Patti Kotrady is both a participant and an observer in the punk culture that permeates her music and intellectual inquiry.
Kotrady is the bassist and vocalist for Frederick, Maryland-based band Lilac Daze, who just published their self-titled album this October. Lilac Daze also includes Evan Braswell on vocals and guitar and Matt Henry on vocals and drums. Kotrady also spent the last year deconstructing the DIY and punk ethos for her honors thesis at Dickinson College. Together, the two perspectives give Kotrady rare, introspective depth into punk culture.
Now that Lilac Daze’s debut album is done, Kotrady has time to reflect on her growth as a musician, the album, and moving forward as a performer in the scene she put under a microscope.
The debut album vacillates between Kotrady’s light, sugary vocals and the fast pop-punk of Braswell and Henry. “Sometimes I get scared that people will listen to the album and think it mismatches,” Kotrady said. But ultimately, the band strove to represent the feelings and styles of all three of its members on the LP. They find their continuity in themes of uncertainty, the interpersonal, and the many crossroads of coming of age.
It’s about self-reflection and being a part of something that’s bigger than yourself.
While she hopes the subject matter is identifiable for listeners, Kotrady said she “[has] to really identify with what the song is about, especially songs where I brought the ideas to the table.” In Lonely Eyes, the intimacy that Kotrady brings to the group’s sound is most potent. Seemingly talking to herself as much as the listener, she questions “Why can’t I keep you close to me?” and ultimately closes the song with a revelation, “It’s okay to be just friends.”
In many ways, the learning, questioning, and growth that the album’s lyrics touch on mirror the process of Kotrady’s entrance into Lilac Daze.
She had always been involved in music, but had never been in a band. In 2012, Kotrady received Riot Grrl: Revolution Girl Style Now! for Christmas, prompting her to explore the idea of being part of a punk band. Deciding to learn how to play bass, Kotrady turned to now bandmate Evan Braswell. While Braswell was teaching Kotrady bass, he was also working on some of his own music, and then they started jamming on songs with Henry, thus forming Lilac Daze.
Newer to her instrument than her bandmates, sometimes Kotrady would sing a riff to have Braswell play out. “It was a process of me learning how to play bass and feeling comfortable enough to having equal input in the band.” Kotrady attributes the level of growth she’s been able to accomplish to the friendship between the band members and Braswell’s musicianship, both of which allowed her to freely express ideas and bring them into reality.
The band works collaboratively but currently at a distance, with Kotrady living in rural Pennsylvania while Braswell and Henry live in Frederick, Maryland.
With the album all but released since last summer, Kotrady spent the interim attending shows and talking to fans, venues, and her own bandmates to understand the DIY punk mindset for her thesis. She put a magnifying glass to the ethos of authenticity that permeates the DIY/punk scene of Philadelphia, ultimately questioning if that aura of authenticity is a myth.
Now, both attending and playing shows, Kotrady attempts to balance her critique of the scene with the positive attributes that drew her to it in the first place. “You can’t think about it in a normal way ever again,” Kotrady said on music after writing her thesis. But she tempers her scrutiny to remember all the things she loves about the DIY and punk scenes. “When you’re too critical of everything, it loses some of its value.”
Kotrady attributes some of the band’s outlook to the DIY-mindset and culture. “We could not have toured if it wasn’t for DIY subcultures throughout the country,” she said. “It’s vital to what we do as a band and how we view our band’s success.”
The underscore of that statement is the album’s contemplative closing song So Confused. For Kotrady, the song is about being confronted with issues that highlight one’s own inexperience—something common with the rise of social consciousness within the DIY scene.
Kotrady’s vocals begin the song with a summation of those feelings: “It’s so easy to say what they don’t want you to say/It’s even easier to see that it’s not about me.” Braswell’s chorus highlights the uncertainty that follows: “the only thing I know for sure is that I don’t know.”
A theme present throughout the album, So Confused toes the line between the band’s own feelings and subject matter that hits home with its (chosen) audience.
“It’s about self-reflection and being a part of something that’s bigger than yourself,” Kotrady said.
Author: Kate Ida
Kate is the co-founder of femchord. She combines a love for music and a masters in gender policy in her work.