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LW Politics & Music – Part 2: Cassie Agbehenu (Fight Rosa Fight!)

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 kick-start their career with some token rebellious rhetoric.

Meanwhile, every year there are 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 new series of interviews, Loud Women meets these women and asks them some of the questions that the music industry won’t.

#2 Cassie Agbehenu (Fight Rosa Fight!)

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

Music and politics fit together naturally for me. They’re both about expression and belief. I can’t separate the two really. Music has always been such a huge part of my life and I love music that gives a platform to the discussion of current issues. Feminism and punk collided in my life and that’s when Fight Rosa Fight! was born. I realised I had a lot to say and to shout about and to be angry about so why not use music as a medium to express *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?

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Cassie’s zine about race in the UK DIY Punk scene – get yours from http://www.fightrosafight.bandcamp.com/merch

Yeah I guess the messages and the politics come first for me. I write about things that are on my mind at the time. Usually with a feminist and/or political theme. I’ve been writing a lot about race and feminism for quite a while. I’m moving to write more about personal relationships which is a different path for me. I find that writing about these things is so cathartic. And what’s even more cathartic is screaming about them in a band.

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?

Totally both. We talk about this a lot in the band. We play in a brilliant DIY feminist, queer punk scene which is wonderful and supportive. But I can’t help but feel like we’re preaching to the converted. Which is fine in the sense that it’s great being surrounded by like-minded people who are going to cheer when I get on the mic to shout about calling out rape culture, but what are we doing to actually change our wider social culture?

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Listen to Cassie and Bridget’s podcast at https://soundcloud.com/user-535636211/2-activism-recording-radical-softness

We’ve built this amazing space (which still has problems) but we can’t just keep those conversations in DIY spaces. Although it sometimes makes us feel uncomfortable, when I play shows with Fight Rosa Fight to crowds that that perhaps we wouldn’t usually play to, I know we’re doing the right thing. Myself and my friend Bridget Hart have also started a podcast to discuss politics and the DIY punk scene because we feel like we should be talking about this stuff in a more accessible way.

Do you see yourself as part of, and drawing influence from, a tradition of politicised music/art? 

I suppose I didn’t really see myself as part of that tradition to begin with. But there’s something so powerful about deliberately taking up space as a brown woman in what is often a very male dominated space. Particularly now that I also play in hardcore band (Worst Witch) I know that just being there is powerful. The thing is, women (particularly women of colour) have been using politicised art/music/expression as a means to fight for change for decades and if it’s perceived that I have become part of that tradition then I am honoured. I’m inspired by the women, trans and non-binary people that I surround myself with every day and they give me so much strength to believe that my voice is important. And the men in my life who have actively done the work to break down the ways in which they may have been holding up misogynistic ideals or whatever; I feel so lucky to have so many supportive men around me but that should be the norm and not luck. I’ve been told that I’m inspiring to others which is such a weird compliment to take. I just hope others feel empowered enough to push for the change they want to see. When there are lots of women or brown people at the shows I put on/play or whatever, I hope they leave feeling politicised and empowered.

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?  

All of those things really. I have always had a lot to say but it’s taken time to feel coherent enough to do it on stage. I try to keep it natural and conversational and the most important thing to me is to be honest about how I feel. I have also learned that some things I say are going to make people uncomfortable. Like when I’m challenging a room full of white people on why it might be that I’m the only brown person at the show – I know that might make people feel uncomfortable but in that sense I think when you’re made to feel uncomfortable then you’re probably learning something. The bands I play in have political messages so it would be such a missed opportunity if we didn’t talk about them during the set.

I’ve been given a mic so I should use it to its fullest potential if I can.

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?

15732129_1304721109602000_15215251762937123_oYeah I think there probably is pressure – first and foremost to always be right which is totally not the case. I make mistakes, I will slip up. I have misgendered people at shows. But it’s important that I hold my hands up to that and learn from it. I’m not perfect but I hope the things I say are read as genuine and I’m totally committed to our scene and helping others learn too. My mistake is more hurtful to someone else than it is to me.

Self-care is really important and I’ve found it very difficult in the past. I am learning much better coping strategies to look after my mental health. I read a lot of non-fiction and then write a lot about tough subjects which can take its toll so I have to take time for myself. But regardless of the subject matter, I absolutely love playing in bands and that will always make me happy. I am so lucky to be in bands with the best people.

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

The punk scene in all its guises is changing hugely. It’s been 18 years since I went to my first punk show and it’s so different now. We still have work to do but I can’t help but feel really happy about the amazing spaces that we are helping to create. I feel like we (by we I mean, not white, not cis, not men) are not just asking politely, we’re demanding space. And visibly owning it. And that’s really powerful. But I feel like I always want to go further than *that*, it’s about challenging the hierarchies of the scene and enabling the white dudes to feel comfortable to step back and to understand why it’s important that they support this evolution. It’s not about taking things away from people, it’s about being truly inclusive. We talk the talk in this scene but sometimes struggle to walk the walk but it’s getting better all the time. I was talking to a friend the other day about building proper accountability processes within the scene for known abusers; why don’t we have that?? This is totally another separate point but I guess I’m saying we still have work to do and we need to do that together. But I’m excited for what this looks like and to be part of it. It’s an exciting time to be punx.

One interesting aspect of your politics is that they encompass an attack on the Tories and on Austerity-as-class-war. Interestingly you’ve worked as a trade union rep, which is perhaps unusual and something more associated with the traditional Left. 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?

I think the basis of it is that we’ve always been really keen to show that women have ideas about this stuff too – our punk politics aren’t just about being nice to people at shows and creating safe spaces (which of course is important too!) –  we care about the impact of austerity on marginalised groups, and we hate the Tories! We hate what they’re doing to this country and how they’re demonising the poor/Muslims/everyone! Music seemed like a great platform to express this. We care about all the things that impact on people beyond the walls of the venue. We’re a very lefty band and that’s pretty obvious but I think it’s also about making politics accessible. I truly believe in people power, no matter how cheesy that is. The anarcho-punk ideal of not voting/taking part in a broken democratic system is so fucking selfish and I get sick of it. Yes the system is broken, but you’re a privileged fuck if you have the audacity to either believe that politics doesn’t affect you or that you can refuse to participate instead of standing in solidarity with others.

27993226_1800237803383659_8627617246203819600_oI think for us it’s always been about being unapologetically feminist and unapologetically political and that still stands. We’re deliberately brash and open about our views and we hope that we help people understand a little more or go and investigate things. But at the same time it’s like, we know we won’t gain any Tory fans! (Do we want them though!?) I think we’re able to reflect on intersectionality quite a lot and that crosses over into our writing. We might be writing about class, or abortion, or sexual abuse, but behind it all is how those things affect the lives of all different types of people – I guess that’s the message. Yes, I was a union rep (still am!) and worked full time for a trade union for a bit – I’ve never thought about how that influences my writing but it certainly affects my politics and my activism. In fact it’s part of my day to day activism. People spend so much time at work – may as well try and make it as good as possible!


Fight Rosa Fight! are playing their last ever shows next month,

Sunday 11th March - Matinee show, Smokey Joe's in Cheltenham
https://www.facebook.com/events/165944360704941/?ti=cl

Sunday 11th March - Hydra Books in Bristol

Find Fight Rosa Fight! on Facebook and look out for Cassie's new band, Worst Witch

LOUD WOMEN: Volume One compilation CD available to pre-order NOW!


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LOUD WOMEN – Volume One will be released on CD on 18 March 2017, featuring tracks by 21 of the UK’s most hotly-tipped female artists:

  • Dream Nails: DIY04-dream-nails
  • Bratakus: Pollution Evolution
  • Petrol Girls: Touch Me Again
  • Dolls: Audrey
  • The Empty Page: Deeply Unlovable
  • The Ethical Debating Society: Poor Liam
  • Gladiators Are You Ready?: I Want to Love You
  • deux furieuses: Out of My System
  • Fight Rosa Fight!: Sick of You
  • GUTTFULL: Keyboard Warrior
  • Little Fists: Tyler is Not a Feminist
  • The Potentials: Moloch14188231_1107551255999096_1587132143501267403_o
  • Nervous Twitch: Something Wrong With Me
  • IDestroy: IDestroy
  • Madame So: Black is Beautiful
  • Fightmilk: Chaperone
  • Bugeye: Hey You
  • Argonaut: Not Rich
  • The Wimmins’ Institute: Nando’s
  • Lilith Ai: Riot
  • Janine Booth: Real Rape

All artists have played at the LOUD WOMEN monthly live music nights or the annual festival.
Organiser and musician Cassie Fox says: “It’s 2017 and women are still struggling to get their voices heard in all arenas. LOUD WOMEN is about putting women centre-stage and turning up the volume. There are hoardes of massively talented female artists out there, hopefully this CD can bring a few of them to a wider audience.”

The album will be officially launched on 18 March with a special all-day gig at the Sound Lounge in Tooting, featuring live performances from 12 of the artists on the CD.

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LOUD WOMEN: Volume One – Preorder now!

Out on 18 March 2017 – a compilation album of 21 of the loudest women who’ve played our shows! All profits from the sale of the CD going to Women’s Aid.

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21 track CD with zine

£10 (plus £1.50 p&p)

Pre-order now!

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  • Dream Nails: DIY
  • Bratakus: Pollution Evolution
  • Petrol Girls: Touch Me Again
  • Dolls: Audrey
  • The Empty Page: Deeply Unlovable
  • The Ethical Debating Society: Poor Liam
  • Gladiators Are You Ready?: I Want to Love You
  • deux furieuses: Out of My System
  • Fight Rosa Fight!: Sick of You
  • GUTTFULL: Keyboard Warrior
  • Little Fists: Tyler is Not a Feminist
  • The Potentials: Moloch
  • Nervous Twitch: Something Wrong With Me
  • IDestroy: IDestroy
  • Madame So: Black is Beautiful
  • Fightmilk: Chaperone
  • Bugeye: Hey You
  • Argonaut: Not Rich
  • The Wimmins’ Institute: Nando’s
  • Lilith Ai: Riot
  • Janine Booth: Real Rape

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LOUD WOMEN’s top 20 tracks of the year

by Kris Smith, LOUD WOMEN’s Music Editor

LOUD WOMEN YouTube playlist here

  1. Petrol Girls – Touch Me Again 
  2. The Tuts – Con Man  
  3. Slotface – Sponge State  
  4. Witching Waves – The Threat
  5. Crumbs – On Tiptoes 
  6. Actual Crimes – I Don’t Want To See  
  7. Fight Rosa Fight – This Scene, This Scene
  8. Colour Me Wednesday – In Your Shoes  
  9. Dream Nails – Bully Girl  
  10. Big Joanie – Crooked Room  
  11. Molar – Javier
  12. Charla Fantasma – Late For Work
  13. No Ditching – Emo  
  14. Dolls – Audrey  
  15. Muertos – Ballroom Spritzer  
  16. Good Throb – The Queen Sucks Nazi Cock  
  17. NOTS – Entertain me 
  18. LIINES – Disappear  
  19. Los Cripis – Restaurant  
  20. Prime Time – Fallen Out

LOUD WOMEN’s not-so secret plans for world domination in 2017

Yep, we’re taking over.

The patriarchy has had his chance to run things, and he’s just made a complete dog’s breakfast of it, 2016 being case in fucking point. Time for revolution woman-style … and here’s how the LOUD WOMEN are planning on doing their bit.

Step 1: The LOUD WOMEN compilation album – out in March!
We’re putting together a CD featuring some of the amazing acts that have played LW nights so far, and we’re going to be selling it far and wide to help spread the word, and music. All profits from the CD will go to Women’s Aid. And I can now exclusively reveal that the artists contributing to the CD will be:
Argonaut | Bratakus | Bugeye | Deux Furieuses | Dolls | Dream Nails | Fightmilk | Fight Rosa Fight | Gladiators Are You Ready | Grace Petrie | GUTTFULL | Janine Booth | IDestroy | Lilith Ai | Little Fists | Nervous Twitch | The Empty Page | The Potentials | The Wimmins’ Institute

Step 2: Friends of LOUD WOMEN 
Sharing is caring, so we’re teaming up with awesome friends to curate our regular London gigs, keeping the nights varied and bringing along new friends on the way. See the gigs list for details of gigs coming up with Parallel MagazineAbigail’sParties and Who Run the World.

Step 3: LOUD WOMEN on tour
With London gigs rocking away nicely, it’s time to turn our attention elsewhere. We’re going to be holding gigs in major towns and cities around the UK throughout the Spring. Dates and locations coming soon … but if you would like to get involved and help put on a LOUD WOMEN show in your home town, drop us line at loudwomen@yahoo.com

introducing: Fight Rosa Fight!

by tim forster

Cheltenham-based Fight Rosa Fight! formed in April 2014 and describe themselves as ‘messy Riot Grrrl/DIY punk’. Within six months of forming, Lindsay, Cassie and Emily had released their first EP Step One: Start A Band following it a year later with a second EP Rotten. Their songs deal with a variety of subjects including inequality, class and mental health.

why did you get together?
Cassie and Linz met through a feminist group Cassie had started. Linz and Emily had played in bands together whilst at school and afterwards. Cassie and Linz were at a meeting and just generally chatting about music, when they decided to try putting a riot grrrl band together. After their first rehearsal, Linz suggested asking Emily to join and Fight Rosa Fight! was born. From the beginning the music and the message went hand in hand. We knew we wanted to make music that had a direct, strong, intersectional feminist message.

your name … rosa parks, rosa luxemburg, or another rosa … ?
Both of the Rosa’s of course! We wanted the name to be bold and empowering, directly referencing feminist action.

is there a particular scene that you feel part of?
The Queer and DIY Punk scenes have been incredibly welcoming to us. NANA DIY at Althorpe Studios in Leamington Spa were especially welcoming to us very early on in our journey when Linz and Cassie were still learning to play their instruments – giving us a support slot for their Martha gig. Sheffield LaDIYFest gave us a chance when we were still a new band, and from playing there we met Petrol Girls who have been supportive and inspirational. Surprise AttacksDIY Punk night in Worcester was a turning point for us – the organisers and audience were really supportive and helped us to grow in confidence as a band. Jenn Hart of Cookie Cut [and Viva Zapata!] in Bristol gave us our first headline show, which developed our confidence further. Playing Nottingham Queer Fest in 2015 was a very special and emotional gig for us, with one of the best and loveliest crowds we have ever seen.

  • “We would like to give big thanks to all the musicians who were especially helpful and supportive, not just by letting us use their gear, but also offering us advice and showing us how to use amps in our early days.”

your lyrics explore some really interesting politcal subjects; other songs seem more personal. do your songs deliberately reflect those two sides of concept and experience?
Arguably all the personal things we write about are political and reflect both concepts of feminism and identity, as well as our own experiences. Our experiences are often politicised whether we choose them to be or not. For example, ‘Do What You Want’ at first listen may seem more of a ‘fun’ song but it is just as overtly political as ‘Everyday is Political’. Both songs call out to all those whose lives are political whether they want them to be or not, both songs reflect that some identities are politicised just by being ‘othered’ by society, by being pushed out of the mainstream and being treated oppressively.
  • “Mental health has long been ignored, vilified and underfunded by our government and society.”

‘We Scream in Silence’ is based on personal mental health experiences but is a love song to anyone who is hurting; it is a song both of support and kinship.

what bands and writers have you been inspired/excited by lately?
Everybody should check out Amygdala from Texas. We played with them at JT Soar in Nottingham and are quite frankly still reeling. Bianca Monique (singer/songwriter) is beautiful, strong and wonderful in so many ways; we were utterly moved and compelled by their presence and performance. Articles by journalist and editor Stephanie Phillips (also of Big Joanie) on race, gender, punk and politics are important and vital. Stephanie’s recent article ‘Are all bands who use female names alienating women in music?’ is available here. ‘Treading Water’ by Petrol Girls could not be more apt, important and necessary in light of recent events in the UK. We also love The Ethical Debating SocietySpook School and DirtyGirl. Cassie put together a zine called ‘Intersectional Politics for Punx’, the first issue dealing specifically with race in the UK DIY Punk scene; Linz and Emily would like to very strongly recommend this zine! Finally, we are very, very excited to be releasing a split 7” record with the awesome Little Fists. We are over the moon to be touring with them throughout the UK in August. Their tracks sound amazing!


Fight Rosa Fight!
 are playing at LOUD WOMEN Fest on 3 Sept.

Thanks to Tim Forster for letting us use this abridged version of his interview. You can read the full version on his blog here.

20 recommended recents

by kris smith

Deux Furieuses
Tracks of Wire
LP (May 2016)

Fight Rosa Fight /
Little Fists
Split EP (Aug 2016)
Charla Fantasma
No Excuses, Baby!
EP (Aug 2016)

Actual Crimes
Ceramic Cat Traces
LP (Aug 2016)

Towel
Wipe Me Dry
EP (April 2016)

Peach Club
The Bitch Diaries
EP (April 2016)

As Ondas
Marés
LP (June 2016)

 

She Makes War
Direction of Travel
LP (April 2016)

Twistettes
Jilt the Jive
LP (April 2016)

 

Quaaludes
Are the Winners Always Losers?
EP (July 2016)

September Girls
Age of Indignation
LP (April 2016)

 

Bratakus
Gigantopithecus
EP (May 2016)

Prime Time
Going Places
EP (May 2016)

 

¡Ay Carmela!
Working Weeks
LP (July 2016)

White Lung
Paradise
LP (May 2016)
Nervous Twitch
Don’t Take My TV
LP (Feb 2016)

Neurotic Fiction
Demo
EP (Jan 2016)

Alimony Hustle
All Strikes No Gutters
EP (Mar 2016)

Skating Polly
The Big Fit
LP (Mar 2016)
Otoboke Beaver
Okoshiyasu!
LP (Mar 2016)

 

and look out for these …

The Tuts Update Your Brain LP (Sept)

Skinny Girl Diet Heavy Flow LP (Sept)

NOTS  Cosmetic LP  (Sept)

Las Kellies  Friends and Lovers LP (Oct)

record reviews  by kris smith

Deux Furieuses – Tracks of Wire LP (May, 2016)
This is an album that probably can’t be done justice without a dissertation in place of this short review. I had the pleasure of seeing Deux Furieuses live in London recently and it was, from the off, a scathing punk/rock assault on the senses and a further reminder of just how much more of an impact two focused, talented musicians can have on stage compared to your average-sized band merely treading water (Young Romance reminded me again of this even more recently). This album delivers the same impact as the live set, while broadening the atmosphere with slower, more atmospheric songs providing balance/contrast. ‘Tracks of Wire’ shouldn’t fail to be seen (along with the upcoming Petrol Girls debut) as one of the most important albums of 2016 and you should seek it out immediately if you haven’t already; you might find it filed under Uneasy Listening.

Ros and Vas used to Rock Like Girls Don’t, of course, back in the comparatively innocent days (everything’s relative) of the mid-to-late 2000s, and their 2009 album ‘How Did It Get To This’ was a brilliant series of tuneful short-sharp-shocks, not a million miles from their current sound. The difference is that whereas that album had song titles like ‘Queen of Heavy Metal’ and ‘I Just Wanna Stick My Head in the Bass Drum’, Deux Furieuses’ debut album leaves all that stuff behind and turns to reportage, with songs addressing global crises, the war on women, refugees, and political struggle. PJ Harvey could be a touchstone musically, or possibly post-punks like the Pop Group, but frankly the band could well have just been watching the sky over the last few years, and coming to their own sound conclusions. ‘Are We Sexy Enough?’ sounds like an exception, a title harkening back to the band’s previous incarnation; instead it addresses rape culture. The final track ‘From Fear to Fury’ manages to suggest a serious message without any words at all.

A record like this will bring listeners few traditional showbiz thrills. But, in addition to delivering a skilful display of rock technique, it dares them to question – as bands like Gang of Four aimed to – the nature of entertainment, the purpose of culture, the limits of awareness. And in doing so it achieves more than most, and secures itself a serious legacy. In simpler terms, this is by turns an angry, heartfelt and affecting alternative rock album, and highly recommended.


Good Throb – S/T EP (July, 2016)
One of the best vocalists (‘KY Ellie’) in UK hardcore, a guitarist (writer/activist Bryony Beynon) in a Huggy Bear t-shirt, a drummer who looks like a young Ian Svenonius, the singer of Frau on bass, and a series of brilliantly-primitive slightly-unhinged rants that come on like a cross between Warsaw (pre-Joy Division), Rudimentary Peni and something from early-80s Bristol label Riot City records: Good Throb truly have everything. Their third EP came out in the summer and includes the track ‘The Queen Sucks Nazi Cock’, which is also literally true.


Peach Club – The Bitch Diaries EP (April, 2016)

It’s been a few years since we heard the sound of what I persist in calling ‘Norwich grrrlcore’, since the dissolution of bands like Fever Fever, the BrowniesBrothersBearsuitKabeediesViolet Violet (plus a bit further back, Kaito) – and in the absence of any recordings yet by Graceland; in the meantime Peach Club have arrived. Song titles like ‘Go Away’, ‘I’m a Bitch’ and ‘My Best Friend’ give a clue to their youth, but this is a group that already has a great early-Bikini Kill-esque sound, a powerful vocalist, political awareness and great potential. Already planning a series of follow-up singles on local label Witchgirl, expect an impressive album from Peach Club within the next few years.


LIINES – Disappear / Be Here single (Oct, 2016)

A brand new release from LIINES, and more pulverising post-punk for the people. While Zoe‘s vocals here are typically passionate and powerful, the LIINES rhythm section too can’t help but conjure up thoughts of Killing Joke and Joy Division, which is no bad thing and certainly confirms the band in a unique musical position on the DIY scene. JD-esque rhythms were borrowed by a few high-profile US bands during the peak post-punk revival, of course, but you could see this as a UK band reclaiming their local legacy. It’s as valid an audio reference as three-chord-trick guitar or Motown-style wall of sound, after all – it’s what you do with these things that matters .What LIINES do with it – as anyone who’s seen them live or heard their last single or promo EP will know, is push the aural point home with a series of pile-driving riffs almost akin to a krautrock/hard rock fusion in their repetitive, controlled frenzy – but always with a song on top.

Eagle-eyed DIY music trivia buffs may notice that the single cover was inspired by artwork by Debbie Sharp, formerly of second-wave uk riot grrrls Valerie, who LIINES played with back when Zoe & Steph were known as [hooker]. Debbie later played in Womb, an arts/music collective who released no records (as far as I know) but did begat ILL, the other block-capital manc-postpunk grrrl-band sensation de nos jours. It’s a small world – and the mood of this single is suitably claustrophobic with it. Roll on the debut album.


Crumbs – Demo EP (May, 2016)

This was an unexpected delight. Unexpected, because with the sheer amount of new cross-fertilised DIY band combinations seemingly being born every week it gets increasingly hard to keep up with it all – there are worse problems to have, of course – and easier to miss stuff,  as I did with this. The just-do-it principle is worth shouting about but inevitably not everything the scene produces is; no such worries with Crumbs, though, whose demo, particularly on tracks “Tiptoes” and “Trapped in a Haircut”, shows exceptional grasp of what a little attention to dynamics and pace can achieve, even with the simplest of rhythmic elements in operation. It doesn’t hurt that vocalist Ruth has one of those voices (see also Emma from Witching Waves) you just want to hear more from, or that there’s an epic early-punk guitar sound going on in the background that pulls my Proustian levers (disclaimer: I have never read Proust) with thoughts of Swell Maps and Siouxie and the Banshees. Maximum Rocknroll have already given this EP a very thorough review, comparing Crumbs to every band Slampt Records put out in the 90s, so I won’t repeat all that here and will instead just say get this record –  for the music, or, if you don’t like music, there are puns to enjoy, like ‘Chaka Can’t’ and ‘Stockport Syndome’. And as we know, puns not dead.


Fight Rosa Fight!/Little Fists – Split EP (Aug, 2016)

A third release for Fight Rosa Fight, and a second for Little Fists, combined – this self-released EP shows both groups at their best. Always a band-to-watch for their DIY riotgrrrl charm, FRF have become an increasingly powerful live act, and that confidence translates into tight, impressive playing here. Unlike some altrockers who promote a vaguely-radical image in the press to appear more interesting, FRF put intelligent, educated thought into making specific and valued political statements in their songwriting (see also: Dream Nails/Petrol Girls), combined with a knack for writing tuneful low-fi pop-punk gems. Little Fists compliment with a more emotional aesthetic and an affecting sound they dub “sadcore”, with what seems like more of an emphasis this time on shared vocals meaning we hear more lovely yelps from Vanessa and Sophie in between Ste’s trademark growls. A band that brings the noise, and fills a room with energy *and* people (always handy, that), Little Fists definitely, as a journalist might say, pack a punch. I would never say something like that, but they totally do anyway. Get the EP, already, it’s great.


The Tuts – Update Your Brain LP (Sept, 2016)

What’s left to say about The Tuts, on the advent of their long-awaited debut album?

In Marcus Gray’s systematic dissection of The Clash, ‘Last Gang in Town’, he calls The Clash’s tendency to write songs about the travails of being in The Clash “Mott the Hoople syndrome” after an earlier band with an equivalent habit. Synchronicitously – seeing as how the Clash are one of the few Ye Olde bands they admit as an influence via their ‘Rudie Can’t Fail’ cover – The Tuts continue that tradition, and the fact is that many of their best songs are about The Tuts and their own (mis)adventures in music, ’Tut Tut Tut’ being merely the most obvious example (I’ll confess something here: I prefer the original single recording – but that’s the nearest thing to a criticism I have of this album).

‘1982’ is a case in point, a brilliantly-written second single from the LP (after ‘Let Go of the Past’) about some stupid stuff their ex-manager said and how they don’t really need one anyway, thank you. Like so much of this album, if the tune doesn’t get you, the vocal harmonies will – and on top of it all, that this band can be so smart, funny and self-aware; well what more do you want from pop music? This is as good as it gets. This is it, the real deal.

I say “pop music” advisedly, because while the Tuts style – like their sister band Colour Me Wednesday – remains unlikely to win over the hardcore underground (too sing-y, too girl-next-door), instead they’ve long had the girl-gang sass to appeal to a genuinely young female indie-rock audience, they’ve got the hooks (much like Wolf Girl do, or Personal Best) for the indiepop crowd, and they play their songs with an in-your-face rock ‘n’ roll élan which brings the punks to the yard without ever skirting close to the ‘rawk’ fakery that risks ruining so many grunge-type grrrl groups – because despite those inevitable comparisons to The Slits, The Tuts actually bypass the whole history of post-punk to deliver the clean guitar lines, melodies, impact and solid production (and this album is very well produced indeed) of first/second wave punks like the Undertones and X Ray Spex. (Which is why you see those older blokes at Tuts gigs: they haven’t seen or heard the like for *years*.)

I say “pop music” because there’s a Robyn-esque chord change in the chorus to ‘Con Man’ which brought me to the verge of tears with its sheer perfection. There’s an emotional vulnerability in Nadia’s voice here too which belies the band’s miscontrued mock-boisterous image – as does the presence of acoustic track ‘You’re So Boring’, and the self-deprecating bad-relationship stories in the album lyrics.

I say “pop music” because alongside the DIY ethics and common-sense left-wing politics (‘Give Us Something Worth Voting For’) is a pure pop ambition to reach as many people as they can, crossing any scene boundaries, a complete lack of anything approaching artistic snobbery, as well as an aesthetic (style/artwork/videos) that both celebrates and détournes the mass-market teen/tween girlhood sold in magazines and TV shows, and an approach to performance that echoes showbiz traditions you can trace back to music hall and beyond. Check out the video to ‘Dump Your Boyfriend’ from a few years ago: it starts with the band trying to find their way on stage, but one Tut gets lost in the stage curtain and the others have to pull her through; it’s a moment of pure Morecambe and Wise charm that I’m doubtful anyone else in the DIY music scene would even have thought of, let alone be able to pull off.

It’s those results and that attention to detail, not merely the hard effort they put into self-management or performance energy, for which The Tuts deserve to be rewarded. And if all you need after all is a dozen tracks of skilful indiepowerpoppunkrock to nod your head to, well that’s a given. Without any doubt, ‘Update Your Brain’ is one of the key albums of the year.


Other releases

Almost too much new music to mention this year, but look out for these, not yet reviewed in the ezine, 2016 releases:

Actual Crimes – Ceramic Cat Traces (farewell album); Lilith Ai – Riot (EP); As Ondas – Mares (debut album); Ay Carmela – Working Weeks (debut album); Baby in Vain – For the Kids (EP); Bamboo – Hexagonal (digi-single) and Live at Cafe Oto (second album);Bleached – Welcome the Worms (second album); Bratakus – Gigantopithecus (debut EP); Cat Apostrophe – Gut Songs (debut EP); Charmpit – Snorkel (debut EP); Charla Fantasma – No Excuses, Baby! (second EP); Cracked Up – Room 201(6) (EP); Deap Vally – Femejism (second LP); Empty Page – Unfolding (debut LP); Es – Object Relations (debut EP); Evans the Death – Vanilla (third album); Ex People – Live at the Unicorn (EP); Foxcunt – Phone in Sick (digi-single); The Franklys – Come Down 7″; Los Cripis – Restaurant (EP); GAYR – Greatest Hits (debut digi-single); Hinds – Leave Me Alone (debut album); Hoopdriver – s/t (EP); IDestroy – Vanity Loves Me (debut EP); Julie Ruin – Hit Reset (second album); Las Kellies – Friends and Lovers (fifth album); The Kills – Ash and Ice (fifth album); Kitten Snot – Womb Clumps (debut EP); Maid of Ace – Maid in England (second album); M.I.A. – AIM (fifth album); Molar – [Split EP w/Pale Kids]; Muertos – Black Box (digi-single); Nervous Twitch  – Don’t Take My TV (second LP); Neurotic Fiction – Demo (EP); No Ditching – [Split EP w/Baby Ghosts]; NOTS – Cosmetic (second album); Nova Twins – s/t (debut EP); Otoboke Beaver – Bakuro Book (EP); Personal Best – I Go Quiet 7″; The Potentials – We Are the Potentials (second EP); Primetime – Going Places (second EP); Quaaludes – Rejects (EP) & Are the Winners Always Losers (EP); Rattle – I Own You (debut album); Savages – Adore Life (second album); September Girls – Age of Indignation (second album); Sex Stains – s/t (debut album); She Makes War – Direction of Travel (third album); The Shondes – Brighton (fifth album); Shonen Knife – Adventure (LP), Skating Polly – The Big Fit (fourth album); Skinny Girl Diet – Heavyflow (debut album); Betty Steeles – Where I Be (EP) & Flow Flow Flow (EP); Tacocat – Lost Time (third album); TeenCanteen – Say it All With a Kiss (debut album); Towel – Wipe Me Dry (debut EP); Tuffragettes – [three undated EPs – see Bandcamp]; Twink Caplan – Practice Room Demos (debut EP); The Twistettes – Jilt the Jive (debut album); Viva Zapata – Fuck It, It’ll Be Fine (farewell EP); Vodun – Possession (debut album); Warpaint – Heads Up (third album); White Lung – Paradise (fourth album)

Upcoming releases

Look out for debut albums from SlowcoachesFeaturePetrol Girls and Young Romance plus second albums from The Wharves, Honeyblood and Ravioli Me Away, the debut EP from Muertos and a new single from Sacred Paws.

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.

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3 September 2016 | LOUD WOMEN Fest | 25 acts in 1 day

LWfest16

Get your tickets quick for our first ever all-dayer – LOUD WOMEN FEST! Tickets selling fast.

Saturday 3rd September 2016 at T.Chances in Tottenham, 12.30-1am

Tickets from WeGotTickets- http://www.wegottickets.com/event/371192

25 acts across two rooms – no slot clashes

Full line-up now confirmed:

LIPS Choir – https://www.facebook.com/LipsChoir/?fref=ts

Dolls – www.facebook.com/thisisDolls

Argonaut – www.facebook.com/argonautband

Viva Zapata! – https://www.facebook.com/Vivazapatauk/?fref=ts

Fight Rosa Fight! – www.facebook.com/fightrosafight

Petrol Girls – www.Facebook.com/petrolgirls

Dream Nails – https://www.facebook.com/yourdreamnails/

The Franklys – https://www.facebook.com/thefranklys/?fref=ts

Desperate Journalist –  http://www.facebook.com/DesperateJournalist

Vodun – https://www.facebook.com/VODUNBAND

The Wimmins’ Institute – www.facebook.com/thewimminsinstitute

Foxcunt – https://www.facebook.com/fxcnt/

Rantipoles – https://www.facebook.com/rantipoles/

Greenness – https://www.facebook.com/greennessmusic/

Grace Petrie – https://www.facebook.com/gracepetriemusic

Janine Booth – https://www.facebook.com/JanineBoothTheBig

Lilith Ai – https://www.facebook.com/lilithaimusic

Spanking Machine – https://www.facebook.com/spanxphalanx

Maddy Carty – https://www.facebook.com/MaddyCartyMusic

Madame So – www.facebook.com/madamesomusic

Nia Wyn – https://www.facebook.com/niawynmusic

Fightmilk – https://www.facebook.com/fightmilkisaband

The Ethical Debating Society – https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Ethical-Debating-Society/76532450884

Louise Distras – www.facebook.com/louisedistras

Rabies Babies – https://www.facebook.com/rabiesbabiespunk/

The best in woman-led pop/rock bands, plus solo acts, poetry, and a few more surprises.

Children welcome all day (although after 7pm things get a louder and little ears might not like it!). The venue is wheelchair accessible. The venue’s toilets will be de-gendered for this event.

Join the group LOUD WOMEN for news of more women-lead events
https://www.facebook.com/groups/loudwomen/

“Loud Women will undoubtedly be the beacon for all the best new female talent in 2016” – The Morning Star

“Fans of women-centric punk, rock and riot grrrl will heart this UK-based promoter.” – DIVA magazine

““If, say, Kathleen Hanna flew in to Gatwick tomorrow, grabbed you by the collar and asked “What’s going on here then? Where do I need go? What do I need to see?” – God is in the TV

Number 1 women-led music night in London – thegirlsare.com