|by cassie fox
Last year, as part of the inaugural We Shall Overcome (WSO) festival, I put on a gig in London. WSO had 200-plus gigs UK-wide in aide of anti-austerity charities and foodbanks – a massive show of solidarity against an oppressive Tory government.
But it was yet another ‘leftie festie’ ringing the bell for community spirit, but forgetting to include half of the population: nearly all of the events were run by men and featured the same old ‘man bands’. No fun being the only woman at any of those shows.
So, I called my WSO gig ‘LOUD WOMEN’, and sought to redress the balance a little. We had six awesome female acts: Blindness, Dream Nails, Argonaut, Emily C Smith, Janine Booth, and my own band, The Wimmins’ Institute. The venue was the Silver Bullet in Finsbury Park (a club now tragically closed and in the hands of corporate developers).
The gig was a storming success, with a sisterly and inclusive atmosphere, huge fun had, and a big fat wadge of cash raised for our chosen charity, Women’s Aid.
With so many other amazing female musicians needing a supportive platform, it seemed daft not to put on another gig, and another, and another … a year on and LOUD WOMEN has staged 21 events, showcasing 63 women-led acts, and raised over £1,800 for Women’s Aid.
The WSO festival returns this year between 1st and 9th October, with 250 (and counting) gigs lined up across the country. A slightly less man-heavy feel to the festival this year, but, once again, the line-ups of nearly all the gigs listed are predominantly male. With women consistently hit hardest by government cuts, it’s depressing to see female artists omitted from events, or given a low billing.
But LOUD WOMEN will of course be staging our own WSO gig – on 7thOctober at Tottenham’s T.Chances. This year we’re doing it as a sisterly collaboration with Beth White and Who Run the Worldpromotions, and we’ve got The Empty Page, Dream Nails, Little Fists, and Charmpit playing, and, of course, Janine Booth doing some poetry. Full details here.
A few other WSO events bucking the man-band trend:
LOUD WOMEN BFFs Argonaut are also getting involved with WSO by releasing an EP in support of Disabled People Against Cuts. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for a great new video too.
After WSO, my full attention goes back to the regular LOUD WOMEN nights, and the next one is a doozy. 21 October at the Hope & Anchor in Islington. Playing are Bratakus (riot grrrl sisters flying down for the gig from the North of Scotland); Madonnatron (hotly tipped punks you may have heard live in session on Radio 6 with Marc Riley this week); Emily C Smith (a LOUD WOMEN returnee – I love her powerful voice); and Brutalistas (DIY sistas with attitute). Tickets £5, and as usual we’ll be raffling CDs, books, and bits-and-bobs from the bottom of our handbags towards the Women’s Aid fund.
by tim forster
|The Franklys: Jennifer Ahlkvist, Fanny Broberg, Zoe Biggs and Lexi Clark. Tim interviewed the band by email.|
could you give us an overview of The Franklys?
Two of us are from Sweden and two from England, and we play frenetic garage rock with heavy and psychedelic overtones á la Led Zeppelin-Blondie-Strokes-QOTSA-punk-pop-rock-madness. We’ve toured across both the UK/Europe and America, including festival slots at Isle of Wight, Download Festival and Camden Rocks, and our debut album is out early 2017!
what artists have influenced you?
Blondie, The Strokes, Led Zeppelin, Queens of the Stone Age, Arctic Monkeys, The Runaways, Green Day, to name but a few. Bands that we are currently enjoying … Petrol Girls, The Tuts, WHITE, La Luz, Muncie Girls and Tom Jones.
how would you describe your sound?
We never want to be put in a ‘box’ so we try to get lots of different elements or the unexpected into our songs, whilst keeping a sort of heavy garage rock backbone to it. We definitely sound different to how we did a few years ago, and that’s great because you want to keep pushing forward.
you play a broad spectrum of gigs: from Isle of Wight to Download to LOUD WOMEN to small town venues. is it hard to adjust to different settings?
There’s no denying there is a different feeling and vibe to those varying venues, but we never change or try and stifle our performance for anything. Even on the tiniest of stages (or floors!) we are still trying to bring as much energy to it as possible, which usually means a guitar in the face or a cymbal in the back, but it’s all part of it!
the rock scene is historically very macho – but do you think things are improving? Casual sexism, overt sexism … it’s still out there and still happening, of course not only in this industry. Personally I feel like things are improving, but there is such a long way to go and we have to keep pushing for changes. Maybe it’s because of who I follow on Twitter, Instagram etc. but there seem to be a lot more visibility of musicians who are female than there ever was, and it’s getting better every day. But, then again … in the mainstream, I’m not convinced many are breaking through to the public consciousness, which means you have to really seek these out and be motivated to do so.
“How many male musicians do you think have had a sound engineer come up to them and try to change the settings on their guitar for them in the middle of a soundcheck? Or has anyone ever said, ‘oh you play well, for a boy’?”
We are still scratching our heads over this A+ comment from a sound engineer the other week ‘oh where’s the drummer, probably gone off to buy some new shoes…’, hmm …
what plans do you have for the coming year?
We are currently finishing up mixing and mastering our debut album, which will be released early next year. It’s been a long time coming and we can’t wait to share it with everyone. And we have just announced a few live dates, which you can check out here. We’ll be celebrating the launch of our new single with a gig at The Shacklewell Arms on 2nd November, hope to see you there!
Ambitious Twenty five acts across two stages in one day.
Beautiful The atmosphere, the bands, and the audience.
Creative Ingenious designs, merchandise and artwork on display.
DIY Artists learning as they go along, circumnavigating the mainstream, independent and resourceful.
Exciting To just be part of this scene and to share the moment.
Glamorous Vintage dresses, colourful costumes, style and panache but no snobbery.
Helpful Raising money for good causes.
Imaginative Vivid and visionary artists .
Jubilant A living celebration of feminism.
Kaleidoscopic The range, the quality and colour of the sounds made this an incredible cauldron of talent.
Luminous Intelligent lyric writers.
Memorable Moments and performances to treasure and cherish.
Non-stop Wall-to-wall sound, perfectly stage-managed.
Overlooked By all the traditional mainstream media.
Political Passionate, personal and some polemic.
Quintessential The essence of Riot Grrrl.
Resonant With true meaning.
Sparkling Incandescently bright.
Unisex Sharing toilets reflected the community spirit.
Venue Welcoming, friendly, affordable, serving great food and blessed with quality sound engineers.
Wired Adrenaline excitement.
Xenial Warmth to cherish.
Yearly There just has to be another one.
Zestful Spirited enjoyment for twelve glorious hours.
[Ed. – wot no F-word?]
by vanessa govinden
Two weeks after Britain voted to leave the EU, I was walking down my street when a guy in a removals van shouted, ‘You’re fucked!’ as he drove past.
I’d like to say that’s the only time I’ve experienced something like that, but it’s not.
I was born and raised in West London, though my parents are first-generation immigrants from Mauritius.
They chose to give me a neutral name – Vanessa – with no religious connotations, which confused a lot of people when I was growing up. ‘Are you Hindu? Are you Muslim? What are you?’
In truth, I was always a bit of a strange kid – a brown girl with dyed red hair and painted blue eyebrows, listening to punk, grunge and metal from the age of nine – who never really fit in until I found my bunch of misfit friends.
But two days after 9/11, I experienced a different sense of division. I was waiting at a bus stop when a car full of guys threw cans at me and shouted, ‘Go back to Pakistan, you fucking terrorist!’
That was the first time I realised that people could view me in the most basic terms – a dark-skinned person – and attack me for it. I’m not trying to play the victim here.
I just want people to know that this stuff still happens and that it can have consequences which aren’t always obvious.
That driver’s taunt rattled me. I had a friend’s birthday to attend that night but I didn’t feel up to leaving the house.
And that’s when it clicked: in two months’ time, my band would be heading on tour around the UK, playing places where the majority of people voted Leave.
I play bass and co-vocalise in Little Fists, a trio from London inspired by the ethos of punk, riot grrrl and queercore.
We decided to release a split seven-inch with Fight Rosa Fight! – a like-minded trio from Cheltenham who play the same type of shows: safe spaces and DIY venues, feminist nights and fundraisers – before going on a week-long tour together.
Then Brexit happened. Social media lit up with stories of people being openly racist and I braced myself for abuse. What had seemed like an amazing opportunity began to make me feel vulnerable.
The dread built up until I had a panic attack the night before the tour. My whole body was tingling – and knowing that I needed a good night’s sleep only made it worse.
It felt like the attack would set a trend for the week ahead: that there would be more nights like this regardless of what happened.
I knew there was every chance that the tour would pass without incident, that I’d be with people who had my back in any situation. But anxiety doesn’t work like that. Sometimes you just can’t reason your way out of it.
The next day, approaching the train platform as we were about to leave London, the dread intensified again. But I didn’t want to let my friends down and so I stepped on board, knowing there was no turning back.
The venue was in the basement of a pub where some of the regulars were curious to know what was going on downstairs and what was queer about it. One guy asked me, ‘Punk is punk. Why are you making it gay?’
At first I thought maybe he meant that punk was universal and that he couldn’t see any need to put labels on it.
So I invited him downstairs and explained the concept of a safe space – an environment where anyone can feel free to express themselves without fear of being made unwelcome on account of their sexual orientation, gender identity, cultural background or any other factor.
He responded by saying, ‘Yeah, but what if someone tries to bum me?’
I think that lack of awareness fed into my anxiety. This wasn’t just about racism.
Going on your first tour means putting yourself out there, in unfamiliar places, in front of people who may not see the world the way you do. And I have to admit, there were moments where I questioned the wisdom of doing that.
In Leeds, a friend had a bottle chucked at him and called a faggot while walking home from our gig.
In Liverpool, we popped into a pub to use the bathroom one afternoon and I instantly felt like we were going to get our heads kicked in.
Later that night, our guitarist and co-vocalist Ste (who is Irish) was questioned aggressively about his identity by someone on the street.
In Manchester, another panic attack struck the moment I stepped into a shopping centre. I have no idea what triggered it. That’s the thing about anxiety: it just announces itself without explanation, overpowering the logical part of your brain.
Soph, our drummer and co-vocalist, suggested we get some fresh air. While we were sitting outside a cafe, this man – a normal looking guy in his sixties – came over and got a little too close. He stared at me in disgust and grunted something unintelligible under his breath – a burst of primitive disapproval, basically.
Soph jumped to my defence but the guy simply walked off. That’s the thing connecting these incidents: there’s no conversation; people won’t even stop. It’s cowardly but it still really affects you. And the worst part is that you can’t say anything back.
The best response was just to get on with the tour which – those moments aside – turned out to be an incredible life experience. The shows went well, the crowds were great and the two bands grew close.
Brexit came up a lot in conversation, but there was a lot less doom and gloom among people than I’d expected. Instead there was a sense of sticking together and getting through it, which, for me, is what the name Little Fists is all about: power in unity.
I’m not a natural performer. I enjoy being in this band but when it comes to playing live, there have been moments where I thought, ‘Why am I forcing myself to get on stage? We could easily just jam every week for the sake of catharsis.’
But by the end of the tour, I just wanted to keep going. My outlook felt much more positive.
Maybe it was the process of facing up to challenging situations, maybe it was realising how lucky I am to have such a supportive network, maybe it was taking comfort in the knowledge that DIY spaces are in much better shape outside London.
I just know the next time we go on tour, I won’t feel so anxious.
Article originally published in Huck magazine.
by tim forster
|DOLLS: singer/guitarist Jade Ellins and drummer Belinda (Bel) Conde|
you’ve been together 2 years. did you have a clear idea of the sort of sound you wanted from the start, or has the DOLLS sound evolved?
jade: When we were first jamming together I was still very much in my ‘blues rock’ stage. So every song was very riff-based, with wailing vocals. I was a bit scared to use more pop-based chords back then as I thought it might sound cheesy. I got into listening to more punk and ‘arty’ bands such as Bikini Kill, Sonic Youth and Ought about a year ago so our sound changed a lot. I realised pop chords weren’t the problem, it was more what you did with them. Now there is hardly a blues riff in sight!
how would you describe your sound now?
bel: I think our sound is a mixture of wanting to ‘get out’ what frustrates us about the current society we live in, with a touch of Jade’s ballsy vocals and my loud drums. We like to make an impact through our music and really reach out to our audience.
what were your early musical influences?
jade: My parents are both musicians so music was always around. Pretty much as soon as I could move they gave me a guitar. Thank God! I loved classic rock bands when I was little as my Dad used to play them all the time in the car, like Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin. I also loved a bit of Britney and Christina though, I still do!
bel: I didn’t come from a musical background at all – I had to fight my mum over the years to get a drum kit! My early influences were serious heavy and nu metal bands, such as Slipknot and SOAD. Hehe…
how does the creative process work: is it collaborateive, or is there one main songwriter?
jade: I generally will have the chords and a basic structure of a song ready before I take it to Bel and our other co-writer, Sam. I find it really difficult to get songs out of jamming and rather have some time to myself first to decide what kind of song it will be. A few songs have formed out of us jamming them on the spot, like ‘Kid Kannibal’, but that is quite rare now. Other times Bel may come up with a drum beat that I find inspiring or Sam may come up with some chords that I want to work with.
you were excellent at LOUD WOMEN fest! is it on stage where you are most at home, or in the studio?
jade: Thank you! Performing on stage is definitely why I do this. It’s actually my favourite thing to do! That’s why I don’t mind us gigging all the time and never understood when other bands would complain about it. The studio is still bit of a weird environment for me, however we have just been recording four songs with Jim Sclavunos (Grinderman, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds) which was a brilliant experience. I felt like I needed to go and practise a million hours after working with him as it was so inspiring.
bel: Being onstage is where I feel the most comfortable! I love playing live and I believe that is the best way to put our music across. It’s great to get good feedback from our gigs!
what has your experience been like in the alt rock/punk/DIY scene? is it a better place for women than mainstream culture?
both: The punk DIY scene, where they put on female-fronted bands in particular, has been great. We haven’t experienced any sexism and always feel supported. Which is why these nights exist! The general alt rock punk scene can be very different.
“There are a lot of male ‘punk’ bands that still think it’s OK to belittle you, or expect you to be a bit shit as you are a woman.”
Some of these bands have even had female members in. I guess sexism is still more dominant in mainstream culture, but it can happen anywhere.
what bands and writers are you enjoying at the moment?
jade: I’m loving Parquet Courts, Hinds, Angel Olsen, Ought, Queen Pj and the Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds new album is ace!
bel: I really like King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Thee Oh Sees and when I need to chill out I go for Bowery Electric.
what’s next for DOLLS?
both: We have just recorded four tracks. What will happen to those four tracks is still a bit of a mystery. Hopefully they will become super popular, we will become mega rich, and we will be able to finally afford a roadie so we don’t have to carry our shit around with us on the tube!
VOICE OF THE BEEHIVE – I Walk The Earth
Sisters Tracey Bryn and Melissa Brooke Belland fashioned a frantic multi-coloured mosaic that welded Shangri-Las doom pop to Sex Pistols guitar figures (that’s the ‘Pretty Vacant’ riff you hear).
Legend has it Tracey was drunk when she suggested calling the second album Honey Lingers, and the label went for it without noticing the pun.
SUZANNE VEGA – When Heroes Go Down
Cruelly pigeon-holed by lazy music press as a cut-price Joni Mitchell after ‘Marlene On The Wall’ hit the charts, Suzanne’s subsequent catalogue is a vast and varied thing.
This is a joyous little joust, coming in under two minutes, borrowing a riff from The Searchers’ ‘Needles and Pins’.
WENDY JAMES – London’s Brilliant
Following the demise of Transvision Vamp, the band’s singer asked Elvis Costello to write her something for her solo debut. He responded by knocking out an entire album’s worth, among which this shouty ode to Ladbroke Grove perfectly suits her “image”.
Elvis later described Wendy as “not a great singer, but a really good pop star.”
SANDIE SHAW – Please Help The Cause Against Loneliness
The ‘60s barefoot confessor of working-class womanhood (‘Girl Don’t Come’, ‘Long Live Love’) reinvented herself two decades later via smart covers of Smiths and Lloyd Cole songs.
Stage Two of her comeback was pegged on this tune, written for her by Morrissey and Stephen Street.
RACHEL SWEET – B-A-B-Y Baby
Akron, Ohio, teenager taken under the wing of Stiff Records to emerge triumphant on the label’s audacious train package tour. A career in Broadway musicals followed, and today she is a mover and shaker in American TV production.
Fun fact: Rachel appeared in an episode of Seinfeld as a relative of George Constanza.
SAM PHILLIPS – I Need Love
The former wife of big time producer T Bone Burnett deserves more recognition than her choice in spouses. Arguably still tainted by her early Christian recordings, she remains a provocative and articulate singer-songwriter.
Fun fact: Sam played Jeremy Irons’ ruthless assassin girlfriend in Die Hard With A Vengeance.
AIMEE MANN – She Really Wants You
She’s written tunes with Elvis Costello, was a member of Squeeze for a year or so, and her songs provided perfect punctuation for Paul Thomas Anderson’s magnificent multi-strand movie Magnolia. Seriously, she’s one of the best singer-songwriters in the world.
Fun fact: Aimee was the nihilist who sacrificed a toe in The Big Lebowski fake kidnap plot.
BLONDIE – Dreaming
When, after just 37 seconds, Debbie Harry rhymes “restaurant” with “debutant”, we know we’re listening to something pretty fucking special. An homage to the iconic Wall Of Sound, although rather than hiring half a dozen drummers producer Mike Chapman did this with just Clem Burke at his disposal.
Suck on that, Phil Spector.
SIXPENCE NONE THE RICHER – Kiss Me
Pop perfection; this is one of the most unashamedly simple but affecting songs in the entire of history of music. The dreamy guitar is early Johnny Marr, the understated drumming recalls Charlie Watts, and the double-tracked vocal is akin to a loved one drooling honey directly into your ears.
THE PRETENDERS – Kid
The first single was a Kinks cover, so this follow-up introduced us to Chrissie Hynde, the idiosyncratic lyricist; a lullaby, apology and accusation all in one.
Forgive your author’s inner nerd, but James Honeyman–Scott’s 15-second guitar break at the 1:35 mark is one of the most magical things ever.
THE BANGLES – Hazy Shade Of Winter
They struggled to write songs of their own the label would put out as singles, but that’s not an especially dark black mark against their name. The Bangles were brilliantly adept at interpretations, such as this cranked-up Simon & Garfunkel cover for the film version of Brett Easton Ellis’s Less Than Zero.
THE STONE PONEYS, FEATURING LINDA RONSTADT – Different Drum
Written by Mike Nesmith of The Monkees, adding weight to his argument that the band should have been allowed to write more of their own material. The song that secured Ronstadt’s megabucks solo deal in the ‘70s, but perhaps best known among ’90s pop kids via the Lemonheads’ cover.
NANCY SINATRA- Don’t Let Him Waste Your Time
Nancy lived next door to Morrissey in Los Angeles for a couple of years, but when it came to writing material for her comeback record it was Jarvis Cocker who got the call.
Closer in spirit to Ronnie Spector, perhaps, but nonetheless a superbly crafted and witty nugget of big sister wisdom.
THE GO-GOS – Our Lips Are Sealed
If there’s one song that sums up the ‘80s for those of us who lived through them, it’s ‘Rock Me Amadeus’. Or ‘The Final Countdown’. Or ‘Chant Number One (I Don’t Need This Pressure On)’.
Anyway, this would probably make the Top 20, for its joyous celebration of the defiance of society’s romantic norms. Or something.
KYLIE MINOGUE – Some Kind Of Bliss
Why didn’t Indie Kylie catch on? Despite the involvement of Manic Street Preachers, who both wrote and played on this song, it fell well shy of the Top 20. Might it be that the perceived testosterone of her collaborators was a bit too much for the lavender element of her core fan base? Stop me now; I’m sounding like a broadsheet wanker.
10,00 MANIACS – What’s The Matter Here?
The dreamy wash of Robert Buck’s guitars draw you in, cradling and swaying with reassurance, until Natalie Merchant cuts straight into your heart with a lyric about being a (partial) witness to child abuse. Her mellow narrative in the opening verse rises to a crescendo of anger and frustration. Uneasy listening, that has to be heard.
JENNY LEWIS – Carpetbagger
The poster girl for genre-defying Americana, with nods to Loretta Lynn and Laura Nyro. Yeah, it’s a little bit country, but it incorporates more than a few feisty new wave motifs, hence the participation of Elvis Costello. Fun fact: Jenny also plays in an all-girl power trio with Costello drummer Pete Thomas’s daughter Tennessee Thomas, called Nice As Fuck.
CLOUT – Substitute
Female five-piece from South Africa, rocking up a song first recorded by the Righteous Brothers. It was a chart-topper in a dozen countries, although it stalled at Number 2 in the UK, perhaps because Equity rulings prevented them from performing on British soil, hence this clip from Dutch television.
SHERYL CROW – If It Makes You Happy
There’s a tune at the heart of this, and it’s a killer. It sneaks up on you, when you’re minding your own business buttering toast or whatever, but it’ll grab you and it won’t let go. Our Shezza is pretty bloody great, as is anyone who has Exile On Main Street and beer for breakfast.
KIRSTY MACCOLL – Soho Square
We have to sign off with something very special. Power pop at its roots, but embellished by beautiful baroque strings that skip around the sweetness of Kirsty’s voice. The “empty bench” she mentions is anything but on the anniversary of her death in December, as hundreds of fans gather to sing this song, and a fair few others.
Part of the WE SHALL OVERCOME 2016 weekend
THE EMPTY PAGE
A trio of Mancunians writing songs with an infectious pop sensibility, layered with a healthy dose of fuzz and shot through with ‘grim up North’ poeticism.
Celebrating their 1 year band birthday – Dream Nails played their first gig at the We Shall Overcome gig last year, which was also the first ever LOUD WOMEN gig. So much to celebrate with our favourite punk witches!
Melodic guitar, sad lyrics, suddenly loud shouting and screaming … we love these fisty babes.
Pop Punk prom queens just trying to buy some weed.
Plus poetry, cake, raffle, snogging*, and MORE
Donations on the door to Women’s Aid – suggested minimum £5