WOMEN IN MUSIC – FOR INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY. Pt.2
Welcome to the second instalment of Underground’s look into the feminist underworld and the female musicians who are making the music industry balanced for better. After looking at women who first opened the discussion about women as music artists and then exploring femininity from the carnal to the frustrations that come with it. In this second part, we will delve into the pool of women who carry the torch for female creatives and lead the way to a liberated future.
Those who are making history…
Who: HOLLIE COOK
Many of the women mentioned in the first segment of this two-part celebration of female musicians have been the catalyst for many current musicians, notably The Slits had a huge influence on many women making music. Hollie Cook began her musical career in The Slits, after family friend Ari Up invited her to be part of the re-form girl group in 2006 when she was only 19. Born to musical champions Jeni Cook (Culture Club) and Paul Cook (Sex Pistols) she was practically destined to be a musical marvel. Combing her West Indian heritage with classic post-punk motifs, Cook makes tunes that embody the reggae rhythms of her female rocksteady predecessors while also churning out sugary sweet vocals and funky beats that are all her own. Her style of lover’s rock is both delectable and impelling, she is nothing but an electrifying force to be reckoned even with gentle offbeat jives and dreamy lyricism.
Essential track: ‘Body Beat’
Who: DREAM WIFE
Evolving from the riot grrrl era with its “girls to the front” mantra, coined by Kathleen Hanna, come Dream Wife whose sweet femininity is only a guise for their unruly souls and “bitches to the front” order. Known for their wild crowds and hooks that you can hang your collection of faux-fur coats off, Dream Wife’s sound is the love child of 90s feminist punk and bubble-gum pop culture of 00s. Combining the two, their tracks embrace glossy motifs adopted from bands like the Spice Girls (even covering a chunk of ‘Wannabe’ in one of their tracks) while attacking patriarchal values with a witty tongue and heavy riffs. Their pop-rock creations reflect the time, using personal experiences and the current intersectional feminist concerns. Each track they make is a manifestation of the day-to-day experiences of being a woman from politicised anger to the sexualisation of the female body to just wanting to make out with someone. Relatable and rich in crude feminist frustration Dream Wife are the rule breakers we should all aspire to be.
Essential Track: F.U.U.
Who: CHASTITY BELT
Formed of four friends from Seattle, Chastity Belt makes punky-funk music that can carry bass lines like Healthy Punk and warbly vocals that aim to ignite your fuzz tones. With three albums to their name the band invite listeners to watch them mature from a Seattle Party band who endorsed the virtues ‘Pussy, Weed and Beer’ to band who have begun grappling the tough conflicts of feminism, sex, drugs and depression. Down to earth and admirably vulnerable, Chastity Belt encourage fans to get down to their grooves while also take away a message from telling girls that it’s ok to be slutty to accepting times of sadness in the bath. Despite being a girl band with their roots firmly in feminist angst and concerns, they aren’t a riot grrl band, but something completely of their own. Still strong and witty, Chastity Belt embody the everyday girl because that’s what they are – they feel what everyone else feels and summons you to delve in these emotions too.
Essential track: ‘Cool Sluts’
Who: BLACK HONEY
Although not your conventional “girl band” female fronted Black Honey still have feminist agendas running through their musical veins. Not necessarily inspired by female artists as lead singer Izzy B stated to Women in Music, she did at 10 believe she was the inventor of being a woman in the band. Her control of the stage and overtly powerful presence exhibits just how her desire to claim a position that is so often deemed as a male’s in the indie music sphere. First formed in 2014, their early cinematic tracks carried Quentin Tarantino overtones coated in the seductive vocals that tackled concerns with femininity and lost friendships. Fast forward 5 years and they have a debut album released and are putting on headline shows, filling stages and ears with disco melodramas and spaghetti western stylings from head to foot pedal. Supposedly “playing the big boy’s game now” Black Honey members are all equally as relentless and still look glamorous while they do it, they are a representation of how clear-cut equality is.
Essential track: ‘Hello Today’
Who: RAY BLK
Consistently titled a “rising R&B star” RAY BLK is the South London soul Empress that many reviewers claim her to be. Earning herself the crown of the BBC Sound of 2017 as the first unsigned artist to do so, RAY BLK unapologetically breaks boundaries with every stride she takes. With a sharp tongue and a critical eye, RAY BLK doesn’t hold back when it comes to her lyricism that covers topics such as female sexuality, the danger of hyper-masculinity and the kind of wasters who don’t deserve the love that they get. With her music, she embraces femininity both her own and of others and sings of cautionary tales that hold up mirrors to certain aspects of everyday life. She subverts the norm in a beautifully powerful way in both of her albums, Durt and Empress, and evokes others to do the same. Her presence in the music industry has never been so necessary, praise be the Empress of our generation Ray BLK.
Essential track: ‘Hunny’
Made up of two sisters the Calivins (aka Bleached) are the veterans of the LA’s feminist punk girl group Mika Miko, with Micayla Grace and Nick Pillot. Sticking with the theme of dirty-under-the-nails punk rock from their previous beloved band, their music is aggressive and manic but still echoes the popular surf punk tones. The girls undeniably echo their 60’s femme predecessors: combining a retro Shangri-La’s coolness with modern day rock and roll like their likeminded band Hunx and His Punx. With only two albums under their belt, Bleached still carry a cut-throat revisionist take on feminist garage bands of the past and present. They vibe embodies an image of a 21st century riot grrrl who doesn’t give a damn with a cigarette hanging from their finger tips and the words “can you deal” falling out of their lips before they go and perform a gig to screaming fans… yeah, that’s pretty much them.
Essential track: ‘Can You Deal?’
The music of the sister duo CocoRosie is often categorised as ‘freak folk’ or ‘hip hopera’, placing the sisters in the new class of music makers who sought to revive 70’s culture with new age electronic vibes. Both musicians and visual artists the pair deconstruct and challenge heteronormativity and patriarchy. While they haven’t produced a new album in a while, their library of works explores the limits of sound and gender norms with the hopes of being both inspiring and bone-chilling. With the experimental style, CocoRosie highlights how powerful individuals are, regardless of oppressive expectations. Most of their feminist notions sound as if it’s been extracted from Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market, ensuring that women and girls stop being “confused by their own magic” and “displeased with their own perfume”. Although, CocoRosie’s music isn’t to everyone’s taste it goes without saying that their message should be.
Essential Track: Lost Girls
“It’s such a travesty… when women and men are raised to adhere to certain characteristics” GIRLI, aka Milly Toomey, once stated in an interview and by God is, she right. Exploding onto the music scene in 2015 at the ripe age of 17 GIRLI bursts through boundaries of all shapes and sizes with electropop beats and lyricism that is tongue in cheek and “deliberately discomforting”. With her PC music style GIRLI redefines what it means to be a girl but only by the lifestyle and lived experiences of girls themselves, and why shouldn’t this be the case. Girls get angry too and are hot messes despite the femaleness that the patriarchy tries to form women buy. GIRLI may be coated in pink and performing bubble-gum pop belters, she is not complicit with the expectations of femininity predetermined by a false world-view instead she is just a girl and performing as herself – warts and all.
Essential track: ‘Hot Mess’
This Mancunian trio has been labelled the “most Brooklyn band ever to come from Manchester”, what with their jangling guitars and echoing vocals it comes as no surprise the foursome sound like their surf-pop sisters from across the pond. But don’t get it twisted these girls are as far from a pop star as it gets: fusing both femininity and rebellion they curate a sound that’s both dreamy and as sharp as a pin. Despite not releasing new music since 2017, PINS are still doing the rounds, performing their setlist of feminist anthems and performing the odd DJ set. What seems to inspire the lyrical beauty of the band are the aspirations of young women and opposition against gender norms, they even stated that “Hell hath no fury as a woman scorned!” And damn right too.
Essential track: ‘Girls Like Us’ (it’s still a banger)
Who: PUSSY RIOT
Last but by no means least, is one of the most talked about feminist groups of all time. Performance artists and punk band, Pussy Riot are a bunch of no-nonsense Russian anarcho-feminists who gained a reputation in 2012 when they proved this during a protest at an Orthodox Church against the corruption of Putin’s regime. Utilising feminist theory and activist passion, this group of women push the boundaries of the body and sound in order to push for liberation of the sexes. Explicit in their desires and politically charged, their music is radically satirical while carrying an overtly necessary message about the unjust inequalities that women in the 21st century are still restrained by. Lead by Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Masha Alekhina (previous members include fellow founders Maria Alykhina and Yekaterina Samutevich), their feminist theory carries the flame of third wave and French feminists (such as Kristeva and Irigaray) into 2019, still fighting for the rights of women and LGBTQ+. Still performing across the globe, Pussy Riot performs in a guerrilla-style that epitomises everything they stand for… what’s not to love?
Essential track: Straight Outta Vagina
International Women’s day musical bingo: the list of incredible female artists could go on for a while, these are of course only a handful of the richness that women in the music have to offer. Here is a list of a few others who are balancing the gender scale in the music biz, play bingo with the ones you know and check out the others to add to your own library.
PUMAROSA, CAROLINE ROSE, JONI MITCHELL, THE 18.104.22.168’S, ABRA, SASSY 009, BEA1991, BEST COAST, DEAP VALLY, THE DELMONAS, ELLIE BLEACH, FINDLAY, BIIG PIIG, FLORENCE AND THE MACHINE, GIRLPOOL, GORE GORE GIRLS, GRIMES, HAIM, JEANE WEAVER, JORJA SMITH, JAY SOM, KERO KERO BONITO, LA BUTCHERETTES, M.I.A, MELODY’S ECHO CHAMBER, MITSKI, NICE AS FUCK, OSHUN, PALEHOUND,THE PANDORAS, PEACHES, PETITE MELLER PINKY PINKY, PIXX, SASSY 009, SHITKID, THE SUPREMES, SUSAN CADOGAN, THAO AND THE GET DOWN STAY DOWN, THEE HEADCOATEES, YASSASSIN, DOLLY PARTON, NICO, DUSTY SPRINGFIELD, CHER, GRACE JONES… the list goes on.
Word by Aimee Williams-Maynard