Sunday, 17 August 2014

Noelle Tannen

Socially-conscious jazzy soul from New York


www.noelletannen.com
www.noelletannen.bandcamp.com

'Survive' gave me chills. Your voice is incredible!  Who would you say are your biggest influences?

I am so glad you dig it! My biggest influences (As far as other artists go) are; Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, Debussy and I listen to a lot of 1930's song music like Cole Porter, Gershwin, Kurt Vile. Also these days, I love Nina Hagen. She is righteous. 

However, the experiences of the things happening around me are probably my BIGGEST influence.

Tell me about how that influences your songwriting.  The song 'Survive', has a strong anti-capitalism theme running through it..

Well, wealth distribution is something I think about a lot. Survive, is really about how every little thing we do, things that can seem really small like buying things when we really don't need it, consuming at establishments that we know are corrupt, use of plastic, etc ... 

We all know, that even in America, there are people that have like a shit ton of money, they hold most of the wealth, and then there is everyone else, some richer and poorer than others and this is just America. 

This song comes from the voice of me. A person who comes from a working class family, I support myself, probably would be considered on the poverty line if you calculated my yearly income. However, I live completely lavishly and have way more than I need compared to a great chunk of the world. 

I eat more than I probably need to, have more clothing than I need to, use more running water then I need to, Occasionally buy a drink at Starbucks or something. This might seem trivial to most, though its not, every little thing adds up. We have to really think before we act. If we don't than you are being cold. 

I could go on and on but I'll leave it at that. 
 
 
I haven't met you but I get the impression that you don't take any shit! Have you had many experiences of sexism throughout your musical career, and if so how have you dealt with them?

I certainly experience it a lot, in different ways all the time. For example, the music business is all about making and establishing connections, and getting attention from people that might be able to help you with your career. I have had experiences with men, where I wanted to establish professional and friendly relationships but it would often turn out they wanted to sleep with me or something like that. It's definitely frustrating cause it makes me feel as though I have to keep a guard up and always question peoples intentions. 

I deal with this by putting my foot down and showing that I am a strong person and really serious about what I do. I try to respect and trust everyone, come into relationships with an open mind and open arms. If I feel like if I am not being respected as a woman, or taken seriously I just don't feed into it. Its just simply not okay to let people manipulate you into situations like that. Also, you probably don't really want to work with someone who is trying to take advantage of you. This is a problem we all should recognize in different artistic communities. 

Also, the music industry is kind of dominated by males. A lot of times there can be this underlying skepticism when a girl walks into recording or collaborating sessions. Most of the time, the skepticism is proven wrong but its still pretty fucked up for that kind attitude to be there from the get-go based on gender stereotypes.  

I cannot express how important to stand your ground and not let male dominance override your artistic approach. I am not saying don't be self-critical, or don't take critique, because that is really important if you want your art to be good, gender aside. However, go into things with confidence. If you have strong ideas that you truly believe in then make that apparent. Don't let them shoot you down! 


Do you feel that it's becoming better or worse for women in music? 
 
Thats a really difficult question because I think it all depends on different situations and circles. I definitely think there still is like a lot of silent sexism that exists in the music industry, but again, it depends on who you are working with. Not everyone sees what happens behind closed doors. I think what is really great, are these communities, and circles of people like 'She's Pretty Good for a Girl' that are used as support systems to encourage and harness creativity and confidence for women artists.  

'Survive'




Monday, 9 September 2013

Madame So

Parisian-born, London-based singer-songwriter with punchy pop-rock tunes

photo by Derek Barnes
EP stream here
Website here

So who are your main influences?  

My influences include without being limited to..the Lemonheads, Garland Jeffreys, Sixto Rodriguez, Christophe Miossec (one of the best living French songwriters around), The Primitives (female-fronted original indie from the late 80s) and The Violent Femmes (US folk punk) , The Only Ones - I basically like poetic punk music whatever that means. But Liz Phair (circa 'Exile in Guyville' and 'Whitechocolatespaceegg') and Nina Simone really encapsulate the music I aim to be making: sharp, witty, direct, edgy without trying too hard to sound so...

I was surprised to see on your website that you've been compared to Tracy Chapman, what do you think about that?  The first thing I thought of when I heard your music was PJ Harvey.  The guitar riff on the first song on your EP reminds me of her early material.

Yes, I was doing the acoustic circuit for over a year  before I released the EP, so I assume people saw a black girl with an acoustic guitar, and that's the best they could come up with. It's silly but I take it as a compliment : Tracy has been at her prime a while ago...

About PJ Harvey, people have said that in the past even when I was solo acoustic, Allmusic even forced her influence on me, all this while I know close to nothing about PJ Harvey's music: the only track I own from her is 'This Is Love?'. A friend tried to get me into ' Rid of Me' and unfortunately I found it unlistenable... Without trying to be shocking, PJ isn't part of my musical culture, this said I like the protest track she's put out two weeks ago.

Like I said, Liz Phair was definiing in my musical upbringing : there's actually a cool piece here that looks on the influence she's had, even though people only reminisce of L7 and Hole (which I highly regard- I did listen to a lot of both these crews) when it comes to ballsy girls. 

photo by Richard Macien Clarke

As a musician, have you had any experiences where you felt like you were being treated differently than you would be if you were a man?

Yes, of course. Male musicians with whom I was trying to form some sort of collaboration have come to me saying my music is too "easy" or "simple", bur I see no point in showing off how one can play an instrument if there's no emotion or realness to it. For me, it's not about knowing your pentatonic scales by heart, but about making a sonic connection with an audience rather than just copying someone else's riff. So, often these very musicians can only come up with some deja-vu riff/chord progression and no lyrical content, instead of expressing themselves simply and/or freely however "easy" it may come across to others. These same guys would be unable to come up with actual SONGS: one with a melody and lyrics, rather than a complicated riffs been and done before by better/ or more famous musicians than themselves.

Also male promoters or punters who can't compliment you for your set without making a remark on the sound or detuning of your guitar- I found it funny that it would be something they'd only notice when it's a female playing, really... Most recently, my band and I (mainly boys) played a Battle of the Bands final. I was the ONLY girl performing out of 4 acts. The promoter (a female) asked us our timing requirements, I gave her a response promtply, asking to be programmed mid-evening (9pm to 10pm) so my fans could be on time to give us support, but she only got priority to the boys' requests and forced me to play first at 8pm... Yes, even girls are guilty of it, out of habit of male domination in the industry or maybe disguised jealousy, like they'd want to be on stage themselves. I've been told that before- I feel like telling them 'go on and do it then, and let's unite instead of competing'.
On that same battle of the bands night, a guy from another band, playing metal stuff, overcongratulated me, saying my stuff was 'summer-y' just because it's actually melodic, what the fuck does that mean? : my stuff is nothing but 'summer-y': I talk about smack and abortion" (not exclusively, obviously), thank you!

photo by Derek Barnes

Yeah, that reminds me of a recurring argument I had with the lead guitarist in my old band, about whether the guitarist from Walter Trout band was 'better' than they guy from Creedence Clearwater Revival.  I argued that technical superiority did not make the music better overall, and the music of CCR was obviously more soulful, despite, or perhaps due to their more simplistic playing.  He would just scoff at me patronisingly. 
So when you turn up to a venue, have you ever found that the male musicians in your band are treated differently by the sound tech/venue staff/members of other bands?

Well, I use a clean sound for my guitar so I don't have too demanding requirements but it seems, and I don't know if it's gender-related, that they always forget to put my vocals above all instruments, so I often get from the audience that they missed hearing the lyrics and that sucks because my material is very lyric-heavy, so if you don't catch what I'm talking about, you're missing half of the show, basically. Would this happen so often if I had a cock?.., I don't know.

Also, from members of other bands, they will always go pat my male band members on the back about our stuff after a gig, without acknowledging me, but that's ok: my band are great, deliver good shit, I guess I'm 'just' the girl who writes all the songs, but that's not for them to know....

One other occurance is when I was scouting for a band, some guys felt the need to reply to say it was not their thing, that they were after something 'heavier'... Then, why don't you just ignore my ad, knob! Sorry, I sound so angry at boys- I love them, really, just not when music making comes into play..

photo by Richard Macien Clarke

Yeah I hear that..the lead guitarist in my current band put an ad up saying she was looking for musicians to form a riot grrl band and some dudes contacted her asking if she'd like to be in their funk band - argh! 

Do you think things are improving for women in music, or do you feel like it's getting worse?
Well, I don't know...we, I mean, our gender is represented in the 'industry', but look in what way: one-dimensional, caricatural, over-sexualised, but genuinely empty in creative and artistic purpose or mission.. if you look at people like Rihanna, Del Rey, Gaga or Minaj, really!!
 
But I guess more girls actually writing their songs and playing their  instruments are coming through, from a variety of scenes, from First Aid Kit to Deap Vally to Savages. Even if they're not at all my cup of tea, if Savages can pave the way for more genuine music made by women being put forward, without it turning into an all-black clad/shaven-head uniform trend, then that's great. Also, I might be generalising a bit here but ultimately, I'll cherish the day when female musicians feel accepted, endorsed and supported enough so that they will not feel the need to use the all-female line-up card as a defense mechanism against machismo and will feel free, secure and comfortable delivering the music they want to make, and achieve the same levels of acknowledgement that men do enjoy.

 'Sell by date' music video

Monday, 26 August 2013

Shiny Shiny

  Queer electro-FLASH duo, they describe their music as 'fun, political and fluro' 

  
Website here 

How would you describe the Shiny Shiny live experience?

Well the live shows are always a new experience each time! There is always a lot of fluro and new costumes and funny antics, sometimes there might be games of elastics, or the audience might be on the stage, once a bunch of women jumped on stage and ripped their tops off! It's always something unexpected! Our material is very queer and women-centric, songs about the marriage equality debate in Australia, or disposable white goods, or picking up at the dole office, generally a bit of politics wrapped in a lot of humour and some hot beats. 
 
As female musicians and performers, how often do you experience sexism?

We have both been performing for years in other bands, Patty used to drum for Bertha Control, an all-female reggae band, and there are heaps of stories! There is the usual comments by idiots like "oh yeah I like women playing guitar because it pushes their tits up", then there is the sometimes tedious relationship with the male soundie who can either make or break your gig depending on whether he will comunicate with you or not. Once we had a shocker where the manager of the bar came up on stage, turned our PA down and shouted us to stop going on about our homo shit.. which was confronting, but encouraged us even more to continue doing so! 

Recently I have just really been aware of the general underlying sexism that's always there, even if it's not recognised. It shows it's head in the context of top 100's and music magazine articles that women just don't make it into. It's difficult because this is the stuff that is really hard to budge. 


Tell us about the Triple J (Aussie music magazine)'s top 100.  How many female artists made it in?   I'm even seeing articles about this in the Guardian now!  
 
There were apparently nine acts that made it into the top 100. There were quite a few articles about it following that weekend. It really just signals what we already know, that the music industry, and you know the world in general, is basically skewed towards the male population, whether that is conscious or unconscious. What to do about it? I don't know, maybe next year I will call everyone I know and get them to vote for the women that deserve to be in those charts? It's like the group 'Female Pressure' points out- it's not that there are not heaps of women out there, making great music, producing, engineering, running all this amazing music stuff,, it's just that they don't get recognised or promoted. 

Rolling Stone is not much better, according to their top 500 songs list less than 2% of the best songs ever were written by women,  and no women at all made it into their 100 best guitarist list.  Women have only been on the cover of NME (which comes out weekly) twice this year (Karen O in April, and Haim in January).  Why do you think this is?
 
Really, 2%? What about all the songs women have written that men take credit for, like all of Johnny Cash's stuff? I'm sure there are plenty of June Carters out there that could take credit for a good chunk of the other 98% of songs! This is why I don't buy those mags!   I really think that if we don't have representation, if we are not visible, then there is nothing for the next generation to aspire, or connect to in order to keep pushing for our equal space in the world. 
 

So tell us about your Ironing Maidens side project.  How did it come about?
 
The Ironing Maidens is Shiny's new project.. It came from a lot of things in the pot all at the same time. Patty was getting into circuit bending, I am into sampling old movies and adverts, we are always having feminist conversations about women's place in the world and how to change that perception, a friend left a hilarious old book from the 50's at our house - called "becoming a woman", written by a man of coarse, which is an entertaining read, basically how to be a good wife and avoid becoming a lesbian! Our friend Cate gave us the name when she heard what we were cooking up.

We also just wanted to create a new show that paid homage to the women who have come before us in the music and technology field, the times they lived through, how they pushed forward to the tops of their field. Women like Daphne Oram and Delia Derbyshire and others who have influenced electronic music. And then we added our own stories, some great new music, it's very theatrical, visual and colourful. It's all still in development, about to burst out into the world later this year. We are really hoping to tour it to America and Europe next year, fingers crossed! 

 
 Any chance of coming to the Edinburgh Fringe festival? 

We wish! Maybe next year!!! We are planning on being back over that side next year!!

To sum up, what what you say about the general state of the music industry?

I think that the current western music industry has so many elements of both exciting and annoying really. I find the concept of 'professional or successful musicians' referring to those few with top 40 hits, mentions in Rolling Stone etc and being signed to a label, to be limiting to the industry as a whole, and particularly for women. I think people should be encouraged to play music for the sake of their own health, for engagement and commentary on the social and political landscape and because it's fun! I think a successful musician is someone who has written something that has helped them understand something, that has touched someone else, or has kept a story alive. In other times and cultures, music has been used a tool of social change, and employed by everyone, I like that collective ownership of music, songs and stories. 

On the other hand I feel like I have more access to different music and the ideas and concepts of the global music world now, more so than I did with the couple of cassettes I was given by a neighbour when I was nine. I get to access more women's music now because I can search it out on the internet. I can also learn things more independently now, finding online tutorials etc, where as when I was young and wanted to learn guitar in a small town I had only the option of the one male guitar teacher who stared at my tits the whole lesson. 


What do you think would have to happen to improve things?

I think to improve things in the music industry..well..  I would just sack all the men running the industry and replace them with women, or even better with people under five years old.. seriously the kids know what's good.. if they dance, it's good!!!.. ha ha ha.. wish I could! 

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Kerosene Queen



 Fiery punk five-piece from Birmingham

Listen here
Facebook page here

 Can you start by telling me a little bit about how the band got together?

Charly (vocals): Well, Kerosene Queen have seen a few line up changes the past 18 months, although Emma (drums) and myself have always been in the line-up. To begin with we were actually a four piece band but things obviously didn't work out, and when they didn't, I set out to what I have always originally wanted for the band... an all female line-up. It took a good year to find the right people for Kerosene Queen, me and Emma held multiple trials and auditioned both women and men for the band. It was actually when we had almost lost hope to find any female musicians when they actually came along! It happened so quickly I don't think me and Emma believed it at first as we had been struggling for a very long time to find this very line-up! 

We met Lexi via a website in search for musicians, and Becky (rhythm guitarist) and Zowie (lead guitarist) both turned up at the last audition we held and both blew me and Emma away! We were obviously looking to complete a four piece line-up, but due to the fact they were both brilliant we decided to expand and have a five piece and a whole new look for the band.

What previous bands had you all been in?

We've all been in bands before so that is of course always a bonus! Me and Emma have formed numerous bands together, the band we were in before were called 'Hushwhore' and before this, I myself as a young teen was in a Derbyshire based band called 'Blow Up Doll,' where Emma had various experiments/projects before she moved to Birmingham.
Lexi used to front a band called 'My Haunting Revenge' before she joined us on bass.
Zowie has played in numerous bands, one called 'Freakshow' for a small period of time, although she is also a very talented pianist and writes her own material.
Becky also played in a band called 'AvengeThis' amongst other smaller projects before she joined Kerosene Queen.


Who are your main influences?

Concerning influences, we've all been muddled in to one big heap of many, many influences! We all have very various music tastes and from the new material we are writing it is beginning to show. There is a mixture of punk, riotgrrrl, 'bubblegum punk', metal, grunge... it is quite a bizarre set we are coming up with but I am really pleased about that! We aren't too fussed about being categorised as long as our input and aura is strong and fiery. With all the songs we do write and are writing at the moment, we aim to put forth the fact that women DO have a place on stage in rock music overall and we CAN make amazing songs regardless of genre.

I see that you're still playing some of the songs from Hushwhore, the first one I listened to was 'Fuck the NME'  Can you tell me about how that song came about? 

'Fuck the NME' is undoubtedly a bit of an angry song. It is a bit of a stab at the music industry as a whole, but obviously the NME are one of the leading music magazines for 'rock' bands and genres. The NME indeed never feature many female musicians, and I find their whole 'Hottest Women in Rock' one of the most insulting things ever. It is degrading to the talents a woman has, and still keeps that social oppression of women that they have to 'look good' in the eyes of a patriarchal society to be recognised. It disgusts me, so yes, Fuck the NME!

Have you noticed how seldom women appear on the cover of music magazines?  Karen O (of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) was on the cover of NME recently and I was shocked - it doesnt happen often!

 It is seldom to find a woman in their front cover, so Karen O is a definite shock, but overall - it hasn't changed my opinion of the magazine. Having one feature or one cover with a female musician does not compensate for their sexism. The magazine overall still needs a huge overhaul.


Can you tell me about any experiences of sexism you've had as female musicians?

Charly: I myself have experience sexism quite moderately. I've overheard, and been told a few times how 'fit' I am and then suddenly I have a predominantly male group in the audience obviously only watching my band because of my sexual attractiveness. 
Don't get me wrong, your image comes with the package in a band, that is if you care to have one, and yes I do care, but I don't expect it to be the main reason why people want to see my band, I don't find that as a compliment.
I have also been harassed at gigs, someone once tried to take a photograph of me from up my skirt once whilst I was on stage, that was really invading and I made him delete it afterwards, (which for some reason was quite hard to get him to do...) I've also had a man even state to my boyfriend after we'd performed once, 'Your missus is well fit if I were you I'd be.. *insert really disgusting sexual terms here*'
Sometimes it can feel like you're an object instead of a musician, you always have to hope you don't get an idiot/group of idiots in the crowd to ruin it for you.

Zowie: Once a guy said to me something like 'I saw your video of you shredding and it was sick! When I saw you I thought you were gonna suck'. He thought that was a compliment, but he assumed I was gonna suck cus I'm a girl.. Also when I filled in for a cover band the lead singer called me 'the eye candy' more than once which I found degrading and upsetting.

Becky: One of my exes used to say that women shouldn't be playing rock n roll because it didn't suit them.. I wasn't with him long..

Lexi: In my previous band I was the only woman and when we'd arrive at shows the organisers/promoters would approach the rest of the band to discuss what the plan for the night was, and would walk straight past me until I told them that I was the one they'd been speaking to all alongover facebook to arrange the show, book the band, sort out equipment and even get other bands to fill slots they had for the same night. Ninety per cent of the time people seemed surprised that it was me and not one of they guys that had done all of that and that I was the one who managed the band and did all our promotion etc.

Emma: I'm a female drummer and I have had surprised faces and comments when I state this. There is also the expectation that I will not be as good as a male dummer. Female drummers are in the minority compared to male drummers but this shouldn't affect how people view me talent-wise. Apparently it isn't deemed 'feminine' either, which I think is a load of bollocks.

 'Stab Back' live at the Old Bell, Derby

Why do you think so many people react to female musicians in this way?

People and men in general think women in rock will 'suck' because there hasn't been enough emphasis on the fact that women also belong on stage in rock music.

It is that whole ideology that women belong back stage because that is essentially the old rock n' roll lifestyle that has been portrayed to us and it is widespread. Women are shown to be in complete awe of male rock stars and could never amount to the same position as them, so they submit to a male's desire and consequently superordinate themselves in that situation. 

I think it is the idea of a woman on stage having the same aura (and essentially more power) similar to a man is the main aspect that people find hard to imagine and accept.

Do you ever get annoyed with being referred to as an 'all female band'?  I've notice that bands are never referred to as 'all male'!

Yes I do. I do find it quite marginalising, but as I just said, because it is so hard to accept women as musicians, the idea of women in bands has to be reinforced and it is shown through our choice of language and band description terms!

What do you think would alleviate the problem of sexism in music?

Honestly I could give you loads and loads of ideas I think will help in alleviating sexism in music. If I had to be brutally honest with myself, (and unfortunately accept it too) sexism will (hopefully) begin to disappear over the simple concept of time. Only time will tell. It isn't something that will be eradicated 100% as sexism is embedded in our society and culture, sexism is intentionally or unintentionally adopted, so highlighting it and education of it is possibly the key, although this will most certainly be hard to do with the pressure of the media and the overall music industry as they both generally make money from many forms of sexism. To change the music industry, you need to change the social norms to which it belongs, and the minds of music lovers.

 Yet as I said, I think once music lovers are educated about sexism, and realise the inequality and want the change, the media and music industry will have to find other means to 'sell' music.

We just need women to keep going, keep fighting and keep highlighting that we belong on stage and we are up there for our own pleasure, we are not doing it for anyone else's, so this now ancient concept of rock n' roll and women can take a stroll and stay in the past!




Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Cat Bear Tree



South London-based Cat Bear Tree are made up of Zoe Konez (guitar and vocals) Claudia Mansaray (bass and vocals) and Sarah Smith (drums and vocals).  Their influences include Warpaint, Sleater Kinney, Pixies, Bloc Party...

Is there a Slits influence?  The staccato guitar on Crayons reminds me of them, I suppose its the London accents as well! 

Zoe: No my guitar playing isn't directly influenced by the Slits. I love PJ Harvey, Kaki King, Ani difranco, and heavier bands like Glassjaw, Mars Volta and Deftones which probably shows a bit.

As female musicians, do you ever feel that you're being treated differently than male artists would be? 

From our experience of playing gigs around different venues in the UK, it seems that female musicians perhaps have to work harder to be taken seriously, however we like to think that once people hear our music that gender becomes irrelevant. We have recieved the occasional ignorant comment like, ' you're too good to be girls' but essentially the outcome is positive. Like so many female musicians before us we hope to continue to help raise the profile, educate and improve equality for female musicians. 


How do you feel about being labelled as an all female band? 

Again, we would prefer that we were known for our music first and foremost, I mean how often do you hear/read.... ' we love this new all MALE band?!'   However, that said, we are what we are and we are proud to be an all female group. All girl band nights and riot grrrl themed events seem to be growing fast in popularity and we love getting involved with this stuff. 

Do you have any particular experiences of sexism you'd like to tell us about?

I guess our only experiences of sexism would be that we frequently get told that we "play well for girls", which is a interesting comment to take. On one hand it's a compliment being told that we play our instruments well but then on the other hand, being female shouldn't have any bearing on that. We would however never react in a negative way when somebody says that, as in most cases when guys say that, they genuinely think that they are giving us a compliment and don't see any problem with making such a a comment.

What would you say to all the 15 year old girls just picking up a guitar now?
To all 15 year old girls picking up a guitar we'd say "GO FOR IT AND STICK AT IT!". We all started playing our instruments when we were teenagers and are very glad that we kept at it. We'd also tell them to "PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE". They may come against some sexism in music and the best way to fight against that is to know how to play your instrument well. That way there's no room for silly comments.

We also think its good to have some strong musical influences and to spend time listening to their music and style. Some amazing female musicians who we are influenced by include (Pixies and Breeders bassist) Kim Deal, Melissa Auf der Maur, Kaki King, PJ Harvey, (Yo La Tengo percussionist) Georgia Hubley, (Slits and Raincoats drummer) Palmolive and (Sleater Kinney and Wild Flag drummer) Janet Weiss.
 
Any plans to play a gig north of the border?

Yes we certainly do have plans to play some gigs north of the border. We want to try and play as many places as possible and spread some Cat Bear Tree love! Especially after our EP 'Let's Share Hearts' is released on 5 August. We are also very keen on doing 'gig swaps' with other female bands. We'll sort out a gig for them in London for both bands to play and they do the same for us in their home town. This benefits both bands as we can find each other good gigs.


New music video for 'Blind'


Thursday, 27 June 2013

Vanilla Gloom

Post-punk/grunge power trio currently causing a bit of a stir in Belfast...touring Scotland next week!
 
Listen here

Upcoming Scottish tour

Tues 2nd July - Bloc Glasgow
Wed 3rd July - Cafe Drummond Aberdeen
Thurs 4th - 20 Rocks Dundee
Fri 5th - Bridge Inn Galashiels
Sat 6th - Wee Red Bar Edinburgh
Sun 7th - Slouch Bar Glasgow

Can you start by telling me about how the band formed, and who you're influenced by?

Shannon (guitar/vocals): Vanilla Gloom started with myself and Megan; we've always played music together and we'd previously been in a band called Puerile Honey, but when that finished we knew we wanted to get another project going. We went through a few drummers but it wasn't until we found Grace that we finally had our line up. We arranged to meet up with her and jam a few songs we'd already written and everything just clicked into place after that first practice.

We say our main influences would be the likes of Queens of the Stone Age, Pixies and The Breeders but collectively we all have quite a broad taste in music - I'm a Kate Bush fanatic, Grace is a dedicated Travis Barker student and Megan is in love with Tom Waits!

As musicians, have you had any experiences of sexism?

Shannon: My first experience of sexism in music was in my first band when I was banned from singing because 'we can't have you singing, you sound too much like a girl.'  I was 13 at the time and it was very confusing to me to be stifled due to my gender - up until then I had believed that art and music were completely free form and equal.

As a female guitarist I've always faced a certain level of sexism from people; this usually comes in either blatant 'wow, you're good for a girl' or just transparent, sycophantic compliments - my upbringing has gifted me with a very good bullshit radar!  I don't think it is naive to assume that there are some people who might be attributing our doing-well to the fact that we're an all female band and to them I say, people don't tend to buy music based on the gender of the musician but on the quality of the music. In general though, I believe that the majority appreciate that music is genderless; that a performer is measured by skill and passion, not sex.


Grace (drums/vocals):  I don't think I have experienced any kind of bluntly obvious sexism in music, apart from this one old male bouncer who refused me entry into a venue because I was a girl and he didn't believe I could play the drums!  This happened every time I played this venue and every time I greeted the bouncer with a "Hello, Now Fuck Off" and loaded my gear in. 

From a young age I have always played in bands with boys who have never treated me as male or female  .. just as a musician.  I do get vibes now and again with bands we are playing with that they are not interested in talking to us, not even a hello at sound check and I can only conclude that this is because I'm a female musician in an all female band.  After we play they do tend to make eye contact and pluck up the courage to say hello or "good gig".  This never bothers me it is more of an observation I make and I just get on with what I'm doing.  I feel if they have any negative feelings towards me as a musician it is down to their own insecurities.  I know a lot of male musicians who are very close friends of mine who include me in their projects because they know I'm good at what I do, so I believe this gives me the confidence to ignore or challenge (depending on what mood I'm in) those sexist remarks.

Photo by Diarmuid Kennedy

Megan (bass/vocals):  Being in an all-female band, we've all experienced sexism to some extent.  I've had another musician approach me after a gig and tell me to change my style of bass playing, for no apparent reason.  I knew it was totally out of order for him to tell me that, and I just put it down to him being a total tool, but when I think about it, I really don't think he would've said that to another male musician.  And even if he did, he's still a tool.  There was another instance where a guy in a local band was quite bitter about Vanilla Gloom getting a support slot at a G Session with (Belfast band) And So I Watch You From Afar, and the only reason he thought we got the slot was because we were female.  In the words of (Distillers vocalist) Brody Dalle, we don't play our instruments with our vaginas, so what's the difference!  I also remember once on a night out, some guy walked up to me and said "Hey, you're in Vanilla Gloom," and then began to caress his moobs.  I didn't take offense from it though, because all he did was make himself look stupid.  In relation to my band, sexism isn't something that overly bothers me.  It's never going to stop us doing what we do :)


 
Why do you think this kind of thing happens so often to female musicians?  There's a school of thought that it's down to fear, and another that says its due to a lack of visibility of female musicians... 

I would agree with Grace that it's largely down to insecurity (as it is with most forms of people being rude to each other). I also think that on a more primal level, people tend to try and assert their dominance a bit too much and such is the case with some people in music.

Grace:  I think this kind of behaviour happens to all female musicians.  Unfortunately I don't know any other female drummers personally to know if they have shared the same experiences. They do say that drummers are as fit as athletes so maybe subconsciously some males feel this is a more masculine instrument?  My last gig I broke two pairs of new sticks in a row and threw them to the crowd who crawled on the floor squabbling over them.  A result of me liking to hit the drums hard - maybe that's why the fellas tend to stay off my case - haha.  But hitting drums hard doesn't make you a good drummer.  For me it is playing something complicated but making it look effortless.

Do you feel that there's a pressure on women in bands to look good, more than there is for men? 

Shannon: I think there's a constant pressure in western society for women and girls to look 'good' but from a personal point of view, I don't wear a lot of make up, I don't often wear skirts or dresses unless I want to and I never dress to impress anyone but myself! I think all girls should think this way.

In terms of this in music, I've always loved the visual eccentricities of the likes David Bowie, Kate Bush and Lady Gaga and I'm totally devoted to the fact that music performance is one in the same with dramatic performance; so if you want to use that time on stage to be another person, dress/look a certain way to make a creative point, go for it whether you're male or female!

Grace:  I wear make up and have my own style which I feel 100% comfortable in.  I have never been manufactured to look the way I am and fortunately no one has told me to look a certain way either.  As this band is pretty new who knows down the line what a label would say to us.  For me it is all about the music and the cosmetic side of things can run on.  I'm sure the pressure is on for both males and females to look good especially where major labels are involved.  I would say they are all about the looks (as you can auto tune any clown) which is shallow and sad, but that's why there are hard working rock bands out there - to give those shallow labels the middle finger salute with their punk attitude and play music it all its raw glory!

Photo by Diarmuid Kennedy

Do you think that things are getting better for women in music? 

Grace: I really dunno, I'm sure everyday female musicians are proving to sexist male musicians that we can play our instruments very well.  We can write melodies, compositions and songs that will play on repeat in your head!  Things can only get better, though I do feel that a lot more can be done to encourage young girls to pick up instruments and recognise its beautiful gift!  I was the only girl In high school to sign up for drum lessons, it didn't put me off it but this is just an example that maybe these things could be advertised to both genders more equally. 

Shannon: I can't say if things are getting easier for women in music but there has been a resurgence in all female bands and strong, proud female musicians; Savages as one example. I just think that the more girls picking up guitars and drum sticks, the better! Imagine living in a world when nobody has any preconceptions about a musician based on gender; what a rockin' utopia that would be.  


Lemons and Wine (acoustic) at Hollaback Belfast 

Monday, 13 May 2013

The Ragnoutaz

Kick-ass Parisian electro-punk band not afraid to sing about the full experience of what it means to be a woman - their name is a viking war cry for 'There will be blood'. 


                                                                        Listen here

                                                      Website here

So first of all could you just tell me about how the band formed?

Zelda (lead vocals): It all started in the spring of 2011, me and Marion (on bass) wanted to compose music together just for fun. We would hang out at hers and use her and her girlfriend Marie 's recording gear (which was mainly their PC with Cubase and a mic).  Marie joined us shortly after on guitar and voila! we became a trio. It got suddenly more serious with Marie joining in and we played our first gig not so long after forming the band. I also need to add that , although we started out as a trio , we recently decided to have our friend Lea on drums to give more of a live feel to our drum machine samples, as she's an excellent drummer with great energy and intuition. 

Who are your main influences?  

They're very diverse. I for one love all sixties music : soul, early reggae, ska, rocksteady, and british beat, freakbeat, garage.. I also love late seventies/eighties punk, power pop, oi!. Bloody Mary loves a lot of classic rock n roll and also indus and post punk. Same goes for Lady M. who's a big fan of post punk,of glam and rock n roll in the general sens of the word, but who also loves soul and funk. 

When we compose for the Ragnoutaz, we "inject" slight touches of all these but without making it too obvious (whether it's through the bass line, my flow on lead vocals or aggro power chords by Mary) and then when the drum machine comes it's all wrapped up in something more poppy and somewhat electro. :)



 Have any of you experienced sexism in any form as a result of being women playing music?

We can all say we've experienced sexism for being female musicians MANY TIMES! Itthen will take different shapes and happen in different contexts. For instance, I play drums in a sixties beat/pop band and I've been told once, after a gig, that I did a great show but that I was an exception among female drummers because generally : "women can't drum! Even good ones are bad! They're clumsy and bad! and 50 years of rock history with no real good female drummer is clear evidence of that!!" . I then realised that this guy was trying the worst chat up line in the history of the universe...


Then, Lady M. and Mary often tell me stories of them going to a amp store or guitar store and being compleeeetely ignored for hours by all the male shop assistants. Then Mary also gets a lot of bullshit as she's also an excellent sound engineer and generally, at first glance, male musicians will not trust her. We've also heard a lot of bullshit form the same people who would have us play... what a shame.



Why do you think it is that female musicians experience this kind of prejudice so regularly?   I was reading an interview with Adele Bertei who was in the no-wave band The Contortions, and she was of the opinion that it comes from fear.  Would you agree with that or do you have a different perspective?

So our perspective on this is that we don't necessarily believe it's due to fear. We get the feeling it's more because of general lack of visibility of female musicians. When you start playing gigs and end up among a lot of male bands and musicians, you can sometimes feel you're being treated like a total newbie. Men love talking about their equipment , pedals, the size of their plectrums etc. and they don't want to share that with us cause they seem to think we have no clue what they're talking about. So most of the time they don't take us seriously as musicians, but when they see us on stage, or realize we can actually PLAY, they're like "wow you're good!". The funny thing is, it may also happen the guys who don't think you're not a skilled musician because of your gender are actually bad musicians themselves. Some of them are so full of shit and what's funny is that they never seem to question their capabilities. In general, people will expect more from female musicians. It's sort of like you need to prove you deserve this title.

 'Dance and Suffer' performed live at the Live festival Arthémise

How have you been received by the music press? 

We've been received quite well, but it's only been on webzines and blogs so far. But still it's been quite positive and we're super grateful! On the other hand, I suddenly started to get a lot of hate mail sent directly to the webzines and blogs, from the same person under different nicknames (but with the same IP address! haha!). We've tried to find out who it was but we reckon it might just be some angry ex of mine. ;)

Or somebody who's just jealous!  What advice would you give to all the young girls just getting into playing music now?
 
The advice we would give them is to start playing live as quickly as possible, especially if they're into rock n roll. Just getting on stage as often as possible, borrow a car once in a while (if one of them drives) and start going places. That's for me the best way of learning the ropes and getting better at your instrument as well! If they feel that there aren't enough opportunities to play, then why not organise their own events and invite bands over. It's also a great way to create a network. This is what we're doing with the Ragnoutaz and also through Bloody Mary and Lady M's association "Crache!" (which is also a fanzine, there Facebook page is here). The more we play, the more we meet awesome people and discover new sounds and simply the more we grow as individuals. And if you start getting in touch with a lot of all female bands as well, you realize slowly that you're not only creating a network  but also doing something for the cause : making it possible for awesome female musicians to get the visibility they deserve. 



The second piece of advice I would give is to get out there and do your thing without caring what people think. There will always be haters and bullshitters trying to put you down or patronize you, not only dudes but women as well. I remember playing at some club in Paris a long time ago with Lady M and I's former band the Sixtits (i was on drums back then) and while we were getting the gear up on stage, two chicks started playing around with our mics  and taking the piss out of us. Our lead singer Sab at the time got pissed off but stayed surprisingly calm and got the mics back from the two girls. Though when we hit the first song, she started singing at them with all her might and suddenly these two chicks realized they could not fuck with us. They then came to see us after the show to apologize. Women will sometimes be harsher than men towards other women and that really sucks.