Lauren Denitzio is the busiest woman you’ve never heard of—unless your ear is sharply sewn to the DIY punk scene. The 32-year-old musician currently resides in Brooklyn neighborhood Crown Heights, where her punk band Worriers slashes through traditional stereotypes and melodies. While her music is more than enough to merit applause, Denitzio’s resume runs much longer than that — to the point where we don’t know if she ever sleeps.
Everything started when she picked up a guitar for the first time at age 14. In the five years that followed, she formed her first major band, went to college to pursue art, graduated, ended the band, and tackled grad school for fine arts. Once she nabbed her masters, Denitzio began taking up artist residencies everywhere from Iceland to Berlin before returning to Brooklyn for a more permanent residency to expand her art. Not only is she still making music, but she’s still actively creating compilations, solo music, detailed zines, visual art, books, drawings, and paintings. Denitzio, clearly, doesn’t sleep.
“I don’t see my music or art as separate things,” she says over the phone, laughing at her own drive. “I’m thinking about the same types of things with both forms of media. Music tends to be a more personal and narrative side of things, whereas visual arts is a bit more abstract. The same political issues come through, but the conceptual lens changes.”
On the music side of things, she’s straightforward. This year’s excellent full-length, Imaginary Life, is some of Worriers’ tightest work to date. Denitzio sings about public rights (“Most Space”), sinister expectations (“Life During Peacetime”), and the importance of getting gender pronouns right (“They / Them / Theirs”).
“It was something I wanted to write about for a long time but I didn’t know how to write about it without hitting the listener over the head with the concept,” she says of “They / Them / Theirs”. “I didn’t even know how to put it into words for myself. That’s definitely one of those songs where it’s not about the story or another person. It’s came about in a freeform way. Queer groups are weird and judgmental and complicated; I wanted to write something that expressed how I felt about not letting gender binary rules decide who you are if that’s not what you want.”
Onstage, she’s joined by bassist Audrey Zee Whitesides, guitarist Lou Hanman, and drummer Mikey Erg, all of whom she considers close friends, which makes stage fright ease up. As such, Worriers fit comfortably on Don Giovanni records, New Jersey’s notoriously punk record label with a cult following that’s done nothing but grow over the last decade.
It’s clear Denitzio is in control of her life, but the album zones in on the hecticness of her past year beyond just art. “This theme of unity and cohesion came forward,” she explains. “I’m proud of the fact that these songs came about on their own, where something like ‘Chasing’—we wrote and rewrote the song a bunch of times until we came up with a sound that’s a bit different for us—became a dance-y, pop-like song where the guitar almost sounds like a keyboard. That was a team effort. The songs called for what they believed would make them the strongest, and this one opted for that.”
Much of the record’s sound gets an extra jolt of rock thanks to producer Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! Over the years, Denitzio saw their paths cross. In a leap of faith, she reached out to Grace hoping she would produce their album, and in a matter of days she got a rather enthusiastic response. “She was super easygoing,” Denitzio recalls, her voice a bit distant like she’s still in disbelief of it all. “We played a bunch of shows to get to know the music and what we wanted out of the record. That was thoughtful and added to the process. I’m still constantly surprised that we pulled it off. With people’s busy schedules and anything that could have gone wrong, it went so well.”
During tours, it’s hard to find time for painting, but she manages. She has to. “I worry about my communicative ability to pursue the things I’m interested in, to collaborate with others, and make a point,” she says. “How do I function in a world that’s not supportive of someone who’s adamantly feminist, queer, anti-racist, and supportive of radical politics? When I was a kid, I wondered how I would get through a ton of my life like this—though looking back, I realize I’ve actually come a long way.”
PALEHOUND + WORRIERS + MAL DEVISA + MINI DRESSES. FRI 12.18. MIDDLE EAST UPSTAIRS, 472 MASS. AVE., CAMBRIDGE. 8PM/18+/$12. MIDEASTOFFERS.COM.