Category Archives: Politics and Music

“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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La Neve: interview on the launch of Maximum Wage – hot AF new music

La Neve – photo by Jen Dessinger

And now for something completely different!

La Neve is the drag/queer performance dance music project of Joey DeFrancesco, guitarist and co-lead songwriter in one of LOUD WOMEN’s favourite ever bands in the world ever, Downtown Boys. Smoking hot new single ‘Maximum Wage’ is out now and sonically it’s a very different beast to the crashing punk maelstrom of the ‘Boys – a driving digital disco beat with retro synth flourishes that have you reaching for the joystick. The pure punk delivery and themes of socialist insurrection are lovingly familiar though. Hell yeah, wage ceiling now!

The track is the first from La Neve’s debut album, which is coming out this summer. La Neve was good enough to chat to our Cassie Fox about it …

How did La Neve come about?

La Neve - photo by Jen Dessinger
La Neve – photo by Jen Dessinger

La Neve started a few years ago when I started doing drag shows with original music at Spark City, the old venue we used to run in Providence. I had done more conventional drag performance when I was younger, but getting back into it I wanted to do something different and sort of use it as one component in a larger dance music project. It’s an important identity for me to be able to express. I write and produce all the music myself, but sometimes live our saxophone player Joe DeGeorge will join me, and on some upcoming shows I’ll have live drumming from Karna of The Kominas. The goal is to make it more of a full band live, because that’s more fun than just playing with a computer. 

What in particular sparked this song? 

I’m not sure who coined the phrase, but you sometimes hear the statement, “Every billionaire is a policy failure.”  In Downtown Boys, we’ve written a few songs in the past that are just straight up policies, such as “100% Tax,” and I like the idea of a song that can be good aesthetically but also directly propagandize a specific agenda. Extreme wealth inequality – the concentration of such unbelievable amounts of capital in the top percent – has already so thoroughly destroyed our societies and our environment. We need serious, radical new systems to redistribute that wealth. These billionaires are not romantic renegades to be idolized; they are the super villains, true scum who aim to rule over everyone, and we need to take the threat seriously. “Maximum Wage” means cutting off anyone from having that much wealth and power. 

What kind of reaction have you had so far to the track?

Definitely lots of support from friends on getting new stuff out there, but otherwise hard to tell. This is still a relatively new project, and the music’s maybe hard to classify, so I’m trying to find who’s into it. I’ll be playing some shows over the next couple months, bringing what I think is a fun live show on the road, so I hope to convince more people what it’s all about. 

Looking forward to hearing the album – what can we expect?

The next record is a lot more dance oriented than my previous EP, and has higher quality songs and recordings, so I’m excited to present a truer vision of what this project is supposed to be about. I like to dance, and I like dance music and culture, and I like political art, and I like punk, and I hope in the end the record’s a successful blend of all those elements. 

La Neve is clearly different kind of sound to Downtown Boys, as you say with lyrical themes in the same direction. Has electronic music always been a passion for you, more so than punk/guitar music would you say? Or do you love both equally? 

I first came to music via guitar music, but for many years I’ve gotten more and more into electronic and dance music. I think you can hear that on the last Downtown Boys record as well, as the music I was writing started incorporating more synthesizers and dance grooves. Some people want to imagine punk as the only politicized music, but from the beginning techno, house, etc., all had strong political underpinnings, and came out of vibrant underground DIY cultures, largely amongst black musicians. I love all these musics and I hope I can integrate them in an effective way. 

Downtown Boys – 100% Inheritance Tax

I must also ask as a huge DBs fangirl … we featured the fab Gauche last week, and seeing the awesome La Neve sproinging into action this week – what does this mean for the DBs?? Say it ain’t the end …

The Gauche record is so great. It’s a funny coincidence we’re putting these out so close together. And our saxophone player Joe DeGeorge also just announced a new record from his band, Harry and the Potters. But then Downtown Boys is also leaving for tour in about a week. There’s a lot going on! The band has been slowing down a bit lately after going really hard for several years. We’re still playing, but in different geographies right now, so I really don’t know what’s next, but we never knew what was next at any point. 

What’s next for La Neve – album tour maybe? Outside the US? (London is so ready for La Neve btw, come play!)

Yes once the album’s out I’ll be going everywhere! La Neve is really the more highly realized version of myself, and it’s incredibly exciting to get to do the performance and exist as that person in new spaces. I want to keep building out the live show and I hope to be in London as soon as I possibly can.


Follow La Neve on Facebook | Bandcamp |Twitter | Instagram

‘Double Dare Ya’: a documentary on riot grrrl in 2019

Effy Mitchell has just launched ‘Double Dare Ya’ on the world – the results of a documentary project interviewing bands and organisations that make up the UK’s current feminist punk/riot grrrl scene in 2019. It’s a brilliant piece of herstory capturing our scene right now.

LOUD WOMEN’s Cassie Fox was included (with a very sore throat at the time so she’s by far the most quiet woman in this!)

Interviewed bands / organisations :
Peach Club
Cheerbleederz
Fresh Punks
Dream Nails
Penance stare
Witching waves
Cult Dreams
Lunar Sounds
Fig by four
ZALU
Babe Punch
Farting suffragettes
Suffrajitsu
Noise and the naive
Loud Women (Cassie Fox)
Sounds for the cause ( Rynn )
Bomb the twist records ( Sarah )
Girls rock Edinburgh ( Caro and Fiona )

Featured bands + organisations + other contributors:
Maid of ace
Against me!
Pussy liquor
GLOSS
FISTY MUFFS
I, Doris
Guttfull
Petrol Girls
Wet Brain Hooligans

Girl gang Leeds
Women in music Nottingham
Cramond island of punk
FYWROK festival

Archive footage –

Bikini kill
L7
Hole
Huggy Bear
X Ray spex


LW Politics & Music – Part 6: The Menstrual Cramps

31696284_1948738535437785_4033179671985127424_oIn this series of interviews, LOUD WOMEN has interviewed a small cross-section of the many fiercely-politicised, committed activists on the DIY music scene, with an emphasis on lead singer-songwriters. We didn't get to speak to everyone that we wanted to, but we always intended to end the series with a bang by talking to new band on the feminist punk rock block, The Menstrual Cramps.

LOUD WOMEN were first to book the 'Menstruals for a live show and first to review their debut album, so it seems fitting for us to be the first to publish a full interview with the group; and appropriate to their libertarian-socialist leanings, we've addressed the questions to all three band members equally. [At the time of interview they were still looking for a fourth member for drummer.]

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

Emilia:
Growing up I wrote poetry as a way to express my political viewpoint and attended rallies and protests, so I think songwriting was just a natural progression from this. When we wrote our first song, ‘My Bush Ain’t Ur Business’, I lived with Cooper at the time, who was a full-time musician, and I was just ranting about the world and she just threw her lyric notepad at me and said write a song about it, so I wrote the lyrics while she wrote the music, then we recorded it on the spot and a couple of hours later The Menstrual Cramps was born and then I channelled my political writing into more songs than poetry.

Cooper: Well I’ve been playing and writing music since I was a kid and as I got older it was annoying to realise how meaningless the majority of popular music was in terms of message. When I met Emilia we just combined my love for writing catchy hooks and her love for shouting angrily about political stuff to create something meaningful!

Robyn: My mum used to write a lot of really great poetry and she influenced me a lot as a kid but I mostly used to write a lot of songs about love when I was younger, I didn’t really start getting political until I met Emilia and Coop, they definitely opened my eyes to more important issues in the world.

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?

Emilia: I think we’re just generally political people, we get angry about unjust things happening in the world and discuss and debate them. For us music is just a self-expression of how we’re feeling at that time, which most of the time is political and not happy with the status quo. And to be honest just living our lives as openly queer, outspoken, feminist women makes our daily existence political.

Cooper: I definitely self-express in general through music, I’m in a couple of bands and everything I do revolves around music. I write all kinds of stuff, but my interest in politics is a very large part of me so I find in one way another it comes out in the majority of songs I write.

Robyn: I’d say I’ve always expressed myself through music, it’s only after being in the band that I’ve started expressing myself politically.
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?

Emilia: I think it’s both. We love playing gigs with similar bands to us, and enjoy being part of such a supportive and inclusive scene. It helps with our self-care as activists, as women, as queer people, as feminists, which is super important. But I think our music also helps open up a conversation with people who may not be otherwise be subjected to our views or political standpoint. It’s important to challenge people through music and it’s also important to have a community where you know you are supported.

Cooper: Totes both!! What she said.

Robyn: Definitely both!

Explicit or ideological politics is a rarity in music, even most punk/DIY scenes: is that something you’re conscious of, and does it matter?

Emilia: Yes, I’m very conscious of it. A lot of people lead a privileged life wherein they have no need to talk about politics or get involved in activism or standing up for what is right or wrong in the world. Also, some artists and musicians may feel like they can’t voice their opinions due to their management, or record company, or fan base etc. I think it is extremely important that more artists and musicians stand up and speak up through their music. I think it’s especially disheartening when punk bands don’t explicitly discuss politics or current affairs or injustice in their work. Punk is about going against the grain, standing up against the hierarchy and trying to change things; anarchy should run through our punk veins, and it is a huge shame and discredit to the rest of the punk and DIY scene who are fighting and shouting every day.

Cooper: Aye I’m conscious of it, and like Mila said a lot of people in the big time aren’t actually technically allowed to be political, so I really respect the artists who voice their political stance to the public. Mila said it all really, woo anarchy!

Robyn: Yeah I’m conscious of it, I think it’s important for more musicians to voice their views on politics.
Do you see yourself as part of, and drawing influence from, a tradition of politicised music/art?

Emilia: I think in our band’s case we are literally just singing and shouting about what fucks us off, what we think needs to change and what we want to comment and open a conversation about. Of course we draw influence from the original punk and riot grrrl music/art scenes, and we are proud to do so, however we aren’t interested in looking so much back into the past but rather how the new punk and DIY scene can push forward and change things for the better.

Cooper: I think Mila was definitely more into some sorta scene than I ever was. I listened to punk music quite a bit when I was younger, but if it was political it went right over my head. She was the person that introduced me to Pussy Riot and other bands that have made political impact and as I got older and started to get involved with politics that’s when punk music really lit a fire in my tum. I dunno why I never thought of writing music to fit alongside my political views but I just never did, until suddenly we were doing it, and now I can’t write love.

Robyn: Emilia and Coop are a lot more political than I am, I’ve always felt strongly about politics but I guess I just never thought about writing music about those kind of things.

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?

Emilia: We didn’t plan to be in a band or plan to gig, so whatever happens on stage is really not rehearsed at all, and we like to keep it that way, we like being honest and raw. Honestly whatever comes in my brain on the night will just fall out my mouth! A lot of songs are about particular topics that we debate and discuss between ourselves and our peers anyway so we have a lot to say about them. I see talking as just as important as the songs we play at a gig, they both are a different way of telling the story or narrative or opinion we have. And to be honest I love ranting about things that I’m passionate about, I could happily fill a 30min set with just me ranting, but I’m sure the people who come to see us for the music wouldn’t be very impressed LOL! I feel completely myself on stage, I don’t get nervous at all, I love performing to people and opening up discussions and getting people angry about what we’re angry about! Also I think that being part of this incredible, inclusive and supportive DIY scene is amazing, I love talking to all the other bands and organisers and audience members, on or off stage!

Cooper: We rehearse for 3 hours before a gig then just get up and hope that people enjoy us! One song we wrote called ‘Lying Cheating Fucking Scumbag’ we knew we were gonna say something before just because it was written about a specific person, but the rest of it I suppose Mila just runs her mouth, it’s amazing. I guess it depends on the crowd too, it’s easier to interact with an interactive loud crowd.

Robyn: I think Emilia just goes with how she’s feeling on the night, she’s pretty good with crowds, it definitely breaks the ice to have a laugh with our audience, we don’t like to take things too seriously when it comes to performing.
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?

Emilia: Yeah for sure, I’m not a good singer, I basically shout all my lines and make noises, Cooper and Robyn are the ones who are actually musically talented in the band! But punk and riot grrrl, for us, is all about just giving it a go, being angry, having a voice and being part of a collective and a movement. The music side of what we do is important, we want people to enjoy our songs and listen to them, come see us play, but it’s also important they listen to the lyrics and what we say in our songs, on our social media, at gigs etc., get involved in campaigns and rallies and protests, get angry about things that are wrong in our world, get involved in politics, try to change the world, and also feel as if they have somewhere to go where they are valid and loved, no matter what.

Cooper: Playing with/writing for/mixing The Menstrual Cramps is the best musical thing I do. I love the fact that the music is not the main thing, I love that the mixes don’t have to be perfect, that I can write a messy track send it out and the girls are like ‘yes we love it’. It’s so refreshing when everything else I is do is the opposite. Music to me was always of first importance, and with every other thing I do it still is. When I’m playing with the girls or writing for the girls I am in a stress free, pressure free, expressive heaven and I can just really think about what the message we’re sending is and what I wanna try out on the next track, rather than how well the harmonies fit. Don’t get me wrong, a catchy chorus for me is still a must, while Emilia focuses on the lyrics and message, I always focus on writing a catchy hook – I guess we’re a good team!

Robyn: Emilia and Coop usually write most of the songs, I think I’ve only helped write Tinder Girl, which I think is our only non-political song, it’s also kind of a love song, which sums me up pretty well.
Is there a pressure that comes with being known as political musicians? And is there a balance to strike between work on the one hand, and fun and self-care on the other?

Emilia: I think sometimes I feel a pressure that I always get asked my opinion on everything, some topics I may not be the best person to discuss, some topics I may not have enough knowledge in etc. We’re all learning and becoming more educated every day when surrounding yourselves in politics, so I’m always open to discussion and admitting when I’m wrong or unsure about a particular issue, we’re all here to grow as individuals and as a collective, strong movement that supports each other. Sometimes I struggle with work/life/fun balance, I think anyone involved in politics or activism will do. It’s extremely important to take time out for yourself. I’m still at university so when it’s exam season I have to take time off band stuff and political stuff, especially cus my course is pretty political as well, so sometimes it can all become too much and I need to do some self-care and take some time to recuperate. We have lots of fun being in the band together, we’re three best mates just hanging out, ranting about things we talk about anyway, making music videos and songs which are fun and we get to have a laugh with our best mates whilst being productive! We have a strong network of friends around us who support us everyday, pick us up when we’re down, help us out when we need them, look after our mental health and make sure we’re not overdoing it. So we’re incredibly grateful to have them in our life and that makes the balance of work/life/self-care/fun a little easier!

Cooper: I definitely feel pressure when it comes to my other music stuff. Not everyone is politically outspoken or wants their views out in the open, which I’ve gotta respect and so other than The Menstrual Cramps I am ‘politically neutral’ in all my other projects. I don’t feel like I’m cheating myself though because The Menstrual Cramps are outspoken and I’m obviously a part of that so if people wanted to know my political views it’s still easy to find them!! I also still write all my other music about politics, it’s just very subtle so shhh don’t tell them! In terms of fun and self-care, I have a small friends group and these two gals make up a little under half of it! So I’m always surrounded by the most fun, like-minded people. I do go through trying times with my mental health, and in those times I do have to take a step back from everyday world politics, but I’ve always got time for these girls and the band.

Robyn: There is a lot of pressure that comes with having such strong views but at the end of the day you gotta stand for what you believe in! I do get nervous sometimes because of where I work and what I do when I’m not with the band, which is probably why I’m the more reserved quiet one out of all of us, but I’ll always be there supporting my girls, I got their backs.

 

As with most traditions, what we think of as political or “protest” music has previously been white/male dominated. Have things changed?

Emilia: I think in the mainstream media not much has changed, they continue to only have the rhetoric of white/male bands and musicians speaking up (often quite mildly as well). However, we’ve found being involved in the DIY and punk scene that a lot more women, queer people, and people of colour are at the forefront of the underground movement. I think these political or protest music voices need to be heard on a more mainstream level, and also given a fair hearing in the press/media. I feel when I watch interviews with political musicians, who aren’t white males, the presenter often attacks them or questions them or puts them into a corner and presents their music and views as ‘out there’, ‘radical’, ‘extreme’ etc.

Cooper: It may have changed the tiniest bit, but hardly. Mila’s right about non-white, non-males being attacked with dumb questions, it’s ridiculous. ‘Wait you’re ALL girls and you’re ALL queer’…. apparently that’s an extreme concept! But the point is there is loaaaaddds of POC/ female/queer bands but like Mila said they’re not in the mainstream so when people come across them it’s like a crazy concept.

Robyn: I think we always think things have changed more than they have, I think it’s getting there slowly though.

One interesting aspect of your politics is that they encompass an attack on the Tories and on Austerity-as-class-war. In contrast it can appear that class and ideology are missing from the worldview of contemporary musicians. Are people wary of speaking overtly on the subject, or are we going through a period of reaction to Left politics being all about class to the detriment of anything else?

Emilia: I think a lot of musicians don’t want to speak overtly about class war, austerity and left-leaning political ideology. It can stop you gaining radio play, interviews, can stop your music from getting out there in the public sphere. For example the BBC would never play our songs because we swear so much in them and because they’re all inherently and explicitly political, the BBC have to be unbiased and I’m pretty sure they would receive a few complaints if they ever aired us on radio or interviewed us on TV for example.

Cooper: We’ve actually tried to keep swear words out of a couple of our tracks on our new album because of what Mila just said, it was hard. The ‘lefties’ are getting branded with a bad brush by the mainstream media for sure. I think that people with left politics, views and morals are 100% more wary about speaking up about their views now, especially online, because they don’t want to be painted with this brush. I’ve seen it with the term feminist a lot recently, people say things like ‘I’m not a feminist now, or at least I am but the ‘old term’ of feminism’. They’ll say they like Jeremy Corbyn and vote for Labour/Green but they won’t say they support all left wing politics fully. I think people are just scared of the online backlash and trolls, they’re scared of being branded as a millennial (which has become a term that means lazy, entitled, selfish), or a ‘snowflake’ and I still have no idea what that means but we’ve been called it a lot, it’s really sad to see.

Robyn: People are very wary when it comes to these things, which is understandable.

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?

Emilia: The personal is definitely political. I don’t think we can really separate political issues as they intertwine so much, for example when talking about austerity you have to talk about feminism, because women are at the brunt of the majority of cuts, austerity disproportionately affects women, and even further disproportionately affects women of colour. We can talk in general about how sexual misconduct is a huge issue parliament needs to address right now, but that conversation will also fall into power at play, how society views men and women, the proportion of women CEOs compared to men named John, etc. Every political issue is multi-dimensional and needs to be discussed on a basic level and then further on a specific level. The whole system we live in needs to change, not just individual policies that are wrong or unjust.

Cooper: I agree that its inseparable, it’s a cause and effect thing, I also believe strongly that fixing the ‘smaller’ problems will begin to fix the larger ones.

Robyn: Like Emilia said we can’t really separate the two, and like Coop said by fixing small issues the larger ones will fall into place with them.
How do you view the contemporary music industry as a whole?

Emilia: To be honest I’m not really interested in the industry side of contemporary music, all I know is that I’m part of a great DIY scene, where we all help each other out, share our skills and knowledge, and just have fun and put on great nights. I don’t think it’s the same vibe in the contemporary music INDUSTRY, so wouldn’t really be something we would be interested in finding out haha!

Cooper: Well nowadays, like everything else, it’s all controlled by a few big companies and its alot harder for anyone to get anywhere in it. Bands used to be able to get picked up by A&R’s at gigs and indie labels would have a bit of money behind them, whereas now everything’s being bought out by the few big daddy labels who now control almost all the mainstream charts. More bands are going independent now because of this, and to do that it’s all about having a social following and letting the fans pay for your projects. It’s sad but all the contemporary music scene is nowadays is just about profit and any of the people I’ve met or spoke to in the industry don’t seem to have too much of a passion for music at all, or have told me their passion has died because it’s not enough to just believe in an artist’s work anymore it’s about how many sales they can make. For us, it’s important to stay independent, we don’t want to be a part of that scene, and we don’t want to ever be in a place where we are guided or directed or even told how our stuff should be written or presented. I think it’s also in our political interests to never feed into a corrupt system like that.

Robyn: I think it’s fake and probably controlled by the Illuminati or something…

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

Emilia: So many! We need a complete rehaul of the systems we live in to be honest! Capitalism is not the answer to a successful world, we need to fight for a new, more socialist, way of living and thinking, that would improve some things. A huge issue at the moment is of course the issue of sexual harassment, misconduct, abuse etc. I’m glad the western media are listening to the victims/survivors of this and are finally reporting on this huge issue we have always had, but I feel as if they may use certain figureheads as bad examples for a few months and then everything will be swept under the rug and the status quo will return. We need proper policies in place to deal with sexual harassment, we need politicians who don’t sexually harass their staff or other members of the public (I mean seriously is that too much to ask for?!), and people need to be held accountable for their actions. We need more education surrounding sexual health and consent, and basically for society to change its perceptions on women, and how we should be treated. There’s so many huge political issues we face at the moment, in the UK and globally. I think ousting world leaders such as Donald Trump, Theresa May, Vladimir Putin etc. would be a great (if slightly impossible) start…

Cooper: Well Mila covered a lot, but hey there’s a million so I’ll add a few! For me personally, I’ve tried to educate myself over the past couple years on black issues and I feel globally it’s a massive problem. White people need to so do much better in recognising their privilege and understanding the realities of today, which is still very much that black people are marginalised and oppressed. Gender has obviously been a huge talking point recently and I feel strongly that we all need to be fighting for equal rights in regards to this. Transgender issues as well – to think that just last year there was that whole thing with Trump trying to ban trans people from the military ….. it just shows how although the topic is more talked about there is still a huge threat. The housing crisis, employment crisis, the stigma and lack of help for people with mental health issues, the nhs crisis, the list goes on! But like I said in the answer a couple questions ago I think fighting for what most people would say were ‘smaller political problems’ will be the answer to solving the larger global crisis we’re in. Don’t wanna sound like a millennial leftie snowflake, but if we started listening to each other’s experiences & respecting each other then there’s more than enough of us to take down them cunts at the top!

Robyn: Just trying to think of something the guys haven’t covered! One that really springs to mind for me is gay rights, because we’re all queer in the band and have all been affected by this ongoing equality issue.

https://www.facebook.com/TheMenstrualCramps/

https://www.facebook.com/events/176079133149268/


Find The Menstrual Cramps on Facebook or Spotify:
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and of course catch them live at show of the year, LOUD WOMEN FEST – 15 Sept at The Dome!

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LW Politics & Music – Part 5: Maddy Carty

maddyMaddy Carty is a multifaceted singer-songwriter. Depending on your introduction to her music you might initially think of her as a folk singer, a ska, reggae or pop artist, or an R&B vocalist. Truth is, she's all of the above, while also being a committed political artist who regularly plays protest songs like her classic "Condemn Age" (from debut album 'Come and Get It') at benefits, political events and picket lines. The latter might surprise some who know her primarily for the reggae-inflected pop songs that predominate on her aforementioned album, but there's no right or wrong way to mix politics and art. In fact, you can make a good case (with many historical examples) for the superior subversive potential of political messages in a mainstream pop context, compared to, say, the archetypal punk gig where everyone is already broadly in agreement. 
Maddy was recently declared joint winner of the CWU-sponsored Bread & Roses Songwriting and Spoken Word Award for her song "Crying at the News" about the Grenfell Tower fire.

What made you decide to use (some of) your songwriting to express political viewpoints?
Maddy: I don’t remember it ever being a conscious decision, I’ve just always written about things I care about and what’s going on around me.

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?

Maddy: If it makes me feel, I’ll write about it. I guess in that sense I can’t help that my politics comes out in my song writing, because it’s something I’m passionate about. Sometimes I’ll just start a song with no real idea of where it will take me, other times, I’ll have a subject in my head that I want to address. For example, during the time of the junior doctor strike where we were also in the midst of the refugee crisis (which we still are) it made me so angry that I knew I would write about it, and that’s where my song ‘What Kind of Life’ came from.

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?
Maddy: I would hope that if you can put across an idea in a song, that it could create conversation, or open people’s eyes to things they perhaps hadn’t thought about or didn’t want to. I think that’s something that music does in general, not just political music. But it has to be said that when I play more political gigs I do realise I’m preaching to the converted because of the left wing people who book me!

Explicit or ideological politics is a rarity in music, even most punk/DIY scenes: is that something you’re conscious of, and does it matter?
Maddy: I think because of the circles I’m in I wouldn’t see politics as rare in music or the arts, considering I gig with the likes of Grace Petrie, Nia Wyn, Steve White and the Protest Family and many others. I’m also a big fan of people who sing songs involving social commentary and politics, like Will Varley, Gaz Brookfields and Thee Faction, so it’s probably less a case of the content being rare but the ability to get the content to wider audiences, which is a shame. Also, most of those people are doing really well, so perhaps there’s the matter of the media and industry trying to ignore this type of music!

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?
Maddy: I do think there’s pressure when people refer to me as political artist, especially when I don’t see myself as just that. I’m a singer-songwriter so a lot of my stuff isn’t necessarily political and might just be love songs, or me having a go at my fella! Sometimes it feels like I have to change my set according to the type of gig I’m doing and to fit the audience, but I always like to get a couple of my ‘political’ songs into every set. There’s the worry about other political artists not thinking you’re political enough too! When it comes down to it, I do music because I love it, so having a few different avenues to go down creatively is never a bad thing.

What are the primary political issues we face, in the UK and globally?
Maddy: My two biggest worries are for education and our NHS. I work in a lot of schools and have seen first hand the damage that the cuts have done to education, especially within Special Education Needs, and the idea of all schools becoming academies genuinely terrifies me. And of course the NHS is in crisis and the treatment of the staff is appalling. I think more people are becoming aware of these issues now and taking a step up to try to fight for them. The sooner we get the Tories out the better.


Catch Maddy live when she joins us for Matchwomen Festival on 30 June.

Maddy Carty is currently recording a new EP. You can sponsor and follow its progress here: https://www.patreon.com/MaddyCarty

https://www.maddycartymusic.com/
https://www.facebook.com/MaddyCartyMusic
http://www.culturematters.org.uk/index.php/arts/music/item/2789-bread-and-roses-songwriting-and-spoken-word-award

Allison Wolfe: Queen of the Riot Grrrls – Interview

Allison Wolfe - photo by Albert LicanoAllison Wolfe is best known as one of the founders of the riot grrrl movement back in early ‘90s Olympia, Washington, and frontwoman of feminist punk band Bratmobile. Times have changed, but some things stay the same – Allison is still kicking out the counter-patriarchal jams. Cassie Fox caught up with her ahead of her upcoming UK tour with ‘Dubais and the Wolfs’.

Let’s start with your band CV! Have you been performing continuously since the 90s, without a break?
Yeah, not much of a break! I started with Bratmobile in the early 90s and not long after we broke up I started a band with Erin of Bratmobile, Cold Cold Hearts.

After that, in the late ‘90s, I had my boy band, Deep Lust. Actually the drummer from Deep Lust – Steve Dore – now lives in Crystal Palace, and he’s going to be the drummer on this UK tour coming up! So after Deep Lust I was back in Bratmobile – we got back together for a few years. Then I was in Partyline in the middle 2000s and we toured in England and Europe. Then I moved to LA and I was in a band called Cool Moms with some girls for a few years … then I was in Sex Stains a couple of years ago, and now I’m in Ex Stains! So yeah, I never really quit I just keep it going. I think it’s important to maintain a creative outlet, as long as you still have something to say you might as well keep doing it.

What’s the biggest difference you’ve found in between being in bands over that time?
I guess I don’t feel as much of a sense of urgency as I did when I was in my 20s! Ha! Also, it’s funny … I always used to do vocal warm-ups to old country songs – like Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Jean Shepard – but I’ve realised lately that I can’t hit those notes any more. Of course, that was 20 years ago that I first started doing warm-ups to those songs! So I’ve actually started doing my warm-ups now to George Jones cos it’s a lower register.

What role does music have in your life now?
I live alone and I have done for a long time, but I’m an identical twin and my sister and I have not lived near each other for many years, so I think there’s something about that being alone –  that’s why I feel like I need to have voices around me all the time. I actually listen to talk radio constantly – public radio – when I’m at home. I put on a record the other day I was like, this is so awesome , I remembered how happy it makes me!

Tell us about the tour with Nadia Buyse.
I’m really excited! Nadia is an old friend of mine and also just a prolific artist and musician. Everything she does is gold, and it’s always really engaging, politicised, fun and funny too – I just love everything she does! She used to live in Portland, near my sister so I’d see her a lot when I was visiting, and sometimes whatever band she was in at the time would be playing, and she’d ask me to sing back-ups. She’s always in another band, I can’t keep up! And they’re all great. Nadia contacted me a few months ago and said, ‘Hey, will you come over to the UK for Jon Slade’s 50th birthday party?’ [Jon Slade of HuggyBear, who lives in Brighton]. And I was like, ‘Yeah cool!’, and I thought there was a big to-do happening, but then once I got on board I realised that he just wants to go some bar that night that he DJs at … and I was like, wait what? I can’t just go there for his birthday can I? And then Nadia said, ‘Let’s play some shows!’ She’s like, ‘I’ve been wanting to set up a mini tour in the UK – will you play with me and sing with me?’ So I was like, ‘Sure!’

It’s inspiring to hear that you’re still making politicised music. How important do you feel music can be in modern politics?
Obviously I don’t really think that music ever ‘does the job’ – we’re up against too much. But I do think it’s important for everyone to struggle and resist in whatever way makes sense to them – little ways or big ways. I mean, I don’t see music necessarily as straight-up activism, but I do believe in it as cultural activism. It’s important for all of us to express our feelings against the administration through our art. I’m not very good at writing songs with political slogans, but I tend to write songs that focus on how the personal is political or how these things might seep into your daily life. And feelings of self-esteem etc in girls. But yeah, we’re fucked! So I’m not sure a song is going to cut it!

I was in DC during the whole Bush administration and the big difference between then and now is that the media didn’t say one thing – in fact the Washington Post and the New York Times were totally on board with all those lies, and people who spoke out were really frowned upon or fired. And there weren’t many bands even speaking out or singing political songs or whatever, even after 9/11, and that really pissed me off to no end. I couldn’t believe it – everyone drank the KoolAid, or they just shut up or something, and I’m still mad about that. So it’s funny now during the Trump administration all these media outlets speaking out all the time. OK I’m glad so that we don’t go crazy, but a lot of those people didn’t speak out before and I’m like, no, I remember you, you weren’t there when it mattered, and now you’re speaking out when everyone else is – fuck you.

Looking back now at the riot grrrl movement … do you feel it was successful overall?
I think right after it all imploded, a lot of us who had started it didn’t think so. A lot of us felt ashamed and scampered off into a corner and ignored it. But I also think there was a lot of backlash against riot grrrl in the late 90s, but I think by the time we hit the 2000s we started acknowledging …like, okay, what were the good things about it? And considering maybe it does have a place, in history or whatever, but we never thought that until 2000-something.

To me, it’s a strain of 3rd wave feminism that belonged to the early 90s so I don’t really feel like it carries into now. I guess I don’t really mind if feminists use the term to describe themselves or their groups, but I think it’s important for people to come up with new terms, new groupings, new ideas. And obviously there were flaws and faults with riot grrrl, and a lot of complaints against it. And I understand a lot of it, but some of it isn’t exactly accurate. But, you know – whatever it doesn’t really matter. I think it was important because it was a gathering of women in punk together. Like, hey – strength in numbers! It was like, let’s network, let’s share our stories, let’s communicate, let’s not be jealous of one another, let’s not compete with one another. ‘Cos that’s what society does to women – and to all marginalised people. Mainstream society pits marginalised groups against each other, and people against each other within their own groups, using this idea of scarcity against you like, hey, there’s only room for one of you, or one or two tokens … and that’s what we were really trying to speak out against and really name. And so I think that if that part of the legacy carries on, and if that’s what people appreciate about it, then that’s great. But also a big point of it was to build self-esteem in young girls and women and to look at ‘girly’ culture and uplift things that are typically are relegated to women or girls. I think a lot of feminism didn’t really address the world of young women and girls at that time. Second wave feminism didn’t really make a space for you know, girly girls, and lipstick lesbians and so on! That was important for us. Not only to make our punk rock lives more feminist, but to make our feminist lives more punk. To speak more to the real lives of all kinds of people – all kind of punks, girls, whatever.

It’s interesting to consider the #metoo and #timesup movement now as a mirror of the riot grrrl ethos – the idea of women banding together, strength in numbers against abuse.
Yeah, in riot grrrl that was exactly what we were doing – speaking out about and bringing up sexual violence. These things happening to women is not new at all, but what’s changed is that rich and famous women spoke out, and the rich famous women were believed, you know, which is great, so now maybe they’ll believe everyone else. But I don’t think it was taken seriously for a long time. I’ve always believed in this: you have to put the fear of god into men who harass you. Guys do it cos they think they can get away with it. But if they think you’re going to go ballistic on them or get them into trouble they’ll think twice. When I lived in Washington DC – it’s very much a man’s town, it’s super-aggressive, and I used to get into confrontations a lot. Jocks coming out of a bar at the end of a night and they’d be bugging me … I’d just smack them upside the head, you know, with my purse or my umbrella or whatever. But dammit I just kept breaking too many vintage purses and umbrellas! But I felt it was important to do that – so that they’d feel the fear that the next woman they bothered might punch them in the face too.

What message would you like to give to the girls of the 20-teens?
I don’t want to talk down to the millennials … I’m really inspired by a lot of stuff that’s going on now. There’s a lot more people of colour in bands and outside of bands who are speaking out and really just ‘timesup’ing as well. I think that’s really important and those voices are the most exciting to me – things like Black Lives Matters and also just a lot of cool stuff that’s going on in LA. There’s a lot of the scene that revolves around people of colour speaking out and being really vocal about really cool stuff going on within their own scenes and culture, and promoting that. But also talking about issues of racism and classism, sexism, homophobia, everything. So I feel like in  a lot of ways things are more intersectional now, and bands that really inspire me are Downtown Boys, ShoppingAliceBag! She inspired me before I even started music and she still inspires me now – she’s still doing stuff, and I think that’s really great. I see more women in bands now, and I almost feel like they don’t think twice about it anymore – I feel like that has a lot to do with the GirlsRockCamps that are all over. That’s a really tangible way you can influence culture. So, my only thoughts are … I just feel it’s really important to let it all hang out on stage! It bothers me when you see bands all just trying to look cool or pretty or whatever, and I don’t really go for that. I prefer seeing a little bit of crazy onstage ­– or at least seeing something that’s honest, interior, and aggressive.

Catch Allison Wolfe on tour with Dubais and the Wolfs, supported by Knight of the Comet (feat. Jon Slade of Huggy Bear)

Dubais and the Wolfs, Knight of the Comet, and Big Joanie 20 May – The Amersham Arms, London

21 May – Tribeca, Manchester

22 May – Delicious Clam Records, Sheffield 

23 May – The Old Hairdressers, Glasgow 

24 May – Rough Trade, Nottingham 

26 May – Ramsgate Music Hall 

27 May – Bentfest 

29 May – The Pipeline, Brighton 

Interview conducted with Allison Wolfe via Skype, by Cassie Fox (with help from Ernie the cat, and hindrance from Dylan and Griff Fox)

Allison Wolfe on skype with Cassie Fox (and Ernie the cat)

 

LW Politics & Music – Part 4: Jen Doveton (Colour Me Wednesday)

by Kris Smith

The media regularly bemoan a lack of politics in music, compared to a mythic 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 working hard to build the DIY feminist punk scene, far from the plaudits and pitfalls of the spotlight. In this new series of interviews, LOUD WOMEN meets them and asks them some of the questions that the music industry won’t.

#4  Jen Doveton (Colour Me Wednesday)

jen

What made you decide to use (some of) your songwriting to express political viewpoints?
I’m not sure whether all political musicians think in this way but I think it’s because it feels like it’s something that isn’t being said, so it’s something I feel like I want to rant about. And it feels like a topic that is important enough to play to people over and over.

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?
I am always going on political rants anyway, but to be a song something has to have an emotional core, to me. That’s why it’s going in a song rather than an essay or something else.

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?
We hope we’re saying something people haven’t heard before but actually, when we started the band we were a group of fairly isolated left wing kids in a tory London borough and it came as a surprise to be preaching to the converted (once we found our crowd). I think hearing someone confirm or express how you already feel is really good for your mental health so it’s just as worthy to speak to people who share your views as it is to present a persuasive argument to people who might not agree in the wider public.

Explicit or ideological politics is a rarity in music, even most punk/DIY scenes: is that something you’re conscious of, and does it matter?
I am conscious that it makes some people bristle. Either they don’t like [us talking about] politics or they don’t like the over-earnestness of political music. People are much more comfortable with political satire (i.e. topical panel shows and sketch shows) than with political music. But that might have something to do with most satire being a bit toothless, does it really challenge people’s beliefs? Does music? I don’t know.

Do you see yourself as part of, and drawing influence from, a tradition of politicised music/art? 
Yes I suppose I do, but I don’t know what names I am supposed to drop here. I studied fine art and political art felt deeply unfashionable at the time. So I felt like I would never fit in to that scene, cos I saw political issues everywhere. That’s why I turned to DIY punk, and zines. I definitely see myself as part of the radical crafts movement, if that’s the right term. I was made to make zines/handmade cd covers. Being a politicised artist for me means, obviously, being broadly left wing but also having a community-based consciousness. So you’re creating stuff that can be really personal, because of who you are, the personal is political but you’re also aware of the larger community. I’m aware of the space I’m taking up, aware of how it impacts the scene and aware of how I can collaborate with others. In a way this seems incompatible with what we’re being told about being an artist. We’re brought up thinking being an artist is very individualistic and naval gazing. We’re taught about larger than life icons without learning properly about the complexities of the community that built them, who influenced them. I feel like I learn more about being a DIY musician from activist traditions and community-building than from any artistic or business tradition. I guess my head is more in the process than the output when I’m thinking about your question.

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?
I feel like men have it easier when it comes to politics, they’re less likely to be told to ‘stay out of politics’ for a start. Being a woman and being read as quite young, it’s really intimidating to express a political opinion, particularly online where a man, usually from an older generation, is always ready to pop up to tell you to ‘stay out of politics’, or to try to correct or “mansplain”. And going ahead with writing now, I do feel like there’s a pressure to be able to encapsulate a lot of the political issues going on right now in my music. But sometimes I just feel like writing song after song about how fucking suffocating winter is. All I really want to do is watch netflix and eat pasta. Harriet and I are the types of people who are very task-oriented. We don’t set aside time to socialise and you have to force Harriet to relax. I’ve lost friends, I think, because I don’t make time to invite them round or do relationship maintenance. I have to tell people now, if you want to be my friend you just have to invite yourself round. I’ll cook for you, and I’ll probably give you some merch to package up or you’ll have to sit there while I make CD covers. Being in a DIY band, there’s no line to tell you to stop working, cos you’re working at what you are passionate about and it’s entirely self-propelled. There’s also a huge burnout cycle where you push yourself too hard on tour, have to be ‘on’ in terms of socialising every night and come home and get ill and beat yourself up for not being able to bounce straight back into work or into a social life. I’m not sure how to remedy this because most of my friends are exactly the same, they’re in bands and we only really see each other ‘at work’.

CMWAs with most traditions, what we think of as political or “protest” music has previously been white-male dominated. Have things changed?
The pocket that I’ve found myself in definitely doesn’t feel male centred. But it has to be said, that is not a very profitable or high-status pocket. It doesn’t feel like that long ago that I felt that I would never feel at home in the punk or rock or indie scene because I could or we could never compete with the ideal of what a band should look like. A bunch of white men, anything else would be an exception, novelty, or a bad emulation of what people expected to see. I’m not sure how much society has progressed, but I know we’ve moved out of that crowd so we’re not exposed to it as much. There has been more criticism of white-male dominated music scenes in the mainstream press – like in the case of calling out male-dominated festival lineups – which is promising. If you’re asking whether political and protest music in particular is white-male dominated in its own right, aside from the fact that most of the arts are – I don’t know. Anecdotally, white men seem to get more praise for what I see as fairly obvious political statements and mediocre creative output than people in other demographics. People aren’t always aware of their prejudices and give more time and consideration to white men in general in all fields, it seems. I think in terms of activism, some people think that being a good left wing activist is about being passionate, loud and angry. Maybe that idea does stem from the same ideas that make toxic masculinity so toxic. Most long term political activists aren’t fuelled by anger – I don’t think anger is a sustainable state of being.

How do you view the contemporary music industry as a whole?
I see it as very streamlined to create the most amount of profit for the smallest amount of effort. The radio stations, magazines, TV shows, festival bookers are all told who to play/promote/book by the handful of major labels and their subsidiaries. No one else gets a look in apart from this small top tier. The talent-show TV format (which I love, don’t get me wrong) gives us the vague, background idea that it’s a meritocratic lottery – that deserving young kids are plucked out of obscurity and it’s a beautiful thing. In the real world, anyone who isn’t in this top tier – getting regular radio play etc. – is forced to undersell themselves and work for basically nothing. There’s no one to regulate for when they are short changed or fucked over and they have to rely on the personal, individual patronage of their fans to survive and succeed. The internet has made it infinitely more possible to reach fans and cut out this middle man of mainstream media promo, which has guaranteed its own obsolescence by being such a gated industry.

What are the primary political issues we face, in the UK and globally?
The normalisation of fascism? Maybe everyone took for granted that nazi=bad and forgot to keep hammering that point home. Or maybe it was hammered home too narrowly? Because people are failing to recognise nazis when they are out of the context of grainy footage of 1940s Germany? Or they don’t understand what’s wrong with platforming fascists because they’ve been placed on an arbitrary/bogus spectrum which makes them the equal and opposite number of the only people willing to oppose them, the ‘far-left’? I dunno.


CMW LP2Colour Me Wednesday's second album is available now to pre-order from their own Dovetown label:
http://www.dovetownrecords.com/

https://colourmewednesday.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/colourmewednesday/