Artist Interview: Sharptooth
Sharptooth is a socio-political co-ed melodic hardcore band from Baltimore. They seek to combine art with activism as a way of spurring our audiences towards empowerment and engagement. We were able to take a moment and talk a little bit with vocalist, Lauren Kashan, that which they stand for, and of course, their most recent record, Clever Girl.
Your music has been promoted as being unapologetic and passionate. Tell us a little more about the topics that you explore in your music and why you are so passionate about them.
I’m passionate about them because they’re not just “hot button issues”, but are things that have directly impacted my life and the lives of millions of people all over the world. I’m passionate because these are my rights, freedoms, and liberties at stake. This isn’t just “politics” to me. If you had to be terrified to walk down the street at night, you’d be passionate about ending harassment. If you’ve been raped, you’d be pretty passionate about stopping it from happening again. If you knew people of your gender identity/sexuality/race were being murdered, you’d be pretty passionate about not getting killed for those same reasons. For me, it’s just common sense, to write about the things I see and experience. It just so happens that these are things that many other marginalized people have also experienced as well. So as a person with a microphone and a platform, I see it as my personal responsibility to address these things.
How long were you working on and then sitting on Clever Girl?
I’ve been in Sharptooth for 3 years, and some of the songs on this record were some of the first songs I wrote as a member of the band. We didn’t even start thinking about a full-length at least until a year in, and then we recorded Clever Girl about 6 months later. We then released it ourselves back in February, before it got picked up by Pure Noise in May. And we’ve been playing these songs the whole time. So even though we re-released on Pure Noise in October, it hasn’t felt like we’ve been “sitting on it” so to speak. These songs have been out in the world for the last 3 years.
How do you feel that the community of Baltimore has progressed you musically?
The thing about Baltimore that I think has pushed me the most musically has been the support not just from our community, but particularly from the women in our community. Connecting with other women and femmes in the scene about our music has been particularly motivating and rewarding because there’s a very clear need for representation in heavy music, and so people get so stoked when they feel like they’re finally being represented or their issues are being talked about.
With the state of the world at this time, and most specifically North America, what are you hoping will be some of the main changes in the coming months? How do you feel that art is important in influencing or inspiring people's voices?
I feel like the whole point of art is to make people think and feel, so I think it’s a crucial element to inspiring and encouraging the engagement of the people. I’m hoping that in the coming months, the opposing response to the current administration will be overwhelming. By that, I mean that I’m hoping people who might not have been as active in politics or their communities before will have more incentive to fight back now. It’s frustrating that it often takes things getting terrible for people to be spurred to action, but better late than never. I’m hoping to see people get involved in the 2018 elections, continue to address issues like sexism, sexual violence, and harassment on a larger scale, and work to make the world a much more kind, inclusive, open-minded place. We all seriously have a LOT of work to do.
When it came to choosing the artwork for Clever Girl, how did you go about deciding what would be the best fit? What is it about the imagery that you feel is so strong? Do you think that strong visuals will be an important part of your work in the future as well?
The artwork, down to the arrangement of the panels, everything in them, and even the back of the record was my concept. I thought the artist Danielle Otrakji did a PERFECT job with what we were trying to accomplish artistically. I wanted imagery that tied in with the title of the record, Clever Girl, which is a Jurassic Park quote about the raptors in the movie (all of which are female). The artwork takes the concept of a “strong female character” and uses the raptor imagery to reflect that. It also ties it in with our band’s name, Sharptooth, which is another saurian character from a 90’s film, The Land Before Time. I specifically wanted to use sort of “snapshots” of the raptor, rather than just putting a whole dinosaur on the cover, because there’s a concept in horror filmmaking, that showing bits and pieces of the monster in the movie is even scarier than showing the whole monster itself, because the unknown is the scariest thing of all. So that’s where the idea for those close-up frames came from. We wanted something that married the records aggressive approach with its willingness to dive deep into nuanced, thoughtful topics, while also noting the fact that it’s from a femme perspective. We really felt like the highly intelligent but vicious velociraptor really encompassed all of those concepts. As an artist, it’s really important to me to create work that is thoughtful and cohesive, so I would say that it’s a reasonable expectation that future works will have heavily thought out artwork as well.
Your tour with Anti-Flag and Stray From The Path considered, what else should people be looking out for from you guys in 2018?
Other than the full US tour with Anti Flag and Stray From The Path, we’re also working on heading over to Europe for some touring, and at least another full US run as well. We can’t go into a ton of details, but it’s going to be a road-heavy year for us, and we’re super excited about it. We’ve also already started writing a second record, and I’m really hoping to start eventually incorporating some of the newest songs into our set hopefully by the summer. 2018 is going to be absolutely bonkers, and we’re so ready for it.