8 INCH BETSY - THE MEAN DAYS (Ships after November 13th)
Chicago queercore outfit 8 Inch Betsy played aggressive lyric-driven rock with an equal debt to riot grrl ideals, snotty ‘90s pop punk and the heart-on-your-sleeve honesty of artists like PJ Harvey & Nina Nastasia. Earlier this year, front woman and primary songwriter Meghan Galbraith passed away at the age of 35, leaving in her wake a legacy of love, camaraderie, and a finished album that—until now—had gone unreleased.
On Nov. 13, 307 Knox Records (Future Islands, Dan Deacon) will posthumously issue 8 Inch Betsy’s sophomore album, The Mean Days.
Before Galbraith’s death, 8 Inch Betsy toured the U.S. many times over, sharing the stage with indie darlings like The Gossip, Girl in a Coma, Marnie Stern, Sybris and Jucifer, and heavy hitters like Cyndi Lauper and Indigo Girl - Amy Ray.
The single, "Doomed,” was picked for inclusion Xbox’s celebrated Rock Band game, and 8 Inch Betsy has been featured in outlets such as Curve, GO Magazine, After Ellen and The Chicago Tribune.
While the band’s members—Meghan Galbraith (guitar, vox), Eli Burke (bass) & Mel Thomas (drums)—identify as queer, The Mean Days doesn’t lend itself to overt LGBT themes, instead basking in the human condition: failed relationships, a longing for things lost, the chaos in how life can suddenly shift and push you in a completely new direction.
All of 8 Inch Betsy’s songs were written by Galbraith, tearing pages from the secret book of her life and gluing them back together in a filigree of rock anthems. “Our songs are inspired by life experiences, relationships and everything that you can’t say out loud,” Galbraith once told Ohio State newspaper The Lantern.
It’s this idea of relationships that is most important to Galbraith’s story. In her life, she touched a staggering number of people—personally, professionally and romantically, and the wound that she leaves behind is deep. Galbraith surrounded herself with novelists, playwrights, activists, politicians, musicians and artists. She was a beacon of creativity and a stalwart neighborhood fixture. Chicago mayor Rham Emaneul would go out of his way to chat with her at local haunts. She acted in numerous plays written and directed by novelist Joe Meno and was on the cover of his book Hairstyles of the Damned. She was a regular volunteer with Girls Rock! Chicago, a program dedicated to teaching young girls creative expression, positive self-esteem and community awareness through music.
Galbraith was an imposing figure, often sporting a huge mohawk, neck tattoos and an “I dare you to say the wrong thing” demeanor, but once a person spent even a few moments speaking with her, she was an instant friend.
“She’d be a mirror,” Burke says. “She’d be the person you needed to talk to at any given moment. She’d give and give and give until there was nothing left. She had a million friends, but only her inner circle was privy to how sensitive she was and how she carried that empathy like a badge. She told me once that she carried a flag for every girl she’s ever dated. I asked her how she could live like that. She just said that she didn’t have a choice.”
8 Inch Betsy recorded their debut LP, This Time, Last Time, Every Time (Queer Control Records) at Chicago’s Joyride Studios with Brian Leach, creating a compelling record that takes listeners on a passionate journey through Galbraith's brilliant mind. It’s a humble, angst, honest, full-throttle album with tons of catchy hooks. 8 Inch Betsy wanted to replicate the experience with their follow-up, but the recording of The Mean Days was a drawn-out process that began in 2010 and went on for three years until completed. They recorded and re-recorded the songs, fitting in a few hours of sessions whenever they could.
“Recording The Mean Days was easy and fun,” Burke recalls. “We wanted to give the album a live feel, so we’d just do a few runs of each song, then we’d tweak it here and there over time. Part of the problem came from a falling out with our original drummer. It was hard finding a replacement with a similar skill set. Christian [Moder] really killed it on this album in the studio.”
8 Inch Betsy continued to tour with a slew of drummers coming and going, but nothing felt right until they found Mel, head of 307 Knox Records. She believed in the band, fought to get them on her label and was their drummer until the end. “I had some of the best times of my life on the road with Meghan and Eli,” she says. “I feel privileged to have spent so much time with such talented people. Now that there's no more 8 Inch Betsy, I feel good in the fact that I’ll be bringing the gospel of Meghan, Eli and 8 Inch Betsy to the fans, new and old, by releasing this album.”
The Mean Days is the last studio album recorded by Galbraith. The tracks are peppered with her laughter, her burps and her beautiful voice, sometimes light, feminine and delicate, other times growling, brutal and hard as nails—sometimes both simultaneously as she sings her own harmonies.
The feeling that this album is her final goodbye to the world is tempered by the fact that she was such a prolific musician—dozens of audio tapes she recorded on a beat-up 4-track remain scattered amongst her lifetime of friends and lovers.