Before Ditto

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“Romeo Void added another little-seen element to the scene: ‘I was told by our culture that I would never be a full human being because of my size,’ (lead singer Debora) Iyall points out. But perhaps both her size and (Native American) ethnicity made the band even more punk, since ‘aggression was in high value at the time, and there was an aggression just in me being a singer, because I didn’t fit the mold.’ It was soon clear that fans were ready to see a something (sic) that didn’t fit the mold, even the punk mold itself, and Romeo Void’s popularity grew rapidly…. commercial success was double-edged: ‘It was frightening: we played a college in Santa Barbara, and there were all these blond people crowding the stage, and I thought ‘These are the people who hated me in high school!’ When you grow up being ‘outside’ — because I wasn’t white, and I was fat, and always a bit of a free thinker — it was strange. It was like, ‘uh-oh, I must be doing something wrong — they like me!’ ‘…. Despite the sensual and sexual nature of Iyall’s lyrics (including the trademark line from ‘Never Say Never, ‘I might like you better if we slept together’), the Anaïs Nin-inspired band name, and the nurse’s outfit at the Savoy Tivoli, Iyall’s personal politics didn’t always lead her to an erotic onstage persona: ‘When we opened for the Plasmatics, I wore a cholo outfit, with a gray shirt buttoned up, as a statement against what I saw as [Wendy O. Williams’] crude sexuality.’ Eventually, though, the very elements that lent uniqueness and vitality to Romeo Void in the beginning may have been an Achilles’ heel. After the release of the band’s third album, and two weeks into a nine-week tour, ‘Howie (Klein) sold us from 415 to Columbia Records, and they were like ‘Who’s this fat chick?’ They decided that was as far as it was going to get, and pulled their support.”

Excerpt from 2003 EAST BAY EXPRESS interview with Romeo Void lead singer Debora Iyall on the history of punk in the San Francisco Bay area

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