Rock Dreams: Upset Is the Punk Rock Supergroup You’ve Been Waiting For

by Tess Duncan

Upset has the makings for being one of the best bands out there right now and surprise, surprise: they totally are. Former drummer for Best Coast and Vivian Girls, Ali Koehler, takes on guitar and lead vocals, ex-La Sera member Jennifer Prince sings and plays lead guitar, and last we have drummer Patty Schemel of Hole and Death Valley Girls fame. The trio’s collective punk roots shine through on their latest project, Upset, the band you wish existed when you were in high school. The twelve pop-punk songs on debut album She’s Gone channel reckless teenage angst, addressing problems including but not limited to: mean popular girls, fun hookups, unrequited crushes, and feeling like you’re gonna throw up on the first day of school. Ali’s polished vocals contrast perfectly with Jennifer’s pop-punk riffs and Patty’s speedy but steady drumming. Listening to Upset will make you wanna yell at your parents, lock the door to your room, and watch Heathers on repeat. We chatted with Ali and Jennifer about punk shows, SXSW, and 10 Things I Hate About You.

You recently got back from SXSW. How was it?

Ali: It was pretty fun. If anything, it’s a good place to hang out with friends you don’t always get to see.

Jenn: Great to see so many friends. We had fun at our shows, too!

What was the first band you were ever in, when was it, and what did you do/play?

Ali: A band I started with my friend Ryan called Hot Discreet Action. I was a junior in high school, in 2002, so it was VERY inspired by the whole White Stripes, Strokes, Hives garage rock explosion. I played drums.

Jenn: I played keyboards in my friends’ dance punk bands. Everything of course was influenced by bands like the Hives and Le Shok.  Ali and I recently played our early bands for each other and they were pretty hilarious.  

Was there ever a specific album or artist/band that you remember hearing that really made you want to start a band/start playing music?

Ali: Definitely Bikini Kill. I was obsessed with 10 Things I Hate About You in middle school. All I wanted was to be Kat Stratford. So I got into Bikini Kill and The Raincoats from that movie. I’d play Tobi Vail’s drum beat from “Rebel Girl” over and over alone in my parents basement. I’m sure they were thrilled.

Jenn: Television – Marquee Moon.  I bought it when I was 14 because R.E.M. name-dropped Television in an interview and I was instantly curious about it. That record led me to discover so much other great music and the guitar riffs are still mind-blowing to me.

What was your first concert/show ever? Mine was Shania Twain when I was 8 years old.

Ali: Haha!! I went to see Amy Grant with a church. It’s weird. My parents didn’t go to church, but my best friend at the time did so I just went with her until I was like “Wait, I hate this.” I think my next concert was Weird Al.

Jenn: I think it was Tori Amos or Weezer for me.  

Best punk show you’ve ever been to?

Ali: Every Ergs! show I ever saw. I went to Rutgers for college and saw some pretty epic basement shows.

Jenn: Annihilation Time shows were my favorite – totally wild.

“About me” is one of my favorites from She’s Gone. Was it directed at a specific person or a specific experience?

Ali: I’m glad you like it cause I hate it, haha. I hate how early it is on the album because it was just an afterthought. I thought of the melody while cleaning my house and it was fun to sing, but it’s pretty boring otherwise.

Favorite Jawbreaker album?

Ali: 24 Hr Revenge Therapy. “West Bay Invitational” KILLS me.

Jenn: Sidenote, Adam Pfahler, the drummer of Jawbreaker, heard through Rachel Haden that we were fans and brought us homemade cookies to our first San Francisco show.  That was so cool!

I know you guys have recommended some great current bands in the past, but what current band/musician are you listening to right now?

Ali: I’ve fallen into a pretty serious Mikal Cronin rabbit hole. We just played with Dogbreth and they were stunning live.

Jenn:  I’ve been on an Angel Olsen kick lately, too.  Also, Diarrhea Planet and Dogbreth.

I love Mikal, Angel, and Diarrhea Planet! Anyway, I’ve sadly never gotten to see you guys play live. Do you ever play covers? 

Ali: We cover 7 Seconds’ “Not Just Boys Fun.” We also used to do a Jawbreaker cover of “Do You Still Hate Me?”.

Buy She’s Gone from Don Giovanni here!

Photos via Facebook and Don Giovanni Records

“Rock Dreams” is an ongoing series of interviews with amazing female musicians we love, and is sponsored by Sock Dreams.

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