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“What Did Riot Grrrl Ever Do For Us?” Part 1

By Ngaire Ruth Published on The Friendly Critic, 18 May 2018

For Charlotte Horton, Lucy Jordan, KitKat, Maedb and all the women I know, and am yet to meet.

BEFORE THE DAYS OF FULL TIME CONTEMPORARY MUSIC SCHOOLS THERE WERE ONLY SUMMER ROCK CAMPS. FINALLY, IN THE PRE-DIGITAL 90S, ROCK SCHOOLS FOR GIRLS ARRIVED, THANKS TO RIOT GRRRL.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Riot Grrrl is the name for a pre-digital 90s feminist movement, which has been a major influence on alternative music, arts and academia across the world for boys and girls.

Riot Grrrl feminism was action/reaction in a world where feminist news or opinion was otherwise described as post feminist, assumed to be a movement which belonged to a whole different generation.

The term is, arguably, incorrectly used as a genre, associated with a style of punk and grunge.

In began in the 90s, Olympia, Washington, US, where there was an emerging scene of fresh independent bands, notably Nirvana and Bikini Kill, and labels K Records and Kill Rock Stars, later home to Beth Ditto’s Gossip and the fabulous Sleater-Kinney. It wasn’t long before the Olympia crowd melded with the DC scene, home of Dischord Records, where it continued to grow into a worldwide phenomena, including in the UK. Watch out for rare vinyl releases under the mixed moniker DisKord.

Riot Grrrl had at its heart, girl love: support each other in friendship, celebrate differences and organise, create, collaborate on creative projects, protests, ideas and events. Out of this came action groups and organisations that survive to this day, such as LaDIYevents (UK and the US), new writing, new music, a slow steady normalising of girls in rock and indie bands. (See part 2)

Riot Grrrl feminism was about creating whatever form of beauty was comfortable for you, and not having to declare your sexuality or gender (my perspective). The essential part was don’t wear make-up and girly clothes because you think that’s what makes you attractive to other girls and boys. Be a girl. Don’t be a girl, if you want to be a boy. Fall in love with a girl or a boy, today, tomorrow. The era was reflected in the mainstream (Blur‘s hit track ‘Girls/Boys’).

Riot Grrrl pioneers Bikini Kill launched the first Girls To Front (in the mosh pit/at the gig) campaign as an experiment on the UK tour with Huggy Bear.

It’s met with confusion, aggression, disdain, cynicism and outright rudeness by boys in the audience and in bands. Today, women’s safety at gigs is STILL A PROBLEM, as pointed out in the recent article in The Guardian, even though there are many organisations and bands out there championing women’s safety at concerts, for example the excellent music site and promoter, Get in Her EarsThe Loud Women collective and Safe Gigs for Women. (Post your links and recommendations of similar organisations and groups that support women’s safety at gigs in comments. Go!)

Bikini Kill is in the middle of their first tour in 23 years, London 10th & 11th June, Brixton Academy

Girl Power is not what the Spice Girls did.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

In 1992 Everett True wrote a controversial article in the Melody Maker, Why Women Can’t Rock (Reading festival issue). He didn’t blame the women, he blamed the traditions of rock n roll, and the music press. Nirvana, who had been sixth below headliner Iggy Pop on the Friday the year before, were now top of the bill on Sunday, soon to become one of the most legendary Reading performances of all time. Kurt wore dresses, and talked about women punk bands both as his contemporaries, and having been inspirational to his art (e.g. The Raincoats).

In the previous month, Jo Johnson, of UK underground Riot Grrrl band Huggy Bear, is photographed with RIOT GRRL written on her knuckles in the Melody Maker. I really engaged with the Riot Grrrl slogan: this is happening without your permission. Nice.

On the day of the festival, to add to the MM festival spread, I walk around the site with my walkman asking people about the women artists (on the billing), a low representation (no change there). “Can women rock?” I ask. It’s hopeless. Even the girls define the artists from the male viewpoint –

Shonen Knife are crap. They only get away with it because they’re playing up to being girly. It makes boys feel secure.”

Marsha Duvall

“I thought P J Harvey was a bloke, she’s so fucking ugly.”

Evan Bruce

Lunachicks don’t have to get their tits out on stage to grab our attention. they deserve their success.”

Joanne

Tears. We’re hardwired to take these things too seriously, that’s the nature of the job.

Heart already broken. In an interview with P J Harvey (Siren, 1992), pre her major signing that spring, and my new favourite artist, she’d said to me:

“I hate the word feminist. It can do so much more damage than good. All I want to do is write honestly, and I’m a woman, so I guess you can’t avoid it.”

P J Harvey, 1992

I write in my diary: 

I’ve seen Huggy Bear five times in a month. Where are they when we need them? Where’s the revolution? Is anyone else out there a fucking feminist? 
It’s too bloody weird growing up in the old-skool, male-dominated world of music, not least because women are described according to a typology, and I’m expected to like anything created by a woman because I’m one. So many women rock bands are just shitter versions of the men’s crap bands! I want a new sound and a new language that challenges my creative writing and critical thinking skills. I want to avoid generic muso words, like ‘seminal’ and ‘undulating’. I want more feminist men like Mudhoney and Nirvana! I want more songs like Kat Bjelland’s Bruise Violet and more bands like Babes in Toyland so that I can shout Liar Liar Liiiiiiiiiii errrrrrrrrrr again in a pack of women, at a big gig.

On the 14th March 1993 US band, Bikini Kill play at the ULU, London with Huggy Bear and Witchy Poo.

I loved Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna most of all, because she did not say excuse me.

She did not make me feel I needed to be clever or get educated to be able to join in, and she didn’t care if I bought the records or not (but the debut album Pussy Whipped sold an estimated 75 000 copies late 1993) . She wanted revolution, and somehow it sounded possible coming from her. I related to her hard hitting lyrics, more so than Babes in Toyland, and more than the UK Riot Grrrl bands already here who had stolen my heart: Huggy Bear and Linus. But there were more coming. More fanzines, organisations, events and changes to the structure of underground music culture. (See part 2)

OUR LANGUAGE, OUR PROBLEMS, OUR DECLARATION OF NOT TODAY, TOMORROW, OR EVER AGAIN

Out of all the early active US bands – Bratmobile, (Allison and Molly, originally the women behind the fanzine Girl Germs, and later Erin), Heavens To Betsy (Corin Tucker and Tracy Sawyer) Kathleen Hanna and her band Bikini Kill, are credited as pioneers of the revolution, for good reason.

They produced a Bikini Kill fanzine, and flyers and leaflets which they gave out to the girls at every show, in case the message was lost through the joy and noise. Tobi Vail, drummer, ran a fanzine called Jigsaw. (2010, Sara Marcus). As a singer songwriter and performer Kathleen was one of the first to Just Do It, and always was the most powerful communicator in interviews and panels, and on the stage; a primal scream that grew to fill the room as the audience joined in. What a fucking relief, pure shared joy, a mutual fury, a declaration and warning that we/I/her/him/they will not

KEEP QUIET
BE POLITE
LISTEN NICELY 
BE TOO EMBARRASSED TO CALL YOU OUT

All wrapped up in alternative rock swagger and sass.

CHALLENGE (AND TOTALLY IGNORE), THE TRADITIONAL STANDARDS OF BEAUTY IN MAINSTREAM CULTURE

The new thing about Riot Grrrl feminism was the freedom to be who you wanted. Just don’t wear make up and girly clothes because you think that’s what makes you attractive to other girls and boys.

Another declaration of Riot Grrrl and Bikini Kill, which tallied with academia of mainstream third wave feminism, and could be applied to both creative and commercial products and images, was the question: is the woman a maker of meaning or the bearer of meaning?

Riot Grrrl did not get away without the media and bands like the Spice Girls, “co opting their style and language”, (Cherie Turner, 2001). The term Grrrl Power was the title of an issue of a Bikini Kill fanzine.

After an extensive UK tour, the deal is sealed at a tiny venue, the Sausage Machine, my local in Hampstead, (where I first reviewed the unsigned P J Harvey), Bikini Kill with Blood Sausage and Linus as support (3rd April). See feature picture.

Everything changes.


References and recommended reading

Images from https://library.rockhall.com/riot_grrrl the Gayle Wald Riot Grrrl Collection and the Kill Rock Stars Collection file on Bikini Kill and https://bikinikill.com

Cherie Turner, (2001) The Riot Girl Movement, The Rosen Publishing Group: New York

Sara Marcus, (2010) Girls to the Front, The true story of the Riot Grrrl revolution, Harper Perennial: London New York Toronto

Sarah Marsh, (2019) The Guardian, Groping a big problem at gigs say promoters and campaigners https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/apr/08/groping-sexual-harassment-a-big-problem-at-gigs-say-promoters-and-campaigners-sleaford-mods[accessed May 2019]

Check out The Guardian, The Art and Politics of Riot Grrrlhttps://www.theguardian.com/music/gallery/2013/jun/30/punk-music [accessed May 2019]

Next in part 2:

Girls to the front, girl love, the Bikini Kill documentary, more bands and more revolution now.

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Our Fair Cher

by Mollie Tie

Who are the greatest female pop icons of history? Madonna? Sure. Beyoncé? Of course. Kylie Minogue? Obvs. They are all undoubtedly epic pop behemoths but for me they will always be outshone by the incredible life, work and sheer grit of Cher.

Reinvention is her speciality and every Ch-era (sorry) is more ground breaking than the one that came before it. From long-haired hippie chick to fishnet-clad sexpot- Cher has always been a symbol of self-expression and empowerment. And yet despite her incredibly enduring career, she’s never really enjoyed the respect that she deserves, particularly as the years have gone on. Whilst Madonna’s significance in music is not questioned by even the most curmudgeonly of critics, Cher is often designated as a guilty pleasure- a slightly naff novelty act.  But for me, that is not adequate recognition to such a pop culture Goddess.

Let’s remind ourselves of our favourite Cher manifestations:

Hippie chick

During the initial phase of her career, Cher (a.k.a Cherilyn Sarkisian) was part of a duo with moustachioed performer Sonny Bono and the two eventually became a couple as well as performing partnership. Cher’s look was 60s hippie mixed with ethereal boho chic and fans went wild for her barefoot, long-haired and smokey-eyed look. Sonny and Cher’s break out hit was the classic “I Got You Babe” which was the success that catapulted them into stardom and signalled a promising career for one of them at least.

Presenter and Comedian

Sonny and Cher experienced a couple of years enjoying their success but at the tail end of the 1960s, rock was where it was at and the success of bands such as Led Zeppelin and Cream made S&C look pretty tame in comparison. With the loss of support from younger fans, some performers might have decided to call it a day. Not our Cherilyn- she turned her attention to a new medium… television. The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour was an old-school variety show which drew in 30 million viewers per episode at its peak. Cher was a fan favourite- delivering cool, deadpan jokes; wearing flamboyant and elaborate outfits and belting out a plethora of hits. Cher’s star stock was rising and her and Sonny divorced in 1974, just as her career went from strength to strength.

Actor

A charismatic performance in Mermaids alongside Winona Ryder and Christina Ricci. An intriguing, gothic performance in Witches of Eastwick. An emotionally charged, powerful performance in Mask. Cher decided that conquering TV and music was just not enough and instead set out to conquer film, as you do. Full-on Hollywood treasure looked set to become the next stellar stage of Cher’s already 30-year career but Cher had been there, done that by the time 1990 rolled around. She decided she had to don a leather jacket and a body stocking and straddle a cannon on a warship instead. And I for one am so glad she did because pop music would not have been the same without the video for If I Could Turn Back Time.

Modern tech guru

It’s 1998. You thought Cher may have gone into retirement. You switched on MTV and there she was with a headdress made of fluorescent tubing and an autotune, belting out 90s club classic Believe. You thought to yourself- can this woman ever be anything other than utterly badass?

And what Ch-era are we in now? The one where she is an ultimate doyenne- an incredible creative force who will live forever. It’s 2019 and she’s still in films (Mamma Mia 2) and releasing albums (Dancing Queen– an ABBA tribute record) and shows no sign of letting up. Someone wrap this woman in bubble wrap so she can live another 50 years.

Madrid: LOUD WOMEN scene report

Janelle Borg (of Maltese punk band Cryptic Street) reports on the women at the forefront of the Madrid’s thriving music scene, exclusively for LOUD WOMEN

Janelle Borg
Janelle Borg

From the first time I landed in Madrid, its music and its people captivated me so much that the city left a permanent imprint on me, and a constant yearning to hop on a plane and go there again. The area of Malasaña, with its colourful aesthetic, picturesque cafes and rowdy crowd at night, encapsulates the essence of the Madrid underground scene. With the meteoric rise to fame of bands like Hinds, I couldn’t help but wonder: who are the women driving Madrid’s scene and what is their story? To explore this, I approached three artists from this thriving scene, and this is their side of the story:

  • Elena Nieto – a young multi-instrumentalist who’s a member of the Madrid-based Yawners and Estrogenuinas
  • Hickeys – a glitter-punk band whose latest release is called ‘Diamond Munch’.
  • Mad Girls – a collective of badass women who run Mad Girls Magazine, in addition to promoting and hosting events in Madrid.

>>Can you introduce yourselves and your involvement in music?

Elena Nieto
Elena Nieto

Elena: I started playing the guitar when I was 10 or 11. Finally, after constantly pleading for it, my dad got me my first electric guitar when I was 14 or 15. I started playing and recording myself non-stop since I couldn’t find anyone to play with. I founded my first band when I was in my second year at university… playing drums in that band. I never stopped playing and experimenting with different instruments in several bands at the same time ever since. Now I’m focused on my main project, Yawners, while also playing the drums for the punk band Estrogenuinas. I also work at the record label and booking agency, La Castanya, so my life pretty much revolves around music!

Yawners: Seaweed
Hickeys

Hickeys: We are basically a group of friends who started playing music while drinking beer at Marta’s two years ago. We know each other from university; all of us had dreamed about the possibility of being in a band, but it wasn’t until the four of us started playing together that we saw that this dream could turn into a reality.

Mad Girls

Mad Girls: Currently, we’re Mimí, Virginia and Ana. We also have an occasional collaborator, Celia, with a foodie column. It all started about two and a half years ago when Mími and Elvira (the other founding member) were too broke to get into concerts, and so, they decided to start a gig photo blog. Virginia joined some time after, with Ana being the most recent addition to the team. We immediately had a lot of very positive feedback and Mad Girls organically evolved into what it is now.

Mad Girls II Aniversario: Prom Party

>> What do you think makes the Madrid music scene different from other scenes out there?

E: I think the guitar bands scene in Madrid is huge right now. I’ve lived in different cities and countries and I can tell that what is happening here is special. The local scene is very strong as there are many well-established bands that sell big venues, but also a never-ending flow of newer bands. There is a solid scene of local bands – not only in Madrid but everywhere in Spain – that is touring the country and playing in festivals.

Estrogenuinas: Miss Antropa

H: We don’t know any international scenes directly and in-depth but, in relation to the Spanish ones, we are noticing fresh sounds coming out of the different neighbourhoods, a variety of genres and very young artists that have a lot to say. Madrid is a great city where people from other parts of Spain come to make a living and that makes it a perfect cradle for creativity and fusion.

Hickeys: Is Lawrence Dead?

>>What attracted Mad Girls to get involved in Madrid’s music scene?

M: We have always been connected to the music scene in Madrid. Most of our friends are musicians so we spent most of our free time attending concerts or jamming at someone’s place. We wanted to have an active role in the music scene, and after some of our best friends performed at our first-anniversary party, it encouraged us to start promoting musical events.

>>Describe your perfect night out in Madrid.

E: It always starts with a show for me. Lately, I’ve been going to Tempo bar (Malasaña). It’s a sketchy but really cool old cocktail bar run by classic-style bartenders … you really wouldn’t expect to find them in such a place! You get a weird bowl of peanuts mixed with gummy bears with every drink.

Also, if the weather is nice, there’s a big chance that I end up hanging outside drinking beer. If you’re around Malasaña, that’d probably be in Plaza del Dos de Mayo.

Hickeys and friends out and about in Madrid

H: Fortunately, there isn’t one specific type of a perfect night. It can sound cliche but we don’t really care about where to go or what to do. In the end, the magic happens when we are with a group of people who are in the same mood, are open-minded, and you can talk and dance with them without being judged. One of the feelings we like the most takes place at the end of a night out when we walk down the streets of Madrid in the early morning during those hours when the city is still quiet and peaceful.

M: Our perfect night out would definitely have a lot of music involved. First stop would be a place to eat tasty food and gather all together to drink and chat…most likely at the delicious Italian restaurant Menomale. Then a concert, of course! You can often find us at Siroco or Costello – small venues where upcoming bands often start their careers. Then we would most likely stop at Lucy in the Sky where we occasionally DJ, and where the underground music scene gathers. We’d probably end up dancing to rock ‘n’ roll and 60’s beats at FunHouse Music Bar. At the end of it all, we’d grab some churros ‘con chocolate’ while watching the stunning Madrilenian sunrise.

>>Do you feel that women and non-binary folk are well-represented in Madrid’s underground scene?

Elena Nieto crowdsurfing at Sala El Sol Madrid.
Photographer: Adrián YR

E: I believe that in Madrid’s underground and punk scenes, women have been well-represented and supported for a long time. Also, at the moment, there are quite a lot of active female-fronted bands in the local scene such as Las Odio, Repion, Hickeys, Hinds, Estrogenuinas, Lady Banana, Pelícana, Cariño, Yawners…to name but a few. In the urban music scene, female artists such as La Zowi are being acknowledged for their work. Another good example is Clara Te Canta: she creates internet pop, sings openly about ‘taboo’ topics, and speaks up for women in general… she’s fun!

Hinds: British Mind

H: We have seen an increase in female presence in the underground scene, and also in different bands and musical ensembles. In the past, women were usually cast as the singers in a band, as opposed to playing an instrument. We think (or want to think) that little by little prejudices are being destroyed and that is being reflected on the stage too. Nevertheless, being perceived as a woman performing in a woman’s body in this patriarchal context is still coupled with some comments and judgements relating to our body/face/movements that wouldn’t be commented upon if we were male musicians. We are progressively conquering this field with our presence but, at the same time, we are still referred to as a Girl-Band when a “Boy-band” is an obsolete term that died with Backstreet Boys era.

Las Odio: Yo Lo Vi Primero

M: In the past few years there has been more attention drawn to women and non-binary musicians. Nevertheless, we’ve still got a long way to go. We always try to promote bands with female/non-binary members in them. Also, we don’t only focus on the band members themselves…. For example, sometimes it may be an all-male band, but with a female manager. We like to give attention to the women behind-the-scenes who sustain the industry since it can be a very sexist sector. We can vouch personally for this.

Repion: Los Noventa

>>Any upcoming plans you’d like to tell the world about?

E: We’re releasing Yawners’ debut album in March 2019. I’ll be performing at SXSW, touring around Spain and doing festivals here. Hopefully, we’ll also have some dates in Europe and in the UK by the end of the year. Can’t wait!

H: Right now, we’re focusing on songwriting and not that much on performing live (even though we’re planning a couple of shows abroad in early 2019, mainly in the UK and the US). Three of us are going to finish their studies, so this is going to be a really exciting, twisted and spontaneous year because, in addition to the above, we are also preparing an LP! It seems as if 2019 is going to be full of surprises. A British record label, perhaps?

…and finally, Mad Girls, can you give your recommendations of some Madrilenian female musicians and artists that we should definitely check out?

M: Our favourite female musicians emerging from this scene include Rayo, Melenas, Hoax Fellows or Hickeys, amongst many others. As for other artists… photographer Sharon López!

Melenas: Cartel de Neon

LONESOME HOT DUDES – Guest Blog and Video Premiere of “Books”

lhdSo we, Lonesome Hot Dudes were asked to write a guest blog for the super cool loud women. Honoured. Here we go!

We  are a five piece band from Vienna and Graz and this is our first fresh 7” release on vinyl out on Cut Surface and kim-pop records – ‘Obey’.

We recorded the two songs within three days in our charming rehearsal space** in Graz, along with another one – ‘No Tears” (which is not on the record but to be found on the last Cut Surface sampler. The next Cut Surface compilation will be out on 29th of August, watch out for it!). Low budget, lo fi –  all instruments were recorded at the same time. Only to ‘No Tears’ we added overdubs (feedback guitar) and added a screaming voice afterwards to the part that we use to call the ‘hardcore-part’ (wild, right?).

The singing was recorded extra and as I remember, we supported Reni to get into the singing vibe by making a circle around her, pushing her with dancing and body language.

Guitar amp was a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe, Guitar Lina’s baby, a dark red Fender Mustang from the 70s, Eva is using a fretless blue Music Man StringRay bassguitar. Isa’s Saxophone is a Selmer Super Action 80 Series II.

The person recording and mixing was Tom (Thomas Grassegger), a nice guy who is often doing the sound for all kind of punk concerts in Graz. He also made sound for several of our concerts, and out of a sudden he texted us, that he could not get ‘Obey’ out of his head since the last concert and how happy he would be, if we’d let him record the song with us. We found that very sweet and fixed a date.

Dino Spiluttini made the vinyl mastering.

lonesomeThe Cover Artwork for the vinyl was drawn by our drummer Lena*. The drawing is inspired by the photography Artwork Cover of X-Ray Spex‘s Germfree Adolescents. We love them and are obviously influenced by such amazing (Post-) Punks. And we are even using a Saxophone!

One of the two tracks of our record is called ‘Books’ and reveals singer Reni’s thoughts about reading and feminism. Here is the brand new video to the track, shot by Cordula Thym.

Gossip side info: Veza Fernandez who is performing in the video is Lena’s girlfriend. Also she is a choreographer and dancer and Lonesome Hot Dudes Lina and Lena* were dancing (true story) and making music in her dance theater piece ‘when eye becomes mouth’.

The other song is called ‘Obey’, an inner monologue about saying ‘No’, or not saying it, or saying it but not being heard.
Here is the video to the track.

Some scenes are shot in bassist Eva Ursprung’s Atelier House ‘Schaumbad’ (means ‘Bubblebath’), other scenes at the riverside. Our friend Gudrun Becker made the video, we made the choreography by having each of us inventing a move, the others had to go with it, no matter how weird. The shooting was a lot of fun even though the background-story of the film location is sad: despite massive protests of the local community over almost a decade, a power plant is being built out of speculative capitalist reasons. This is destroying the river and its surroundings, as well as air quality and neighbourhood quality in the small city of Graz. Most of the trees you see on the video, have been cut down in the meantime, so this is an ‘historical’ document!

zineTalking about saying no: in 2016 we were part of a project about exactly this topic. A zine and music compilation on cassette released on Wilhelm show me the major label. A lot of people were involved in this and lots of loud women and cool bands on the tape, contributing with their songs about saying no. Many of the songs were made just for the occasion and were recorded in the same basement** as ‘Obey’. Stream the cassette here! Side A and Side B. And there is also an online version of the zine if you want to browse through, with drawings and words (in German, English and Spanish) and a gorgeous poster by Clara Biller in it.

Wilhelm show me the major Label by the way also released our very first record, a split tape with the Viennese Hip Hop duo EsRAP. A sister and brother with very powerful lyrics in German and Turkish, about (Austrian) politics, racism and sexism.

They are right now raising money for their next album, if you are interested in donating, this is the link to their very original crowdfunding teaser

Ok! it was nice being guest blogging! Thank you very much.

lhd2Lena* identifies non-binary, so actually we are not exactly exclusively an ‘all women’- band, as we are often referred to.

**This basement is a feminist punk pearl in Graz – not only that Lonesome Hot Dudes, Just Friends and Lovers, SchrAiraum and Red Gaze are rehearsing there, it is also the place where feminist Jam Sessions are happening every month, for girls*, women* and transgender, regardless of musical experience.

 


Find Lonesome Hot Dudes on Facebook and
lonesomehotdudes.tumblr.com

LW Politics & Music – Part 1: Ren Aldridge (Petrol Girls)

By Kris Smith

The media regularly bemoan a lack of politics in music, compared to a mythical 60s/70s/80s ‘good old days’ – only to salute as an exception the occasional gobby indie-boy band trying to kickstart their career with some token rebellious rhetoric. Meanwhile, every year there are more fiercely-politicised, intelligent and committed activists getting busy on the DIY feminist punk scene, far from the plaudits and pitfalls of the spotlight. In the first part of a new series of interviews, LOUD WOMEN meets them and asks them some of the questions that the music industry won’t.

#1 Ren Aldridge (Petrol Girls)
ren1

What made you decide to use your songwriting to express political viewpoints?

I don’t think it was a deliberate decision when I started doing it, it just made sense because music is what politicised me. Going to punk shows as a teenager introduced me to antifascist and anticapitalist politics. Then when I started Petrol Girls it was motivated by feeling like a feminist politics wasn’t really present in the scene I was part of. Turns out there was shitloads of other DIY feminist punk happening in other scenes but I didn’t find most of it until we started gigging.

Now my reasons for continuing to express politics through music are more deliberate. I see ideas like the gender binary and nationalism as being continually produced and maintained by culture so culture makes sense to me as a battleground, as a point where these dominant ideologies might be destabilised. I think words are important – so many of the (shit) ideas our lives are organised around are just stories in the end  and writing and ‘expressing’ words is something I can do.

Do you use songs as tools to put across prefigured messages – or is it more that you self-express in general through music, with politics just one aspect of that?

It’s probably a mixture. I pretty much see everything as political. Like, if you’re not challenging dominant power structures then you’re just reinforcing them. I don’t really see this neutral ground a lot of people––mostly white dudes––claim to stand on. It suggests a level playing field that frankly doesn’t exist.

Most of our songs come from a place of anger, and that tends to be political if you search for its roots. Some songs, like ‘Touch Me Again’, have literally grown from a demo chant so I guess that’s pretty prefigured! Others, and most of what we write now, grow pretty organically, and I find political aspects of a song as it takes shape, which then continue shaping it.

Is the function of politics in music to affirm views within a reciprocal social group, or convert – or at least converse with – a wider public?

I think this question is one of the reasons I’m back at uni this year. Punk can be very ‘preaching to the converted’. Political voices are necessary within it because it can be a self-congratulatory hypocritical pile of wank sometimes. There is always work to do within music. But I don’t think music is going to bring down the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy alone. It’s certainly not going to solve climate change.

‘Converting’ is an interesting word, and an idea I’m wary of. I went to a workshop at the Refugee and Migrant conference out in Hamburg a couple of winters ago on how to ‘support’ those kind of struggles as a European. One of the points that came across was how deeply a Christian missionary kind of attitude permeates a lot of charitable efforts. Maybe the idea of ‘converting’ fits in with that. We talked a lot about the difference between solidarity and charity. I think it’s more about seeing how other people’s struggles connect with our own and building bridges, than like, ‘showing someone the light’ (vomit).

There are various ways that a performer’s politics might not communicate to an audience, but you make a point of speaking between songs to reinforce the message. Did that come naturally, in terms of the confidence needed? Is it to break the ice, to break down barriers with a crowd, or to clarify – or all of those?  

Young women with strong political convictions tend to be ignored, patronised, or dismissed as a bit mental, or at least that was my experience. Suddenly once you’re holding a mic, people take you seriously (which is one of the most laughable aspects of the political music community). I felt that difference in reception, and took every chance I got to speak about the things I think are important from a position where its much harder for men to shout me down. From the stage is a pretty weird place to speak about emancipatory politics, though. I guess it’s also about keeping a present tense connection with what the songs are about. Repetition can numb things sometimes. Songs can grow and change in relevance if you keep up an active relationship to them.

The success of someone like Billy Bragg – approachably media-friendly, active in campaigns  (albeit mild, non-threatening ones) – might suggest that in terms of politics-in-music, the music can actually be of secondary importance. Is music just one aspect of what you do?

I don’t really like answering this kind of stuff because I don’t want Petrol Girls to benefit from other things that band members do politically, but then I also believe in using that platform, but not if the benefit to us outweighs the benefit to the cause – I’m not sure about it to be honest. I do think we all have the potential to use music networks in some very practical ways to support causes – using touring vans to shift donations and supplies to refugee camps, for example. In fairness, I’ve not been very active lately because of some other heavy shit I have going on at the moment, and pretty badly burn out.

Is there a pressure that comes with being known as a political musician? And is there a balance to strike between work on the one hand, and fun and self-care on the other?

OK, I have been writing myself around in circles trying to work out how honestly I want to answer this question. Firstly, I’m really lucky to have had incredible support from other women in political bands who, just, get it. And I think, because of conversations I’ve had with a few of them lately, and the pressure they’ve felt, I’d like to be pretty open about it. Most of them have even more heavy shit going on and you’d never even know. What people present on stage and the internet is never the full story. I’m becoming an increasingly private person and I don’t feel like sharing everything I go through with the internet (which is absolutely not to say that is an invalid way of dealing with stuff, it just isn’t my way). I also think I give off a very different impression of myself on stage to who I really am … but basically I’m not coping with the pressure at all, and I haven’t for a long time. I also don’t want pity – I hate feeling pitied and that’s a big reason why I’m hesitating.

ren2I was ready to give up by the end of the summer, but then we went on tour with Dream Nails and I learnt so much, just in that one week, about ways that I might actually be able to make touring as a political band sustainable. Petrol Girls are on a semi-break whilst I’m back at uni for a year and I’m determined to use that time to sort my shit out. I am grumpily coming round to the point that self-care is necessary to sustain political activism and touring in a political band. And that it isn’t––to quote Dream Nails actually––all about bubble baths. So the two things I’m working on are boundaries and resilience.

I chat with people about sexual violence and mental health after pretty much every single show and I kind of feel a bit like a garbage facility trying to process all the scene and wider society’s disgusting violent shit.

So many people are going through, or have been through, such horrendous shit. And I want to help, I really really do, but I don’t think I can help in that way anymore. I end up in these states where just replying to a message feels like more than I can bare, and I’ve lost touch with a lot of friends from being on tour so much and not having the energy to just reply. I don’t think I can have those conversations anymore. But I also don’t want to leave a hole – make people feel stuff with our music then not follow that up with some kind of support; that would feel like just capitalising on these struggles. So I’m working out what can be done there before we start touring again, what we can signpost, etc. Then resilience I guess is what I prefer to think about instead of self-care. Janey Dream Nails taught me about the four principles (lol we sound like a cult, FEMINIST PUNK IS A CULT *mad cackling*): adaptability, confidence, purpose, community. I need to build resilience because I reached a point where I felt unable to deal with any kind of criticism; completely brittle. I need to get my bounce back to be able to be meaningfully reflective and accountable, not just shattered (in every sense) when someone points out I’m doing something wrong.

So that’s what I’m working on my end, but there is stuff I’d appreciate from other people as well. I thought it was just me being oversensitive and useless but I’ve spoken to others in a similar position, and now actually I do think the expectations placed on us are unfair. I want to research this more, but from the conversations I’ve had, I see a totally disproportionate amount of emotional labour expected of women/queer/‘feminine’ people compared with men in political bands. Men get applauded for managing to not be creeps, or for the one time they called out another creep, whereas this is just expected and often demanded of feminists in bands. It’s nobodies fault and I’m not saying that applause or those demands are wrong in and of themselves, I just think its worth pointing out, because its part of a society-wide labour imbalance in terms of emotional work. But then, as I said, I do think it’s important to be held accountable, especially when claiming terms like feminist. I was actually thinking about dropping ‘feminist’ as a label because I don’t think I can live up to everyone’s expectations of what a feminist band should be. I guess what I’m asking, is for feminists in bands to be treated with a little more empathy and understanding from our community, and as humans who will make mistakes, and who are trying, in the context of a patriarchal world and music scene thats hurting us as well. I can only speak for myself, but I make the music that I need to hear, because I’m not doing too great either!

I want touring to be fun again, and I’m not going to feel guilty about wanting that anymore. I want to get myself back in a head space where I can enjoy meeting people, staying up all night talking and having mad adventures. I miss that version of myself.

Can we make any distinction between big-P and small-P politics – e.g. perhaps state Austerity cf. intersectionality – or is it inseparable, on the principle that the personal is political?

I guess even if you just consider that example, state Austerity disproportionately affects the people who experience intersecting forms of oppression so, ultimately, no. But, something I am scared of, but trying to, write about is an idea of looking both ways. I think identity politics are hugely important. I don’t think they are everything, especially for someone like me who only really experiences oppression as a woman, and privilege in every other aspect of my life. I find the way the term intersectionality is used sometimes defensive and inward looking to the point of not seeing past ourselves as individuals. I think intersectionality is vital, as a way of positioning ourselves within wider struggles, and understanding other’s positions; appreciating why some people react with more emotion to a political conversation because they are actually living what to you might be more of an abstract concept. But yeah, to answer your question, no, everything is so interconnected.

What are the primary political issues we face, now, in the UK and globally?

The primary battle that a lot of us are facing is just surviving, and sometimes holding to account the (mostly) men that have assaulted and/or abused us and/or our friends. I am livid about the amount of energy and life this has taken from me personally over the past ren2few years, and I wrote about that at the end of my chapter for Nasty Women, which is a brilliant collection of essay’s by women on their experiences of being a woman in the 21st century. Reading all the varied contributions in that book can give some insight into the immediate issues that women* have to navigate in their daily lives, which for many, intersect with other forms of oppression like racism.

Personally I would like to put more energy into migrant solidarity work and fighting this terrifying rise in fascism on both a street and governmental level. For example, the Austrian interior minister just openly spoke about wanting to ‘concentrate’ refugees in camps. I think this just makes plain what has been happening for a while. What scares me most is how little people seem to care, but as I just said, many people do, they just have so much of their own shit to cope with first.

And then beyond all of it, the fucking planet’s dying because of humans, specifically because of industrialised nations, particularly the west. Ultimately to me its clear that the entire way Western society is structured is not sustainable for the planet or for the majority of individual human lives, even those of us that mostly benefit from it, which I see as one of the reasons literally everyone I know has some kind of mental health issue. Capitalism is the root of so many of these problems, putting the creation of profit over the immeasurable value of living things. (Like, what the fuck is fracking?!) At the risk of sounding like a massive hippy/Jedi, I think we need to find balance again, and that isn’t a fixed position, that’s a way of being that responds meaningfully to the people, animals and environment around us. And no, of course I have no idea how to do that.

I think we need to move through pity to empathy, through charity to real solidarity and stay flexible and nuanced. I also think that, basically, whatever the fuck masculinity is under capitalism, is most of the problem.


 

Find Petrol Girls on Facebook and Bandcamp

5 Scottish female duos who are totally badass

There’s some truly famazing music happening in Scotland’s thriving DIY scene right now, and for some reason female duos seem to be doing it best North of the border!

Ditching the role of bassist – or replacing the drummer with a machine – can sometimes mean a loss of groove, volume, or stage presence … but it needn’t be so. Duos have to work a hell of a lot harder, granted, and there’s no room for error on stage. But really skillfull musicians – which Scotland seems to be teeming with right now – know that two heads can be much better than four.

There’s lots to be said for being in bands who eschew the standard four- or five-member format. Rocking up to a gig, just you and your best girl, is top, easy-maintenance fun – fewer diaries to co-ordinate, fewer egos to navigate, less equipment to fit in the boot, and fewer way to split the venue’s beer tokens. All this makes for a happy band – and, of course, happy bands make awesome music!

Here’s some Scottish twosomes that LOUD WOMEN loves big time, in particular order:

  1. bratakusBratakus

    Bratakus are two sisters, Breagha and Onnagh Cuinn, from the Northestmost North of Scotland, making some of the most exciting new punk music we’ve heard in years! They play guitar and bass, accompanied by a drum machine. The pair travelled down to play for us at the Hope and Anchor, back in  2016, and we fell head over heels for them. Bratakus also contributed to our first compilation album LOUD WOMEN: Volume One. We want to see lots more Bratakus in 2018 please thank you. Find them on Facebook and YouTube.

  2. twistettesThe Twistettes

    The Twistettes were an absolute highlight of this year’s LOUD WOMEN Fest at DIY Space for London. The pair are also sisters, Jo and Nicky D’Arc from Glasgow, who play drums and bass – ditching the role of guitarist, which is highly controversial for a punk band! The combination works perfectly though, and the pair are enjoying international success – recently touring South Korea. Find them on Facebook and Bandcamp.

  3. deuxdeux furieuses

    deux furieuses are now based in London, but friends Ros and Vas are originally from Glasgow, and their celtic passion is very evident in their stunning rock music. They play guitar (Ros) and drums (Vas), with Ros singing nearly as much as Vas, while playing, like, a million drums like a thunderstorm. Find them on Facebook and their website.

  4. doubleDouble Pussy Clit Fuck

    Just, wow. Glasgow’s Rosana Cade and Eilidh MacAskill are “Your favourite queer performance art riot-grrrl-on-grrrl-on-boi-on-boi-band; bringing you anti-genre mega noise by big dykes on tiny instruments”. Who even knows. Find them on Facebook.

  5. noiseThe Noise and the Naive

    Yeah yeah, they’re from Newcastle and that’s not in Scotland, but fuck it – this pair are awesome and we loved hosting them at The Unicorn this autumn! Pauline and Anne are a French couple, and they play guitar (Pauline) and drums (Anne), with both singing. Their self-titled debut EP is beautiful – it enjoys regular play at LOUD WOMEN HQ! Find them on Facebook and Bandcamp.

Stop asking female musicians for their stories of sexism in the music industry

gaptooth 3by Hannah Lucy

In the wake of #metoo, the Harvey Weinstein scandal and many other disclosures of sexual harassment and assault committed by men in the entertainment industry, media, politics and basically everywhere, journalists have been asking female celebrities whether they, too, have experienced gendered abuse and violence.

Some reporters are even acting as though survivors somehow owe them their stories.

While the current level of publicity around this is new, the practice of expecting women to recite experiences of sexism for public consumption is not, and it’s one female bands and artists are familiar with. “Have you ever experienced sexism in the music industry?” has become almost a standard questions to female musicians in interviews, not to mention the many requests from editors to provide a quote or even write a piece about it for their publication.

Privately, many women grumble to each other about these requests. It’s not that there aren’t important conversations to be had about this subject. There is absolutely more to be said – especially about the experiences of women of colour, disabled women, queer women, trans women, working class women and others who experience intersecting oppressions. But sometimes these questions feel like yet another example of the problem they are supposedly trying to address. So I’ve put together a handy list of questions to ask yourself before you call on female musicians to recount their experiences of sexism in the music industry.

What are you trying to achieve?
Contrary to popular belief, women have been speaking up about their experiences of sexism for a long, long time. Often, it doesn’t seem to change anything – whether because people don’t believe us or just don’t care enough to change their behaviour. For some women, sharing their experiences can be part of the healing process, and we should absolutely support them in doing that, especially if it’s at their initiative [i.e.: not yours]. But if sharing our stories hasn’t ended sexism yet, will your blog containing yet more descriptions of abuses of power really bring about the changes we need?

Remember, when you ask about ‘sexism’, you’re asking about everything from casual comments or unconscious bias to physical and sexual violence. Sharing these stories can be exhausting, re-traumatising and put as at risk of retribution. So ask yourself, is it worth it? Instead of asking us to keep proving that there’s a problem, could you write a piece about what needs to be done to fix it, or about projects supporting women in music?

Do you see us as artists, or just as women?
One of the most depressing things about these requests is that sometimes it feels like journalists are more interested in publishing our tales of harassment to titillate their readers than they are in, y’know, writing about our art. Have you asked me about my songwriting process, my production techniques, what kind of guitar pedals I use? Or only about my gender?

What are you giving back?
What journalists often seem to forget is that you are in a position of power over us. If we want to get the word out about our music, we need you. Especially lesser-known artists. We want you to like us, and that puts pressure on us to try to meet your requests, even if they make us uncomfortable. Think about this before you ask your question. Acknowledge it. Then tell us, how will you use your power to help us? Are you paying us for our labour? Are you covering our work? Boosting it on social media? If you’re not offering anything in return, using your power to ask people to regurgitate experiences of oppression because you need #content might not be a great move.

Have we already had this conversation?
The chances are, many female bands or artists have already shared stories of sexism. Before you ask us to recount difficult and painful experiences, remember that Google is your friend and see whether there’s something already out there that you can quote. Jessica Hopper’s 2015 crowdsourcing of stories is a good place to start.


Have you got your own house in order?
Does your website/magazine/blog etc. give equal coverage to female bands and artists? Do you have female editors, writers, photographers, illustrators? Have you checked that your reviews don’t go on about a male collaborator when a woman did most of the work, or use patronising language about women? If you’re called out for sexist content on your site or social media, do you get defensive, quietly delete it or do you own it and state publicly how you will do better in future? What about your comments section – are you dealing quickly with misogyny and making it a welcoming place for female readers?

Really?
Seriously, you might not be calling us b*tches and c*nts, but sexism often comes in much more subtle and unconscious forms. If you’re not continually trying to improve your own work, your request for our stories might come across as expecting women to do the labour to make you appear ‘not sexist’. That, one might just argue, is a prime example of sexism in the music industry.

Hannah Lucy

@gaptoothmusic

www.gaptoothmusic.co.uk