Backstage at Union Transfer, Trophy Wife guitarist Diane Foglizzo combs through her bag and smiles at the band’s other half, drummer Katy Otto, as she pulls out a plump, red disc — it’s a Babybel cheese with a worn label. On a recent tour, they’d been passing it back and forth, sneaking it into each other’s bags as a joke. She’s been cheesed, Otto quips.
Eventually, Foglizzo finds what she’s looking for: throat spray and a bag of lozenges. She has a tendency to lose her voice, so she’s doing all she can to brace her vocal cords for the screaming that will accompany her muscular guitar playing tonight.
After 11 shows in the South last month, hollering politically charged lyrics that cut through the thrashing guitar and pummeling drums to produce a steamroller sound, they were 10 minutes from performing one last time before heading to the studio to record their third album, All the Sides, set to come out in the spring on Meet Your Adversary Records.
Unlike many bands, they play their shows facing each other, even if it means that Foglizzo’s back is turned to the audience. Their songs’ frequent time changes and interchangeable parts make eye contact a practical necessity, but there’s a deeper reason, too.
“There’s something particular that happens with women when they get on a stage and play music, where you’re being assessed every second, almost,” says Otto.
“In order for [the band] to be as strong as it should be, we have to protect it a little.”
Often mistaken for a couple, the two shared a house in Fishtown for nearly three years while producing new songs and touring together. When Otto moved to South Philly to live with her partner six months ago, the added distance was a relief — and something that invigorated the songs on their next album.
“On our first record, we were angry and had lots of thoughts. The record is really fast and scream-y,” says Foglizzo. “The second record was a lot of heartbreak; we both lost people that were dear to us. It was very emotional and we were — ” Clinging to her bandmate’s words, Otto finishes the sentence: “ — feeling the feelings.”
But their third record, like their move apart, is a big change. “There’s not really anger or sadness. [It’s] maybe contemplative,” says Foglizzo. “And it feels like there’s space — musical, creative, physical, emotional space — which is why we called it All the Sides.”
To anchor this abstract talk to something concrete, Foglizzo references Neil Young’s ragged guitar accompaniment to the surrealist Western Dead Man.
“That soundtrack has a lot of space, and it’s exploring sounds and the way notes are related to each other. It was inspiring in just how impactful it can be,” says Foglizzo. “For a long time, we were feeling scared of space. As youngish women playing this kind of music we think we need to be really heavy and screaming all of the time or else we won’t be taken seriously, or we’d be dismissed as irrelevant hippies.”
With a sound that spans genres and refreshing feminist/queer lyrics inspired by Afrofuturism and speculative fiction (they read Kindred, Octavia Butler’s time-travel novel, aloud to each other on tour), they shouldn’t be worried.
“Making it, to me, [means] you have a creative partnership that makes things that you’re proud of,” says Otto. “I don’t know what the word for a relationship like this is. BFF is pretty good.”
Trophy Wife performs on March 7 at Johnny Brenda's as part of Alien She, an exhibition examining the impact of the punk feminist movement Riot Grrrl.
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