Alice Bag Track-by-Track of New Album, ‘Sister Dynamite’

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Prolific punk icon, singer/songwriter, musician, author and feminist, Alice Bag recently announced that her new album Sister Dynamite, was due out May 8 on In The Red Records. However, with adjustments being made for Covid-19, it is officially out across digital platforms early!

Sister Dynamite is an unbridled celebration of community and the undeniable power in embracing your own truth. The collection confronts some of the most pervasive problems troubling our world today and it marks a thrilling return to the full-throttle punk that Bag pioneered with her legendary first-wave punk band, The Bags 

Bag gave the readers of AmericanSongwriter a track-by-track breakdown of the album, in her own words.

1. ‘Spark’ is about owning the differences that other people might see as odd or queer and celebrating them because they are what makes you unique. It’s a song about self-acceptance and self-love. This song is probably the most autobiographical on the album. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve always felt like a misfit, an outsider, a weirdo. I don’t know if it’s my appearance, my personality or my behavior that gives me away but I’ve always stuck out. I guess it’s strange that someone my age still has to say this but life can be like a hammer, constantly trying to beat down the nail that sticks out. I wrote ‘Spark’ as a mantra for myself and all my fellow weirdos out there to remind us that being different can be fabulous if you’re ready to own it.

2. ‘Gate Crasher’ reminds us that there are different ways to reach your goals when others put obstacles in your path. This song was initially inspired by immigrants who come to the United States in search of a better life. Whether they’re looking for work, better opportunities, or escaping war or hardship in other countries, immigrants are the backbone of our nation. Once I started writing this song, I realized that there are gate crashers in lots of other situations as well. Women, queers and/or people of color have all, at one point or another, been told that a particular role or benefit is not open to them because of who they are. Exclusion – that feeling of doors slamming in your face – has given birth to each group having its share of gate crashers. Gate crashers propel us forward, they tear down the barriers and allow others to come in.

3. ‘Switch Hitter’ is a song about America’s favorite pastime…or is it? On my first solo album, I had a song called ‘The Touch I Crave,’ in which I described the feeling of being judged negatively for being queer. The tone of that song was defiant anger in response to a moralistic judgement. ‘Switch Hitter’ on the other hand is much more playful and joyful. It celebrates the joy of bisexuality. I’m not a huge sports fan but I can see Dodger Stadium from my living room window and during the season, I occasionally catch Dodger Blue fever.

4. ‘Identified’ is about losing oneself. It’s about having a distorted self-image shaped by a desire to fit in with, and access mobility within, the dominant class. Sometimes when people realize that who they are is keeping them from achieving what they want, they opt to change themselves rather than change the system. Musically, I feel that there is tension in the verses, a pushing and pulling of the guitar melody and a surrender in the chorus.

5. ‘The Sender Is Blocked’ – The way we filter information isn’t working. Today, it’s very common for people to simply dismiss opposing views as Fake News or Alternative Facts. ‘Sender’ was initially inspired by my confusion with how certain people see the world. At times, it feels as though we live on different planets and are experiencing completely different realities. People on the left barely tolerate people on the right, people with money can’t relate to people without, those who have less melanin can’t even imagine the life of those who have more, and this lack of empathy and understanding is dividing and weakening us. We are at a point where we cannot have constructive dialogue with other people because we can’t even agree on the terms for a conversation. ‘Sender is Blocked’ also pertains to personal communication because it’s important to know when you can to talk to someone – is there a desire for a real dialogue with an exchange of ideas or are you just opening yourself up for negativity and abuse? It’s important to know when to block and when to reach out.

Musically, ‘Sender’ is a tipped hat to Marc Bolan and the T. Rex era of glam rock that I grew up with. 

6. ‘Breadcrumbs’ is a Hansel and Gretel-flavored cautionary tale. In my song, the Hansel and Gretel characters are a couple rather than brother and sister. The Hansel character is a player who puts just enough into the relationship to keep his girlfriend hanging on. She eventually figures out his games and sweeps his crumbs of affection aside so that he can’t find his way back.

In the video, the character of Gretel is portrayed by two different puppets. One is sweet and vulnerable, the other is shown as a witch. Our intent was to show how women are maligned and seen as bitches or witches when they stand up for themselves and demand respect. In ‘Breadcrumbs,’ we rejoice that the witch prevails.

The music is bright and upbeat but this song wasn’t only inspired by a fairytale, it was also inspired by the 1969 soul song, ‘Crumbs Off The Table’ by The Glass House, where lead singer Scherrie Payne demands that her man give her more than the crumbs off the table.

7. ‘Subele’- I was rehearsing with my band and just for fun, I started singing the chorus to Turn It Up (off my second album, ‘Blueprint’) in Español. My band noticed what I was doing and because they usually sing back up, they joined in on the Spanish chorus. We performed the song live a few times with just the second and third chorus in Spanish and it went over so well, that I decided I would translate the whole song. This is the first time that I’ve translated one of my own songs; I usually write songs in the language in which they were inspired but this time the translation felt right. Súbele is a song about focusing on the positive and minimizing the thoughts that bring you down.

8. ‘Noise’ – When I was a little kid, I remember hearing my parents arguing in the next room. Because my father could get violent, those arguments always made me extremely anxious. I don’t have to deal with the daily threat of violence anymore but sometimes there are other things happening in my life that can make me feel anxious and overwhelmed. Right now, it’s the news and the constant threat of COVID-19. We all have to process these threats and problems but at times it can feel like too much. 

I refer to all incoming negativity as ‘noise.’ Noise can be anything disruptive that prevents you from finding your center. This song is about finding a place or soothing activity that provides some insulation, a respite from the outside world. It can be a space or practice that will allow you to recharge and keep going. The music for ‘Noise’ is intentionally jagged and unsettling; I employed a distorted treatment on my vocals to add to the sense of anxiety.   

9. ‘Lucky’ – This song is about how privilege can distort our perspective. It was inspired by people who cling to their ideology, unaware of, or unwilling to see how their choices affect people who are less fortunate. It is especially frustrating when the privileged take it upon themselves to make decisions for the rest of us without knowing that we experience a different reality. I wanted Lucky to have a spooky, almost Castration Squad, goth-like feel to the music. It’s definitely one of the darker, moodier songs on the record. 

10. ‘Even’ – Ever feel like you’re just running in place when you’re trying to get ahead? It’s frustrating and can make people want to quit. This song is about pushing forward despite the odds. It’s about being unwilling to accept inequality and being relentless in pursuit of a better, more egalitarian world. The music is fast-paced, driving punk rock that matches the mood of the lyrics. I went for a punchy, energetic vocal delivery because this song makes me feel like throwing a few audio jabs.

11. ‘Risk It’ is about working up the courage to take on new challenges. It’s about stepping outside of my comfort zone. Safe is prudent, safe is comfortable but progress is propelled by those who are willing to risk it all.

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