Math rockers, such as Chinchilla, can play upside down.
Formed in 1994, Chinchilla started as a trio of female musicians hailing from local acts Drip Tank, Liquid Sunshine, and Crash Worship on the hunt for a bassist. They found their low-end via Krista Kansas who, true to her name, relocated from Kansas to play in the band. Chinchilla’s first gig sold out, and they continued to draw numbers around town from then on.
“That time frame was golden for local rock show attendance in general, and we definitely benefited from that, but we also had a unique following of people that I’d never really see at other shows,” says guitarist Julie D. “Our music is pretty odd, and would never be widely popular, but people who like it seem to really like it a lot. Additionally, the percentage of female musicians in that scene was small enough that, as much as I hate to say it, for some folks the ‘all-girl band’ aspect was a draw.”
The band was aided by a live show that often gave the audience more to absorb than just the music. Drummer Morgan Doctor recalls being part of a mid-90s music scene in San Diego that was “pushing music styles and composition” courtesy of acts such as Creedle.
“It was definitely a movement,” she said. “Chinchilla, I think, really took this to the next level with being very performative in our live shows. Shows included shadow scenes with actors behind us, an acted-out sex change operation on stage, male dancers, and numerous costume configurations. We were always trying to push the boundaries of live music.”
The band toured up the west coast and as far east as Kansas. They shared bills with notables of the era such as Jawbreaker, Boys Against Girls, and The Wrens. The road wasn’t free from hazards though. One night, while caravanning behind Fluf, the band witnessed to a near catastrophe.
“Morgan was at the wheel and kept repeating ‘Oh my god…’ we all woke up and watched Fluf’s van swerve, skid and spin upside down,” says vocalist Sioban Dixon. “Luckily, the band members crawled out unscathed and the photo of the van made for a great 7-inch cover.”
After releasing some singles and EPs, the band’s debut LP, 101 Italian Hits, came out in September 1996. The band was history by the end of that year. Julie D claims that their final tour was the nail in the coffin. She was living in Seattle by January 1997. Krista Kansas was the sole member of Chinchilla to stick around town. When she looks back at the mid-90s local music scene, she notices one major difference: increased support for aspiring female musicians.
“Morgan, Julie, and I volunteer for the Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls organization, each in our own home towns. Growing up in Kansas, girls weren’t included in the junior high or high school bands, so I didn’t start playing bass until college. It’s great to know that girls, even starting as young as eight years old, have support to pick up a bass, guitar, drumsticks or a mic and be taken seriously. I would love to see the next generation Chinchilla! And believe me, whenever given the chance, I always encourage young girls to play music.”
- Saturday, January 5, 2019, 8 p.m.
2501 Kettner Boulevard,
Chinchilla performs as part of the Casbah's 30th anniversary celebration on January 5. The bill includes reunited 90s locals Uncle Joe's Big Ol' Driver, Mostly Sunny, and Scary Pierre.