Earlier last week, iconic band Sleater-Kinney announced to the media and eager fans, their new album is set for release. It marks the first one in close to 10 years, and heralds an exciting time for all-girl bands. Long revered as being integral to the Riot Grrrl movement of the early 90's, seeing the punk rock trio back in action is invigorating. It's enough to start you pulling out the ol' Bikini Kill records, sharpening your zine writing skills and rustling up your own underground garage band.
One such outfit already doing that is Melbourne trio The Girl Fridas. Formed close to a year ago, the close-knit friends have been writing and performing local gigs ever since. With an EP set to drop early next year or so [there are rumours they may release a hot pink vinyl version], they're excited, not only about Carrie Brownstein and crew's much awaited resurgence, but also their own live performances.
With two gigs on the first weekend of December, both Melbourne and Sydney audiences are in for a ride. The girls are featuring on the Melbourne bill of 'Feministmas' in Brunswick East on Saturday December 6th and in true punk style, hightailing it up to Sydney for 'Jitter Fest #1'. The event is hosted by Jitter records and will be held in Surry Hills, on Sunday December 7th.
Recently the band held a recording session at the Arts Centre and we chatted about all things girl band afterwards. Well, it was really a soiree over a drink and a chance to gain their insights. Like any great gathering, the topics danced from musical influences, to forming the band from a Twitter call out, to resting on a mutual love of The Mighty Boosh and Gary Numan. Shannon [bass and vocals], Alice [guitar and vocals] and Bianca [drums] make up The Girl Fridas and quotes from the conversation are below.
How did you start the band?
A: [met] through a mutual friend, Bianca knew him from Brisbane, I met him through my housemate. Shannon & Bianca [already] knew each other. A: I put a call out on Twitter "who wants to start a band with me?" B: I was like, yes, yes – me! S: Then I put my hand up. I want to be in a band! I didn't want to be left out and I hadn't played guitar since high school. [I] Was actually thinking about it the other day, I couldn't remember the chord formations or anything. I hadn't played for 15 years. S: Bianca is multi-talented instrumentalist and happened to have a drum kit.
B: And a car which is also essential with a drum kit. S: The bass was left over and I picked it up. I also had a dream I was an incredible bass prodigy. B: … and we were like we can make your dream come true! S: I had this incredible bass groove … and I was just hammering out these notes, I thought I can do this, this can be my reality … and here we are! B: We were joking around in Sticky Institute and told the guy oh, we have started this band. And he was like, ohhh you should play at our festival. And we were like, we are just joking around … and he was like – No, really. B: And we were like oh okay, we'll do that! S: We hadn't written any songs or anything. That was in Feb. A: We had three months to prepare our songs. B: Had three months to write.
A: For me, the reason I put a call out for the band, was I was reading an interview with Carrie Brownstein from Sleater-Kinney and she was like, just start a band with your friends. And, I was like f**k yeah I can do it! Also we went to the screening of The Punk Singer and I was like man, this was 20 years ago. Kathleen Hanna was talking about those things and it is still so resonant, in your face feminism. Why are we still having these conversations? [It's like a] broken record, it is like banging your head against the wall. Bringing it together made sense, I was keen to make music. [I'd] played in a band in high school and an orchestra for eight years. I was really keen to perform and we were like yeah, let's do it. S: Originally she was a spoken word artist [Kathleen Hanna] and she was going to all these spoken word events, nobody goes to spoken word events, nobody listens. B: Start a band and get your message out. A: Whether people listen or not, we've still got voices and we are still going to use them. People have paid attention so far. That is quite complimenting.
Feminism in the modern age.
S: Feminism is still an issue, it doesn't matter what school of feminism you come from. Whether you say I am not a feminist, I am a humanist, or I don't associate with that label, or whatever. These issues, whatever you want to call it, still affect the world population. When I started getting more involved in it, it was more of a reinforcement of ideas for me. When I was a child growing up, my parents said you can be whatever you want.
I remember watching the cricket one day and said to my dad I want to play for the Australian men's cricket team. And he was like, well, you can't actually do that. That is not a thing. And I was like I am going to make it a thing! I was 10 yrs. old at the time. Then I actually started to hate sport, I always had that mentally. Whether you want to put a label on it, the ideas are still at the forefront of people's minds. B: It sucks that all these shitty things are happening. S: So many instances when I look at the Guardian and go argh! What has Tony Abbott done now? Asylum seekers still being treated this way, it makes me furious everyday, but you need to be able to express that. B: I feel like we haven't been super political. But I feel it brewing; I think it is going to come up.
S: Thatcherism was the cause of Brit Pop. A: Gary Numan. A:The Mighty Boosh! [Boosh fans will understand this reference to series 3]. A: Honestly, I would rather just be writing stupid love songs. S: But we don't need more of that, you can't always relate to that. A: We are not capitalising on a bad political landscape, I would prefer if we didn't have these things about, but we do and we have a stage for that. B: We'll always have love songs, because we'll always write about the things that are relevant to us. S: [Why didn't the girls choose to be another Indie band?] I don't know. A: I find that we have the flexibility in the genre to shift and move about. S: Indie is quite all encompassing as well. B: Indie like Triple J bands? More like band of the year than a band you remember. B: We think about it, but we think about it in relation to what we already have, not what we should do [marketing themselves]. I don't give a f**k if nobody likes our music we are doing it for ourselves.
S: Who needs another Indie band anyway? A: I find that is a fellow-centric attitude, boring white guys. 'I am a bit too lazy to get a real job, let's start a band and market ourselves that way'. We are coming in as the minority anyway. B: [What's the response like to being an all girl band?] OH, your band is all girls that is so quirky. From both guys and girls. S: The response from women is kind of funny. Sooooo you play with a couple of guys? No, two other girls. B: Then they are like, that is kind of cool. B: My boyfriend's step-mom, every time she sees me is like 'yeah rock on Bianca!'
Old School musical influences.
B: We all have a lot of similar influences. S: I like a lot of dirty garage, garage rock. Growing up, in my teenagehood, it was Britpop – Blur and Oasis. I know it is not very correct to like Blur and Oasis equally, but over time my affections for Blur have shifted so I am completely in love with them. [Also] Pulp, Lush, Elastica. A: Lush are great. S: Elastica are a big influence for me in terms of girls in bands. [I'm] now trying to listen to more female bands, I spent a long time not enjoying music produced by women. There wasn't a strong message they were putting out that I believed in. Now there is a resurgence of women speaking out, and doing their own thing. I can relate to it a lot more. At the moment, I am loving a Scottish band called Honeyblood. Really heavy lush guitars, the woman has a really lovely voice.
B: I am also making an effort to listen to more independent stuff or more female stuff. Growing up, it was dude rock. Especially learning guitar, Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix. S: Did you parents listen to that? B: Not really, I took my dad to see Motley Crue, which he fucking loved! S: Cool! My dad was huge into Led Zeppelin. A: So was my dad [and Deep Purple]. B: I still have a soft spot for that in my heart, glam rock. A: Hair Metal! [At this point everyone breaks into laughter] S: First record I bought was Open up and Say Ahh! on vinyl.
A: Sleater-Kinney and Bikini Kill in terms of ethos. I am really into electronic music, when I first heard of Grimes, before Visions came out, I thought there is something about this it is so different, I think it really changed how I perceived music. She is just a one-woman powerhouse. [She] won't let anyone produce her, she does it all herself, that is amazing. S: She speaks for herself too. B: Isn't she like the CEO of two companies? A: She is head of Grimes Corp and Fairy Touring industries. Genesis was all directed by her. No one is touching my video clips! S: Out of this world. A: And that is something that really inspired me, I was like fuck yeah I can do this. B: We are far more self-critical [girls]. I was talking about this with someone the other day. For example my boyfriend will always say, I am right. No matter what he knows about something? He's right, because he has been taught to voice his opinion. "Don't worry if you are wrong, because you won't be wrong anyway." Girls are taught from a young age to be seen and not heard and you don't want to make a fool of yourself in front of anybody. S: Women haven't been used to being in position of power. A: She is only a year older than me . I am used to be people 10 years older than me, but when you have that measuring stick, you think actually this is doable. I don't need to wait around and let it snowball.
How did they come up with the name The Girl Fridas?
A: We were talking about Frida [Kahlo] and women we admire. Someone was like, that is my girl Frida! Shannon was like 'The Girl Fridas'; we can't let go of that. S: It's also a play on Girl Friday; a lot of people think that is the band's name. S: Girl Friday is a admin or receptionist, a gopher. It's a twist that we can do everything ourselves, but we are not doing it for anybody. B: She really encompasses everything we admire about strong women [Kahlo]; she went through all this oppression, living in Mexico. S: Coming out of a crippling injury. S: it is not a case of some women are more oppressed than others, we look up to the way she dealt with her oppression. That is where we derive our strength. B: If she can do it why can't we?
S: The way that she lived, she just didn't care what anybody thought of her. She hated the Manhattan scene; she spent a bit of time in New York with Diego her husband. She thought it was full of people that thought less of her. She rebelled against it and still lived a very full and colourful life. B: She didn't try to fit the mould. A: I think it is difficult to do, when people are watching every move you make. B: If you don't fit the mould, people are going to criticise you.
S: Music keeps me sane and grounded, Alice & Bianca went on a trip to South East Asia in June, and for that 6 weeks I was completely lost. [I] Wasn't rehearsing or anything, I miss that connection, I miss my girls, weekly catch ups, bonding over music and working as a team. Really miss that. Even if you are working in a job that you really enjoy, if you have something to keep you going in your off time, it's really great. A: It is just an outlet for energy that otherwise wouldn't get used. There is always something we catch up about. We all live really close. Bianca lives three blocks from me. S: We all live on the same tramline. B: Fate brought us together! S: So beautiful!
Men in this day and age, how to be empowered as a woman.
A: [On catcalling] If I am walking down the street, f**k off! B: I didn't dress up for anybody else. S: It's not a catwalk; I've got shit to do. B: I don't give a f**k what they say. A: I actually can't fathom what they are thinking, there is a girl walking down the street by herself, I might yell out of my car at her. None of that makes sense. B: That isn't going to lead to a relationship, doesn't even lead to a one nightstand. That is a fleeting moment. A: What I think it is, is exercising their hegemonic dominance. B: Oh, love it is just a joke. S: The other day, walking to the tram stop to work, a guy was doing some soldering work for one of the shops. He was looking at me like he needed to say something. I thought he was going to ask me what the time was. I pulled out my earphones and he was like "smile love it is not that bad." And I was furious I just raised my eyebrows. I kept walking, it is not his place to tell me that. He has no idea about the situation I am in. B: Your dad could've died. S: I just had nothing to say to that. A: I find that I am so taken aback in those situations. You plan stuff afterwards. B: I think it comes back to women are meant to be seen and not heard. You are meant to display this pristine, loving, caring, wholesome … motherly kind of thing. S: We've written songs about that. B: [How girls might relate to their songs?] The way we do with Bikini Kill songs! Not that I feel ready to compare ourselves to Bikini Kill. A: I would like to positively influence younger girls. I have a younger sister, we haven't lived together for years and she thinks I'm weird. She's always in a relationship and dependent. I just would like to give an inkling there is another existence. We are not here to please the male population. Nah, I am not going to smile for someone! I've been doing a lot of internal work, acknowledging when I have emotional reactions to things. My job is to fix it and not everyone else's. That has helped a lot, and blocked out a lot of the shit.