So, which band is your boyfriend in?

Last weekend we settled down for a chat with Suzy Harrison.

Suzy is in the process of putting together a documentary about women in music called So, which band is your boyfriend in?’. 

Take a look at the trailer below:


 

  • How’s the documentary-making process going?

It’s almost two years now since I started the project. I started off by interviewing about 8 people, just as a test to see how willing people would be to be involved… and work out the questions I wanted to ask etc. Then in December 2014 I decided to do a crowdfunder to raise money to fund the travel costs and so on to take the project a bit further afield and interview more people. I finished interviewing in March this year. I’ve done 31 interviews altogether. So now the editing process is just starting, following transcribing all the interviews. I’m doing it old school – printed interviews, with real life cut and paste.

Then I’ll start getting the clips I need and organising them on the computer. It’s a massive job!

 

  • Sounds it! So the documentary is about women in music – are you focusing on any particular scenes or particular issues?

It’s about women in music (but there’s also one gender-fluid individual included). I’ve tried to focus on UK DIY punk/reggae/indie pop type scenes mainly. I wanted to find out what it’s like in those scenes because they are rarely included in documentaries. I didn’t want to include anyone too well-known either because I felt it would detract from the story.

I didn’t want it to be “the music documentary with [insert well-known celebrity name here]”. I want to give real people who are working hard in music scenes a voice that they don’t usually have.

In terms of issues… I asked people whether they feel there is an imbalance in the scene in terms of gender and then explored their thoughts and the possible reasons for it, and also have tried to look at what could be done to change it. Sexism came up in the conversations, but I also wanted to ask about the positives of being involved in music – that’s something I think is really important to tell people.

 

PetrolGirls-SuzyHarrison-London, August 2015

 

  • Have you discovered anything particularly surprising in that respect? Any gender imbalances/ inequalities that you didn’t expect?

There have been some interesting stories from people about situations they have experienced, for sure. Sometimes the experiences are quite small instances of sexism like just not being acknowledged as being able to be in a band… but then there are other stories of people not being able to get into shows they are working, because ‘a woman couldn’t possibly be a sound engineer’ or similar attitudes.

Prior to starting this project I knew about some of the things people might speak about, because I saw elements of it first-hand both in a band and working as a photographer. So none of it was massively shocking to me, personally, but I think that people who aren’t as familiar with those experiences in the scene might be surprised.

 

  • What inspired you to make this documentary? Was there a eureka moment of inspiration?

It’s a bit of a long story… and a combination of things.

I’ve been playing music since I was 5 years old and over the years I’ve noticed that a lot of my female friends weren’t really into music like I was. I was often in a minority at shows and in the bands I played in – I was the only girl in an 8-piece ska punk band for some time at uni.From 2009I played in a ska punk reggae band called Copasetics for five years and before we got Toop on bass, I was the only female in the band. I’ve never been angry about it though, I just wondered “why?”, because I get so much out of music and I love it so much. I don’t have many close female friends who are obsessed with music as much as I am.

I’d been thinking for several years about doing a Masters or PhD to look into the subject. But it’s really hard to get funding for social research and having met with a few academics, I didn’t think I would be able to get money or explore it in the way I wanted. I was worried about having to come up with a research proposal that would end up constraining the topic too much. I didn’t want to apply theories to it, I just wanted to document it and let the people I spoke to, lead the direction of the research.

Shortly after I’d almost given up on the idea again, I was watching ‘The Other F Word’. It’s a documentary about dads in American punk bands.. It was interesting, but aspects of the film actually started to annoy me. I started thinking “what about mums in punk?” and “why is it always about Amercian punk? or punk from 1970s?” –  So I decided that if I didn’t like the documentaries out there, I should just make my own.

And  that’s what I started to do.

 

  • You mentioned feeling like a minority in music crowds – it definitely seems like girls are less likely to get into certain genres of music. Did you come across any interesting explanations for that trend while documentary-making? Do you have any possible explanations of your own?

It’s a lot of things I think. There are so many factors all working together… like the dominance of men in the scene already I think can just result in things just continuing that way – it’s harder to fight against something that’s already so ingrained into the scene. And role models are often harder to find – you have to dig a bit deeper if you want to have someone that’s doing what you want to do and is the same gender (but whether that’s important – same gender role models – is something that was discussed in the interviews). Then the idea that the scene is geared towards men in terms of behaviours at gigs like the aggression… and how women might not feel comfortable… but then again why does it have to be like that? And who says women don’t want to be in the mosh pit or crowd surf? There’s also the idea of things happening when you’re at school or growing up too – like encouragement to learn at instrument or being pushed towards certain scenes or instruments.

It’s pretty complicated and having started editing now, it all seems to interlink a lot.

 

  • Does the experience of women differ depending on the part of the industry?

I think it does. There seem to be differences in terms of genres with some scenes leaning more towards safe spaces and inclusivity. There are also differences in the roles people do in the music industry and the types of roles that they are expected to adopt just because of their gender. This can be anything from the type of instrument they play, to whether they choose to become a venue owner, promoter or tour manager. Having edited a webzine, I always thought there was more of a balance in terms of PR agency and journalism roles for men/women in music. I could be wrong though!

 

  • That’s really interesting. Do you think that, for example, a female pop singer might get less trouble than a female sound engineer?

I think we see more female pop singers out there so it’s easier to accept that as a norm. We don’t see as many sound engineers who are female so it’s not perceived in the same way – it seems more unusual (even though it shouldn’t be). However I do wonder whether these female pop singers are actually in control of what they’re doing entirely… they have a lot of people around them working with them.

 

School of Frock, Exeter - February 2015 (Suzy Harrison)

 

  • Given everything you’ve learned whilst making the documentary, what do you think needs to change?

Even over the past two years I’ve noticed things changing very gradually, which is positive, but I think there’s still some way to go. I think it all needs to start earlier – at school for example or at home – encouraging both girls and boys to get involved with music… all types, all instruments, all roles. Workshops like School of Frock in Exeter and rock camps in the UK and America are really good initiatives and more investment into those would be good. There’s also a need for more role models for young girls and women to relate to – in all areas of music. It’s about encouragement and empowerment.

But at the same time, we need to remember that we can’t force people to do things they don’t want to do. And if you don’t want to play an instrument or be in the music scene, that’s ok too. I’ve thought a lot about the whole line-ups thing – like Leeds fest not having bands on the bill with women (or fewer) and I’m not sure where I am on that because I’m not sure about all-women stages or line ups just for the sake of it.

I can see the positives and negatives of them… which is probably the sign that I’m being objective in my documentary research!

 

  • Where can we find you?

You can find the documentary [information and trailer] on Facebook – search for “So, which band in your boyfriend in?”. The Indiegogo project is still online too and I’m posting updates when I remember to…  I don’t have a website yet for the documentary but the intention is to get one set up soon. I have loads of behind the scenes and other  photos I want to share at some point.

Oh and if anyone is interested in working with me on the edit… I’d love to hear from you! Or anyone who can fix  audio levels and stuff like that as I might need some help with it soon…

And always looking for awesome music I can include or extra general footage from gigs and festivals!

 

  • What’s your favourite thing right now?

I’ve been enjoying learning to use Ableton! I know that’s a geeky answer. I went to a talk the other night by Rob Tissera (DJ), and he was talking about remixing and making music using Ableton and it inspired me so much! I met him after the talk and he was so enthusiastic and encouraging. Last night I was working on a song using it and it was so much fun.


Suzy can usually be found taking photos of bands – of which there is evidence on her website, instagram (@suzyskaphotos) and Flickr – and making music of her own.

She is also in the process of putting together a website, which you will find HERE once it’s up.

 

 

GRL! Interview

Our very first blog is from Girls Rock London (GRL!), an awesome organisation dedicated to giving women and girls the chance to jam and perform together.

The Womens Rock Camp over the next May bank holiday has now sold out but you can still attend the final showcase for FREE at The Victoria, E8 on Monday 30 May – maybe you’ll be inspired to sign up next year!

 

In the meantime, we definitely think you should sign up your daughters, sisters, nieces and other small female friends for their summer camp. Girls Rock Camp registration is now open for girls aged 11-16.

 

If that proposition alone hasn’t convinced you, we interviewed the ladies of GRL! for more information. You can thank us later.

 


Who are you?

Vicky O’Neon (VO): I’m Vicky O’Neon, a rhythm lover originally from Finland.

Geraldine Smith (GS): I’m Geraldine Smith, I co-ordinate the organising side of things for GRL. I’m also founder and manager of LIPS – a feminist all-woman pop choir based in London.

Linda Buratto (LB): I’m Linda Buratto, one of the GRL founders and also London-based Guitarist/Noisemaker with quite a confusing international background.

Jessica Maryon Davies (JMD): My name is Jessie Maryon Davies.  I am a pianist and I co-lead and arrange for LIPS Choir. I also lead creative workshops for orchestras, opera houses, venues and festivals who want to open up their music to young people.

 

What inspired GRL!? Why do you think it’s important?

VO: I’m the co-founder of Rock Donna, the equivalent to GRL! in Finland and I think it’s especially important to see a movement like this in London, the heart of the music industry in Europe. GRL! gives girls and women an opportunity to express themselves in a safe environment creatively, which opens up so many doors when it comes to self image and self esteem. The music industry is still male dominated, especially when it comes to instrumentalists, we want to create a platform where female musicians get together to work as role models to inspire young girls and women to start playing and start their own bands.

GS: My personal inspiration to set up GRL came from volunteering for Girls Rock Camp Vancouver in summer 2013. I went to live in Vancouver for a year and a half with my partner, and in the same week that we arrived in the city, Girls Rock Camp Vancouver advertised their girls’ camp showcase concert in the local listings paper. We went along because we were looking for things to do and were completely blown away by watching eight amazing bands made up entirely of young women and girls rocking out. It was so inspirational – I’d never seen anything like it! It made me realise how rarely you see girls and young women playing those kinds of instruments and totally owning the stage. The following year I got involved with working at the camp and came back to London resolved to get one started up again in London.

LB: A group of crazy women coming together, wondering why so many girls feel so scared of picking up an instrument to make noise and consequently DECIDING TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Projects like GRL! and GRCA are important because they provide a Safe Space for women and young girls to feel safe and learn about their own creativity (through music). It provides them with the tools to go out in the REAL WORLD and feel absolutely confident in who they are and what they want to do and express.

JMD: My work with LIPS Choir over the last six years has shown me what a positive force for change a women-led space can be in terms of individuals’ development in confidence and the power of a supportive, empathetic community. When Geraldine first spoke to me about her inspiration to start up a London camp, I could see three massively important things in my life coming together -music, feminism and young people – and I knew I was IN. When LIPS performed at the Women of the World Festival at the Southbank Centre in 2015, we met Linda and Vicky and it turned out (amazingly) they were also trying to start a Girls Rock London. We took it from there and the team was BORN. Providing a space where girls and women can feel safe to express themselves musically can have impact on womens’ individual lives and create communities around them. Doing this in London feels important and the positive response we are getting from friends and people in the industry is very, very exciting.

 

 The challenges facing women in music: in your view, what are they and what causes them?

VO: I think lack of role models is one thing. Many women never even considered being musicians because they didn’t see anyone they could directly relate to when they were growing up. I also feel that women have to “prove” themselves in a different way compared to men on stage, because most people’s initial thoughts are “wow, a girl, now let’s see if can she really play”. That means that the threshold to go out there and do it in the first place is a lot harder for girls. It’s also socially more common that teenage boys get together and jam in someone’s garage as a way of socialising, whereas if girls play music at that age, they mainly do it by themselves in their bedrooms.

GS: There are lots! But I think the one that resonates most with me is about confidence and self-esteem. It takes quite a bit of personal confidence to be able to pick up an instrument, start playing around with it and get a band together – let alone play in public. For all sorts of reasons girls can experience a loss of confidence during their teenage years and this can affect their willingness to put themselves out there and participate in music. That’s why GRL is so important – it provides a space where girls and young women can be completely themselves where they won’t be judged at all for what they look like or even what they sound like. The most important thing is just getting stuck in and being excellent to each other!

LB: To quote James Brown: “it’s a Man’s World!”. The music industry has been ruled by a majority of men who have only related/worked with other men. Adding a woman to the equation for some reason seems to create a STATE OF CONFUSION in them causing a lot of sexism which is sadly based on social ignorance or prejudices.

JMD: I think they are the same challenges that women face in many different environments. Often women can be made to feel like they don’t own their space or have a voice. Social norms can lead to a vibe of self-apology and low self-esteem in a lot of young women. In places that are still male dominated (the music industry definitely being one), it’s like women need EXTRA confidence and strength to break through. It feels like they have to be twice as good as men to prove themselves worthy of taking that space.

 

 

Do you have any advice for young women who want to play rock instruments?

VO: JUST DO IT!!! The internet is a great tool today to get inspired by similar minded people all over the world. Find out more about the Riot Grrrl movement, they really inspired me. The ethos behind what they did was just go up there and do your thing, if all you know is 2 chords, that’s all you need, you have the right to be heard. The Girls Rock movement today is also an ever-growing movement all around the world, so find out if there’s a movement close to where you are and get involved, I guarantee you it will change your life forever. If you’re in London get in touch with us 🙂 !!!

GS: Just do it! Don’t worry about being an expert; don’t worry about what other people will think; and don’t let anyone tell you that girls can’t play! Music is so important to so many people – you deserve to make it as much as anyone else.

LB: Grab your instrument of choice and BE AS LOUD AS YOU CAN!!! If a man or anyone tells you that you’re doing it wrong – Look At Them and Keep BEING LOUD and True to Yourself. It takes time to learn, but anyone that tries to stop you rather than encouraging you with constructive advice shouldn’t be worth your time.

JMD: GO FOR IT. YOU CAN DO IT. Also, you’re not alone. I was inspired by Kathleen Hanna’s words in her inspirational film The Punk Singer. She talks about girls’ bedrooms being a personal space for creativity and self expression, “you can make whatever you want when you’re alone in your room” and also how powerful it would be if all that creativity could be joined up – and therefore visible and LOUD. The Internet is making that easier. Do you own thing – but also know that you can find others who play and get together! Try and take the pressure off yourself to be nailing it right from the start. If you’re enjoying yourself, noone can tell you you’re doing it wrong.

 

What’s your favourite thing right now?

VO: My favourite thing right now is reaching out creatively into new areas I haven’t explored before. When someone used to ask me what I do, I used to say I’m a drummer. Now I don’t feel like I fit into one box anymore because I also love videos and images; I’m a poet and abstract painter, I love to experiment with raw food, love to interview people, experiment with colours, meditate, drink wine and meet new people. Once you tap into that creative well you can turn everything you do into something creative!!

GS: We’ve been looking at the bands we want to bring to our camps (we have bands and artists performing during lunchtime at our camps so that people can see and meet different kinds of people making music). I’m loving the acts we have booked to come down to our women’s camp in May – pop punk band The Tuts and spoken word artist Liv Wynter. Great performers, artists and role models for girls and young women!!

LB: I have recently been introduced to Kite Surfing – when I tried, I suddenly found myself lifted 3ft over ground by the power of the wind and a kite. It was insanely LIBERATING. Funnily enough since then, I have started to look into kite surfing communities and finding a lot of similar struggles for Women in that World.  Clearly what we are trying to do with GRL! is something that is STRONGLY NEEDED in today’s society – women should feel safe to do and express themselves however they want.

JMD: the fact that SUMMER IS ON ITS WAY.

 


 The summer camp will take place from Monday 1st to Saturday 6th August 2016 for girls aged 11 to 16. 

The programme at both will be a mixture of musical/technical tuition and workshops, which together help to build participants’ self-esteem and confidence, and provide a platform to find and develop their voices. Rock Camp is all about trying new things, working together and making lots of NOISE!

 

Website: www.girlsrocklondon.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/girlsrocklondon/

Twitter: www.twitter.com/girlsrocklondon

 

 

 

GRL! Bank holiday camp for women (aged 18+) | Friday 27th May (evening) to Monday 30th May 2016 – SOLD OUT

Women’s Final Showcase: Monday 30 May at 6pm, The Victoria, Queensbridge Road, E8 3AS

 

GRL! Summer camp for girls (aged 11 to 16) | Monday 1st to Saturday 6th August 2016

Camp and final performance location: The Blue Studios, 160 Dalston Lane, London, E8 1NG