Denton's Thin Skin Are Angry Punks, but Not Just for the Hell of It
Katie Reese, Ashley Givens, César Velasco
Denton’s Thin Skin made a lot of noise during their set at Double Wide over the weekend. The music is sloppy in the best way possible; bassist Ashley Givens and guitarist Katie Reese have wild vocals and the band has a cutesy punk sound that is fun. Seriously fun. Thin Skin have a blast playing shows and it rubs off on the crowd. But their music often starts with a serious issue that pisses them off.
For instance, Donald Trump. Shortly after forming a few months ago, Thin Skin recorded an EP in one night. Punk and to the point, only one song makes it past the two-minute mark. The opening track is titled, “Trump is a Pig,” an homage to “Bush is a Pig” by one of their biggest influences, Bikini Kill.
“The other songs have satirical themes,” says drummer César Velasco. “But with this one we are just making fun of him because he’s ridiculous.” They yell insults at Trump, mocking the mob mentality his supporters seem to exemplify. It’s a great song. But the sentiments are especially meaningful for Cesar Velasco.
Born in Mexico, he moved to the U.S. when he was 10 and is now a permanent resident. “Trump is a fucking bitch,” says Velasco. “I’m not a citizen of this country, I can’t vote. That’s a terrifying thing, if he is to get elected to office. He’s a joke and it’s ridiculous that some people take him seriously.”
“Miami” is a track about the city’s hyper-sexualized culture of frequent plastic surgery. Velasco came up with the idea after spending some time in the city with family. “Women being sexualized in media really seemed to prevail in that area,” Velasco says. “Mr. C” is about using sex to sell food, something that baffles and grosses them out. “You can place a half-dressed woman next to anything and say, 'Buy this,'” Reese says. With lyrics like, “Give me a Twinkie ‘cause I’m feeling kinky,” the song satirizes this approach to advertising.
They take the idea further on the closing track, “Tits.” Two girls shouting these words for a chorus predictably gets a lot of attention. “It’s a satire with a taunting aspect,” Givens says. “But it’s just another comment on sexualizing consumer culture.” “I make music to say something,” adds Reese. “People can take it however they want.”
“It’s nice to know that you write a song and people enjoy it,” Velasco shrugs. “This is a big 'fuck you' to this idea, but I’m sure there are just people who like the song because there are tits. Hopefully they’ll eventually get it. But if not, at least they enjoyed the song.”
A new song, “Burgers and Thighs,” works with this same idea of using sex to sell. You have to hand it to them: Thin Skin really have a knack for coming up with palatably trashy titles. The songs address serious themes, but the music sounds so playful on the surface that it’s not something you immediately notice. “The first time people see us they tend to just have a really good time,” Velasco says.
Acceptance is another theme in their music. “You see a lot of artists coming out as transgender or gay,” says Reese. “Denton has just always been such a safe place for that.” Thin Skin try to avoid categorization altogether. “We’re not a girl band,” says Velasco. “We’re just a fucking band. Just like a band with a different sexual orientation: They’re not a queer band; they’re just a fucking band. We need to mop all these labels.”
But some songs are less serious. Givens admits to being on a Gwen Stefani binge that is bringing more pop sensibility to their sound. Some songs are personal rather than social, with lyrics about ex-boyfriends. They also admire punk albums that are 15 minutes long.
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Thin Skin have no qualms about making mistakes, they are just now starting to learn how to really play their instruments and sloppiness is part of their charm. “It’s good because we play it off well,” says Givens. “There’s definitely an energy,” Velasco says. “We’re going to mess up every show,” Reese says with a laugh.
Givens has a big, wild voice that barely requires her to open her mouth. “She’s got a crazy voice,” Reese says. “She reminds me of Yoko Ono a lot.” Indeed, she has a high-pitched scream. After quickly playing several shows in houses and clubs, Thin Skin are preparing to mix business with pleasure by vacationing in L.A. and Olympia and playing shows in both cities.
Thin Skin has a sound that is easy to listen to, but they have an in-your-face, satirical approach. “I think people are still not used to seeing girls scream and swear in a punk band,” Velasco says. The band uses music to turn their grievances into a good time. “We’re yelling about sincere stuff,” Reese adds. “We’re not just yelling to yell.”
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