“I make music because the state of the world can feel so dismal,” says Louisa Solomon, singer, songwriter and bass player for the Brooklyn-based, feminist rock band The Shondes. For the past decade her band has been fusing politics into emotional, soaring rock songs. With their recently released fifth album Brighton (Exotic Fever Records), they have created their most successful melding of heart, soul, politics and rock riffs that also lays Solomon’s inner life out for listeners. “The act of creating is a coping mechanism, a survival tool, and I think some of what is most inspiring in political art is not the lyrics, or explicit content, or even the ‘topic,’ but the exposure of process,” she further explains. “We try to in some way be very up front in our music about how it affects us to create it, and how we hope it similarly affects listeners toward survival, toward hard work, toward hope, toward sustainable change.”
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Because misogyny is everywhere in our culture, internalized misogyny is also, unfortunately, everywhere. You know how it goes—maybe you find yourself hating on your body, or judging other women’s sexuality, or doubting your own awesomeness at work. Goddess forbid, you may have even uttered the phrase “I don’t like other girls.” Even the most hardcore of feminists are influenced by the white supremacist patriarchy’s messages about girls and women. And so are the most successful of female pop stars. Why are there *so* many songs about how stupid / deceptive / sneaky / crazy / unimpressive girls are… that are sung by women? Are these songs self-implicating appraisals of our culture’s sexist standards? Or just plain-old sexist themselves? Or simply honest expressions of women’s emotions… which are therefore inherently kinda sorta feminist? In the spirit of unpacking our internalized sexism knapsacks or Louis Vuitton bags, I rounded up eleven well-known female-fronted songs that hate on women—here they are, in no particular order:
1) “Stupid Girl” – Garbage
Not to be confused with “Stupid Girl” by The Rolling Stones, or “Stupid Girl” by Neil Young (hey, fuck you guys!), this song is one of several from the Songs by Women Called “Stupid Girl” canon. It features 90s chick singer icon Shirley Manson berating a “stupid girl” (herself? Someone else entirely?) for basically being a hot mess and a fake who wasted everything she had like the beautiful fool that she is. Is this song a self-aware look at one woman’s internal monologue amidst society’s messages about how “stupid” girls are? Or merely a condemnation of girls for being stupid wherein the speaker attempts to distance herself from a dumb, misguided girl who fucked up her whole life? Also, omg you guys, who hasn’t pretended they’re high and/or bored, just to be adored?!
2) “Stupid Girls” – Pink
This song presents the classic sexist binary of “stupid” girls who carry around tiny dogs and wear tinier t-shirts and go tanning (oh so 00s) and “not-stupid” girls who wear suits and run for president. It’s kind of weirdly an anthem of second wave feminist ethos. This song contains the cutting and very apropos to our current historical moment lines: “What happened to the dream of a girl president?/ She’s dancin’ in the video next to 50 Cent,” and “I’m so glad that I’ll never fit in/ That will never be me/ Outcasts and girls with ambition/ That’s what I wanna see.” This song is confusing, ‘cause Pink herself wears tight clothes and dances and parties—but for some reason (ahem. Internalized misogyny) chooses to reinforce a tired, sexist binary that girls who do these things can’t also be smart and ambitious.
Drummer for the hardcore band RHIZOME, Nicole Dunn and I went to the same high school in Concord, CA, a sprawling suburb only about 45 minutes from San Francisco but light years away in terms of issues of race, gender, and sexuality. Since then Nicole has played drums for several notable metal and hardcore bands including PROVOS and CLOAK, and has become an outspoken voice around trans and feminist issues. Here Nicole talks about what it’s been like making music in a feminist hardcore band, transitioning within a traditionally close-minded and conservative scene, and shifting gender values in the hardcore-punk and metal communities.
Matt L. Roar: Hi Nicole! I’m super excited to interview you. Can you start off by talking about your current musical endeavors and other recent projects? What have you been working on? What are you excited about?
Nicole Dunn: Hey Matt! I’m excited to do this interview with you because we go way back. Time flies. I’ve been trying to get some more musical projects going here and there but as of now, I’m drumming for Rhizome. Rhizome has become the punk band I’ve always wanted to be in. Female fronted, lyrics about the patriarchy within hardcore and fast and pissed off! We should be touring in the summer so I’m excited for that. I also started recently jamming with two awesome girls and this dude on vocals. The project is like heavy ‘77 style punk so I’ll keep you posted on that. I also was in a black metal band called Cloak but had to call it quits because I’ve really been trying to focus on this significant shift in my life and they wanted a lot out of me I couldn’t give them. I wanted to pursue other musical endeavors but at a pace that lets me focus on my gender transition as well. Cloak has moved on without me but I’m excited to see what their next release will sound like. I’ve also been doing a radio show for the past couple of years called Cult of Riffs where I play all heavy music. The show is on a internet based radio station called BFF.fm. I don’t think I have any listeners sometimes but it’s fun and keeps me busy, haha. Continue reading
There are and will be many Best Music of 2015 lists floating around on the ‘nets, but none featuring strong female and/or genderqueer vocals—until now! In arbitrary/alphabetical order:
1. Anna Van Hausswolff – The Miraculous
The Universe Doesn’t Know You Exist : An Interview with Meghan O’Neil Pennie of Super Unison, ex-Punch
There’s this tree growing behind my apartment that took me five years to really notice. It’s huge. Twenty feet taller than our three-story building, with dense leaves, a squirrel’s nest, and a rotating cast of birds. I don’t understand why I took it for granted for so long. Maybe I needed to live in New York City for a few years before I realized how special it was to have an epic, dynamic, vital being growing in your backyard. Anyway, Meghan O’Neil Pennie, the lead singer and bassist of Super Unison, and former lead singer of PUNCH, is like that for me too. Meghan was the big sister of the drummer in my high school punk band. She was always lurking when we practiced in his parent’s living room. In college she was my best friend’s roommate, so we would often cook dinner together and hang. She felt like a family member who had always been around and always would be. So when she started singing for PUNCH, I hardly noticed. I feel stupid about that now. Her vocals on the five(!) PUNCH records released by 625, Deathwish, Discos Huelgas, are so fucking ferocious and unrelenting it hurts my throat and heart to listen. Meghan also has this incredibly powerful stage presence. I’m watching old YOUTUBE videos and found one of her performing at a festival in the Czech Republic and she’s leaping about stage with one broken foot while people stagedive around her. Meghan derived the title of PUNCH’s last record, “They Don’t Have to Believe” from the Kathleen Hanna documentary, The Punk Singer, in which Hanna says “she doesn’t expect everyone to understand or believe in feminism or her personal battle with illness, but they should have to stay out of her way.” Meghan’s work in her new band, Super Unison, continues in this lineage. Her vocals are upfront and unapologetic, slightly more melodic than before, a little less thrash and a little more riot grrrl. Here, Meghan and I talk about her new band, her lyrics, and how she became the musician she is today. Continue reading
Traverse time apart from/next to myself
Dedicated machinery, joints dance, hum of fast-paced rise and fall
Linking slow and sudden
Stutter clearly, throughout. The fundamental frequency of great shifts.
Shift to quiet. Shift in circles. Pulse out. Outer ripples provide the current rhythm reverberating back, activating other nodes. Laser cutting across dark matter, loping looping space falling apart fa fa falling apart. Continue reading
If you’re like me when it comes to music, then it’s likely that you’re constantly scouring the internet for exciting and unheard-of musical gems. I get especially hype when I come across women who play actual live instruments and play them well. Rachel Eckroth is undoubtedly one of these jewel artists who allow me to happily revel in indie girl coolness. Although you may not have heard of Rachel, you may have seen her. She is a member of the all-female house band on The Meredith Vieira Show on NBC. She gigs with her band relatively often but can also be found working as a side-woman playing piano or keyboard and singing across a range of genres.
One of my most memorable encounters with Rachel was on a winter evening in 2013. I packed into a tiny room to hear Rachel’s six-piece band perform as part of the Capricorn Music Festival in New York City. The room of about thirty or so musicians and fans received a steady flow of music that sampled a panoply of jazz-infused colors. As the group performed, the room pulsated with nodding heads entranced by the groove. That night, they performed Eckroth’s original tune, “More Beautiful Than That.” When they hit the bridge, I looked around the room—not a single body was still. Her music has a distinct charge. It’s a sonic road-trip, one that will take you places if you decide to let it. As she glided through changes on her keyboard, I remember thinking Damn, she can play.
Music “When I didn’t appear in public, I wasn’t a recluse. I was just living my life.” Marine Girls’ and Everything But The Girl’s Tracey Thorn tells The Guardian.
Pixable via Gif allows us to see how many men and how few women will be playing at a music festival near you this Summer. Disappointing to say the least.
My daughter just turned 20 months old, and she’s really starting to take control of her musical destiny: while we picked out the music she listened to when she was a baby, now she has her own preferences and can demand we sing or play the same songs over and over again. And she’s verbal enough now that she can actually sing along! As feminist parents, of course, we recognize that most traditional children’s music is a tool of the patriarchy, intended to mold pliant young minds into lovers of the status quo. But as helpless thralls of our adorable child, we make no effort to discourage her from singing the songs she loves. Still, why not rank the songs our daughter loves best from Least to Most Feminist? Here’s a somewhat arbitrarily-chosen list that includes most of her favorites.
After what felt like forever, spring is finally here. It’s time for clearing out the old and invigorating your life with new love, or whatever. You might oust that bum-out of a boo, or energize those lazy evenings spent couch-bound with your love, or kindle some sparking Tinder flames. While it’s the perfect time of year to delve into a little self-love and spring romance, it’s also a good time to remember that love, like most else, is political. If your love doesn’t make you feel strong and solid and inspired to make this world a more amazing, just place, well then your love ain’t no love of mine. Since so many folks wrote to tell me they loved jamming to my Winter Blues Mix, here’s a reprise you can turn up to inspire what you want in love. Then go make it manifest, whether it’s a letting go, or a receiving, or an offering to your community. And since love means many different things on many different days to many different folks, these feminist songs take a peek at love from different angles. Continue reading