It starts off in your basic living room, two girls laughing then launching into a sweet, stripped down lo-fi version of Cock Sparrer’s oi classic “Take ‘Em All.” The musicians, Jennie Cotterill and Sara Lyons, play acoustic guitar and organ respectively, and harmonize “Take 'em all, take 'em all/Put 'em up against a wall and shoot 'em.” The disparity between the lyrics, origins, and this whole set-up encapsulates the appeal of Long Beach’s Cunt Sparrer, a trio that also includes Jen Kirk-Carlson and sometimes Myra Gallarza of Cotterill and Kirk-Carlson's other band Bad Cop/Bad Cop on drums.
More than a tribute act, Cunt Sparrer has been rearranging and rejuvenating Cock Sparrer tunes and other traditional punk hits for the past few years and through those efforts gained some deserved social media recognition — its Youtube clips routinely garner upwards of a thousand views, and on Twitter there was the biggest compliment of all: a tweet of approval from Cock Sparrer itself. I got the chance to chat with Cotterill and Lyons before their New Year’s Eve Eve San Francisco show this Friday at Thee Parkside — here are the juicy bits:
San Francisco Bay Guardian: How did the idea for Cunt Sparrer form?
Sara Lyons: We've been big Cock Sparrer fans for a really long time and I always thought "Cunt Sparrer" was a funny name for an all-girl tribute band. Originally we had thought about doing it as a straightforward Cock Sparrer tribute, but then Jennie came across our first electric chord organ at a flea market and we just sort of started playing around with it and liked what we came up with.
SFBG: Have you met resistance from Cock Sparrer fans or in general from those offended by the term "cunt"? Ever have to deal with asshole punks?
Jennie Cotterill: Some people seem to think that the word "cunt" means it's going to be a strip show or something, but I think we've gotten pretty good at shutting that down. There are a lot of assholes on the internet, but in person for the most part everyone is pretty nice.
SL: When we first started out I was nervous about resistance from Sparrer fans, but it turns out that a lot of our biggest fans are old-school Cock Sparrer fans who can appreciate hearing their favorite songs interpreted in a different way.
The Cock Sparrer-approved version of "Because You're Young":
SFBG: What was Cock Sparrer's response to your band? You've opened for them, correct?
SL: We haven't actually opened for Cock Sparrer. We did get to play at Punk Rock Bowling in Las Vegas this year, which they also played, but our shows weren't connected. From everything we hear from people who have met or are close to the band, they're really friendly guys who are super appreciative of their fans. They do know about us and have tweeted our Youtube video of "Because You're Young," so we think they are aware that Cunt Sparrer is coming from a place of major love and respect. JC: We really hope we get to meet them someday.
SFBG: What's the been the best part about this band so far? Any particular moments that have stood out from live shows?
JC: Getting to go on vacations with your best friends!
SL: Yeah, just having the opportunity to spend a lot of time around my favorite people, playing some of my favorite songs. JC Our show at the Yucca Tap Room in Tempe, AZ back in November was our best experience ever. We were playing with Kevin Seconds and we had a local oi band called the All City Boot Boys opening up for us.
SL: They were your classic big, burly traditional skinhead dudes and at first I was like, 'I'm not sure how they're going to respond to us.' But when we started our set, there was this crowd of thirty plus huge dudes singing along to every word, chanting "oi"...
JC: ....and inviting us back to their place for home-brewed beer.
SFBG: If you were to start another tribute band, which band would it cover?
SL: We like Descendents songs. And we do cover Billy Bragg and the Misfits in our set.
JC: And we've covered Angelic Upstarts and 7 Seconds before.
JC: I don't know, though, I don't think I'd really be interested in being in any other cover band. I know it's kind of a novelty right now or whatever, to have a tribute band, but that's not why I'm doing this. I'm in Cunt Sparrer so I can play music with my friends and because these are fun, good songs that I can play when I'm drunk. And they appeal to people.
SL: We're really lucky in that Cock Sparrer has such a unique and loyal fan base and that the majority of them are open to our interpretation of the music, because it plays such a vital role in a lot of people's lives. We kind of stumbled onto a niche thing with Cunt Sparrer that I don't think would work in any other capacity, and I think that's why we've managed to do the things we've gotten to do so far with our little band.