Interview – GUTTFULL EP Launch

I caught up with GUTTFULL to talk feminism, punk and inspirations at their EP launch gig on Thursday.

The full interview can be found above^ or on our podcast on Soundcloud.

It was one of the most exciting gigs I’ve been to this year – the talent was self-evident and the line-up was fantastic. GUTTFULL played an absolutely barnstorming set. Lyrically furious and funny; they were all rage and good humour.  ARSEHOLE and Does Your Girlfriend Know You’re Here? made a particular impact – I’m sure half of Islington could hear us gleefully shouting ‘ARSEHOLE, ARSEHOLE!!’ back at the stage.

That seems to be the trick to GUTTFULL. They’re are at once bitterly angry, bitingly witty, and so much fun. No immersion-ruining self-consciousness here; they’re too busy having a good old (angry) time.

 

 

GUTTFULL on Soundclound

GUTTFULL on Spotify

GUTTFULL on Facebook

 

See the transcript of the interview below!



So! Have you had a good gig? It looked amazing from where we were!

Phil Waite (sax):  Oh thank you!

Louis Richardson (drums): This is the gig we’ve most enjoyed; we had a great time!

Phil: Disagree with me if you like, but I think this is the best audience we have ever played to… a mixture of our friends, who are brilliant, and people who have not seen us before who were joining in, which was such a –

Gemma Gompertz (bass): There were even men enjoying themselves!

Phil: Which, let’s be clear, is not what we’re about!

 

Tell me what you’re about!

Cassie: We’re about smashing the patriarchy and stuff that we’ve got pissed off with… like… what are we pissed off with? Today! 

Gemma: People who are terrible on public transport!

 

You know, I was going to say that! I was on my way here today and there was a man on the train screaming at an older lady, and everyone on the train was just sitting there like ‘I don’t know what how to intervene’. And he was this huge guy, and she was in her 60s or something. That wasn’t just an argument, that was pure patriarchy. There’s no way another woman would have done that to her – he was really physically imposing. 

Moedusa Mamajama (vocals): But no one intervened! That’s almost worse than what he was doing. It’s difficult when you’re in the situation; it’s hard when you’re in that situation.
Well I was going to say – and this is the patriarchy in itself – there were plenty of big guys who could have stepped in! 
Mo: But then you’re depending on one of them to step in! 
Louis: Yeah, we don’t like that. We’ll write a song about it!
Do it! So what do you hope to achieve? How does being in a patriarchy-smashing band help?
Cassie:  Well I haven’t set out… I write the songs – I haven’t set out to enact a change or anything! 
[We all got the giggles because Cassie stopped to pose for the photographer]
Phil: You look beautiful!
Cassie: I enjoy playing in a band with my friends. I have a lot of anger, which comes out in the lyrics that I write. I bring it to these guys, who inject their anger as well!
I know that you’ve got [the song] Keyboard Warrior, which is about the stick you get for this kind of thing [being in a band, writing about feminist issues]… 
Mo: Well that’s also something very personal to Cassie.
Cassie: Keyboard Warrior… it was from my old band, comments that we got on videos, on YouTube, which were all like ‘you’re fat, you’re ugly‘ –
Gemma: ‘You’ll never get a man and you should die!’
Phil: All really nice stuff.
Cassie: ‘You’re worse than cancer, you’ve probably got aids’, just horrific. It was, it absolutely was because we’re women and because we’re off an age as well – we’re all over 35
Phil: We started a band because we saw another band. This time last year, we saw Downtown Boys who, if your readers haven’t heard of Downtown Boys, they need to get on that immediately. An absolutely terrific American Sax Punk band. So angry, so brilliant, so sound. We went to their gig, Cassie and I, and went ‘we want a band like this’. Mo came to the gig with us and we were like ‘we want a singer like that!‘. And if I want anything for this band, I want other people to come and see our band and have the feeling that we had when we went to see Downtown Boys, when they come to see us. I want people to come and see us and think ‘I want a band like that’.
Cassie: Because being a band is just the best thing – it’s the best fun
Gemma: I just really enjoying watching people let us get that shit off our chests and letting them get it off their chests… I just like chests!
Louis: This is the first gig I’ve been in where it means something; it’s been quite political, we’re saying something.
Cassie: I have tried to write song that weren’t quite so angry – there was the cat song…
Mo: She gives us a hard time about this song, but it was actually very good – it’s really hot, it’s so catchy, it’s such a good song.
Gemma: If I was in the band then, there would have been more argument about vetoing this song! We absolutely need some more pussy songs!
CassieBut I write songs about chucking men under buses and people are alike ‘yes! that’s the set closer!’
Do you think that makes you a bit of a novelty – being angry women? 
Gemma: I think there’s plenty of it going around on the scene!
Mo: I don’t think it’s a novelty – I think most women are angry.
Cassie: With reason.
Mo: I guess because we all talk among our friends about the shit that bugs us, but that’s different from when you’re actually on stage and you get to scream about it – it’s really empowering. Also Cassie writes the best songs. She really does. The songs are quite personal, but we’ve all felt it. It’s not hard to adapt it, to put your own personal twist on it. We’ve all felt it.
Okay, so tell me about this EP then! How did you go about recording it, where did you record it?
Cassie: Well we recorded it in two halves actually, the first three really quite soon after we got together we went to soundsavers, Hackney, and recorded ARSEHOLE, which coincided with Donald Trump [being elected], Keyboard Warrior and MAFU. And then the last three, Does Your Girlfriend Know You’re Here?, #notallmen and Tits and Nails, we recorded at market store recording. We’ve done it piecemeal, it’s all very DIY, we’ve made the CDs ourselves
Phil: But we did the two halves in very different ways. So the first one we did, we did the drums separately and then we did the bass – everyone did their parts separately –
Gemma: Which is terrifying when you’ve only been playing bass for, I think, 10 months at that point! And even though the songs are, structurally, really straightforward, I was so used to having the vocal cues that I had to take a note and count the entire way through! And it still took  me several gos! It’s terrifying playing on your own, when there’s no support… everyone’s going to notice.
Phil: That was a very lo-fi way of doing it, because only one of us could record at once. The great thing about the second half was, because we were in a different studio set up, we could all record at the same time. We could kind of play live together. Even though I was locked in a cupboard…
Cassie: In the closet –
Phil: Which is real unusual! Real unusual. We all had to be in different parts of the studio, we couldn’t see Mo… That ‘live’ recording, if you like, – even though it’s a bit fake because you couldn’t see each other’s faces – worked a lot better. By that point, we’d done enough that we knew what each other sounded like, where we came in, where we stopped, all the rest of it. We’re a live band. 
Gemma: We very much enjoy each other’s company!
Phil: We’re not a studio band trying to build our sonic cathedral! I have no fucking idea what a sonic cathedral looks like. Our sonic cathedral’s fallen down, I think!
Cassie: The people who have seen us a few times have said that every time they see us play we get better, building in confidence.
Louis: I feel we do, anyway
Cassie: We like playing gigs.
Mo: We’d like more gigs please!
So where can people get the EP?
Cassie: They can get it on soundcloud – search for GUTTFULL – at the moment. We’re on bandcamp… it will be on Spotify, iTunes…
Phil: A lot of people [platforms] that won’t pay us! Or you can go to Bandcamp that will at least pay us a bit…
Cassie: Or even better, just come to a gig! You can come and get a CD from our sticky paws, we’ll give you a download code as well.

Palais de Boob and the Very Secret Garden Party

Meet our latest featured people: Palais de Boob.

(Stop giggling, it’s a fantastic name.)

Palais de Boob is launching at Secret Garden Party this year, building a 350-capacity pink amphitheatre.  This will host an array of comedians, artists and performers, throughout the 4-day festival.

They aim to:

  • re-frame preconceptions of feminism
  • showcase female talent
  • celebrate women in all their diversity

However, as well we know here at Just a Grrrl, this is not something that is easy to do unless you’ve got deep pockets or generous friends. Therefore Palais de Boob has launched a Kickstarter campaign and is asking you to be a generous friend.

What you’re supporting:

All money will go towards helping us make the most phenomenal space in which to showcase our women and reach our aims. This is the first of what we hope to be many Palais de Boob events and we want it to start with a bang!

We are a non-profit organisation.

We really need your help. Below is a list of ways in which your contribution will be used:

  • Production – Everyone in our production team is a volunteer. It would be great to be able to pay their expenses for food and travel.
  • Building Materials – Building an amphitheatre sustainable enough to tour the UK takes time, effort and crucially, money.
  • Craftsmen – To make our venue safe and secure we need to pay for the right people with the relevant skills and expertise.


Think you could lend a hand (or even a tenner or two)?  

Head over to the Palais de Boob Kickstarter page!

Illustration courtesy of Alice Skinner

You can find more information about Palais de Boob on their website, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

The ‘Dangerous Women’ of the Music Industry and Why They Matter

 

We recently had an article published on The Equality Hub.  Here’s a taste:

Similarly, it can be much more difficult to work as a female record producer or live sound engineer than a female bass player or social media marketer. One sound engineer wrote in the Huffington Post: “We [women in the music industry] all felt marginalized, ignored, disregarded and disrespected in instances where, if the shoe were on the foot of a man with our credentials, it would never have happened”, whilst one woman working in A&R complains of having male peers promoted above her and her opinions ignored or ridiculed, to the point where she wanted to leave what had been a ‘dream job’.

In case you were in any doubt that this matters, a wealth of articles has been published in recent days declaring the appalling attack on Manchester Arena an attack on girls, women and female sexuality. Ariana Grande’s progressive politics – her outspoken, sex-positive feminism; her support for the LGBT community and for refugees –spilled into the lives of her young fans. In this case, they were punished brutally for their ‘decadence’; for daring to be young, female and carefree.

REVIEW: Veni Vidi Vici – ‘Cut the Tie’

The glorious Veni Vidi Vici – a Brighton-based band that we’ve featured here before – have a new single coming out on Friday (7th April; put the date in your diary).  They sent us a preview and we want to tell you all about it… Are you sitting comfortably?

Veni Vidi Vici says that Cut the Tie creates an ‘on-edge atmosphere’. That, it certainly does. The song squirms with energy – VVV’s characteristically heavy guitars churning out an enticing offbeat groove from the get-go. From the moment Heather’s smooth, cool vocals cut through the distortion to the closing thrash, Cut the Tie is a beautifully constructed song.  Veni Vidi Vici has provided a worthy second single but no doubt has much more to give us.

A word from Veni Vidi Vici:

The release show for Cut The Tie will be held at Brighton Electric on the 7th April where all proceeds will be donated to Tonic charity.  The track will also be released on Spotify, iTunes and Soundcloud.  

 

Find VVV on Facebook and on their website.

Are young female artists better off being unsigned?

Are young female artists better off being unsigned?

The question occurred to me at a Musicians’ Union event last week – as (the rather fabulous) Imogen Heap explained the importance of building a good team around an artist – and has been playing on my mind ever since.

Unsigned acts have been making waves recently, reaching levels of success previously considered unattainable without record label backing.  As is the usual way, more of these acts have been male than female but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a strong impetus on young female artists to ride the unsigned wave.

The reasons are these:

  1. The business of record labels is becoming increasingly confined to providing funding to already-zeitgeisty young artists – rather than developing the sound and the brands of new artists, they’re merely providing a marketing and manufacturing budget to existing, successful brands. It’s fair to say they’re getting rather risk-averse in their old age. Oh, speaking of old age…
  2. The big labels are old school! And the old school music biz is… a bit macho. It’s still readjusting to new millennia from the 80s and 90s. Yes, this means there are people in the music industry who are actively sexist (as there is in every industry). It also means that it’s not exactly the most comfortable place for all young female artists – aside from the mega rich and famous, the industry squeezes out a lot of its older women, leaving younger women without the female mentors they might crave in such a masculine environment.
  3. Major labels are looking for a return on investment. If that means a young woman getting (most of) her kit off, they won’t be afraid to suggest it. If that suggestion is met with a flat NO, you’re now in a rather uncomfortable position. Metaphorically speaking, of course.
  4. Seriously, just the mansplaining. Just all of the mansplaining. Get far, far away from the mansplaining.

But let’s not get silly, because the music industry has been changed but not transformed in recent years.  Yes, loath as we all are to admit it, if you want to make it big then a major record deal is going to take a considerable weight off your shoulders.

So perhaps the solution – if ‘making it big’ is your goal – is to resist the major label route until you’ve got enough followers (yes, of the twitter variety), likes, track listens on soundcloud, etc., to prove that doing it your way works.  Then again, perhaps that’s just playing into their hands; doing all the hard work and ‘establishing a brand’ so that they don’t have to.

What a conundrum.

MARCH!

Hello, hello!

We’ll get back to the drudgery of ranting about the Patriarchy and music in general, very soon, but first of all – here’s another pertinent protest song from a female-fronted band.  Enjoy!

KES’ CONSCIENCE:
Official Website
Facebook
Twitter
Soundcloud
YouTube

I hate to break the news but it’s true
They’re coming for you
Their war-paint all red, white and blue
Stop running, running

They talk the all-american way
They’re coming, building
walls from Brighton to Morecambe Bay

CHORUS:
If you’re not frightened yet, you could be
If you’re not fighting yet, you should be
Come and meet me on the streets
Marching to the beat

Be wary of their cold gaslit truths
They’re coming for you
Demanding hate and fear you can prove
Stop running, running

Their bark might be louder than bite
They’re coming, don’t under-
estimate the hate they incite

CHORUS x2

So keep your tiny hands off our rights
So keep your tiny hands off our rights
So keep your tiny hands off our rights
So keep your tiny hands off our rights

CHORUS x3

 

KES’ CONSCIENCE:
Official Website
Facebook
Twitter
Soundcloud
YouTube

 

 

GUTTFULL’s message to Trump, King of the Arseholes

You didn’t think we were going to let the Trumpocalypse just apocalypse all over us without saying anything, did you?  GUTTFULL has written us a little something about Trump and their first single, Arsehole.

We’re GUTTFULL and we formed at the end of 2016: a bunch of big-mouthed feminist musicians with just so much rage to let out.

Our first single is ‘Arsehole’, and it’s dedicated to Donald Trump, King of the Arseholes.

With a bigoted, sexist, racist, right-wing meglomanic given the top job in the world, there’s a lot of people feeling powerless; especially if you’re not a man, not white, not straight, and/or not rich. But there’s far more of us than there is of him and his cronies, and our voices are powerful.

Every little action of dissent helps in fighting back. We just feel like we’ve all just got to do what we can. Whether that’s making a song and a video showing your town’s reaction to Trump, marching with your sisters, writing blogs, whatever you’re able to do. Trump wants to divide and rule – so just pulling together with your wider communities spreads a message of equality and love for all.

There are loads of awesome DIY/feminist/queer bands around at the moment, and more forming all the time. That’s the only upside to times of oppression – artists turn that anger into energy and the music gets a lot more passionate. Our track ‘Arsehole’ is going on the LOUD WOMEN compilation album, out in March, alongside some incredible DIY bands, like Petrol Girls, The Ethical Debating Society, Fight Rosa Fight!, Lilith Ai, Bratakus and deux furieuses.

We’re quite a new band so we’re just building up our set at the moment, working up to recording an album hopefully in the summer. Our songs are mostly about beating the patriarchy at its own game: calling out catcallers, shaming internet trolls, and reminding disrespectful men of their manners. Our singer Momoe, and our guitarist and songwriter Cassie are both mothers of two children each – we’re quite used to telling off misbehaving little boys.

We have 3 songs up on our Bandcamp now – Arsehole, Keyboard Warrior and Mafu. Check them out here.

And come and see us live!

31 Jan at the Alleycat, London
18 March at the Sound Lounge, Tooting
31 March at the Fighting Cocks, Kingston
30 April at the Rose Hill, Brighton

The Erasure of Sister Rosetta Tharpe

 

This is Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

 

Sister Rosetta Tharpe was gospel singer and guitarist, born Rosetta Nubin in 1915 in Cotton Plant, Arkansas. Over her 35-year professional career as a musician she acquired much fame and fortune, toured the world, inspired many artists and was credited with bringing gospel to the mainstream – but when she died in 1973, aged 58, her funeral was sparsely attended and she was buried in an unmarked grave.

 

Tharpe was raised in the Pentecostal Church, travelling and preaching with her mother.  She was noticed for her musical talent young and gained significant popularity as a ‘swinger of spirituals’ in her mid-20s.  By 1940, she had a record deal with Decca and in February 1941, Tharpe signed a deal with Lucius ‘Lucky’ Millinder, agreeing to play spiritual songs with the Lucky Millinder Band. Over the course of the next year this collaboration began to bring her more popularity, with the new arrangements of her old songs being particular favourites. However, the partnership was not wholly positive. Within a year Tharpe was singing songs such as ‘Tall Skinny Papa’ – the opposite of spiritual in message. The church took a dim view of such lyrics as they displayed not only sexual desire but female sexual desire; a more-than- slightly taboo subject (especially amongst those of Christian faith).

Tharpe disliked these euphemistic songs. Her friend Roxie Moore claimed that Tharpe was bound by a clause in her contract to sing whatever material she was given. Irrespective of the morality of the song, ‘Tall Skinny Papa’ became a hit. Marie Knight, a singer and musician who would work with Tharpe during the 1940s and 1950s, described the Lucky Millinder deal as one in a series in which Tharpe allowed herself to be used to profit men. Whether this pattern was a product of socialisation – Tharpe, being a black woman in a white man’s world, may have felt it was not her place to question the terms of such contracts – or a consequence of inexperience or poor representation is unknown. Tharpe had a streak of rebelliousness in her and a love for the limelight, thus she may have signed these deals in full knowledge of the potential consequences.

By the end of 1943, Rosetta had left the Lucky Millinder Band, finalised her divorce from Tommy Tharpe, remarried and had been commissioned to record ‘V-disks’ for American troops fighting in the Second World War. In 1944, she released one of the most successful tracks of her career – ‘Strange Things Happenin’ Every Day’, which made history by crossing over from gospel” to reach number two in the ‘race records’ chart. It was the first gospel record ever to do so.

The song featured a ‘boogie-woogie’ piano line, courtesy of pianist Samuel ‘Sammy’ Price, and Tharpe on electric guitar, plus bass and drums. This pared-down instrumentation was an important precursor to that of rock and roll – the combination of electric guitar and boogie-woogie piano is thought not to have been recorded before ‘Strange Things’. It is also important to note that an electric guitar was a rare thing in 1944 and Sister Rosetta Tharpe liked to play loudly, letting the sound distort; something that would become a hallmark of the rock and roll guitar sound.  Seeing Tharpe play at the time would have been a shock even to secular audiences. Despite ‘Strange Things’ being African American and spiritual in origin, the openness of the title phrase allowed listeners to interpret the song as it applied to their own lives – undoubtedly this was a factor in its popularity.

 

In 1949, one Billboard writer estimated that Sister Rosetta Tharpe was grossing $200,000 per year; keeping at least $120,000 of that as her own earnings. For context, according to the 1949 US census, (published by the Bureau of Census in 1951) “the income of the average family was $3,100 in 1949” – Tharpe was earning almost forty times that. To get there, she overcame both the institutionalised and explicit racism and sexism that pervaded society and the music industry – she had to not only be phenomenally musically talented but clever and incredibly ambitious. Indeed, during the 1940s Tharpe was one of the USA’s hardest touring artists.

Today someone who showed such prowess on the electric guitar, such mastery of complex singing techniques, and such resulting fame and fortune would be labelled a rock star. Although Tharpe has been held up in recent years as the Godmother of rock and roll and in practice may well be considered the first rock and roll star, she certainly would not have been called it. The rock and roll genre did not come into its own until the mid-1950s, when Tharpe was already beginning to fade into obscurity, and the term ‘rock star’ has since become associated almost exclusively with white young men.

In 1950, Tharpe’s good fortune began to run out.  The singer Marie Knight, with whom she had been partnered very successfully for a number of years, stopped working with Tharpe after losing her mother and her two children in a house fire.  Additionally, rumour had it that Tharpe and Knight had been romantic as well as professional partners – the resulting scandal was taking chunks out of  Tharpe’s popularity.

To top it all off, the music media had begun to pit Tharpe against fellow gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. Matters were only made worse when Decca had Tharpe record a version of ‘Move On Up a Little Higher’ in January 1949, a song with which Jackson had recently had a monumental hit. There was little difference between the two singers’ versions but Tharpe’s was seen as an attempt by fading star to piggyback on the fame of a rising one.

Jackson’s career was very much the antithesis of Tharpe’s – she had spurned the call of Broadway while Tharpe had accepted it; she sang to traditional piano or organ accompaniment whereas Tharpe accompanied herself on the electric guitar; she stuck to gospel while Tharpe ventured into blues; she was dubbed ‘Mother’ Mahalia while Tharpe remained ‘Sister’. While the music that Tharpe played in the late 1940s and early 1950s was no different – she continued to mostly play gospel songs – she was painted in the press as the more deviant of the two performers. Words like ‘flamboyant’ hinted at the rumours surrounding Tharpe’s sexuality as journalists compared her theatrical exuberance to Jackson’s modesty and propriety. It did not take long for Jackson to eclipse her and for an erasure of Tharpe and her music from popular history to begin to take place.

This media narrative is a well-known one and it has been repeated many times since in the entertainment world (in each case there are two women; a good and a bad). They were pitted against one another whether they liked it or not. This is an example of the media’s complicity in misogyny as it forces the question of what makes a good woman; in doing so it divides women by implying that some are more worthy than others – and in dividing women, it limits the momentum of women’s movements. In actual fact Tharpe and Jackson are thought to have been good friends, but their press-fabricated rivalry is the story that endures.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe was a great inspiration to the generation of performers that rose to fame in the mid-1950s. She was more than an inspiration to Little Richard, who, being a fan of hers, was given his first opportunity to perform before an audience by Tharpe at one of her concerts. The physicality of her performances was informed by the so-called ‘Holy Rollers’ of the Church of God in Christ – it was this that laid the foundations for the outrageous performances of rock and roll artists like Elvis Presley. Presley was a big fan of Tharpe’s, in part because they shared a religious and musical tradition in Pentecostalism. Little Richard also had a Pentecostal background and his singing-cum-shouting vocal style would closely mirror Tharpe’s in later years. Tharpe’s vocal phrasing was heavily influenced by that of Pentecostal preachers; she would string out the words she wanted her audience to pay attention to and speak certain sections of her lyrics, all the while with a bright smile in her voice. Other musicians she inspired include Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins, to name but a few.

It was as these musicians began to gain popularity in the US that Sister Rosetta Tharpe really began to lose hers.  “[W]hen the rock revolution came it was divided on generational grounds. Rock’s troops were teenagers and the troops were looking for one of their own to lead the way—not a 47-year-old with strong ties to the church.”  Suddenly Tharpe found herself labelled too racy for the church and too old and prudish for a secular audience, as Mahalia Jackson redefined gospel and Elvis redefined guitar music.  Gayle Wald, Tharpe’s biographer, suggests that part of the reason for Tharpe’s relative obscurity is that she was too hard to categorise. In Tharpe’s defence, the rules of the game changed while she was still playing. She began in an America of big brass bands, where she could exhibit her unabashed love for performing and for her God, and ended up in one where gospel was humble and loud guitars were for young, white men. Particularly in an era filled with anxiety around the rightful place a woman and anger around the subjugation of black people, Sister Rosetta Tharpe did not fit the narrative. Wald argues that Tharpe’s very existence stood as a threat to the norms of society at the time and that this is the reason that she has been written out of the history of popular music.

During the 1950s, Tharpe entered into her third unhappy marriage – and did so as part of a musical event of unprecedented scale at Griffith Stadium in 1951 – and in the 1960s she began touring the UK and Europe where she could still sell out shows. She died in 1973 in Philadelphia, following a stroke.

 

Musically, Sister Rosetta Tharpe was phenomenally gifted and the direct influence she had on musicians of many genres – predominantly rock and roll but also soul, gospel and blues – is undeniable.

There is truth in the assertion that Tharpe was hard to categorise, but the fact that the grave of this veritable star had no headstone until 2008 remains barely fathomable. Tharpe’s story is an important one to tell because the concept of a black female guitar hero is one that Western society still struggles to understand. At the peak of her career there were a great number of barriers to any young black woman wishing to follow in Tharpe’s footsteps, whereas now, if she were remembered as Elvis Presley is remembered, young people of all genders and ethnicities might be galvanised to pick up a guitar and step into the breach, in spite of the prejudices that remain.

Unfortunately evidence of the direct cultural impact that Tharpe had is scarce due to the paucity of analytical writing around her life and music. The most tangible socio-political repercussions of her career are to be found in the impact of the musicians she inspired. Her enigmatic and exuberant performances paved the way for the culture shock that was Elvis Presley and rock’n’roll – and all the cultural change that came with them – but it is both telling and regrettable that Sister Rosetta Tharpe must be contextualised by the young white men that she inspired rather than being remembered for the black, female artist that she was.

 

Veni Vidi Vici

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We sent Kes to Brighton to interview Veni Vidi Vici – local and up-and-coming all-girl (yeah, we said it) rock band. Except she never got that far, because Southern Rail.  So here’s a podcast of their video call instead.

 

 

 

Tell us a bit about the band. First of all, how do we say it? 

VVV:  Veni Vidi Vici [Venny Veedee Veechee] – yeah, no one really gets that; we get all sorts of names.

 

So have you got something coming out soon then?

VVV: We’ve got our single release on Friday [4th Nov] for our new single ‘Spotlight that’s coming out – that we’re bringing out!

 

You guys have been gigging around Brighton for a while?

VVV: Yeah, we play a lot around Brighton. We’ve had, like, one show in London, but it’s difficult to kind of get everyone free at the same time. But we’re trying! But we have a car now, so we might get somewhere!

 

 

Obviously [JUST A GRRRL’s] focus is on Feminism, so what kind of challenges have you faced, being women in music and being in an ‘all-girl’ band? Have you faced any?

VVV:  Well, there’s two sides you could go for really. One is that it’s… we don’t really find it hard because we feel that we shouldn’t be separated male and female, because that’s what’s making it slightly harder – that everyone thinks ‘so we’ll have a girls night and then we’ll have a normal night’, like we shouldn’t really separate it like that.

 

Like men are the default?

VVV:  Yeah, kind of. It’s just that it shouldn’t be separated – that’s our main view.
It’s so much that we’re separated and we’re not considered to be equal musicians. It has to be the different female nights… which is awesome, because it’s great to play with them – it’s great to have that big group of people together – but at the same time it would be nice just to be considered as just a band!

 

Do you think interviews like this – where we say you’re an ‘all girl’ band or asking ‘what is it like to be a woman in this industry?!’ – is that harmful to everyone else and to yourselves?

VVV:   I don’t think it’s harmful… You’re stating a fact, in a sense – like ‘boy bands’ – you’re stating a fact; we are an all-girl band, but it’s when people shove us just to the girls’ side of things…

 

Do you ever get [hear], ‘they’re good for a girl’?

VVV: Yeah, a lot!

 

Because that’s really [blatant]!

VVV: There’ve been times where we we’re at gigs and we’re setting up and we know what we’re doing – we might mess up occasionally but we know what we’re doing – but every guy in there feels like he has to come on stage and help you. And be like, ‘do you know what to do with your pedals?’. Like, yeah, I’ve been doing it for f–king ages!
And they never let us carry anything! For me [as a drummer], they’re always like ‘can you put the cymbals on?’. I carried them here; I can put them on a stand!  We carry our stuff every time, and every time we rehearse.
So it’s just the… thinking you’re less than you are and thinking you’re a little girl rather than someone who can actually look after themselves!
We’ve had some promoters who didn’t treat us like that – of course – we’ve had some.

 

Do you get the low-level stuff – always being called ‘love’ or ‘sweetheart’?

VVV: I think it’s just ingrained into society, that’s the worst bit about it. I hate it if someone calls me that but then everyone is like ‘why? they’re being nice to you’, but why do they have to do it in that way? Like, I’d be happy if they just hit me on the shoulder, saying ‘alright mate?’, but it has be to be a sweet way of saying it.
Or like, ‘you guys were good’ instead of ‘good for girls’!

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Have you guys worked with any female promoters and other [female] musicians in Brighton? Has there been any kind of sisterhood?

VVV: Yeah, we worked with Femrock and O’ Sister Promotions – they were really good.  That was quite a good gig actually. And ARXX we always used to play with them, and Pussyliquor, they’re quite fun to play with. What’s the one in London? Who Run the World. There is a lot of sisterly love and I quite enjoy that. It’s nice to have that support background – other people who know how it feels!

 

Do you find that as you get more established, you get less of the [sexism]?

VVV: I think it was worse when – like, when I just sang, I think it was a lot more… before, we had another guitarist and she left last year and then I took over the guitar parts and I feel like we look more like a band now and people aren’t saying as much as before.
But the bigger the gig, the more it’ll come. It tends to be the bigger gigs that are all boybands and we’ll be the only girls at all and you’re just under the radar.
You get to see, during the soundcheck sometimes, people looking at you like ‘I want to see what you’re going to do!’.
The soundcheck is the worst!
It makes us a lot more nervous as well, especially if it’s like loads of guys there. Like, we’re getting ready to soundcheck and there’ll always be a point where something will mess up and then it looks like we don’t know what we’re doing and we do!

 

You get scrutinised a lot more. We find that with female singers as well – like you have to be Beyonce or leave.

VVV:  Yeah, being a singer as well, like, I’m not always perfect and I quite like that, I like the whole kind of not being completely on-point, it kind of gives a bit more of a real feel to it. I mess up… quite a bit sometimes, but there’s part of me that, because I quite like the grungy side of things, I don’t want it to be like Beyonce and my vocals to be perfect and on-point the whole time. I’d quite like to be alright, but… [laughter] not like I’m being recorded the whole time; I don’t want it to sound like a recording.

 

How long have you [Veni Vidi Vici] been around?

VVV: Two years! We started in 2014, in October/November time. Me and Christina used to live together, and we used to just sit in her attic like ‘we really want a girl band!’, then we met Laura and auditioned Clara – we pretended we’d auditioned loads of people! Like, ‘you got the part!!’. We also had Tash at the time… I feel like, in the last year – nothing against Tash, I love her to bits – but we’ve progressed in a different direction because her songwriting is so different to what my songwriting is when I write guitar parts and… the band’s direction has changed a lot in the last year.
Spotlight is the start of the new direction we want to go in and I think we’ve finally found our sound.

 

Have you guys got any gigs coming up?

VVV: 4th November at Brighton Electric. Doors are at 7pm and all the money is going to RSPCA – a dogs shelter in Cyprus.
We have some things coming up but we can’t give any announcements!

           

Do you find there’s a kind of lad culture, especially at gigs, or is that not so much of a problem anymore?

VVV:  It depends because at the girls gigs there’s more of a female following…
We’ve got a lot of support – the one we played with Pussyliquor, Girls do it Better, the amount of support we got from that was incredible, we got so many likes. Usually, certain gigs we play, people won’t even pay attention to who we are, so that’s why those nights do help because you kind of find your fanbase. That’s obviously what they like…
It depends what kind of show we play. If we’re the only girl band then I do think they kind of latch on to us, like…
Like they weren’t really watching us either!

We, me and Laura especially, we’ll start kicking each other, start having play fights in the middle of the gig and call each other really… rude names!
We push our way into the lad culture but they don’t really… we’re kind of on our own! No one else joins in with us!
But we’re at that stage where we don’t care. We’re just doing our thing, we’re really enjoying it, and the lads, if they want to treat us in a patronising way, it’s like ‘well we’ll show you!’.
When we wanted to play music and when we wanted to be in a band, we didn’t think ‘it’s a man’s thing’, so you don’t think about that you just like it, so you do it. So therefore we won’t separate ourselves. Whoever likes us, likes us, and whoever doesn’t – okay!

 

What’s your favourite thing right now?

VVV: I’m freaking out about uni at the moment so there’s nothing else in my brain!
I’m excited about our show!
I’m excited to get everything there. I’m a little bit scared at the same time!
We’re playing to a whole new audience who’ve never seen us play, so it’s a bit more nerve-wracking.
And because we’ve reached out to quite a few different bands, they’ll bring in their fanbases and it’ll be a whole new room of fresh faces so we’re really excited for that. It’s going to be really good.

 

Anything else you really want to tell me right now?

VVV: One thing actually! Obviously when we were all kids and we all got into music, you had like Paramore and that and they were the big faces of… who you looked up to because they’re a female in the music industry but one thing that annoys me now – like, I’ve dyed my hair red now and I love my hair those colours but whenever I do it [people are] like ‘you’re Hayley Williams!’, I’m like no, I’m not! I’ve tried to stay away from that so much in my lifetime because I used to try and be her and I regret that. So it’s that thing of being compared to people who aren’t men in the industry.
It’s typical that we’re related to clichés…
I love those people, but I don’t think my music or I sound like them.
They just see a girl band or a female frontwoman and relate it to any female band out there!
We ask people which bands [they think] we sound like and they answer with only girl bands and my influences are not girl bands!

 

When you were first taking up taking up rock instruments, did you face any push-back? Not necessarily people saying ‘you can’t do that, you’re a girl’, but was it uncomfortable at all?

VVV: I don’t know because we don’t really, like… care what people think! We’ve all been doing it since before we came to uni, before we all met each other so… and, BIMM to be honest, there’s girl instrumentalists at BIMM, so it’s quite a comfortable thing to start off there. You get people – female, male, whatever – playing all kinds of instruments.
In BIMM I’m the only girl in any of my classes, it’s me and 19 guys and it has been for 3 years, so sometimes when I get up and play I feel like I’m being super judged, like they’re thinking I can’t really do it. So I get up and I think I can’t do it. I can and the teachers are really good at encouraging you… and the guys in the class aren’t like that, but I just have it in my head that they think ‘she can’t really do it’!
Personally, I had to try a few guitar teachers back home until I landed to the guitar teacher that helped me get into BIMM and the only reason I stayed with him because he said ‘I’m not going to feel sorry for you just because you’re a girl; I’m not going to be easy with you. You have some balls, so show it. Or else give up.’.
For me, I remember the first time I played electric guitar I was in college and my tutor came into the room while we were practising and he was shocked that I was playing power chords… like I should’ve been playing open, acoustic chords. They’re not that hard! It gave me a bit more motivation because I can do it, and if you think I can’t then —
I’m going to show you!
It’s made me more determined.


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So! Make sure you go to Veni Vidi Vici’s gig on the 4th November (that’s today, guys), give them a like on Facebook, and listen to all their music on Soundcloud immediately! They’re positively smashing.

For The Angry Young Women

I was going to write a blog post that was very historical and informative – about women in music and suchlike. Then I read an article on The Guardian about the furious, but not always righteous, women now appearing on our TVs and I changed my mind.

It’s not just that women aren’t usually ‘allowed’ to be angry – that they get patronised or dismissed and face social and professional sanctions – it’s that the Angry Young Man is so celebrated an archetype.  That’s what stings.

Of course, in ‘real life’ no one wants a boss, colleague, sibling, parent, etc., to be angry all the time; it would all get a bit ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’ eventually. You may well sneer and sigh at your angry brother just as much you do at your angry female colleague. In the arts, on the other hand, oh how we love an angry young man!

It’s probably fair to say that John Osborne’s Jimmy Porter was our first Angry Young Man (although in some ways his tirades bear a resemblance to those of Shakespeare’s Hamlet). A cruel, bitter, openly misogynistic man; not truly anti-establishment – just anti-everything. John Osborne was making a statement; Jimmy Porter is just plain old angry.

In a lot of ways, the Angry Young Man, as a character, a trope, was an accidental by-product of this play. But it stuck.

Why ‘brooding’ or ‘angst-ridden’ are words that can be attached to music performed by men – and meant positively – whilst very similar music performed by women is labelled ‘confessional’ is confounding. Unless, of course, you consider that ‘confession’ is a word bound up with sin and guilt – kind of like being female has been since the Old Testament.

And music that would be described as angry? It’s not true to say that women aren’t there, making angry music, but there are problems

As part of a recent project, I extensively researched and wrote about the RIOT GRRRL movement (1990s, US). My God were these women angry. They raged about some of the worst things a woman can experience – incest, domestic abuse, rape. The punkiest punks in the movement didn’t sing; they screamed.

The media took them to pieces – to the point where the figurehead band of RIOT GRRRL, Bikini Kill, lead a media blackout and most of the rest of the movement followed. Because their lyrics addressed such themes, stories were concocted about band members having been, at the extreme end, abused or raped, and at the less extreme end, jilted by boys. Why else would they be so hysterical?

And this isn’t something that has gone away. If it had, The Guardian wouldn’t have run that piece about angry women – their appearance in mainstream popular culture is news.  


Here I, your humble writer, must declare an interest. I am the (electric) guitarist, lead songwriter and singer of rock duo KES’ CONSCIENCE. And I am angry. About almost everything. All the time. It’s not always a just anger, rational or well-directed. It’s not always eloquent, like Jimmy Porter’s, or righteous like some of the RIOT GRRRLs’.

And while I would like the right to be angry about everything all the time… well, I realise that that’s asking rather a lot. So, on behalf of myself and all the Angry Young Women, I’ll demand only this:

Listen first.

Feel free to then dismiss and sneer at us if you can honestly say you’d do the same to a man saying or singing the same things. It’s the very minimum we could ask.

In amongst the everyday frustrations there are valid, detailed political and social views that deserve to be listened to. Most of an angry man’s anger is paid attention to so when he expresses something political, subtle or intelligent, he is listened to. An angry woman’s anger is dismissed as though she is ranting about spilled nail polish or, worse, it’s her time of the month. Her valid, intelligent points go unheard.

And let’s not forget that, between the gender pay gap and FGM, women have a lot to be angry about.

In music, anger is a potent force. Why, as female musicians, are we only ‘allowed’ to create that soaring of heart and sinking of stomach, that vicious burst of adrenaline, when we are lamenting lost love or turning the listener on? At best, if it is acknowleged, our anger is attributed to having had a lover ‘stolen’ from us or a man reject us. That might make us angry but there’s far more to our anger than that.

The Angry Young Man in culture is a persona, a whole character, and an accepted one. An angry young woman is either just a singer who sometimes gets her knickers in a twist or a hysterical harpy. Why can’t we have Angry Young Women? Artistic, ‘misunderstood’, angry young women – whole personas accepted by popular culture; sometimes even loved.

Listened to.

We are sick of being dismissed before we are even heard – it’s only making us angrier.