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Checking In With Odd Girl Out

July 1, 2008

Last spring, Baltimore/Washington metro area all-femme outfit Odd Girl Out released its first record after a torrent of fits, starts, catastrophes, and road bloacks. Drawing heavily on pop-punk, Joan Jett, and alt-rock in general, Hurry Up and Wait was a tuneful jolt of local rock fun, and revisiting it recently got us wanting more and wondering what these ladies have been up to. We decided to check in with primary songwriter/drummer/founder/publicist Bethany Petr to see what’s new in OGO-land.

City Paper: When we last spoke, a year or so ago, you’d just released your debut album–Hurry Up and Wait–independently. How has it been received? Have you seen your fan base–in both show attendance and online terms–expand?

Bethany Petr: Yeah. It used to be that we’d call in all our friends to stock our shows with fans. Lately, though, we’ve been having a lot of people attend who we didn’t necessarily know before. I mean, actual fans that are not necessarily just our friends . . . of course, once they attend enough shows and do the whole waiting game with us, they usually turn into friends, anyway. We’ve also had pretty steady growth of an online fan base; this was made much easier with the songs from the album because it gives them something to actually listen to, of course. We sell CDs online through CD Baby and they send you a notice whenever anyone buys an album; it blows my mind every time someone who is not local randomly discovers us and buys an album in California, even London. Weird.

CP: Guitarist Kristen Brzowsky left pretty recently, according to your site, and Selena Benally took over that role. What happened there?

BP: Kristen stayed with us for about a year–which is like a lifetime in that rotating guitarist position. Anyways, she was going to chef school and doing a lot of DJing, and decided she wanted to focus more on those two aspects of her life. So she left us around December of this year. . . and after that decided to move to California, so we would have lost her anyway. We kind of freaked out, though, and had a little moment of should we continue this and rebuild yet again or just sack the whole thing? Especially Tawni and I, because we’d just rebuilt the band so many damn times. Eva and Selena sort of got us to recommit and stick it out. We tried to audition a couple people. We were considering switching anyone around that would work. I mean, we ran ads for guitarist, bassist, or even drummer with the idea that if we found anyone competent, we’d work to get them incorporated into the band. After a lot of auditions, we decided that just wasn’t going to work, though, and got used to the idea of being a four-piece.

CP: How’s the change working out?

BP: Great–Selena’s amazing. I don’t know how we didn’t figure it out before this change necessitated it. I mean, when we play now, we kind of stand back in awe and smile, particularly when she solos. I’m just really proud to be onstage with such talented musicians.

CP: Given the less-than-amicable departures Odd Girl Out endured early on, this one seems to have gone a lot smoother.

BP:Yeah: no yelling, no hurling of dumpsters off sidewalks, no bad-mouthing us all over town for random psychotic reasons that don’t really exist, no passive-aggressive drawn-out painful death. And I think this one really worked out for the best. I mean, I feel like the band is really stable in this configuration (knock on wood).

CP: Any word on a new album? When Wait came out, there were a couple existing songs that didn’t make the cut, I recall.

BP: We’ve got a lot of songs that aren’t on Wait; in fact, the majority of what we’re playing live isn’t on that record. Not quite enough for an album yet–at least not that we’ve developed as a whole band because I have a million waiting to be developed. We also are gladly accepting donations to fund a new album. I’m trying to tide the fans over by taking crappy videos of our shows and posting them on our web site to at least give a taste of what these new songs sound like. Hopefully we’ll get them recorded.

CP: What have you been listening to lately? Is anything in particular inspiring your present songwriting?

BP: It covers sort of a weirdly wide range, as always. I’m really liking the extremely sort of dirty open guitar sounds on the latest Raconteurs album. I know I’m late to the party on this one, but I’m really into Buckcherry right now–I love a band that can, in my mind, pull off extremely dirty lyrics and make it awesome rather than gross; another of my favorite bands of all time who does this is Aerosmith. I’ve also been listening to the One Republic album a lot which is quite a different, very polished pop album than those other two.

CP: When bands have existed long enough, they almost inevitably begin writing tons of songs about being in a band. Have you succumbed to that impulse yet?

BP: I’ve got at least one, but I wrote it like two years ago now during a particularly low moment in the band’s history. I’m not sure we’ll ever develop it.

CP: You played the Capital Pride festival recently. How’d that go?

BP: We (once again) played at the butt crack of dawn, like first thing in the morning. Since most people come out in the early afternoon it was about what you’d expect. We did get to play this big show at the 9:30 Club the Friday before the kickoff of Pride Women’s Party with Melissa Ferrick, Bitch, and Betty that was a good experience for us, and was pretty cool–except for their strange decision to place all the bands’, not just ours but famous people’s too, equipment in the alley after the show so they could prepare for the dance party that followed. They had a security guard “watching” it, but he wasn’t really protecting it from the swarm of feral cats and eight inch roaches. So that was great. The good thing about Pride in general, though, and this covers Baltimore, too, is that every year a new crop of kids attend for the first time. So it’s a great opportunity for us to reach fans we would not find otherwise.