We recently got a chance to interview Erzulie, an unapologetic Jazz Metal band based in none other than Chicago, IL. In this interview we got to talk about how they came together as a band, Haitian Voodoo and how it’s inspired the band along with its misinterpretations, and the infamous punk scene in Chicago.
How long have you guys been together as a band and how did it all start?
Vocalist Gold Grrl and guitarist Crosafix started working together the summer of 2014 acoustically. September of that year we filled out our original lineup with bassist Moonstar and drummer Rob. About a year later we picked up current drummer Ty Darke and a year after that, we finished our current lineup with bassist Staxx and keyboardist Sur.
Also, where did the band name come from?
The name Erzulie came about as a response to the depiction of Louisiana Voodoo in American Horror Story. The errors were incredible and when we formed the band we decided to go with Erzulie. Partially to voice our dismay with AHS . Also to educate people about the different aspects and interpretation of West African Vodun birthed religions, such as Louisiana Voodoo, Haitian Vodou, Hoodoo and Santeria. Growing up we listened to bands like KoRn and Slipknot, badass bands with utterly stupid names. We wanted to have a name that we could use to educate people, as it’s not a name Americans are familiar with, people often give us a opportunities to educate, much like right now. ❤️. We’ve had moments where we’ve considered changing our name out of concern for Erzulie herself, but we do believe she supports us. In Haiti, Erzulie is considered the protector of Women and Children. Our efforts in this band have been much to the same end. We feel an obligation to represent and protect women and children through the community outreach programs we’ve been fortunate enough to work with like Planned Parenthood, Girls Rock! Chicago, Chicago Abused Women’s Coalition and YCC charter school.
Is everyone in the band a Chi-Town Native?
Crosafix, Sur and Ty Darke are all from Chicagoland, we’ve moved around but this is where we were born and raised. Gold Grrl was born in Panama as apart of a military family. She’s lived a number of places including Germany, but decided to relocate to Chicago to pursue dance. Staxx was born in Mexico City to but moved to the US when he was younger and lived grew up in Florid . Interestingly enough, they’re also the biracial members of the band (Erzulie Freda is often believed to be biracial as well). Gold Grrl is African-American/Panamanian and Staxx is Italian/Mexican. Bonus fact.
I already know Chicago has a pretty dope punk scene. Do you have any venues you can recommend for us to check out or even your favorite places to play?
The Chicago Punk scene is more or less voluntarily segregated. There are the South Side Punks, North Side Punks and The West Side Punks. We are West Side Punks. I dare to say we have the best DIY spaces, but I might be bias. The Fallout is where you want to be on the West Side. Metal, Punk, Beatdown, Doom and everything else goes down there. Reggie’s is a legendary venue that stays connected to the community. If we need a space to raise money because someone is sick or someone died and their families needs help, Reggie’s has always pulled through for a number of bands. The 2040 goes hard too. Whatever kind of ruckus you’re looking for, it’s going on somewhere in Chicago.
What kind of sound do you guys try to captivate?
We just want to give a lot of energy. We think about our music as a type of spirit work and we’re hoping to connect the light and darkness that we all live through in a way people find hopefully. Life can be amazing and horrible within the same moment. The beauty of jazz and the hardness of Metal are much like the extremes of life and that (for lack of a better term) duality is very alive in Voodoo. Our live performance is sexy and scary and so is life.
Haitian Voodoo and Jazz have been considered an inspiration to the band- how did that come about?
Crosafix was a Vodou practitioner and Metal musician prior to forming Erzulie with Gold Grrl. Gold Grrl had a history in Jazz vocal performance and was looking to start her first Metal project. The idea of extremes is pretty common in Erzulie. Good and Evil, Scary and Sexy, Masculine and feminine As well as Jazz and Metal.
Do you think that people have a false interpretation on voodoo and it’s history?
Absolutely, Vodou has been sensationalized and fantasized without context. Around the time Erzulie formed, there was an exhibit at the Field Museum here in Chicago called “Vodou: The Sacred Art of Haiti”. We were fortunate enough to have been able to attend with other friends that had familiarity with Vodou. After going through the exhibition, we went back to hang out around the beginning and the end of the exhibit. At the beginning, they talked the slave trade. We noticed people would often walk pass any plaque which talked about slavery. For about 10 minutes, two of us walked around and noticed time and time again people just walked pass the reality that created Vodou because they wanted to keep it a fantasy. At the end of the exhibit there was a table that asked a question. They asked you to compare common practices in your own religion to common practices in Vodou. The little blocks would say something like “Animal Sacrificing” and then they’d have little chips that would say “Only in Vodou”, “Only in my religion” and “In both religions”. The problem was, there wasn’t an employee at the table to discuss it. We actually had people put their chips wherever they thought they should go and then we’d explain how similar there practices were between Vodou and Christianity. We were happily able to get most people to pick “In both religions” when we were done. We see Vodou/Voodoo mostly in fantasy films in this country so we don’t take it as the culturally significant religious institution it is.
Are there any specific artists that inspire you guys as a band?
We’ve been inspired by different bands as we’ve evolved. Our patents are Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. Musically we’re inspired by the bands we grew up with that mixed heavy and melodic like Pantera, Slipknot, Kittie, Bad Brains, The Gazette and Mastodon. The Women of Metal like Alexis from Straight Line Stitch, Otep, Tetiana from Jinjer and both Alissa (current vocalist) and Angela (former vocalist) from Arch Enemy have been incredibly inspiring because they’re incredibly powerful and passionate performers. Visually we’ve been inspired from everyone from Grace Jones to Kiss.
What are your creative processes like? Do ideas come easy?
The guitarist Crosafix writes the structural music to the songs. He will send a cell phone recording of just the guitar part so everyone will get a feel of the melody and structure. From that, everyone starts working on their parts for the music. We build up the songs together at practice and discuss the nature of the song. We write songs with expected reactions in mind like “This is the headbang part” and that normally has a contrast with a more melodic part. Ultimately, you we aim write songs that elicit different emotional response throughout the song. Gold Grrl writes her own lyrics and vocal parts. She’s inspired by personal experiences, religions text, works of fiction and conversations. As more people have started to memorize lyrics, she’s taken that responsibility by making sure her lyrics have substance and can connect her with the audience because it’s coming from a real place. From start to finish, each song has its own challenges because we want them to have their own personalities.
What can people expect from your shows?
Live is all about the rock show and connecting with the audience. We have a message and meaning but we also want to make it hard to forget us. We’re constantly reviewing footage and picking the parts we want to expand. It’s raw, it’s sexy, socially aware and funny. As a band West Chicago, we cut our teeth in the DIY scene that literally have everything from Ska to Beatdown on the same show. So energy is the only thing people care about out here and we’re always looking to bring that high energy and connection.
What’s good for 2019? Any new material or shows on the way?
We’re looking to recording very soon, rather than focusing on another EP, we will be releasing singles throughout the year that will correspond with visual elements in someway. We gig pretty consistently in Chicago and we’re just working to expand on that.
What message do you want to convey as a band and through your music?
The message I would like to convey as a band and through our music is that being yourself is a revolutionary act. Every time I perform I’m trying to be the fullest version of myself through the character of GoldGrrl. I want to convey a message of unity, power, and aggressive femininity.
For more on Ezrulie and the latest of their dope endeavors, please check them out @ezrulieband on Instagram and on their Bandcamp page at https://erzulie.bandcamp.com/!