Country music itself might be something of a nebulous concept here in 2017. Pop country acts have watered the genre down to little more than Pro Tools-produced pop music with a distant fiddle in the background. But Nashville's Birdcloud is having none of it. The two-woman act, comprised of Makenzie Green and Jasmin Kaset, has spent the last few years creating music that keeps country music's outlaw spirit alive with self-deprecation, wry humor, and truckloads of raunch.
Loathe to be called a "comedy band," Birdcloud insists that the humor of their songs is just a by-product of honest storytelling. There's "Saving Myself for Jesus," which calls on the ironies of "technical" abstinence in the name of religious piety. Then there's "I Like Black Guys" — hilarious from the first tentative line, "Daddy...?" — spoken from the viewpoint of a girl essentially torturing her racist father by listing all the types of non-white gentlemen she's into. Make no mistake; it's not all social commentary. They also sing about washing their "Big Ol' Pussy" in the Mississippi River and renaming Williamsburg "Vodkasodaburg" in honor of their drink of choice.
For all the implicit and explicit humor their music provides, their live shows are more of a drunken spectacle than anything else. Though many a snarl and raising of a drink is directed at the audience, Green and Kaset play for themselves, intensely staring into each other's eyes as they play their instruments or else finding themselves in sexually charged positions, a spectacle that crowds merrily lap up. Recently, they've also started wearing diapers onstage.
Metro Times spoke with Green and Kaset in advance of their show this Friday, June 9, at PJ's Lager House. We talked about people walking out of their shows, their weird chemistry, and why Detroit is one of their favorite places to play.
Metro Times: Your music could be described as country with a punk attitude. Do you draw inspiration from punk rock, at all?
Makenzie Green: Yes, definitely. I grew up around a lot of skate videos and got a lot of music from them. It would be like Charlie Daniels or Minor Threat, the Judds or the Clash. Our live show is fucking bonkers even though we only have two instruments and two mouths, that energy is definitely why we have our diapers and lipstick on.
MT: Who are the country singers, past or present, who are doing what you're doing, which is telling a story through a song?
Green: Fuck. Pop. Country. That's not where it's at. Tom T. Hall, Red Sovine, Roger Miller, and Warren Zevon were all weirdos with great stories and a sense of humor about horrible shit that happens just from being alive. Nobody does anything quite like us though.
MT: What music did you listen to growing up? Were you in previous bands?
Jasmin Kaset: Me and Mak both grew up on country radio. I started and quit playing guitar as a preteen then picked it back up in my early 20s. I was a drummer in a band before I ever started playing guitar again.
Green: Yeah, country radio, punk rock. I went to a Church of Christ school where they didn't allow anything but a cappella music, so no instruments. I got a guitar when I was 16 and played everything by ear. Fuck you, COC, I'm a recovering Christian in a naughty, naughty band.
MT: What is it that makes you two work well together? What do you have in common, and where do you differ, personality wise, music taste, attitude, etc.?
Kaset: I think Mak is a lot more into Aerosmith than me, and she hates the Beatles, whereas I don't. She also likes Pink's later stuff, and I think Pink peaked with Try This. We work well together because we both want what's dumbest. It's palpable. But when we aren't on tour, we aren't like the Monkees where we live in little bunk beds and get little jobs together and get hypnotized and stuff. Do love the Monkees though.
Green: I like the Stones; the Beatles are for kids. And yeah I like Rocks and Toys in the Attic and Get a Grip, fuckin' sue me. Jas really digs Adele, describes her songs as "powerful." We work well together because we have similar mental disorders. Cut from the same idiot cloth. It's magical.
MT: I find it interesting the people who "get" your music and the ones who don't. How do you handle the nights where the crowd is upset or offended?
Green: Sure, people walk out sometimes. That's fine. Lately we've been wearing diapers, like I said, so people already know they're going to see something off. It's a fun trick; we have a ball. If you're at a Birdcloud show, we assume you're there to party and cut loose from the real world for a few minutes. If we aren't your bag, I don't see why you'd want to be there. I can't listen to it either. Musical sadists.
MT: You come to Detroit a lot. Do you love us?
Green: Yes, Detroit is one of our favorite places to play. The crowds always get suuuuuuuuuper hammered. Our best friend Craig Brown lives in Hamtramck, and we always want to be with him. We will make a whole tour just to go to Detroit and Chicago.
Kaset: Detroit is the funnest. We love Craig, and Brad and Patty at Kelly's.
MT: Who have you collaborated with, and who would you like to collaborate with?
Green: We've never really collaborated with anybody. We are about to sing on (Detroit rapper) JP from the HP's new record. That guy is a genius. So fuckin' funny.
MT: I saw on your Instagram that you're going on a European tour in a couple months. How do you think your music will translate in Europe?
Green: I know there's a huge country and blues scene in Sweden. I don't know what they'll think, but we never know anyway. It's going to be like that show An Idiot Abroad with two drunk country girls playing music. I think we'll be a hit. Even if they don't get all the things we're saying, we still put on a hell of a show.
Kaset: There's never been a more appropriate time for Americans to make fun of themselves.
Birdcloud plays this Friday, June 9 at PJ's Lager House with support from Nashville's Thelma & the Sleaze and Detroit's own Double Winter; Doors at 8 p.m., 1254 Michigan Ave., Detroit; pjslagerhouse.com; $10.