Sin Desires Marie on Fugazi and the puzzling novelty of women playing powerful music

In the eloquent liner notes of Sin Desires Marie, the band's sole full-length, bassist Yoon Park explains that Sin Desires Marie (due tonight at Glob for this weekend's Titwrench Festival) was started by friends who learned how to play their respective instruments as they learned to play together as a band.

But rather than settling for amateur excellence, the members always sounded like they knew what they wanted to do with an almost strident urgency. With music akin to the bass-driven post-punk of Joy Division and Mission of Burma and a cathartic, twin vocal delivery worthy of Rites of Spring, Park and her bandmates, guitarist Claudine Rousseau and drummer Germaine Baca, had a rare alchemy of dense yet dynamic melodies and inspirational idealism.

After breaking up in 2002, with a reunion show in 2004, Sin Desires Marie's principals went their separate ways, with Park briefly performing in Midcentury, Rousseau performing also in the short-lived Nippon Cha Cha Cha and Baca relocating to Portland, Oregon, for a time and becoming a member of both Old Time Relijun and Arrington De Dionyso's Malaikat Dan Singa.

But in 2010, the three found themselves back in Denver, and it seemed like the right time to reform the band for a reunion show that became what Park has joking referred to as "reunion summer." Its first reunion show this past April at the Hi-Dive was a resounding success and a powerful reminder that the group never lost its emotional vibrancy and relevance. We recently sat down with the three members of the band and talked about its history, its connection with Fugazi and the puzzlingly lingering attitude about the novelty of women playing sonically powerful music.

Sin Desires Marie at 3 Kings Tavern
Sin Desires Marie at 3 Kings Tavern
Tom Murphy

Westword: You were both in The Pauline Heresy?

Yoon Park and Claudine Rousseau: Germaine was too.

YP: We were roommates in college.

CR: Holly Fitch was our singer. After that band she never played or sang again. I met Germaine through Ron Marshall. He was the drummer for Blue Ontario and Christie Front Drive. She was interested in playing drums. I don't even know how we acquired instruments, it was like a whirlwind.

YP: One day we decided we were going to start playing music and be vegan.

CR: That's right. We essentially learned our instruments together because we didn't know what the fuck we were doing.

What was the reason you chose your respective instruments?

YP: Peter Hook. [laughs]

Didn't the name Pauline Heresy refer to Saint Paul?

YP: Sort of. I was taking a class at CU Boulder, and my professor mentioned "The Pauline Heresies" and St. Paul's Gospel sort of against women, and since we were all women... For Sin Desires Marie, it was our middle names. For Claudine it was Desiré, and mine is Sin, but in Korean it's pronounced "Shin."

Didn't Pauline Heresy play the first or second ever Monkey Mania show with 90 Day Men in 1998?

CR: That's when it was at 50 North Lipan? I think that's right.

YP: That was right after Wonderground.

CR: Before Wonderground. By then we were Sin Desires Marie.

YP: The Pauline Heresy lasted one year.

You opened for Sleater-Kinney on their first tour through Colorado at the Fox Theater in Boulder, right?

CR: Yeah. [laughs] That was hilarious. I think one of our greatest supporters is Jason Heller, and at the time he was writing, and I think he was booking shows. Just through knowing a lot of people, he helped us a lot. We did a lot of house shows, and that helped. There were so many bands touring. We played with Juno at The Acoma House. We played with Los Crudos.

YP: Paul Kane helped us a lot, too. We played with the Get-Up Kids and Braid -- at Club 156.

CR: Scott Bransford and Virgil Dickerson were setting up a lot of shows in Boulder. They knew each other and always had house shows. Before The Faint became The Faint, they were a three piece, and we saw them at Virgil's house. Through playing those shows, we got hooked up.


Claudine Rousseau at the first location of Monkey Mania, 50 N. Lipan
Claudine Rousseau at the first location of Monkey Mania, 50 N. Lipan
Gregory Ego. More here.

YP: I also think it was a blessing and a curse that we were all female. I don't think in the beginning that we wouldn't play with anyone who wasn't female, it was never like that, but it got to be that way. Then we got some opportunities to play some cool shows because we were all women like the Sleater-Kinney show. You know, "Oh, here are three women, here are three [other] women."

Like last night [at the UMS], people would say, "Hey, there's this other band that has all women in it, you should check them out." That's the first thing that they think about, so it's annoying, but it also probably helped us get some shows we might not have otherwise.

CR: I don't like to go there, to be honest, but when people see us for the first time they're taken back a little bit and say, "You're pretty good for girls or women," or whatever, and I'm like, "Thanks?" How do you even respond to that. A friend came up to me, who hadn't been playing attention to the stage, and then the music started, and said, "I totally thought you guys were dudes." We don't know how to take that one either.

YP: We've been past that for so long, but it's funny how it lingers. But I think most people now, or who have listened to us or know about us, never really thought that to begin with.

It doesn't seem like it's such an anomaly or a leap in comprehension to just see a band with women in it as just another band.

CR: At this point, I'm kind of out of the loop in terms of a lot of local music, but there's got to be a lot of all female or female-fronted bands. But I never see them. Am I just old?

For a while, there were more, but for a while, there were a lot less. Some of the great ones departed, but now it's coming back.

CR: There are a lot of young girls, too, that are getting involved. I volunteered for Denver Girls Rock, and it was refreshing to see these young girls trying to rock it and being interested in music.

Some women who have actually performed music in the underground scene are involved in it too.

CR: Ginger from The Pin Downs did it, so did Sara Century and [Kitty Vincent]. It was awesome to see a lot of other people getting involved.

YP: For me, a lot of the hiatus was getting married and [earning] a Master's and [having] a kid. Now that he's older and getting back in, it feels healthy and right to continue doing what I need to be doing. But it was also a necessary break for me.

With whom did you record the full-length album?

CR: John Stefano recorded us. In fact, I think he's still in town. I see him occasionally. Then Todd Ayers recorded the seven inch [of "The One She Likes"], which was great. I love that recording. It was so fun, too. He did it so non-traditionally, and he was so open to what we wanted.

Do you remember where Hipster Youth Halfway House was? We recorded it there. They had a room on top with all the computers, and he put his studio up there, and we played in the bottom half. It was very live, and I wish we'd had the opportunity to do more work with him.

Sin Desires Marie in Virginia or DC
Sin Desires Marie in Virginia or DC
courtesy Sin Desires Marie

How did you end up on that bill with Fugazi in April 2001?

YP: Because I emailed, randomly.

CR: This is hilarious. Yoon said, "Fugazi's coming to town. Fugazi's coming to town. And were' playing that show." And we were just laughing at you.

YP: Well, here's the thing. They were playing two nights. One night, they already had a line-up. I saw in the paper that on the other night there was no one. So I emailed the general Fugazi address. It was right before my spring break in my first year of teaching. I didn't have an internet connection at home, so after school got out for spring break I didn't check my email. And I shot them off an email, and I didn't think we had a chance in hell.

Then someone called and I was told, "Okay, Ian's on the phone." And I think someone's messing with me, one of our friends messing with me going, "Hey, this is Ian McKaye." And I said, "Yeah, right." He said, "No, I have your email right in front of me." And He starts reading off my email, and my jaw dropped. I was really rude to Ian MacKaye. He was really gracious and really nice. He said, "I read your email and I really appreciate you reaching out. It sounds interesting and then we got the show."

CR: Peter Ore was very hesitant because he'd never heard of us before. It was this weird timing thing where I had to deliver a CD to him, and thank god we had those recordings. But they were rough. We had two days, so I ran the CD over to him. That was wild.

They almost didn't let us in. They didn't believe that we were opening up. We were outside pounding on the door for soundcheck, and we were running late, as usual. They were like, "What do you want?" "We need a sound check. Where do we unload our gear." And they said, "Whatever, the show starts later, stop trying to get in here." Guy walked by and he said, "Hey ladies" and opened the door, and the guard people were all freaking out. We told Ian why we were late, and he got mad and said something to someone. It was like having big brothers.

YP: It's so how crazy how nice and real they were.

CR: We continued to have a relationship with them for several years later.

YP: We toured to the East Coast.

CR: Brendan came to our show in Virginia at The Galaxy Hut.

YP: Ian came to a house show that we played.

CR: Then he came to our last show at Ladyfest DC.

YP: That was our last official show until our reunion show at The Climax Lounge in 2004.

CR: ...with The Risk, and that was great fun. Joaquin Liebert and Nate Marcy and all those guys.

Sin Desires Marie at Monkey Mania - 2126 Arapahoe St - March 29, 2001
Sin Desires Marie at Monkey Mania - 2126 Arapahoe St - March 29, 2001
Tom Murphy

Titwrench, with Sin Desires Marie and many more, 8 p.m., Thursday, July 28, Glob, 3551 Brighton Blvd, $12 -$15 (day pass), $35 (3-day pass), All Ages.

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