Despite not releasing a full-length project yet, bi-coastal duo Sub*T has already captivated a sizable audience around the world, with heaps of praise from Atwood Magazine and an Alt. Press feature to boot. Their debut EP So Green is slated to come out on November 19th. Produced and mixed by Bully’s Alicia Bognanno, So Green is a buzzing and infectiously melodic body of work that unapologetically tackles relationship naiveté, vulnerability, and the act of looking at the past through rose-colored glasses.
Pulling from alternative rock staples of the ’90s like Liz Phair, Tiger Trap, and Sleater-Kinney, bandleaders Jade Alcantara and Grace Bennett’s cutting lyrical humor and deft poetic zingers perfectly meld together with their charming lo-fi soundscapes and hair-raising riffs.
I sat down with Alcantara and Bennett to talk about their self-taught/DIY grassroots approach to music-making, writing songs with found words in Marvel comic books, and prioritizing safe environments at their shows.
How did the two of you initially meet?
Bennett: We were internet friends and we met IRL at a 1975 show at MSG four years ago.
What’s it like making music on opposite sides of the country?
Bennett: A lot of voice memos and texting back and forth. We sometimes do a zoom meeting, but that isn’t always effective in sessions. We’ve seen what can happen with the echoes and the lagging feedback, so that would not be ideal.
Alcantara: Yeah, definitely. That said, writing apart is definitely not as challenging as you would imagine.
What were some of the most memorable parts of writing the EP?
Bennett: I think we need to talk about “Bruce Banner.”
Alcantara: Oh absolutely! The first song on our EP [“Bruce Banner”] was a classic case of me being bored at work and coming up with lyrics or a melody. In this case it turned into a song based on Bruce Banner [aka the Incredible Hulk]. I’m a huge fan of Marvel so I have all these superhero comic books in my house. We sort of threw ourselves into a writing session where we set a timer and started blowing through all the books to find ideas for lyrics. We do a lot of songwriting when we’re apart, but that was a cool way to work on writer’s block and engage in a creative activity together.
What were the first songs each of you learned on guitar?
Bennett: The first one I learned was “Octopus’s Garden” by The Beatles. That was the song that my teacher gave me to learn when I was eighteen, so it wasn’t really my choice, but that was my first.
Alcantara: Probably some adapted form of “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys.”
How did each of you initially become fully devoted to music?
Bennett: My mom used to take me to shows as a kid. I would always get so mad cause she would take me to see like, Norah Jones and I would be so bored. But looking back, I think that was what made me a genuine fan of the live experience. When I was thirteen I started going to concerts by myself. I was fully obsessed with One Direction at the time.
Alcantara: Oh yeah, me too. That was the first time I got on an airplane to go to a show. When you become old enough to travel and create your own experiences through music and the internet, it totally consumes your life in the best way imaginable.
Your sound strongly reminds me of Rose Melberg and the work she did with Gaze and Tiger Trap. What would you say influences the sonic architecture you craft in each of your songs?
Alcantara: I think we’re very inspired by a lot of the music from that era, but we also strive to make something different from what we’re used to hearing in popular music now. Even when you look at what’s classified as “alternative rock” there are a lot of similarities. And we wanted to have those undertones but also make sure it sounded fresh and new. We are also very inexperienced with making music, so we’ve never felt like we’ve had to follow certain rules. We just like to experiment with our sound and see what sounds good to us. For the most part, we’ve formed our sound by sharing sonic and visual influences with each other. We don’t necessarily [emulate bands from the past] intentionally, but it often shows up when we sit down to write and record it. And it’s really nice to hear [the Tiger Trap] comparison, so thank you.
Was the color green a symbolic choice for the project, and if yes, what does it signify?
Alcantara: When used in a song being “green” [is] a metaphor for the naive childlike perspective. When we wrote “Bruce Banner,” we brought in our personal experiences with first relationships where we misunderstood the ways we were being treated in those relationships. But it’s more about the newness and the freshness. We don’t feel like everything we’re doing has been done with certainty, but sometimes it’s fun to have no idea what you’re doing. So we’re talking about being “green” not just as a metaphor for being inexperienced, but also being able to enjoy the process of growth.
What are your thoughts on the riot grrrl revival?
Bennett: In my experience [riot grrrl] never really went away. Only those who don’t look for it would know that the movement was always around and [it’s constantly being updated]. I think what frustrates me is that in the last 5-10 years, I’ve seen feminism get commodified just to sell products, and unfortunately the riot grrrl aesthetic seems to have fallen victim to that as well. Regardless, it’s still an incredibly powerful way for women to express themselves and unleash their anger. It’s a very raw and personal form of expression and that’s what makes it so attractive to young women who have no other outlet to express themselves or have that type of urgency in their emotions. I think it’s awesome to see, and whoever wants to take part in it should.
Alcantara: Definitely. It’s really cool to be included in something like that, but that mentality is just a way of life for us. We’ve had to live with it our entire lives and we will continue to do so as we move forward. We always want to make sure all of our shows are creating a safe environment and we always strive to work [in parity] with other women.
What would you say are the most important themes on the EP?
Bennett: In these songs there’s a desperate form of escapism and wanting to get unstuck from the physical and mental places that we’re in. On the second song “Cozad,” we sing about the physical aspect of movement. With the third song “Fur on Porcelain,” we sing about being stuck in one place mentally. “Table for Four,” which closes out the EP, is about remembering. In each song we reconsider our identities and find new ways of looking at personal memories, which is a common thread among most of the songs on the EP.
Alcantara: Overall, it’s about escapism but also adventure. It’s about coming to terms with reality, moving forward, and not running from the past, but being at peace with it as we move on to the next chapter in our lives.
I found “Cozad” to be the most interesting part of the EP because it sounded very bright and fun, but the lyrics had certain undertones of rage. What can you tell me about that song?
Bennett: I was on a roadtrip with Kenzie, our manager. We drove from the East Coast to Oakland to be with Jade. That song was written in the car in the town of Cozad in Nebraska. We finished it at Jade’s house.
Alcantara: We thought that “Cozad” was such an interesting-sounding word, so we looked into the name of the town and found out that it was named after a man [John J. Cozad] who murdered someone [and was never tried for it]. I think the song stems from our newfound freedom to do exactly what we want, but there’s also layers of rage that speak to what it’s like to be a woman, where we often feel unprotected and unsafe on a roadtrip, so we end up having to protect each other. Overall the song is a buildup of raw emotions related to adventure, independence, and tongue-in-cheek ways of expressing our anger.
What predominantly inspires your lyric writing?
Bennett: I would say we focus way more on [sonic elements] in the music. I’m much more drawn to emulating the sound rather than the lyrics.
Alcantara: I agree. But if I had to pick a person who I strongly relate to lyrically, it would definitely be Kim Gordon. Other than that we’ve never followed a pre-determined formula in our lyrics.
Bennett: I remember when we started out we thought we had to follow a formula, but once we started caring less and stopped taking ourselves so seriously we had a lot more fun with it.
What are some of the most memorable shows you’ve been to in recent years?
Bennett: I had the most amazing time at a Hinds show in New York pre-covid. I also saw Dehd at the Market Hotel and I thought the floor was gonna collapse, it was insane.
Alcantara: I did Hinds’ makeup on the road for a while, and that was a lot of fun cause their fans are so cool. I also had a lot of fun at a Twin Peaks show in Chicago. The Bikini Kill reunion show was also incredible.
How did you end up getting that Hinds gig?
Alcantara: I went to most of their U.S. shows and we became fast friends. I did some Florida shows with them and all of their California shows and it was a lot of fun. I’ve always loved their energy. They’re so down-to-earth and their fans are incredible. This was at a time when a lot of people were anxious about the current political climate and there was a lot of talk about really shitty environments at shows with stumbling drunk dudes harassing women and mosh pits getting out of hand. Carlotta started crying at one of the shows because she couldn’t believe how incredible it was to tour America and see all of their amazing female fans who drove for 6 hours just to see them. And that’s exactly what we aim to do as a band. We want to create that type of environment at our shows where it feels cathartic and we have the upper hand in controlling the situation and making it as safe as possible.
What was it like to work with Alicia Bognanno on this EP?
Bennett: It was the best. I don’t think I can put into words how awesome she is as a person and an artist. She was an incredibly supportive mentor and collaborator, and it came from a place of genuine love for the music that we had sent her. She was really invested in what we wanted to do, which made for a super awesome and productive environment in Nashville. It was the best experience we could have possibly had. It was extremely validating.
Alcantara: She knows a lot about engineering and mixing, so she instantly understood the kinds of tones we wanted on our songs, not just from her personal background as a musician, but because our tastes align very closely with hers. I’m still in disbelief that she made time for us even though her schedule was packed. It was pretty insane to get to work with someone I’d looked up to for so long, and now she’s like our sister. She really understood our vision from the beginning and believed in it.
What else would you like to plug?
Bennett: We’re playing two Brooklyn shows, one one on November 21st at Elsewhere in Brooklyn with Been Stellar and another one on December 3rd with Razorbraids.
KEEP UP TO DATE WITH SUB*T
So Green will be available on streaming platforms November 19.