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Women’s music festival headliner BETTY talks inspiration and queer music

In preparation for their debut appearance at the Redrock Women’s Music Festival in Torrey, Utah on Aug. 12-13, the indie-folk band BETTY singer and guitarist Elizabeth Ziff told QSaltLake about her inspiration and what Utah fans can expect at their show. BETTY has been a regular on the indie circuit and featured on the Showtime original series, The L Word, for which they wrote and performed the theme. Three of the members of the band are openly lesbian. Go to
I’d like to talk a little about your album, Bright and Dark. Obviously, the theme is up and down, black and white, what inspires those two polar opposites?

For that album, I was doing chemo at the time because I had breast cancer. We made that record while I was doing chemo. I also think it reflects life in general. There’s good and bad, bright and dark. Out of everything there are exact opposites and I think it reflects well that in life.

I think one of the best examples of the polarizing music is, the song “A Fix of You.” What can you tell me about that song?

I actually wrote that song. I think the end of the song, the line, “Everything is going to be alright,” has become an anthem for many who are struggling. Originally, the song was about a break-up. It wasn’t written about cancer, it was just one of those everyday break-up songs that became so much more.

This album, and most of your music, I believe, is very empowering for women and people in general. Is that a conscious effort, or a reflection of your own personalities and lives?

Nothing we do is conscious. it’s just a reflection of who we are. Our stuff is raw. And it can be very vulnerable and it can be very strong. Hopefully it’s empowering for everyone. it’s just a reflection of our lives and we want it to reach everyone.

At the upcoming show in Utah will you be touring off of this album, or will you be playing all of your classics?

We’ll be doing a mix because we like to do some a cappella. But we’ll also be playing a lot from this CD.

Have you been to Utah before?

We played in Salt Lake City for gay pride, a while ago. It was really fun. But I really didn’t understand the bars. You had to belong to the bar in order to drink. it was very bizarre to me.

But when you’re a freak in Utah, you’re really on the edge. All the disenfranchised, peripheral people come together. The old, the young, the black, the white, all the left-wing free-thinkers get along and fight for the same cause. It was beautiful.

People in Utah enjoy drinking, which isn’t that strange, I guess I’d need a drink if I lived in Utah too. There were a lot of blonds. And people are ready to have a good time. Ready to laugh at themselves. Utah is one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever toured. I am so excited to be back.

What can people expect at your concerts?

They should expect people who can actually sing live and who have a good time. We try to involve the audience emotionally as much as possible. It’s more than a concert, it’s like an experience.

Do you think there’s a role for women’s music festivals?

I have no idea. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer that. But I think everybody deserves to have a festival. I do think there’s a role for places where women can feel really free, and not under any constraints, especially from men.

How important do you think it is for queer women to have a role in the media and art?

I think it’s important to have that presence, especially a feminist presence. We’ve always found it important to play for people and causes; pro-choice, gay rights, breast cancer, AIDS – we were playing for AIDS benefits before people would go into the hospital. I think that the queer community remembers when you stand up and say something for us. Those are people that have put their foot forward and said something. I don’t think it’s because people want to have a longevity, but because they truly believe. I don’t know if it’s been a hindrance or a help to be steadfast and true in our career. Even though musically we don’t always agree, we always agree politically. We were playing Seattle Pride when gay marriage was voted for in New York. We got some tweets saying thank you for being on the front line to make this possible. I am so grateful to have been a part of this movement.

Any last words for the QSaltLake readers?

Tweet us @bettymusic, go to our Facebook, go to our website. We’ll be putting out more and more videos from the late ’80s. We’re the only ones that have the videos from Encyclepedia, and we’re going to start putting that up on our YouTube channel. if you write to us, we’re the one’s who you talk to, no one else runs our Facebook or Twitter pages.

Seth Bracken

Seth Bracken is the editor of QSaltLake

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