Sitting onstage at Durham's Ooh La Latte last Friday, Kaia Wilson--one-third of The Butchies, one of the nation's few all-lesbian rock bands--couldn't decide what she would miss about the Triangle. Of course, the usual suspects appeared: her friends, the South, her bandmates Melissa York and Alison Martlew. She even realized that she would miss Duke's nature trails. She's been walking her dogs there--a 5-year-old golden retriever named Andy and a 7-year-old "I'm not sure what it is" named Basket--since she arrived here eight years ago, following a now ex-girlfriend to her new job at UNC-Chapel Hill.
But, just 24 hours later, she's convinced that she already knows the answer, and--in two back-to-back voicemails on a Saturday night--says that the reasons are incumbent for any story about her move home to Oregon later this month and, consequentially, The Butchies' indefinite hiatus.
Message 1: "Hey, Grayson. It's Kaia. When you asked me what I would miss, I very clearly thought of my answer, which is the following: I will miss honeysuckle, fireflies and all of the people here that I love like crazy, and that's what I will miss the most. So, if you wouldn't mind calling me back and letting me know if you got this, a, and if it makes any sense, b, and, c, if it would be OK to add that. Talk to you soon. Bye."
Message 2: "Hey, also one more thing: honeysuckle, fireflies, the crazy storms that don't happen in Oregon and the people. OK, that's it then. Yup. Okey-doke."
Before she heads to Portland, Wilson and The Butchies will play one hometown farewell show on Friday at Ooh La Latte. The band is working on their final two Triangle sets, packed with greatest hits and songs that haven't been played live in years, if at all. Wilson will open the show with material from her self-released third solo album, God Makes Monkeys, which was recorded over the past year with Jay Murphy.
"There will certainly be stuff I miss about this place," she smiles. "But I'm ready to go home, I think."
It's not difficult to figure out why Wilson, raised just outside of Eugene, would want to go home again. She's been here for nearly a decade, and she's been touring with the same band, in the same van--a darling dubbed Suzanne--for about the same. It's been the prototypical story of indie survivorship, too.
"When we were making Make Yr Life, we knew that we were really going to work hard on it this time, and if it didn't pay off in terms of getting an audience and maybe making some money, it may be the last one," says Wilson, almost conscientiously adding that it's never been all about the money. "If I didn't have to make a living, I'd do this forever. I love doing it."
But Wilson describes the last few outings as "Groundhog Day tours--really repetitive ... the same audience every time." She wouldn't trade any of her experiences, however. For her, the notion of helping someone--perhaps a teenager in a remote American town--and allowing them to feel good about their gay identity has been worth it.
"So many times, you know, we've heard 'I don't know what I would have done without you guys' from people in these towns who could look to us for validation, to this positive side of being gay," she says.
Wilson doesn't plan on abandoning music with her move to Oregon, where at 17 she started her first band, Adickdid. A project with Donna Dresch, her partner in pioneering queercores Team Dresch, may be in the cards.
As for her bandmates, Wilson says Martlew plans to stay in the Triangle and is considering graduate school in zoology and York is considering other music projects.
The Butchies play at Ooh La Latte on Friday, April 13 with doors at 8 p.m. and a $7 cover.