Self-described "survival punk" band Cutters have been together for three years now. Much like the band's debut EP, Trying Not To Die, its sophomore EP ( and third record overall, both//neither, shows them wearing their hearts on their sleeves. Non-binary/genderqueer singer Pierce Lightning pulls from his personal life when discussing gender identity and substance abuse and lays it out for public consumption.
Windy City Times: The just released 7" record from Cutters is entitled, both/neither and it is out on vinyl as well as digitally. Why vinyl?
Pierce Lightning: Even though we live in a digital age, there is something really special about having a physical product. I like the idea of putting something physical out there and it kind of becomes like an artifact and more special that way.
WCT: How did Cutters come together?
PL: Brian [Deodat], my guitarist, I knew him because I was in a band with some friends of his and he joined that band as well. We sort of fell out of touch and we reconnected in 2013 and we were hanging out and decided, "Hey, let's start this band." We started in July 2013 and recorded our debut EP Trying Not to Die in November 2013 and that was just the initial burst of songs that we had.
WCT: Why does the band describe itself as "survival punk?"
PL: That was born out of the subject matter of the songs. All of our songs are pretty personal and I write 98 percent of the lyrics so I am always drawing from my own life in some way. Making music and making art in general is kind of like a coping mechanism, so that's how I feel about our musicthere's something pretty desperate about it, and it's been a theme throughout all of our releases. Trying Not to Die was literally that, because I know for myself I felt like I was stuck in a rut because I hadn't had a band in awhile and I wasn't doing anything. So making this music wasn't just staying alive, it was actively trying not to die.
WCT: You identify as non-binary/genderqueer and you prefer the pronouns they/them/their. On both//neither, it is the first time that you have directly addressed your identity feelings. Why was now the right time?
PL: It wasn't planned this way necessarily. If we had written the title track ["List of People Buried at Arlington National Cemetery"] at a different time, then that would have been the [right] time. It kind of happened and I realized that not all of our songs are about trans issues and they are not necessarily about me even dealing with my gender identity. These three songs on both//neither are very specific to the narrative of the songs. The first track on side B"Wicked & Divine"is about universal themes and how you numb yourself when you want to deal with stuff. But if I'm being honest about what the song is about, it is about getting fucked up because you don't want to deal with anything. For me it was specifically about gender stuff and how that makes things really complicated. And the final track "Fade to Black" it's kind of ruminating on the idea that we are all dealing with certain things, but for me it is how gender identity affects relationships that I have, and very specifically one [relationship]. Not that my gender identity made it not exist anymore, but it was a factor in making it tough and that's now a person that I don't have in my life anymore.
WCT: How has your substance abuse affected your relationships?
PL: It's not so intense that I've checked into rehab or anything. It's just the kind of thing where you get drunk and say something dumb to somebody or you do something stupid. I think that this is true of a lot of people, you spend a lot of nights where you're like, "I'm not going to drink tonight." And as soon as a situation become awkward, it kind of becomes a crutch.
WCT: On Oct. 20 you tweeted, "We can do so much to make sure that racist, transphobic, homophobic, misogynist bands don't have a voice in our spaces."
PL: There's this band called G.L.O.S.S. and their name stands for "Girls Living Outside Society's Shit." There is this band called Whirr who ended up getting dropped by their label because they made some transphobic remarks [about G.L.O.S.S.]. I don't think that were an overtly political band, but when certain things happen I think that it's really important for bands to rally around and make it known what they stand for. If you don't, then sometimes people will start to write those narratives for you and sometimes your commenting on something, by not commenting.
WCT: Have you had to deal with Internet trolls?
PL: I've been pretty lucky. I represent pretty masculine most of the time, so a lot of people don't really realize. At shows I kind of keep to myself when I'm not onstage and I don't really talk to anybody. I think that people are more like, "I'm not going to talk to them. They seem angry or upset." I'm been lucky I haven't experienced any violence because of that.
both//neither is out now. For more on Cutters, go to www.cuttersmusic.com .