The Red Aunts Are Playing the MCA, and They're as Punk as Ever

The Red Aunts will play at Fem Fest 2018 on Saturday, May 12.
The Red Aunts will play at Fem Fest 2018 on Saturday, May 12. Courtesy of the Band
The Red Aunts are back, and they’re as punk as ever. Formed in Long Beach, California in 1991, this act blazed through the ’90s punk scene by spewing their own distinct brand of in-your-face unfiltered angst. Then, in 1998, things changed. The act disbanded. The members needed to start earning real money.

“In the old days, it was easier to not have to pay big rent and to pick up jobs in bars and restaurants,” says bass player Debi Martini. “But now we work more serious jobs.”

Martini works in the finance industry for an art dealer in New York City. The other bandmembers have taken an array of jobs, from catering to working in the television industry. This doesn’t mean they’ve lost their punk attitudes, however.

In 2014, the Red Aunts began talks with record companies to put out a compilation album. In the Red Records released Come Up for a Closer Look, a double album of the band's greatest, punkest, hits. In 2016, the women reunited to play their first show in nearly twenty years for label's 25th-anniversary party. The concert was such a hit that they decided to keep playing together. The decision was the result of “a combination of being excited and thinking that maybe we can actually make some money, you know, twenty years later.”

“A lot of our peers have come back to play again,” says Martini. “I think that was a big part of it. We all missed it. I don’t want to sound like we have big heads or are bragging, but I think that we were a different kind of band in the ’90s. I think that we influenced a lot of younger people who are now musicians and artists.”

Before the show, they had to spend some time relearning their music.

Playing now “is a far different thing from the '90s, when we were rehearsing two or three days a week in a studio, then we’d go on tour for five to six weeks,” says Martini. “Fortunately, sitting down and listening to the songs, all the muscle came back for me in my hands.

“I don’t know that our sound or style has changed much," she adds. "Maybe we’re a little bit lazier than we used to be.”

Though the members of the Red Aunts currently live on opposite coasts, they’ve found a way to keep performing together. They have several upcoming shows slotted, including a set at Fem Fest 2018 on May 12 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver.

“For me, what was paramount was that the show was organized by the Denver Museum of Contemporary Art,” says Martini. “I really feel like we are musicians, but we are also artists.”

As for their MCA performance, the Red Aunts are ready to rock.

“It will be punk, and it will be fast,” says Martini. “We always gravitate to unusual time signatures. None of us were formally trained as musicians, so we just felt it out and played what sounded good to us. We, of course, hope that it sounds good to the audience, but actually, we don’t care.”

Fem Fest 2018, Saturday, May 12, $5-$25, Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, 1485 Delgany Street.
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Sage Marshall is a freelance writer and editor covering outdoor recreation, environmental issues, Denver's music scene, the arts, and other Colorado stories. You can check out more of his work and connect with him here.
Contact: Sage Marshall