Category Archives: interviews

introducing: war on women

by tim forster


Feminist polemicists War on Women are a hardcore punk sonic assault on sexism. The band were formed in 2010 by Shawna Potter and Brooks Harlan in Baltimore and have had two releases: Improvised Weapons in 2012 and their eponymous album released in 2015 on Bridge Nine Records.
Singer Shawna’s experience in drama means the lyrics are delivered within an unusually full spectrum of communication as she commands your attention with her stage presence. This is no more apparent than in ‘Broken Record’ when she subjects a male member of the crowd to the escalating aggression of street harassment normally experienced by women. Live she reminded me of a terrifying flamenco dancer I saw a few years ago in Seville; the same flashing eyes and controlled power. To be honest I don’t think I’ve seen a better front person.

how did war on women start, shawna?
Brooks Harlan and I had been in a band before this one. We’ve been writing music together for a long time and at some point that old band, which was called Avec, kinda fizzled out. We knew we wanted to do something heavier and we wanted to talk about the political climate, which it seemed like no one was at the time. We had the midterm elections of 2010 coming up and we were thinking about songs and I was getting pissed [off]. We started talking to people asking ‘Hey do you want to join this band, by the way we are incredibly outwardly feminist, are you OK with that? Do you want to play this kind of music?’ It was very intentional that this is what the band is, this is what we’re doing, and that gives me these interesting parameters to what I write about. Can I talk about XYZ subjects from a feminist perspective? Or can I educate anyone on how this is a feminist issue when maybe it doesn’t seem like it is on the surface? It’s neat from a writing standpoint because I think when people give themselves some sort of parameters or restrictions you can actually really flourish.

i read that the phrase ‘war on women’ was first used by feminist author Andrea Dworkin and has become shorthand for Republican policies that disadvantage women. does the name ever cause confusion?
We’ve definitely got some looks in the airport for carrying our guitars with ‘War on Women’ on the side, I remember a woman in the airport looking at the guitar case and then looking at Brooks and saying ‘What does that mean?’ like you had better explain yourself! Which he did and then she was like ‘I don’t like that’. So I don’t know if she just didn’t like it from a man or if she was anti-feminist herself, you never know. The name seemed to fit with the style of music and we wanted people to think what does that mean, what is this? I’m OK with the fact that people have to check in with the name and make sure that we’re against the war on women and not for it, but I also think that people’s confusion comes from the fact that sometimes all-male bands decide to have fucked up names like Whores or Black Pussy or things like that. I don’t know if they’re are doing it to be funny or ironic but they are discounting people’s lives, they’re clueless and they think it’s OK. So of course someone is going to doubt War on Women and assume it’s just a bunch of dudes that are actually sexist. I get that and so hopefully we can do away with that idea!

you’re involved in ‘hollaback baltimore’? tell us more
I actually founded the Baltimore Chapter but there are Chapters all over the world on almost every continent, many different languages, many different countries. It’s based out of New York but local people in their own towns can start their own Chapter, where they can organise and educate people around the issue of street harassment. It shows that street harassment and sexual harassment in general are not peculiar to one area or to one type of person or one language, it’s a worldwide problem. In general women are second class citizens and LGBTQ folks even worse. It is everywhere and the people that live in their own communities know best how to tackle it. I like that there is no white saviour coming in to tell everyone what to do. The people who actually live there are working on the issue, which I think is really beautiful. I founded the Chapter around the same time that I started War on Women with Brooks. I was just feeling really inspired to do something in my late twenties, when I was realising that the world is bigger than me and that I need to do something about it! So I ran that for four years and I recently handed it off to someone else to run the day to day but I’m still involved in a general shaping of where they go and running training sessions. I train venues which could be a bar, a music venue, a store, a coffee shop, whatever, in how to become safer spaces, directly telling them how to deal with street harassment when it happens on site, patron to patron. When a customer comes in and has just experienced street harassment, how to help them through the moment, basically acknowledging that street harassment happens and that our response should be victim-centered. At least half of their clients deal with street harassment all the time so how do you help promote the wellbeing of your customers and let them know they can come into your place anytime and feel OK and really in the end feel OK enough to keep spending money in your place, that they know they can complain to you. Everyone that I train gets the same information and the more trainings I do the bigger the network of people in Baltimore that know these simple steps to create safer spaces.

do you think harassment and objectification of women is a problem to the same extent in the punk scene as the mainstream? or is it an easier, safer place to be a woman?
Sexism and harassment are absolutely everywhere. If you’re going to a punk, hardcore gig or space, where you’re surrounded by people who look like you, then it should be safer. In a way, walking down this street in public I expect street harassment more than when I’m in The Owl Sanctuary [in Norwich] and I drop my guard a little bit more walking into that space, ‘cos I’m home and I’m hopeful and it’s tiring to carry around that expectation of ‘attack’ and you want to let it go some time. So walking into this space I’m going to let that go, I’m going to relax, it doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen and when it does its profoundly disappointing but I’ve found some hope in that as the lead singer of a feminist band I can stand up for myself in those situations. So I live up to my own standard of how powerful I think I should be, especially if it’s our show and we’re playing I don’t let anything slide and that’s a really great feeling.

  • “The more shows we play the easier it is for me to feel empowered on the street. I deserve to take up space, I deserve respect, I deserve dignity. I don’t deserve to have you talk to me that way!”

who is your song ‘diana la cazador’ about?
Diana the Hunter. There is an amazing statue of her in Mexico City. Not many people know about this but in Juarez, Mexico for decades now there have been mass disappearances of Mexican women. Either never found or found in a mass grave. The political system there is very corrupt and it can be a scary place for your average hard working person. The cops do nothing – if anything they perpetuate it – and so I read a story about a woman who wrote into a  local newspaper calling herself Diana the Hunter and claiming credit for the murder of a male bus driver, saying: ‘The bus drivers are in on it, the cops are in on it. The bus driver knows, he’s the one taking them back and forth and so he’s complicit in some way. Even if it isn’t the specific bus driver who died’. She was saying this is really fucked up and you can’t keep doing this to the women of Juarez without expecting retaliation. I thought that was a really powerful story of revenge in an environment where there is no justice. So that song is about the woman calling herself Diana the Hunter who claimed to have killed this bus driver. I still don’t know if they know if she did or not.  But I definitely know that still women are dying and disappearing in Juarez today. People should look that story up and see if there are ways they can get involved.

who are you currently listening to?
We are playing with Clowns tonight and a few days ago we happened to play in Vienna together, that was really fun, I actually like them. And Beyoncé. I’ve been mostly revisiting the self titled album, watching the videos on my iPod! And I’ve also been revisiting a lot of my early Sonic Youth records because I’ve just finished Kim Gordon’s book and she was talking about specific songs and I was going ‘I got to listen to the song’ while I was reading about it!

War on Women‘s eponymous album is available from their Bandcamp.

Thanks AGAIN to Tim Forster for letting us use this abridged version of his interview (and for not getting pissy that I’ve cut out so much, including all his clever footnotes …). You can read the full version on his blog here.
Advertisements

interview: Kamikaze Girls

by tim forster

Kamikaze Girls: Lucinda Livingstone (vox/guitar) and Conor Dawson (drums): riot grrrl two-piece based in Leeds and London. Tim interviewed Lucinda by email.

Could you give us an overview of Kamikaze Girls? Had either of you been in other bands before? 
Myself and Conor were both in a band called Hearts and Souls with our friends Andy and Justin. I was also in the pop punk band called This City Sleeps for quite a while.

How did you decide on the name? 
Kamikaze Girls is a novel and a film. We knew about the film first. We were on our way to our friend’s sister’s wedding and Conor told me the name and said he was surprised there wasn’t a band called that. We liked it so much and thought it suited our sound so we decided to change the band name from Hearts and Souls then and there. It’s nice to have a band name you actually like!

What bands and musicians have inspired you?
I was a huge Michael Jackson fan growing up, I was obsessed. I was brought up on pop music and then found punk rock in my early teens with bands I found on Scuzz, through Kerrang and in P-Rock. As I got a little older and realised you didn’t just have to like one genre of music I started listening to a lot of indie, electronic, shoe-gaze, experimental and atmospheric music. Artists that have really inspired me over the last 10 years have been Alabama ShakesThe Julie RuinJulien BakerThe Album Leaf and Explosions In The Sky.

You formed in 2009 and have released a series of tracks since 2014 (1, 2), with the SAD EP coming out September. How has your sound developed in that time?
The sound has developed quite a lot from where we started in 2009. We were atmospheric pop-rock that played to a backing track. A very large rich sound with synths and strings. We’re now a very noisy two-piece with [fewer] members, no backing tracks and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Our live show went from being meticulously planned out to being chaotic, fun and unpredictable. My vocal style has changed hugely as well. I never used to shout and scream, so that’s been a more recent thing as of the past few years.

How does the creative process work in Kamikaze Girls? Is there one main songwriter or is very collaborative?
I will write all the lyrics and melodies but the music is both Conor and myself. I write riffs, Conor writes riffs, and then we’ll get in a room and jam. I will rarely write a full song myself without Conor’s input, and nothing feels fully finished until we’ve both been in a room together playing it.

You say on your Facebook page that you want to use your music ‘as a means to challenge attitudes and taboos surrounding mental health’. Was there anything you feel able to talk about that led to that commitment?
Yeah totally. I’ve had some real problems in my lifetime dealing and living with mental health issues. I’ve not really felt comfortable talking about it until more recently. I feel like it’s important to talk about these things because people consider them ‘awkward’ topics. I used writing music as a means to channel it and I felt a lot better for writing music and going to shows and being able to put my time and energy into something I loved so much really helped me. That’s not to say that’s the answer for everyone but I feel like the more educated people are about mental health issues and where to go to get help or how to talk to someone with those issues the better it can be for people in the long run.

  • “People shouldn’t feel alienated because of something that affects millions. We’re all in it together.”

How has the DIY/punk scene responded? I guess quite a number of people must have been encouraged?
People have been super positive, and most shows we play I’ll have conversations about it when we come off stage. People perhaps saying they relate to certain lyrics, or they’ve taken the same meds as me and they know how I feel, or how they want to pursue something creative to help themselves. Again this isn’t something that works for everyone, but I think having a safe space where you feel okay to talk about these things is important, whether you want to speak out or not.

Can you tell us more about the ‘SAD’ EP, is it the first EP you’ve had out?
Sure! SAD was written about a specific period of time over about 2-3 years when I was experiencing severe depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder. I had issues with depression in previous points in my life but it was at it’s very worse at the point where I wrote the EP. I was attacked, held and gunpoint and robbed one day in Leeds and it ruined my life for two years and everything spiralled out of control. I couldn’t leave the house, my relationships suffered, my mental health pretty much didn’t exist and I didn’t feel like a real person. It was like that particular event triggered a lot of issues I didn’t know I had and although the EP is short each track is about dealing with an aspect of that.

Are you happy that it ‘captures’ where Kamikaze Girls are now? Often musicians feel their releases document where they were.
Definitely. It documents that period of time and it kind of gives me closure on it in a way I didn’t think it could. I’m excited to get started on our next release knowing I’ve put what I felt at the time when I was writing the EP to rest.

What are your plans for the rest of 2016?
We’re on tour for the rest of the year. We’ve been on tour since August and we’re leaving for Canada and America tomorrow. We have two months over there and then we’re coming back for some UK dates to end the year on.

What bands and writers have you been enjoying lately? 
At the moment I’m really enjoying the new Touché Amore album and the new Doe album too. Bookwise, I have the Travis Barker biography to read when we’re on touch as I’ve been recommended it so many times I feel like I need to check it out for myself. I’m also re-reading at the moment a book called ‘Junk’ by Melvin Burgess. It was the book that inspired me alot when I was about 19/20 and it sort of lit a fire in me for writing honest lyrics so it’s been nice to get my head back in that and discover new parts off it.

Check out Kamikaze Girls at www.facebook.com/kamikazegirlsuk

Tim Forster’s full interview can be found here

introducing: Tough Tits

originally published in M Magazine

Tough Tits: Ayesha: Vocals + Guitar. Liz: Drums + Shouts. Hells: Bass + Synth + Vocals
Photo Credit Janina Sabaliauskaite

Formed in November 2015 in Newcastle, after drummer Liz McDade and lead vox/guitar Ayesha Linton-Whittle hooked up with Helen Walkinshaw (synth/bass/vox), Tough Tits make powerful guitar heavy rock as ace as their name.

Their debut release Hairless captures the band’s searing energy and spirit. It’s rough around the edges, synthy, full of feedback and as confrontational as only songs entitled HairlessFantasy and Nip Slip can be.

With support slots with Muncie Girls and Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs lined up, plus more releases in the form of an EP and album, they’re causing a ruckus in their North East and beyond…

We first started writing music because…
Helen (H): Ayesha relocated to Newcastle and wanted to start a punk band; after recognising the lack of women in bands up here, after learning Liz was a drummer, she approached her and they began laying the foundations of some tracks. They recognised they needed more components to achieve more impact, and invited me along to trial some synth/bass over what they written.

I had a limited understanding of synthesisers, and only started playing bass when I joined the band; and so our approach to songwriting has definitely been more experimental, rather than structured and planned.

Liz writes the majority of lyrics (aside from Hairless the title track of our debut EP, which Ayesha penned). She writes honest, social commentaries, based on her personal experiences and everyday encounters (from the mundane to the extraordinary). The subject matters are accessible and honest, and are often discussed as a group before they are moved on from lyrics into song form.

Some topics may make the listener feel uncomfortable at times (Fantasy is about the gender role reversal of the lap dancing industry).

  • “the aim of Tough Tits has always been to express our opinions without alienating our audience.”

The band acts as a platform to express our ideals, our experiences and to vocalise what mutually pisses us off.

We have been making music since…
H: Around November 2015; although Liz and Ayesha had been laying the foundations of some tracks a few months previous to Helen joining the band. We played our first gig in December’15 and have been writing and performing pretty much non-stop since then.

Our music is…
H: Honest, shouty, synthy, punk.

You’ll like our music if you listen to…
H: Minor ThreatBad BrainsMika MikoComanechiX-Ray SpexBratmobileTeenage Jesus and the Jerks.

Our favourite venue is…
Liz (L): I really liked playing The Old Police House in Gateshead.

H: In Newcastle, The Mining Institute. [In London …] That we have perfomed in, DIY Space for London.

Ayesha (A): Mine was Power Lunches (RIP) but now it’s probably DIY Space too.

Music is important because…
L: For me it’s a release of emotions and creativity, it gives me an excuse to procrastinate from the bad bits of daily life (working). I think music helps with most things, it’s great.

H: Everyone can access music in some form.

A: I agree with Hells. I once met a girl who said she didn’t really like music, but by the end of the night she was dancing and singing along and I thought ‘you little liar’.

Our biggest inspiration is…
L: Daily life. Some of the songs I’ve written are love songs, some are angry and political, some are a bit of both. But generally I want them to be relatable and make people feel good or make them feel okay about not feeling so good.

H: The lasses we talk to at gigs who say they are going to start their own bands.

A: The stage and all the shy women that turn into powerful, assertive leaders.

Our dream collaboration would be…
L: Erica Freas – we played a show with her earlier this year and she’s an incredible writer!

A: Molly Nilsson

H: Cosey Fanni Tutti

To try us out, listen to our song…
toughtits.bandcamp.com 

If we weren’t making music we’d be…
H: Well, we all work full time alongside making music, so the answer would definitely be working!

In 10 years’ time we want to be…
H: Writing about something completely different.

Listen to the Hairless EP at toughtits.bandcamp.com and stay tuned for news of the LOUD WOMEN 2017 tour, including a stop off in Newcastle …

This article first appeared on M magazine on 19 October 2016. www.m-magazine.co.uk

interview: LIINES

by Kris Smith

liinesfor the benefit of anyone unaware of LIINES, please introduce yourselves!

Hello! LIINES are a three-piece band from Manchester. I’m Zoe (vocals/guitar), and I play with Steph (bass) and Leila (drums).

bands often have mixed feelings about genre labels, but how would you describe yourselves?

We have been given a number of different labels over time, from new wave to grunge, but we describe ourselves as post-punk.

the big LIINES news is that you’re working with a new record label and have a new single coming out – can you tell us all about it?

That’s right! We met two people earlier this year, who had recently set up as Reckless Yes Records. It took one meeting in a pub in Derby to know we had found the right people. They get us and we love them so it’s the perfect combination! We are releasing our third single with Reckless Yes, which will be our first physical release on limited white vinyl, ahead of releasing our debut album next year. It’s a double-A side release, “Disappear” // “Be Here”. We decided on a double-A as we’ve only released two songs so far and wanted to show more of what LIINES can do. “Disappear” shows a different side to us, whereas “Be Here” is more similar in style and intensity to our previous releases, so we were happy with this as a combination. Release day is 28th October and we’ll be doing a short tour to celebrate, including a release party at Birthdays in London on 29th October.

are LIINES ambitious, with an eye on the next level of sales/tours, are you focused on the grass-roots DIY scene, or are you keeping all options open?

First and foremost we love being LIINES – writing and performing live and seeing where it takes us. Our drive is performing our music and getting it out there for people to hear. We all have day jobs and so want to make the most of the time we spend as a band. This has meant we’ve become a bit more focused – especially around releases and gigs – but that is more being better at getting ourselves out there. We’ve also had some great opportunities along the way, from playing festivals in Europe, to some UK festivals like Dot to Dot and Ramsbottom Festival, and we’d love to keep getting opportunities like this. It’s a good test to be thrown into bigger situations like these and there is no other feeling like it so why would we not want to keep pushing for more?

does LIINES deliberately have a more consciously darker sound, than Zoe’s/Steph’s previous band, [hooker]?

I don’t think it has been deliberate necessarily. I think ultimately our style of music has grown-up a bit as we have grown-up! Just to explain, I started [hooker] a looong time ago and even with changes in line-up in that period our sound was fairly consistent. Whereas it felt different when the three of us started to play together, which was about 7 years ago. Once we started to write new music there was a noticeable change as Steph (bass) and Leila (drums) developed a combination that really drives our songs and it allowed us to become a bit more layered with guitar and vocals on top. This has definitely given us a darker, more intense sound than we had previously. Once we realised our new music wasn’t really ‘hooker’ it felt like a good time to start afresh – and we have never regretted that decision! But ultimately, it is music we enjoy writing and playing and we’re looking forward to putting this together into our first album project, which has already started.

you began playing from quite a young age, and played with bands like valerie and stephen nancy as part of an apparent new wave of DIY/grrrl bands, partly around the Ladyfest movement. As a participant, did that feel like an intrinsic scene?

That’s right, I started [hooker] in my teens! There was definitely a scene around that time, around bands and venues. The community was there, and I’m pleased to say we still know people from that scene today! So it’s had a lasting impact. We were also really fortunate to play a number of Ladyfests across the UK and Europe, which have been unforgettable experiences and we’ve been able to keep working with some of these people over the years too which is fantastic.

how does then compare to now? It seems to us that there’s been a recent mushrooming of DIY/grrrl bands, and festivals like ours and others are struggling to fit them all on. have you noticed a change?

There definitely does seem to be another wave of DIY bands, which we hope continues to grow and grow because playing music beats anything and anyone who wants to should do it! But you also need a DIY scene otherwise it’s difficult for bands to get their music heard. We’ve been given opportunities to play great nights across the UK but it does feel like in the last few years there’s been a renewed drive by people and groups with new nights and reinvigorated scenes.

  • “We have been so excited to watch from afar what LOUD WOMEN has been doing in London – and beyond.”

Here in Manchester, the Ladyfest community and others have also had a renewed drive over the last few years with some brilliant, inclusive events. It’s one of the reasons our label set up in Derby too and it’s becoming more and more widespread in the best possible way. So it’s vital that these scenes keep going, and are supported, to carve out their space as part of the wider music scene. It gives bands opportunities they might not have been given otherwise, and importantly it can inspire others to do something, set up their own gigs, pick up an instrument and play great music!

if the most interesting and artistically successful figures in music are women (Beyonce, PJ Harvey, Bjork, MIA) – is the artistic battle won; is the future female?

I think as long as women have the same opportunities as maleartists then there is a chance but I still feel we have a long way to go. I went to a club night recently and during the whole night I heard two songs sung by females – neither by new artists either. This is very common. Although the females mentioned are amazing and absolutely deserve to be icons, they have had to come a long way to be given that status. To become this from scratch with the music industry as it is today would be really difficult.

is the queercore/queerpunk scene important to the band? You’ve always had those associations, but has the way you present yourselves and your music evolved over time?

We’ve never seen ourselves, or pushed ourselves, as a queer band – as [hooker] or LIINES – it’s not something that is represented in our music. Saying that, we have played many queer nights and festivals, and will continue to do so, including part of our upcoming tour (Homotopia Festival, Liverpool, 17/11). So it’s not to say we don’t feel part of the queer community, as we do and are proudly so. Perhaps as different opportunities have come about for LIINES, our profile and audience has widened, but it’s not anything that’s happened consciously.

we hear your dad was a bit of a rock scenester in the 70s/80s, so you grew up in a family with a passion for music; do you think you were always likely to live a musical life, and is it important for people to encourage young creativity in that way?

Yes my Dad was actually a punk then a goth and always wore alternative clothing and make-up and had bright red hair. He was always beaten up for being ‘queer’ but he didn’t give a shit. That’s what I love about my Dad. He has always been true to himself and that has been instilled in me. I was introduced to lots of amazing music from a very early age and this had a massive impact. He used to record The Old Grey Whistle Test and The Tube and make lots of ace video compilations so I loved watching Siouxsie and the BansheesGun ClubSoft CellDavid BowieTalking HeadsBlondieIggy Pop performing and just being amazed by what I was seeing and feeling really excited by this music. I was sat on a tour bus post-gig with Alien Sex Fiend in America when I was 11 thinking, “Yep! this is the life I want!” I think it’s so important to encourage creativity, it’s just so hard to actually make a living but I know if I don’t play I would have no idea where I’d put whatever it is that builds up in me when I don’t play.

were you influenced by women in music *as women* or more influenced by the music itself; is the gender aspect important to you? who inspired you musically?

I have an emotional involvement with music. Regardless of gender, if it doesn’t move me then I’m not really that interested. I feel my music collection is pretty 50/50. I wouldn’t listen to or like something just because it was made by a female. Deep breath (and this is the short list!): SiouxsiePJ HarveySleater-KinneyJoy DivisionPixiesNirvanaSolar RaceVictory at Sea.

you often play in Europe. what are your thoughts on the scene over there (and also about brexit)?

We’ve done a couple of tours in Germany and Europe, most recently as LIINES quite soon after we’d started in 2014, and since then we’ve done a mini-tour and other gigs and festivals here and there. Each time we come back slightly changed people after amazing experiences – there is such a warmth and inclusiveness. People come to the gigs ready to dance and have fun, whether they know the band or not. That’s not to say that we don’t experience that here, but it just seems to come so much easier over there.

We were and still are devastated by the referendum result. It just doesn’t make sense to us, and whilst we don’t know how it will pan out we are all still coming to terms with it – or wishing it will go away. Leila and I were in Berlin at the time of the referendum and when people realised we were English they either looked at us with pity or sheer confusion. Why would we cut ourselves off? We are European. We have never felt that more strongly than when we’re on tour meeting incredible people and watching awesome talent and that feeling will never change for us.

thanks so much for answering our questions. anything else to add before we finish?

Nothing other than to say thank you to Cassie and everyone at LOUD WOMEN for what you’re doing!


LIINES are on tour now – catch them in London (29/10), Stoke (11/11), Liverpool (17/11), Derby (18/11), Manchester (26/11) and Leeds (2/12). Their release “Disappear // Be Here” is out on Reckless Yes Records on 28 October. 

weareliines.com    facebook.com/weareliines    twitter.com/weareliines    soundcloud.com/weareliines    youtube.com/weareliines

 

kitchen session: Lilith Ai

I hosted an exclusive acoustic gig with Lilith Ai last week, in my kitchen, with a select audience of Abi Brady from Kenickers and Jen Denitto from The Wimmins’ Institute. Lilith is very much at the top of my ‘should be playing the Pyramid stage next year’ list (if you’re reading, Ms Eavis, take note!), so it was a huge honour to get to hear her play across the table. Loved it. Hope this will be the first of many more awesome Kitchen Sessions, maybe …

interview: the franklys

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?
BlondieThe StrokesLed ZeppelinQueens of the Stone AgeArctic MonkeysThe RunawaysGreen Day, to name but a few. Bands that we are currently enjoying … Petrol GirlsThe TutsWHITELa LuzMuncie 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!

touring Brexit Britain as a non-white musician

by vanessa govinden

Little Fists: Vanessa (bass), Ste (guitar), Soph (drums). Photo by Matthew Hussey.

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.

Little Fists. Photo by Matthew Hussey.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 first date of the tour was Queer Fest Nottingham. Last year, when we played the Femmington Spa Queer Fest (in central Warwickshire), an encounter stuck with me.

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.

Little Fists and Fight Rosa Fight! on tour with their driver JC. Photo by Kate Rosanne.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.

Little Fists and Fight Rosa Fight! on tour with their driver JC (far left). Photo by Cassie Agbehenu.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.


Check out Little Fists on Facebook or Bandcamp. AND, come and see them play on 7 Oct at our We Shall Overcome fundraiser at T.Chances.

Article originally published in Huck magazine.

[jump back to the top]