Abstract expressions

Erase Errata wields no wave with no agenda

Thursday September 18, 2003 12:04 am EDT

The Bay Area's Erase Errata is an artistic anomaly. The press have pegged the group as a torchbearer for the no wave/ post-riot grrrl uprising in underground music, but the media's assertions, while accurate, are not entirely correct. Much like the group's name suggests, Erase Errata's aim is not to champion any political agenda or wage war on modern trends in music, but to fashion a pure and progressive sound that is as challenging to its listeners as it is to its own members.

The all-female lineup — Jenny Hoyston (vocals and trumpet), Sara Jaffe (guitar), Bianca Sparta (drums) and Ellie Erickson (bass) — crafts a sound that draws upon the spunk of the Minutemen, James Chance and the Birthday Party, with the coarse approach of Sonic Youth and the Slits.

Erase Errata never relies on sexuality as a selling point. The band avoids the girly-rock pitfalls of fellow Bay band the Donnas, or the politically charged fume of angry women like Lydia Lunch and Bikini Kill. "Erase Errata is an all-female group and it could be seen as feminist in character and nature, but it's not conscious," says Hoyston. "There's no defined point or message to the music. It's all very abstract."

Jaffe adds, "That's true, but we don't want it to seem like we don't place any value on what those groups were doing because there most definitely is. What they were doing in the early '90s was very important and had a tremendous influence on what we do now. The fact that we're all women doing the kind of music that we do owes a lot to them."

Since its 2000 debut, Other Animals, was released by Troubleman Unlimited, Erase Errata has issued a slew of split singles with everyone from Sonic Youth and Black Dice to Numbers and the Gossip. Additionally, a remix EP featured four of the group's songs recast by the likes of Matmos, Adult., Kid606 and Kevin Blechdom.

From the beginning the group has been championed by experimental, punk and forward-thinking dance music communities, most of whom were won over by the visceral and short-fused songwriting on Other Animals. Put together in only two days, the recording was meant to serve as a demo tape, not a proper first release. Convulsive rhythms, sharp changes and improvised arrangements come together more like a danceable, Dada-esque collage rather than any traditional rhythmic approach. "We didn't think many people were going to hear it," laughs Hoyston. "If we knew it was going to become our first record, we probably would have spent more time with it."

With the band's second release, At Crystal Palace — due in October on Troubleman — the group spent almost two weeks in the studio putting each song together. The result is a much fuller sound, equally as spastic as Other Animals, but with a more refined direction. But in the wake of releasing what is ostensibly the group's strongest recording to date, rumors abound that this is Erase Errata's final hurrah.

Though the group hasn't said much about it, Hoyston has put together a solo project, dubbed Paradise Island, with a debut full-length, Lines are Infinitely Fine, and a 7-inch — both on Dim Mak Records — to her credit. Hoyston has also recently finished recording material with another project, of which Sparta is also a member, called California Lightning, and Jaffe has recorded a collection of solo pop songs that she'll be selling on tour.

When addressing the rumors of Erase Errata's eminent demise, Jaffe insists that the group was never meant to be permanent. "I don't know why people are saying these things," says Jaffe. "Erase Errata was never meant to be a long-running group. We don't have plans to break up, but at the same time, we don't have any plans to go right back to the studio."


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