She Makes War dropped a ‘surprise single’ this week, and it’s (unsurprisingly) an absolute banger! Laura Kidd (SMW) says of ‘Devastate Me’:
“It’s about photography as a reflex, the way people overshare online and how when we die our online profiles just stay there. The internet is amazing – I’ve built my career using it, but it can be so awful.”
The track is taken from upcoming album, Brace For Impact, the follow up to 2016’s acclaimed Direction Of Travel.”
She Makes Tour, too, in October, strongly supported by our BFFs The Menstrual Cramps and Dream Nails – gig perfection. Make sure to catch at least one of these shows!
This year’s final line-up for LOUD WOMEN Fest has just been announced, and now includes worldclass artists She Makes War and Efa Supertramp! Here’s a taster of how it’s going to look …
This, the 3rd annual LOUD WOMEN Fest will showcase 21 punk and indie acts in 1 day, over 2 neighbouring stages – The Dome and the Boston Music Room, Tufnell Park, London. Last year’s festival massively sold out, so early ticket-buying is advised!
Plus DJs including Mammory Tapes AND cake stall from Ladies of the Lock – The WI group for Camden, Kentish Town…
This year, we’re taking over The Dome, Tufnell Park and Boston Music Room. Using these two amazing, world-class neighbouring venues we can keep the music constant throughout the day, and make our Fest bigger and better than ever!
* Delicious hot food and cakes.
* Stalls with zines and goodies.
* The best damn day/night out of the year.
Applications from stallholders and zine sellers, other kinds of performers that we haven’t even thought of yet, and any other enquiries to email@example.com
LOUD WOMEN Fest is back in 2018 – bigger and louder than ever! Building on the massive success of our last two Festivals, we’re expanding to two much larger venues: The Dome, Tufnell Park, and Boston Music Room
I can’t say enough good things about this double A side Vagina Police/Fascism Is Coming, so I jumped at the chance to review it so that I could at least start saying some of them.
I was at the single’s launch gig at The Shacklewell Arms and got a copy of the free zine on Reproductive Justice they’d made to go with it. It’s an incredible, intersectional collection of contributions which highlight marginalised communities fighting for their rights. Their passion, honesty and sense of mission is obvious in their delivery both in the recording and as a live band, and you know that they bloody mean every word they say. Their amazing frontwoman Janey Starling manages to say “fuck you” in the funest way possible, and guitarist Anya Pearson is somehow magically able to be two very good guitarists at once, combining rhythm and lead with some mega riffs. They are the personification of girlpower and it sounds as good as you’d think it would.
Vagina Police is a proper rocker, wrapped up like a bow with a great guitar solo at the end. You should check out the video for it as well, although it’s hard to find because the powers that be at facebook keep taking it down because it has the word “vagina” in it. Fascism is Coming begins with Mimi Jasson’s sleepy indie bass line and croons of “nana ohh”, and then bursts in screaming “Fascism is Coming!”. It fantastically tears apart the mentality of “someone else will do something” which is allowing the Western world to complacently goosestep back into a very dark recess of history.
I love the way that all of Dream Nails’ lyrics get their point across as clearly as a placard at a protest, in a screaming chorus that you can already sing along to by the second time they play it. They turn a serious and overwhelming issue like fascism into something you feel like you can scream at, and then dance to, and then go and do something about.
We should obviously all be doing something in the fight for Reproductive Justice, and buying their single is a good place to start. All proceeds will go to Abortion Support Network (ASN), an all-volunteer organisation providing accommodation and financial assistance to women forced to travel from Ireland to have a safe and legal abortion.
Dream Nails: Vagina Police/Fascism is out now on Bandcamp
Although we don’t believe in ‘good old days’ nostalgia, we make a slight exception for music journalism. In the late 70s and 80s post-punk period, large-circulation weeklies like NME and Melody Maker competed to interrogate musicians about what they were doing and why, about their songs and their thoughts on the state of society. At some point in the 90s, however, the music press became all copy and no content, and in the years since the media has tended to bemoan a lack of politics in contemporary pop, a situation which they helped to shape.
And yet, there is always political music being made by a minority, and increasingly it is being made, ill-reported and under-celebrated, by musicians from marginalised constituencies, who perhaps have more of a stake in making their voices heard. Every year we find more fiercely-politicised, intelligently committed, female* activists getting busy on the DIY punk scene, far from the plaudits and pitfalls of the spotlight. In this series of interviews, LOUD WOMEN meets them and asks some of the questions that the music industry won’t.
#3 Janey Starling (Dream Nails)
What made you decide to use your songwriting to express political viewpoints? Politics is about delivering a message and building communities based on shared values. There’s no better medium for that than live music – and as a woman, it’s a radical act to express anger publicly and create a space for other women to do the same. I’m a feminist direct action activist and Dream Nails is an extension of that.
Do you use songs as tools to put across prefigured messages – or is it more that you self-express in general through music, with politics just one aspect of that? It’s both. I’m an activist through and through, so the songs that I tend to write (though not exclusively) are political because that’s what’s on my mind; and that’s what’s important to say. After shows we get so many women and non-binary people thanking us for singing so openly, recently a woman told us that our gig was “like therapy”. Politics is often positioned as this serious and dry thing when in truth there’s nothing more passionate, and we have a lot of fun with it too. It’s not an abstract, academic thing or a topic to speak about – it’s in the way we host our shows.
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? Those two things aren’t mutually exclusive, as you’re always playing to a different audience. It serves both purposes, but ultimately there are limits on how much you can express through the music alone – often I do a lot of talking onstage, and will share the national domestic violence helpline number too. That kind of stuff is always useful to say and share, because you never know who’s in the crowd and who might take something away.
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? It’s interesting you say that, because I agree. I expected there to be more activists within the punk/DIY scene. Music alone will not resolve the structural issues we face, but it can empower individuals with the strength they need to take concrete action, and by that I mean strategic and direct responses like campaigning, direct action and grafting at community building (which is different to socialising). It also comes down to how you live your politics and political identity; for me it’s a lifelong learning as opposed to a label I wear, and that learning can only be done through action, dialogue and often feeling uncomfortable. Like, it’s great to be in a punk band, but make sure you’re actively involved in migrant rights activism, campaigning against police violence and volunteering on your local rape crisis helpline.
Do you see yourself as part of, and drawing influence from, a tradition of politicised music/art? I do things very instinctively and in honesty, what I do doesn’t come from identifying as a musician, more an activist with a microphone. I don’t really listen to music and think “I want to do that”. When I have something I want to say, I’ll write some lyrics and the band will discuss the idea, and the band then builds a song around it.
There are various ways that a performer’s politics might not communicate to an audience, but you also 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? I’ve always done it and never thought twice about it, mainly because punk venues have shitty sound and nobody can actually hear the lyrics I’m singing!
The success of someone like Billy Bragg (approachably media-friendly, active in mild, non-threatening campaigns) might suggest that in terms of politics-in-music the music can actually be of secondary importance: is that true? Yeah definitely. It’s an important aspect of what I do, but writing a song isn’t going to change a law or stop a fascist party coming into power. However, saying that, the music I write and the politics I hold aren’t mild or designed for mass appeal: they’re unapologetically radical, intersectional, trans-inclusive and queer. I do think that writing this music has the power to give other people the confidence to do the same, and convince them that what they have to say is important and they have a right to be heard – that in itself should open up more public space for radical voices.
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? Dream Nails have so much fun whatever we do. Sometimes we’re angry, sometimes we’re laughing – it’s all a release. We have a really great time away on tour together, though touring is unimaginably exhausting. However, it does feel like we fall in this weird middle area where you’re open to a lot of criticism – too political and radical for the mainstream crowd, but not articulate or nuanced enough for the activist crowd. There’s definitely a pressure to always say the right thing. It’s really hard to do that in the music alone, and even through the spaces we have between the music, but we’re always conscious, listening and trying. I do think we’re held to a higher standard than, for example, standard dry man bands – because we’re openly political, and because women are immediately open to more criticism anyway.
As with most traditions, what we think of as political or “protest” music has previously been white/male dominated. Have things changed? We live under hetero-patriarchal white supremacy so yeah, everything is white male dominated. Well, except the global market in care work, or NHS nursing, or everyday emotional labour, but that’s a different conversation. The DIY scene is doing really great things to challenge the lack of female representation and to skill-up musicians, but I still see all-white line ups and I still see DIY promoters fucking over working class female musicians by not paying them enough, or not at all. The DIY scene is as much about the promoters and venues as it is the musicians – everyone has a part to play.
How do you view the contemporary music industry as a whole? Exploitative. We get paid 5x more (I’m not even exaggerating) by DIY promoters than we do by big bookers, so we have to balance out the gigs that we do in order to make sure we can financially survive. Like so many other creative industries, if you have a financial safety net then you can take risks, swallow losses and afford to spend more time cultivating your artistic expression. To be honest, if it wasn’t for the DIY scene, we wouldn’t exist! What is exciting though is the fact that DIY is growing.
What are the primary political issues we face, in the UK and globally? Instead of naming an issue or cause, I’d say that one of the primary issues we face is an inability to put our egos aside and listen to one another – and to view oppressions as intersecting and connected. That requires honesty, humility and discomfort and in order to feel those things in a constructive way and to nourish each other to build a better world together, we need to create a kinder and more patient, reflective politics. It goes back to what I said about politics being a lifelong learning, not a label – we’re all learning and growing, all the time, and in order to do that we need to also express forgiveness and gratitude.
Dream Nails blew the roof off The Lexington last night at our Galentines Day ball! They’ve got an amazing video out for their single ‘Vagina Police’, but Facebook’s algorithms of the capitalist patriarchy are stopping the video being shared – give it a watch and a share and help beat the Vagina Police Police!*
*Joke copyright the Oscar-winning Abigail Brady 13 Feb 2018
The second EP from feminist punk witches Dream Nailsis, as its title may suggest, a message of solidarity, turning anger into positivity and creating a sense of community amongst their listeners.
The EP opens with ‘Tourist’, which vocalist Janey has described as being about men who like to act like a hero when really, they just fetishise sad girls and take advantage of them, and it sets the tone perfectly, and is followed by my favourite song on the EP – Joke Choke. It’s a short and sweet rage-fuelled song about “people who think it’s funny to make jokes about rape.”
I’m normally a bit cynical about making Bikini Kill/Kathleen Hanna comparisons, as it seems to be a bit of a go-to thing to say about feminist punk bands – so know that I genuinely mean it when I say that Dream Nails channel that raw power of demanding to be heard and encouraging their fans to fight for change.
‘Merkury’sees Janey providing a concise explanation of what “mercury retrograde” actually is, and this is honestly the first time I’ve ever understood what it is!
Things end on an equally as powerful note with ‘Lovefuck’, an empowering anthem for anyone having to say goodbye to a relationship, and sees the band taking on the role of that supportive best friend you may or may not have in your life.
Dream Nails had no way of knowing that the already awful year that is 2017 was going to take yet another dark turn, but this is exactly the EP the world needs right now. In fact, I’d even go as far as saying Dream Nails are the band we need right now.
Dare To Care does a great job of capturing the excitement of their live shows. The band have also put together a zine to accompany this EP, which I also can’t recommend enough – it’s full of self-care tips and inspiring writing, and proves that with Dream Nails, activism happens on AND off stage.