Worriers: Finding Agency in Punk

Brooklyn-based punk band Worriers began as a side project for Lauren Denitzio and some of her friends. During the artist’s time with her first punk outfit, Measure [SA], Worriers became a means of playing with other people and exploring different strands of the punk lexicon. When Measure broke up, Worriers became Denitzio’s full-time gig, and she emerged as the punk band’s primary songwriter—a divergence from the more collaborative songwriting processes of Measure.

Worriers have been active New York punkers since 2011, but following their ongoing tour for 2015 record Imaginary Life, the band will relocate to the more affordable and less gentrified Philadelphia. I spoke with Denitzio on the phone a few days after Worriers’ stellar show at Brooklyn’s Silent Barn. We talked about the impending move, punk’s growing (and welcome) sense of inclusivity, and the gentrification that’s prohibiting New York’s DIY scene and shuttering some of its most iconic spaces.

To start things off, could we talk about the beginning of your music path, and how you first got into punk?

L. I played music from a pretty young age. I took piano lessons when I was seven years old or something like that. So I feel like I was always interested in music but didn’t really get into punk until the days of Rancid and Green Day being on the radio. But really shortly after, when I was 14 and 15, I was introduced to the local punk scene in New Jersey. I grew up in Central New Jersey and there are a lot of spaces in Northern New Jersey where there’s a really strong punk and hardcore scene. I was going to local shows in middle school and high school and that really got me into the genre as more of a local community rather than just these hard-to-reach bands that were on the radio.


Was it the aesthetic of punk that drew you to it? Or the musicians themselves? Or the community?

L. I was drawn to the aesthetic of it. I liked the music and the angst of it at that point. And I listened to more political punk as well. As I was growing up developing some sort of political consciousness and feeling like an outsider at my high school—it definitely spoke to me on that level as a teenager.


Cool, and then when was the beginning of Measure [SA]?

L. That started when I was 19, kind of when I was just out of high school.

And that was a product of that same collision of punk and political consciousness? Was that a way to get out and to work through those kinds of things?

L. For sure. I feel like I was writing from a more personal perspective. That was the first band I was ever in and I was sharing songwriting responsibilities with other bandmates. So it wasn’t just one person’s perspective, but it was definitely my way of being able to write and express those things. Or just what made me interested in playing local shows and being a songwriter and a musician.


I know back in 2011, you curated that piece “Are You With the Band,” and I know that was sort of derived from your observations of the punk scene dealing with male privilege and things like that. Was there something between the time the band started and 2011 – some specific realization or observation – that led to this project?

L. I was actually approached by Paper & Plastick, the record label that put it out, to do a comp that would feature female-fronted bands. I was interested in it at that point because I was in a feminist collective at the time and I was trying to be involved in the scene in a way that brought out more feminist politics. But at the same time my band was getting compared to the same two female-fronted pop-punk bands that actually didn’t sound anything like us. And I saw that happening to a lot of friends bands and thought, ‘do people just not care to make more nuanced comparisons,’ or are people not aware that there are so many bands with female voices that are punk but sound completely different? I was really interested in featuring touring, female-fronted bands that were in the punk scene but clearly had a pretty wide range of sounds…I still see it popping up when we’re on tour in people’s record collections.


That was just a one-time thing back in 2011, right? Have you thought about revisiting it?

L. I haven’t really thought about revisiting that…I wouldn’t do something like that that was just female-fronted, because I think—especially since that comp came out—I’ve gotten into a lot of bands that are maybe female-fronted, but they’re voices that are representing a much wider range than just male and female. I could see doing something about the queer scene, or a much wider concept of gender, but I haven’t thought about doing another comp like that, mostly because I hardly have time (laughs), but I wish there were something out like that, for sure.

Cool, since 2011, how have you seen the queer scene evolve in New York? What’s the community like now? What are some of the bands that you’re really excited about?

L. The bands that I’m seeing are out of New York and Philly, where I mostly know folks; it’s been certainly a much more diverse and accepting place than the scene that I grew up in. I think it’s really starting to expand to the larger punk scene. Things don’t seem as isolated anymore. But yeah the bands I’m excited about—there’s this band Hirs from Philly. This artist Moor Mother Goddess from Philly. Fleabite. I mean the list could go on and on. Our bassist Audrey has another band Little Waist—they’re amazing. But yeah it doesn’t feel like there’s this separate queer scene necessarily—I mean there is, but I feel like things are combining in a way, where even if someone doesn’t necessarily have access to a very specific underground, queer-only house show punk scene, they can still find out about bands. So that’s been great.

Yeah that’s definitely great. And then what brought Worriers together initially?

L. That started as a side project for me and a few friends—we were all in other bands at the time. I was still in the Measure. It was just wanting to play with other people that add a little bit of a different style and then it just ended up becoming my full-time thing. Measure broke up. It definitely became something that was only based around my songwriting.

What’s been the biggest difference with that? How does it feel to be at the helm rather than coordinating efforts during the songwriting process?

L. It definitely feels like this really positive, collaborative experience where we’re all on the same page. It works very much like a songwriting project but then might have a little different lineup at the shows. But it’s the same general group of people writing for recording purposes. Yeah it feels just a little more focused “me” I think, [that’s] the main difference.

And then Imaginary Life came out in August, right? I’ve read that [the album] is about that mercurial, weird butterfly effect in life when one thing happens and then you imagine what would happen if it had gone entirely differently. Were there any specific realizations that you had that led to that concept?

L. Not necessarily. It sort of happened where the songs I was writing all seemed to come from that sort of place, so I tried to take that and shape other songs around it. It was an interesting theme to think about, an interesting thing to try to pull out of what I was writing about. I don’t know that there were any big realizations with that, but it helped me from a cathartic songwriting perspective.

So you guys are touring for that album, and then you end your New York era, right?

L. (Laughs) Yeah. I mean we’ve just been touring so much, but yeah my partner and I were just like, well why are we trying to stay in New York? A lot of our friends had moved to Philadelphia, and it’s just cheaper (laughs). So we’re gonna go there and try to have even more time to work on music and art.

So that’s the main impetus of the move, the artistic freedom?

L. Definitely, yeah.

Anything in particular that you’ll miss about the New York scene that might not be in Philadelphia?

L. Well there are definitely people that I’ve played shows with for the better part of a decade in New York that are still there, and I definitely feel really comfortable in a lot of the DIY spaces there, and a lot of the smaller venues that have been around for awhile. I think that there’s no replacing that kind of thing for me, but at the same time I feel those things getting encroached upon by gentrification and people just not having the ability to support spaces like that anymore, so I feel like I’m comfortable moving to a place that’s a little bit more open to those sorts of things.

There’s nowhere else like New York—we’ve definitely been resigned to that. There’s never going to be a place that offers as much as New York, but I’m excited to live in a place that I’ll actually have time to enjoy.

Plus you’re not very far away.

L. Yes, very true. I’ll be back a lot.

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