Exclusive Interview: Butterfly Corpse
By: Amanda Caines
We sat down with Jess Strzepek from Butterfly Corpse to chat about a variety of topics including her band, the ALS benefit shows they play and why, the adventures in dating a bandmate, dealing with epilepsy and seizures as a performer, and Butterfly Corpse’s new songs they’re recording at a cabin in the woods! Watch the video for the full experience, as Jess is very animated and lively to watch, even offstage. If you’re skiving off at work and/or can’t watch videos, though, here’s a (mostly complete) transcript of our chat.
Shutter16: This is Amanda with Shutter16 Magazine here, interviewing Jess Strzepek from Butterfly Corpse. Say, “Hi,” Jess!
Shutter16: So if you had only 10 seconds to convince someone to listen to your band, what would you tell them?
Jess: I’d tell them we’re not the average female-fronted metal band.
Shutter16: What three accomplishments that you’ve done with your band are you the most proud of?
Jess: Personally I’m most proud of my lyrics in “Bob’s Song.” We don’t play that live that much anymore because it’s, like eight minutes long, but I don’t know where those lyrics came from. it’s about my friend Bob who passed away. He killed himself. It was just so emotional for me, those lyrics just poured out and I don’t know where they came from. They’re so nothing like I’d ever written before, so that was a huge accomplishment for me. Our Beat ALS shows — the biggest one we’ve played was the Beat ALS Fest in August, that was a huge event for us.
Shutter16: I went to that one!
Jess: Yeah, you were there; you supported us! That was a huge event for us and we got to play a song for my grandmother. It was just such a moment — there was something onstage — that was a huge accomplishment for all of us. The guys weren’t as into the song when we were writing it, but once we played it onstage, we all just felt something.
Shutter16: It was absolutely rockin’, I totally remember the song.
Jess: We’re in the studio recording that song right now. Another huge accomplishment, I think, is that we’re so young and we’ve gotten to do all these things that the “adult bands” have gotten to do, like we got to go out and play up in New York, so that was a huge accomplishment.
Shutter16: Sweet. That actually brings me to another question. So you guys are a lot younger than most bands in your scene, so do you think your comparative youth is an asset or a challenge for you guys?
Jess: I think it can be both. The asset part is that we have time on our side. We started this when I was 14 and we’ve been doing this for four years, so we’ve gotten to do all this wonderful stuff, and we still have all these extra years to go on. But the challenge is that no one takes us as seriously as some of the other bands.
Shutter16: Do you guys find it hard to get into clubs and stuff?
Jess: Yeah, we still can’t play The Milestone [in Charlotte, N.C.], and that’s terrible because I got to meet the owner and I was like “Aww, yeah! How’s it going?” and he was like “You can’t play my venue, but one day!” And I still have those terrible Xs [on my hands]; I wake up with them on my face.
Shutter16: [laughs] I’ve done that before.
Jess: Yeah, it’s terrible. Also the hard part is people are like “Wow, you’re really good for your age,” and I’m like, “I would love to just be just good in general, thank you.” [laughs]
Shutter16: So one of the things Charlotte knows you for are the ALS benefit shows that you guys do, so what is ALS, and why does Butterfly Corpse care so much?
Jess: Well, ALS is — oh, gosh, I can’t say this word — [Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis] — I don’t think I said that right.
Shutter16: That’s why we have acronymns!
Jess: Yeah, that’s why we say “ALS.” It’s Lou Gehrig’s disease, and my grandmother had it. She passed away two years ago, and it was just such a huge impact on my life, and I knew that I had to do something with it and I had to raise money for this terrible disease. A couple years ago, I said my grandmother has ALS, and people are like “What?” and I’d say, “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” and they’d be like, “Huh?” and they’d make the “ohhh, okay” face. The past couple years, we’ve tried to build up as much as we can the awareness and raise money — we’ve raised over $10,000 these past three years.
Jess: So we just have to just keep building awareness, and the Ice Bucket Challenge and all that stuff has been very helpful.
Shutter16: You guys were the first ones I saw do the Ice Bucket Challenge, and then after you guys did it, it just, like, blew up!
Jess: Yeah, it was really amazing to see every ice bucket challenge. People were annoyed by it on Facebook.
Jess: Yeah, I was just like, “Really, guys, really?” It was just amazing to me to see all these wonderful people and all the celebrities do it. It wasn’t annoying to me because seeing a family member have to struggle like that is just — it’s terrible.
Shutter16: Are there any other crazy stunts like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that you guys have done to get the word out about either your band or a cause or anything like that?
Jess: Well the guys aren’t really into the whole “Let’s do some crazy stuff,” but I love theater, and I’m a Music Therapy major, so I love doing all that weird stuff. I do these weird 10 – 30 second videos, and I just stare at the camera and I hold up tickets and I’m just like “Come to our show!” and I make weird noises, and I actually have freaked out some people. My mom’s like “Please stop posting these; you’re making me concerned about you.”
Shutter16: When the men in white coats come out, that means it’s time to stop.
Jess: Yeah… we’re not that weird. I’m the weird one, I think.
Shutter16: So we’re gonna get into the dirt here.
Shutter16: So we hear a rumor that you’re dating a bandmate.
Jess: That’s funny, ’cause I heard a rumor that Amanda from Tattermask is married to a bandmate.
Jess: Oh my gosh!
Shutter16: We vehemently deny it! [laughs] No, we really don’t. So how has that relationship affected the band?
Jess: Brandon, that’s my drummer, and he and I have been dating for over three years now. We started dating before we formed the band, which made a lot of people like “Uh-oh, that’s not gonna work.” And honestly we weren’t sure how that was gonna work either, ’cause he’s very quiet and I’m very, like, “Hey, how’s it goin’?” and it’s been challenging, but it’s kind of just worked. We have this really good relationship — we’re best friends. We understand that band is important, relationship’s important, and I don’t know how it works, but it just does.
Shutter16: So what advice do you have for other bandmates who might want to date?
Jess: I’m not gonna say, “Go for it!” because — okay, here’s why I’m not gonna say, “Go for it.” I’m gonna say you have to be completely committed to a person, not into the whole, “Let’s date someone for a couple of weeks, then date the next person.” You have to be completely committed to the person and completely committed to your band. You have to be willing to do whatever it — like, there’s been some times when I’m ready to kill him. There’s been some times when I’ve been ready to kill Matthew for being there. I’m like, “Let me just have a fight with him right now,” but you just have to be willing to commit and work through all those hard times.
Shutter16: Gotten any flack from your bandmates about your relationship?
Jess: [laughs] Yeah, they love to just joke around. We’ve had to audition some new members, and when we were introducing Matthew to the band, we auditioned him, and we were like “Hey, so, by the way, Brandon and I are dating.” and he’s like, “How long have you guys been dating?” And we were like, “For about two years,” and he’s like “Oh, okay.” It’s weird introducing it to people like, “Hey…” So we haven’t tried to be too public about it.
Shutter16: I’m blowing that out of the water! [laughs]
Jess: Yeah, but, ahh, that’s okay.
Shutter16: People just never talk about it. It’s just one of those things. We’ve gotta let people know that you can date a bandmate and have it turn out well.
Shutter16: Yeah, but I mean, they’re married! Works for them. A lot of people — happens a lot more often than people think.
Jess: It didn’t work in Fleetwood Mac.
Shutter16: Oh gosh, no, but they were all on drugs, too, so I’m sure that didn’t help. Maybe if they weren’t on drugs they could’ve made it work.
Jess: Don’t do drugs!
Shutter16: So here we go with other rumors, so we heard you’d been diagnosed with epilepsy recently.
Shutter16: So in a performing situation where flashing lights are going to be commonplace, what will you have to do differently now that you’ve received this diagnosis to continue performing?
Jess: So this is where it’s difficult. So I got these back a couple weeks ago [pulls out blue sunglasses from her purse], and they’re really cool — they’re Maui Jims, look at me! They’re blue sunglasses, and they filter out lights, and so I have to wear these as much as I can. I was on the list to get blue contact lenses, but they were only hard contacts. I couldn’t keep them in my eyes for more than a minute or so. As of like last Monday, they have soft contacts. I’m going to be one of the first people to ever get them, so that’s a benefit — so I don’t have to wear sunglasses onstage — but it’s very difficult. I haven’t had a seizure at a show in a long time, but I haven’t been at a show in a long time.
Shutter16: You’ve actually had a seizure at a show?
Jess: Not like onstage, no. I’m able to hold them off, but the problem with holding off a seizure is that you have a worse seizure later. At Hooterfest, I had a seizure. I think Liz Peavy came up to me and was like, “Hey, how’s it going?” and I’m like, “I don’t feel good!” It’s a process, because it’s all new to me. I just got diagnosed back in March. I see a new neurologist, ’cause no one really knows what to do because it’s not normal. When you think “seizures” you think convulsing and shaking. Sometimes I can just stare off into space. It’s weird to get used to. And it’s only, like, LED lights, so can lights don’t bother me as much. So that’s why like at Amos’ [Southend] when they just started putting in LED lights, I was like, “Great. One venue that I was relying on not to change.”
Shutter16: Most of the venues have the LED lights?
Shutter16: You pretty much have to hold [the seizure] off until you get off stage and then find somewhere quiet?
Jess: Yeah, just like “Alright. Nap time.”
Shutter16: That does kind of suck.
Jess: Hopefully with my new neurologist, they’re going to up my epilepsy medicine, I’m going to get these new contacts that block out light frequencies in my eyes. I’m also doing holistic medicine along with it — not what people are suggesting, like, I’ve had people randomly message me and ask me if I want to try pot to help my epilepsy, which I’m not really into. We have a very strict anti-drug policy. I just don’t — I’m not into that. We’re just trying to work it out and see so I can continue performing and go see shows because I’ve been really absent from the scene this past year pretty much.
Shutter16: Your doctors haven’t recommended that you stop performing or anything like that?
Jess: One doctor did, and I left him. I was like, “See ya!” One was like, “Maybe you should stop driving,” and I was like, “Why?”
Shutter16: That would totally suck.
Jess: Yeah. I don’t want to.
Shutter16: So on a less serious note.
Jess: Oh, okay.
Shutter16: I got the serious stuff out of the way. So what are you looking forward to at the moment with the band?
Jess: As of right now, we’re in the studio and we’re re-recording our song “Social Lie,” and we’re just giving it a whole new makeover.
Shutter16: And who are you working with?
Jess: We’re working with Boo English, which you got to come in…
Shutter16: Yes I did!
Jess: …and help us out with “Done with You,” which was so much fun. He’s just a great guy. We call him “The Wizard” because he lives in the woods in a log cabin.
Shutter16: It’s totally a log cabin!
Jess: We’re recording our song “Fight,” which is about my grandmother, and then we’re recording our song “Make a Move (Reindeer Games)” cause the guys want to make a reference to the Avengers movie for no reason.
Jess: And then a song called “Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing,“
Shutter16: I remember that one.
Jess: Yep, I love that song. We’re going to try to release a four-song EP, or we’re going to release them as singles. We haven’t decided yet, so we’ll see. And also, Will Moss [of Fresh Flesh Designs] re-vamped our logo, so we have a new logo now.
Shutter16: Ooo. Will Moss is pretty good.
Jess: I love him. He’s awesome. He’s put up with a lot of crap from us. Poor guy.
Shutter16: So tell the fans where they can listen to your tunes and find out more about Butterfly Corpse.
Jess: Well, we have a website called ButterflyCorpse.com — I wanted .org; the guys said, “no. it’s .com.” We’re on Spotify, on Amazon… We’re on Facebook, Reverbnation, Twitter, Instagram, and all just “Butterfly Corpse” or “Butterfly Corpse Band.”
Shutter16: Alrighty! Well, thanks for speaking with me, Jess.
Jess: No problem. Thanks for having me.
Shutter16: Looking forward to that new album.
Jess: [double thumbs up]
Shutter16: This is Amanda from Shutter16, signing off.
Listen and learn more about Butterfly Corpse at: