introducing: petrol girls

by tim forster

how did petrol girls start?
Initially the band was me, Liepa and our friend May and we started for an International Women’s Day show that I was putting on at my house. I was in an acoustic band and wanted to have a go at doing something heavier, we had two practices, played two songs, SUCKED, and it was awesome! That’s how we started! We had no idea what direction we would go in, but Joe saw the potential and asked to join on guitar, and eventually we ended up with Zock on drums, which is awesome because he’s an incredible musician!
(c)  Petrol Girls
i read somewhere that you’re named after a group of women from the paris commune?
Les Petroleuses … it’s the idea of them, these badass women who were challenging gender stereotypes. That’s why our logo is a Molotov cocktail made out of a milk bottle, which brings up all sorts of ideas about women and reproductivity.

how would you describe your music?
I’m pretty easy about genres…melodic post hardcore or something. What we’re definitely not is riot grrrl. People go: “There are girls in the band, so they must be riot grrrl!” There was that attitude that inspired us, but if you listen to Riot Grrrl bands there is quite a particular sound and we’re not that at all.

how did your politics take shape?
Over the last year I’ve definitely got a lot more militant in my politics. About 2010 I was involved in the student movement and our first EP is a lot to do with those experiences. At the time there was a flyer with a picture of a person kicking in a window and it said “they talk of violence” and then it listed all these insidious forms of violence, and that came out in ‘Treading Water’. I think we might call our album ‘Talk of Violence’ or something like that. It’s this idea that resurfaced again and again and it’s probably the core of my politics.

  • “I believe in militant direct action because the way society is run now is so fucking violent.”

I think that art and culture and music for me are about making these structures of oppression visible and clear.

is your hope for your music that it would be a weapon to disrupt the dominant narrative?
Yeah, for sure! I think for me all art and music is political in some way, and if it’s not actively politically against the way things are then it’s supporting it. There are plenty of bands that call themselves punk rock that aren’t doing anything to try and change the way things are, and as far as I’m concerned that’s not punk rock. You are keeping things the way they are. You’ve got this platform, this opportunity, this immense freedom of movement, with this amazing network. I read an interview with a band recently and all it was was, ‘Yeah man we went on tour and it was cool and we drank beer’ and I’m like ‘What the fuck are you doing?!’ They’re from a city where there’s loads of stuff going on in terms of border actions, we need to utilise this network now!

riot grrrl was a reaction to the US punk scene being dominated by straight white men. how have you experienced the UK punk scene in the 2010s? is it an easy place to be a woman?
I think it’s important thing to say it’s got a lot better, but there is still more to do! My situation is quite different so I can’t speak for other women, and wouldn’t want to. I’ve gone from being a younger woman who did backing vocals, for Mike Scott which was awesome, to touring with bands and doing merch or going to shows and not being a very visible person to now being a very visible person. So I’m in a totally different position. Before, I got sexually assaulted a lot. I even got kind of groomed by older men in bands. Whereas now people won’t even fucking flirt with me because I rant about consent on stage and it’s absolutely hilarious! But I think for women in general there is a massive issue of sexual assault and rape and I think it’s important to acknowledge that the musical community is a hierarchical community, I don’t like this hierarchy but I fully acknowledge that I’ve risen up it because of the band, because of the stage, because I have a microphone. I’m sure there are still women who come to shows who have to deal with sexual assault and rape and groping and sexual harassment by men at shows, by men in bands, by men who have put on gigs. Its an ongoing constant fucking problem.There are some collectives doing some really good stuff about it like Love Sex, Hate Sexism but it needs to be an ongoing conversation, and it’s men’s responsibility to be creating that conversation because it is men overwhelmingly doing it to women.

  • “Men need to talk to one another, and learn to be held accountable for their shit, and the women that have been affected need to be listened to.”

If you’re silent when you have the opportunity to speak out against it then you are just contributing to it.

Petrol Girl‘s album Some Thing is available from their Bandcamp.

They will be playing at LOUD WOMEN Fest on 3 Sept.

Thanks to Tim Forster for letting us use this abridged version of his interview. You can read the full version on his blog here.
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