Here’s the opening line from rap duo Dark Sister, from Bushwick, Brooklyn via Memphis and Murfreesboro,Tennessee: “So fucked up/ I make you sip from my Diva Cup.” Sure, this is Tiffany Nicole and Jessi Wade, the self-declared “witches of Bushwick,” boasting like rappers are supposed to, but they are also updating the ingredients for casting a spell for 2014. Newt’s eyes and frog toes just don’t cut it anymore. Throw some period blood in there and then add nu-metal, Southern rap, noise, and fierce femininity to the mix and you’ve got Dark Sister.
Deep, droning synth beats pulse like a cyclical tide, perpetually in motion as they trade verses, their voices building on top of each other like an incantation. Their music captures unsettling extremes that often accompany such realizations of power. We spoke to the group over Skype video chat for about an hour, touching on topics such as Hot Topic, finding positive female role models in deities of destruction, and how a picture of a stretched-out butthole can really help you understand yourself.
City Paper: Let’s begin with the title of your album from last year “Darkest Lipstick in the Drugstore.” I think it really resonates for a certain kind of person, who as a goth-y adolescent was all about scoping out Wet N’ Wild make-up displays in the back of the CVS.
Tiffany Nicole: That’s exactly where it came from. We were literally in a CVS looking for the darkest one and I’m just like, “I need the darkest lipstick in this drugstore.” And we were like, oh! Oh! The darkest lipstick in the drugstore that I found that day was actually like, a dark brown purple which was also kind of cool, but also kind of looked like doo-doo. It’s hard to do those dark colors.
CP: A lot of the bands from your early teens remain influences too. Can you talk about getting into heavy music at a young age?
TN: When I was like 8 or 9 I got really into MTV, but like, late-night MTV, the nu-metal stuff. Then I went through that whole teenage thing like, “Oh, that’s not cool any more. I’m in college now, I like My Bloody Valentine.”
Jessie Wade: Who are also so good.
TN: It’s good, but there’s no need to say it’s anymore valid than any of the other stuff. A couple years ago I was like, “You know what is really the best music? Korn.” [laughter] That’s what speaks to me still. So much music I liked in the interim was just me trying to talk myself out of what I actually liked.
JW: I still listen to My Chemical Romance’s “Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge” especially when I get writer’s block because that’s an extremely well-written album. I was kind of a little bit sheltered in the way of like, “OK, we go to church. That’s what we do in this house.” Then when I was 11 or 12 and started getting into My Chemical Romance and then I got into Marilyn Manson. My mom took my favorite CDs away because they were like, blasphemous and explicit and talked about drug use and like perverted sexual shit.
TN: All the good stuff.
JW: Anti-Christian themes. Which actually is just anti-facade themes, not necessarily anti-Christian themes because that’s whatever. But that only solidified in me the deep love for this forbidden fruit and drove me to discover more and more about this world of forbidden, unknown music that I’m not allowed to hear. I feel like it gave me a reverence for—
JW: A reverence for irreverence. That’s the best way to put it. I didn’t see it as a rebellion, I just saw it as freedom. That’s how I felt when I first went to Hot Topic. My first Hot Topic experience was like, I walked by and I’m with my mom in the mall and she let me walk off by myself and I went straight back to the Hot Topic. I’m a little intimidated to go in because I’ve never gone in there. But ‘Dragula’ by Rob Zombie is playing and I go in and I’m just in this wonderland of things that actually look interesting to me and engaging to whatever set up is in my brain.
TN: This is back when Hot Topic is like really hot. I also definitely had my riot grrrl time and Hole is really important to me. I have a Hole tattoo that says “Miss World.” That song is like an anthem of my life and creatively I feel like it’s a seed from which I sprouted. And I had a feeling of like it was all these dudes saying all this stuff when I was younger. The bands that did have girls, like the girl in White Zombie? I really just wanted to be her so bad. I was like she’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. And if there had been a band of all her, like five hers, I would’ve lost my fucking mind. Nu-metal was a very all-man thing.
JW: I’ve always had a differently gendered experience, I think, because I related very heavily with both genders and I didn’t always feel like just a girl. I feel like I have a boy brain and a girl brain in here. I never really noticed all-man things like that until like probably two or three years ago really because I was just like, “These people are making this music and I like it a lot and that girl is cool and this guy is cool.” I was super into Marilyn Manson and one of the reasons why is because he was just so androgynous a lot of the time, with the woman bodysuit on “Mechanical Animals.” I’m like, “Damn I feel like the same person as him, like both genders!” But it was a really long time before I noticed that one gender is or is seen as dominating. Once I did, I realized the feminine energy needs to be represented. I feel it so strongly and want to blast it into this reality and inject everything with it because its so important and what builds and destroys the world.
TN: The cycle of death and rebirth. That’s just what femininity is.
JW: They come together.
TN: If you give birth you give death. A huge part of our solidification as a band came through knowing exactly what we were doing instead of just being like “We made a song about periods!” We found out about Kali, the Indian goddess. She’s the dark mother. Destroyer. The creator-destroyer. Kali also means “time” and it also means black so she’s like the black that came before the light. She’s the point from which everything was born. Just that really fierce woman. The dark feminine is in men and women and it’s part of us, that really primal energy that you have to give a channel or it makes you fucking nuts. She can come up in you and that’s your dark sister.
CP: You mentioned “songs about periods.” How did ‘Red Velvet,’ which is maybe the band’s best-known song, come about?
JW: I can’t remember who texted who first about writing a verse about their period but we texted each other like, “Yo, I made this disgusting verse about my period.” And the other one of us was like “Oh my God, me too no way.” And then we met up at my house to write them all out together and then I had this red velvet dress like, hanging on my door cause I was gonna wear it to some cute show or something and Tiffany’s like “Let’s call it ‘Red Velvet’.”
TN: We went through a lot of stuff and made a lot of songs that kind of just were catharsis for us to get through some stuff to find our sound and find what we really wanted to do. And through all that is how we realized “Oh, this is what ‘dark sister’ means.” What we’re doing is OK. Like, “I wanna make heavy music and I always wanted to make heavy music, so lets make it more heavy.” Just making what we want to hear.
JW: Like our song ‘Goatse.’ Like, if you know the dark corners of the internet, you know what the song is about [the title is a reference to an early internet gross-out meme of a naked man bent over, displaying the full glory of his asshole and then some, eight fingers deep and a couple of inches wide]. On the surface it’s like “Oh Goatse haha funny, butthole stretched out,” but it’s also like, can you really look at that? Can you turn around in the mirror and do that and look at yourself like that? And then love it? And accept it and say “This is me”? That’s what “Goatse” is about. All your ugly shit and all your beautiful shit being the same.
TN: A huge part of our project too is the dark feminine and the divine feminine itself coming back. There’s a huge spiritual resurgence. Like all this talk about going into the age of Aquarius, changing eons. Like, we’re moving towards a different way of existing and I think a big part of our mission spiritually as Dark Sister is telling people about the divine feminine. Like, wake up.
JW: It’s a band, brand, and lifestyle. [laughter] But that’s serious. It’s not just like, “OK, this is our band.”
TN: “And we’re scary and sexy.”
JW: This is literally our lifestyle. We live our lives as this entity.
TN: The purveyors of this knowledge or this truth that the divine feminine and dark feminine need a channel and you must engage and enact it and rise it up so that you can ascend.
JW: I believe in God cause like, there’s a mirror right there. I see her staring straight back.
TN: She is real.
JW: God is a girl.
Dark Sister play the Crown on Nov. 8 with Abdu Ali, DJ Booman, Lor Scoota, and more as part of KAHLON.