According to Sammy Westervelt, you can hear the very moment she knew her band, Egg Drop Soup, made the right decision about its music future. It comes about a half-minute into their 2018 single, “Partying Alone.” At that mark, she unleashes something pent up and primal and those vocals would set the tone for everything Egg Drop Soup would do next.
The Los Angeles-based band visits Houston Wednesday, October 20, to headline a bill at Continental Club’s Pachinko Hut with Swimwear Department. The Soup’s sound is a blend of guitar-driven punk, metal, grunge and surf. They’re an all-woman band from L.A. but refuse to be defined by that trope and can’t be pigeonholed sonically. And, according to at least one L.A. Weekly music writer, their intent is audacious and meant to scare listeners.
Westervelt, the band’s bassist and lead vocalist, chuckled at the notion but didn’t dismiss it. She said she and guitarist Olivia Saperstein were originally members of a band called The Pinks.
“The project that we were in prior to Egg Drop Soup I think had a little bit more of a cutesy, kind of garage, ‘60s punk sort of feel to it and I felt a little constrained by trying to write within a particular parameter. I don’t know if it was because I was just so new to playing bass or what but I was really excited to be experimenting a little bit,” she said. “And, on top of that, I was really just sick of people being like, ‘Oh, you’re so cute!’ I sort of was feeling like, in a way, people just weren’t taking me seriously.”
Westervelt said a change in philosophy helped get them the respect they craved for their creative output. Like so many women, in music and elsewhere, they had to literally shout their intentions at a world fixated on their appearances.
“I feel this fury about the world and I know that Olivia felt it too and we thought we’ve got to get this out and channel it in some way. Once we wrote ‘Partying Alone’ and that scream came out — I had never screamed before but I knew I sort of wanted to try it — and once that sound came out of me, we were like people are gonna shit themselves, for lack of a better term. We had a feeling at the very least it was going to surprise people.”
Egg Drop Soup, they’ve said, is a euphemism for menstruation. Some might call the music “scary” because it’s feminist, honest and unyielding. It boldly challenges listeners to hear Egg Drop Soup’s perspectives on matters which directly affect them. Take the song “Tots,” for instance, which is a blistering track about women’s body politics. The entire track’s lyrics are, “I don’t want your baby, I just wanna bleed/No, I don’t want your baby inside of me/I left it on the table, it wasn’t meant to breathe/Get it out of me.”
Fingers crossed for “Tots” to be on the set list for dates in a state where mostly-male, mostly-conservative legislators are pushing back on women’s abortion rights. Who better to take on these matters than a trio of “scary,” – if that’s the word you choose – outspoken women?
“At the end of the day it’s really about empowerment and not just for ourselves but for other women and also just for humans in general,” Westervelt said. “I think as a collective we really believe that women’s issues are just human issues. It affects everyone. If they’re taking our rights, they will take yours. You’re not that exempt from it.
“My hope is that something that’s channeled through us gets channeled into the people who get to or choose to listen to us and somewhere in there it sparks that impetus of empowerment and finding your voice, whatever that is,” she said. “It took me a really long time to find that music was a thing that I should be doing and even longer to actually find my own voice. We hear other bands and we’re influenced by them and I think it’s easy to try to sound like something that we think sounds really good. But there’s something that’s really special about finding your own truth and really living in that and hopefully helping light the path for others to find some catharsis, at the very least, in their day.”
As she mentioned, music was a saving grace for her. She moved to Los Angeles to act. She and Saperstein are both filmmakers. You can sample Westervelt’s work from a viewing of the video for the band’s new song “Or Durves.”
“Part of why I think I gravitated towards music is because you don’t have to wait for someone to really give you permission. You just write a song and put it out. I like having that power of us being able to make those creative decisions and not defer to anyone else’s timelines,” Westervelt said. “We have the skills and we’re all visionaries in our own right. Maybe that’s like a very strong kind of word to use but we really all have strong creative visions. It’s just cool that we have the skills to do it so why not?”
Westervelt said she was grateful her bandmates trusted her with the new video and there seems to be a strong chemistry between bandmates, particularly with her and Saperstein. They met on a film set.
“I remember seeing her on set and she had this wig on and she took it off, she had this cool blue hair and I was like man, she seems so cool,” Westervelt said. Saperstein got the conversation rolling and they bonded over their love of movies and the band Hole.
“I have these really weird dreams sometimes that are sort of like premonitions so I told her about this dream I had where I gave Courtney Love my CD but I wasn’t even a musician at the time,” Westervelt said. “We were like oh, this is like a really solid friendship. We just felt the love instantly. And then I got really disillusioned with the acting stuff and just kind of quit.
“I will never forget this because it’s so spooky but I remember lighting a candle and asking the universe ‘What am I supposed to do with my life?’ And not even 30 minutes later she sent me a text message and was like, ‘Hey, do you want to start a band?’”
They did and added drummer Bailey Chapman to the mix recently to round out the trio. They began the band with drummer Greg Settino and Westervelt said they parted on amicable terms and remain friendly. They met Chapman, who has also drummed for acts like Thelma and the Sleaze and Sailor Poon, at SXSW and tabbed her on Settino’s departure.
“I knew that she was the first person I wanted to ask. She had moved to L.A. and it just was magic,” Westervelt said. “I can’t speak to whether it is specifically because she’s a woman that adds to it or if it is just her spirit and her soul but either way it has broken us wide open, I think for me anyway, in terms of how much emotional range I can really express onstage. It’s a totally amazing energy that we get to share and I feel really privileged that we get to experience that.”
You can experience it, too, live and loud, the way the band intended. Their tour runs through the end of the month and includes an October 19 date at Galveston’s Daquiri Time Out.
“I’m very excited to hit the road,” Westervelt said. “We did have to cancel one show because of COVID that’s still waiting to be rescheduled. I’m not going to lie, I’m a little bit nervous. At the end of the day, we want to do our part to stay safe and keep everyone around us safe. I know this is a contentious subject, but I don’t really think it’s a hot take to want to protect the community.
Infecting audiences across the country with love, not COVID, all October
Photo by Kelly Segre, courtesy of Egg Drop Soup
“Wearing a mask, at the very least. Getting vaccinated,” she said of some things folks can do ahead of their tour stops. “I mean, that’s a choice we’ve all made. Obviously, it is a personal choice and preference but at the very least just having some empathy for your fellow human. If anything, this pandemic has really shed a lot of light on what little empathy some folks have. That’s what I want to infect people with. Not COVID, just love, you know?”
Their number one love is music. You can hear Hole’s influence and nods to Black Sabbath, Motorhead and Nirvana in Saperstein’s gargantuan riffs. They’re aware of L.A.’s long legacy of female bands, all the L7s and Runaways and Go-Gos that came before them and Westervelt said Egg Drop Soup feels no pressure about living up to any sort of standard those bands set.
“I wouldn’t say that we feel any particular pressure about it, but I think that our sort of ethos is kind of like ‘Fuck that,’” she said. “Any kind of pressure anyone would want to put on us, we sort of would be like, okay, go ahead and put yourself through that, but we’re not really going to buy into it, you know?
“It’s interesting because I feel like we get compared to bands that I never would think of,” she continued. You might hear those influences but Westervelt said the band relies on “this sort of magical telepathy that we really have between one another. We’ll hear what the other one is about to do before they do it. It’s just really cool.
“I also think we go into every song with an open mind and not really intending to sound like anything in particular, but just knowing that we can’t help but be influenced by everything we’re influenced by and letting each song take us on a ride.”
Egg Drop Soup, with Swimwear Department, 8 p.m. Wednesday, October 20 at Continental Club’s backyard bar Pachinko Hut, 3700 Main. $10-$15.