All aboard: Chunx and Funx of Gravy Train!!!!

  • by Gregg Shapiro
  • Tuesday June 20, 2023
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Gravy Train!!!! in the early 2000s.
Gravy Train!!!! in the early 2000s.'s review of Gravy Train!!!!'s 2003 Kill Rock Stars debut album "Hello Doctor" opens with a reference to John Waters. So, it's fitting that Waters is hosting the 2023 edition of Mosswood Meltdown at which Gravy Train!!!! (Carolina Garza aka Funx, Heather Jewett aka Chunx, Brontez Purnell aka Junx, and Seth Bogart aka Hunx), who split up in 2007, will be reuniting.

Known for its explicit and humorous queercore rap style, Gravy Train!!!! ascribes to Waters' trademark shock value code of ethics. Funx, Chunx, and Hunx recently made time for an interview in advance of the Mosswood Meltdown gig on July 2.

Gravy Train!!!! in its early years  

Gregg Shapiro: I'd like to begin by asking you to say something about how you became involved with Gravy Train!!!!
Carolina Garza / Funx: Chunx and I grew up in LA and became friends in high school. We moved to the Bay Area together at age 18 and our house was always full of music, jokes, and partying, and Chunx is one of the funniest people I've ever met. We went to a lot of shows and parties and, for some reason, at some point, we got the balls to think we could start a band.

It really started as Chunx's idea and she wrote such hilarious and genius lyrics that I tried to just do my best with my lil garage sale Yamaha. When Hunx joined the band, I think it really helped us musically because he's also so brilliant and talented and funny. And then when the incomparable Junx joined it really completed the hilarity and creative explosion of our family of four.

Heather Jewett / Chunx: The idea for the band sprouted when a guy I was "dating" (made out with drunkenly twice) hurt my feelings and I wanted revenge. I thought I could write some diss tracks about him, record them on cassette and leave a pile of tapes at Amoeba Records for people to take for free. It felt like it would be an empowering thing to do, and I thought it would make me feel better. Obviously, it ended up becoming so much more than that.

Gravy Train!!!! band members went by stage names such as Hunx, Funx, Chunx, and Junx. How did each of you get your names?
CG: I believe it's because I made funky beats and songs, and by "made funky beats" I mean played eeny meeny miney mo with the buttons on my keyboard. But it could also be because I smelled funky, too [laughs].

HJ: If I remember correctly, I came up with the names one night at the Ruby Room and wrote them on napkins. But I might be mixing that up with another band's origin story — it's all kinda hazy! I knew my name was Chunx first, because I wanted to rub it in people's faces that I loved fast food. Hunx because he was hunky, and Funx because she tore it up on the keyboard.

Seth Bogart: I got my name cuz I'm a hunk!!!!

How did the name Gravy Train!!!! come into being?
HJ: I actually took a poll on a lesbian message board. I had Party Train, Sex Train, Gravy Train, and maybe one more. So, extremely online lesbians came up with the name if we're being honest.

Why the four exclamation marks? Is each one meant to represent a band member?
HJ: Keeping with the theme of radical honesty, there was a really cute band called the Blast Rocks!!! in the Bay Area at the time. There was a story about them in one of the weeklies, and I thought it was so genius that they had exclamation points in their name. I stole the idea but added an extra one just to be a brat.

The band's queerness has always been front and center. In what ways do you see Gravy Train!!!!'s influence on the bands that came in your wake?
CG: It's surreal to think of us as having an influence on other bands. I think there were several queer influences that helped shape us so we're one of the many marks on a line of where culture has progressed. I also think that we just are who we are, and we were young and fearless and sloppy and hungry for experiences so what came out of us just kind of happened. So, if we did influence some acts that came after us maybe it's the spirit of throwing caution to the wind and just shaking what your momma gave you.

HJ: I love that people felt affirmed to be themselves in response to our band. I think the sleazy, gay, anything-goes vibe we created probably made some kids feel that they were allowed to participate in music and art even if they weren't necessarily proficient and/or conventional. We also led with our sense of humor, which always takes the edge off, and I hope that helped some other bands not to take themselves too seriously.

SB: When we used to go on tour, we would often have local opening bands all over the world who were definitely inspired by us, which I always loved. We didn't have a ton of musical talent, and you absolutely don't need it to start a band. I think some of the best bands are from people without much experience or formal training. It's all about the ideas.

After releasing three full-length albums between 2003 and 2007, Gravy Train!!!! called it quits. What precipitated the end of the band at that time?
CG: I think we were all gravitating toward different places, geographically and, also, personally, so it was just time to stop then. But being back together has been a highlight of my life. We've picked up where we left off without missing a beat and it feels like there's magic in the air when all four of us get together. You can take the fart outta the joke, but you can't take the joke outta the fart if you know what I mean [laughs]!

HJ: We were all moving in different directions. I literally moved to LA for school, and some of the other members were in school and focusing on that too, and/or had other bands they could be more active with. Humping a stage will only get you so far in life [laughs].

Gravy Train!!!! has reconvened and is playing July's Mosswood Meltdown in Oakland. What does such an honor mean to you?
CG: It means the world to me. I've had some tough years with my health and mobility so being able to walk out on a stage to perform again is something I didn't think would ever happen. And for our first reunion show to be in Oakland where we began and at Mosswood Meltdown, in particular, is really special.

SB: This experience so far has been truly magical. It's like time never stopped when we get together. We're as goofy and hyper as ever and sometimes at practice when a song ends, we all are laughing so hard we collapse on the floor.

HJ: I'm so excited to be on a stage performing with and for our people: funny gals, gays, and theys who know how to have fun, party, laugh, and dance! Even live music feels so corporate and uptight these days. Mosswood is old school, rock 'n roll, and rough around the edges just like us!!! And, of course, it means the world to be playing with such legendary legends and to be in any proximity to John Waters.

You mentioned John Waters who is MCing Mosswood Meltdown. Do you know if John is a Gravy Train!!!! fan?
SB: I'm guessing not [laughs]! But he is a friend.

CG: I don't know about that, but I do know that Gravy Train!!!! are huge John Waters fans! I'm a huge John Waters fan! He is an absolute legend and his movies changed cinema with his originality and unique perspective. The way he crafts movies and scripts is so funny, absurd, weird, and brilliant and I hear that he's also an incredibly kind and wonderful person, which just makes him even more iconic. I'm even a fan of his intros for bands at Mosswood, he has an amazing way with words that tickles me every time. I adore John Waters!

HJ: I would love to be wrong, but I doubt he caught electroclash fever. I'm a huge John Waters fan, too. He's a very important figure to the band, and to my personal creative life and style to this day. His work informed everything I did since I first saw "Female Trouble" at Hunx's house in Tucson when we were teenagers. I even rented "Pink Flamingos" at the video store when I was 17. How was I allowed to do that? I didn't know you could be so free as an artist, that you literally could do anything you wanted, until I saw those early John Waters movies. He's maybe my biggest inspiration.

Could the July Mosswood Meltdown show lead to new Gravy Train!!!! music, perhaps even a national tour?
SB: Likely no national tour but it would be cute to play a few more shows next year. We kind of want to see how it goes. Not sure about new music, but we've been talking about doing some covers. I'm kind of open to anything at this point.

HJ: We're testing the (John) waters with this show! If it feels right, who knows? We've gone from sippin' 40s to being in our 40s, though... So we're going to need a full emergency medical team on standby on our rider, and they all have to be really hot.

Mosswood Meltdown, July 1 & 2, Mosswood Park, 3612 Webster St., Oakland. $40-$279

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