WC: I actually think you might come out the classiest.
LE: That’s a first.
WC: So, how do you come to those lyrics?
LE: I’m just kind of a salty cunt although Todd has a sandy vagina. He’s the girl in the band.
JJ: Actually, he has a chicken on his dick.
LE: Oh yeah, show him the picture.
Josh takes out his phone to find the photograph, but can’t locate it, and shows me a picture of a child with a pig’s head instead.
WC: Have you all played in other bands?
LE: It’s my first band.
JJ: Mine too. No it’s not.
JM: I’ve been chasing the dream for so long.
JJ: The Dream is a really fast runner.
LE: They’re all in other bands, but this one’s the most important. Josh needs a whole other article to name his other bands.
JJ: Off With Their Heads.
LE: They’re famous.
WC: Who writes the songs? Do you bang around until something happens?
TM: The first few Leeora and I just wrote on the couch, then we started practicing and now we all kind of contribute.
LE: A lot of times, I’ll come up with lyrics and we’ll go from there.
JM: They only have one drumbeat in them because that’s the one I know. What was the last song? Was it the Golden Girls theme song?
LE: “Thank You for Being a Dick.”
WC: That one impressed us with its musicality. Did that start as a joke?
LE: My gay husband told me we should cover that and I was like, “we should but I should change every word to ‘dick.’”
JJ: We didn’t want to do it, but we didn’t want to be homophobic so we had to.
LE: After we did it the first time we were crying and then we did it seventeen more times laughing and pissing our pants and were like, “again.”
JM: We also tried “Caribbean Queen.”
LE: It didn’t work out.
JJ: Jon and I worked on it for like an hour at my apartment.
TM: You know, I actually heard in New Orleans, on the jukebox, the real version of the Golden Girls song. There are other verses and stuff—it’s like a country song, a ’70s rocking country song.
Another housemate walks through the basement and we say hello and Jordan burps.
LE: We have like eight roommates here. Oh, welcome to Oregon house, by the way.
JJ: Would you like a rat or herpes?
LE: Josh has both.
WC: With herpes sometimes you never know if you’ve got it.
LE: Somebody was talking to me about that yesterday actually. You can have herpes go to your brain he was telling me.
LE: Yeah, the infection can go to your brain.
JJ: But who cares? What girl is going to see your brain? Don’t write that down.
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