Posts Tagged ‘Women in Rock’

Christopher Nosnibor

Three years on from the original Lips Can Kill Tour, which took place in December 2019, these four likeminded bands reconvene to showcase their contrasting but complimentary styles around the UK, landing in York on the second night after kick-starting things in Birmingham. And, while ostensibly London-based acts, this is very much an international affair, and it’s this range of flavours and elements of cultural context that make this such an exciting proposition.

On the one hand, I feel that making a deal of the fact any band is female-fronted is unhelpful in the scheme of things, as if being female-fronted is something particularly novel or to be applauded in itself, or, worse still, a kind of virtue signal or positive discrimination. It’s more a hindrance to equality and detracts from what the band actually does. Female-fronted is not a genre. I say this because context matters, and the fact that all four acts on this tour are female-fronted is precisely the point: it’s a package deal of strong female frontspersons working in solidarity: stronger together. But stepping back from that, the fact of the matter is that it’s a package deal with four fiery guitar-led bands that you can’t really go wrong for the seven quid or so entry.

With a revolving running order, the stage times on the door simply list bands 1-4, and the first is on early, just fifteen minutes after doors. It’s Tokyo Taboo up first after some last-minute pole prep. Their act and image has come on a fair way since I last saw them way back in 2018, and their set now features unreleased material and singles released since 6th Street Psychosis. For the most part it’s chunky, spunky, punk rock with a pop edge. ‘Pussy Power’, dedicated to the women of the bands on tour is strong and empowering. The second half of ‘Self Sabotage’ is sung from back by the bar after Dolly totters through the crowd on heels that are practically stilts. As it began, so it ends, and they’re back to low-slung stoner riffage for closer ‘No Pleasure Only Pain’.

DSC_2024DSC_2027

Tokyo Taboo

Healthy Junkies are up next for what seems to be a depressingly middle-aged male-dominated crowd, and they’re on form on their second time playing in York this year. They sound denser, louder, more driven and energised and get people moving from the start. They’ve got the quiet/loud dynamics and beefy grunge/punk riffs nailed and kick the songs out with swagger and confidence, but without coming across as cocky. They’re proficient and efficient, lean and strong. It’s the first tour for their new bassist. He’s young and energetic and delivers some solid Rickenbacker action. Chat is kept to a minimum as they pack in the tunes and play them hard. ‘Tricky Situation is pure spirit of 77 with guitarist Phil Jones taking over lead vocals. They’re joined by Frog from PollyPikPocketz for closer ‘Mayday’. It’s got novelty value, but the green haired old punk’s Lydon ripping is a shade anticlimactic in its predictability. Still, they look like they’re having fun and the crowd love it, so maybe it’s just me being cynical and jaundiced.

DSC_2047DSC_2036

Healthy Junkies

The night steps up a notch or three with the arrival of Yur Mum onstage. They immediately up both the volume and intensity. Something about cutting down to a duo seems to have given the band – who already kicked arse as a trio – a fresh impetus and incentive to kick arse twice as hard. If it’s a case of overcompensating, then fine: it works. Anelis’ rib-shaking bass packs a massive, phat, buzzing, booming punch, and it’s matched every note by Fabio’s stick-flipping hard hitting drumming. The jarring, jolting frenzy of ‘Tropical Fuzz’ is absolutely killer, and brings all the cowbell, too. Then they’re straight into the jungle… and there’s more amazing bass, with fast fretwork but it’s not wanky for a second. They really turn up the heat with ‘Sweatshop’ and, for my money, are the band of the night.

DSC_2090DSC_2085

Yur Mum

PollyPikPoketz present an interesting dynamic – and pack a hell of a lot of energy. The guitar and bass are – specifically those wielding them – are old punk/metal with their Lemmy / Rotten stylings respectively, and are probably older than singer Myura’s parents. It makes for an odd dynamic, visually at least. Sonically, though, it works a treat, combining experience with sass and energy. They’ve got some killer riffs, too, and hit full-throttle gut churn at times, simultaneously calling to mind early Therapy? and The Adverts.

DSC_2107

PollyPikPoketz

In all, it stacks up for a quality night, and where many package tours feature bands who sound alike – which can get tedious pretty quickly, because no-one needs four shouty punk bands or instrumental post-rock acts back to back – Lips Can Kill 2 offers stylistic range sonically and visually, not to mention top-notch entertainment all night.

Emerging in 2016 as a Paramore-influenced radio-friendly rock act, Weekend Recovery have come a long way in a short time, transforming into on altogether edgier, more fiery, grungy-punk outfit and slamming down a debut album and a follow-up EP, amidst a heavy live schedule in 2018. With a few days off between Christmas and New Year, I caught up with singer / guitarist Lorin to riff on feminism, finance and whipped cream boobs – and to reflect on both the highs and lows of an eventful and sometimes turbulent 12 months.

AA: 2018 has been a big year for Weekend Recovery – you’ve played a lot more live dates and actually started to look like a proper touring band, not to mention the fact you’ve released your debut album. How’s it felt for you?

L: It’s been and gone so quickly – like it’s weird feels like it’s been forever but also gone in a blink if that makes sense. For the first time since the beginning though it’s felt like a band. Like I’d kill for the boys – you know how you can talk shit about your family but no one else can – a bit like that!

Yes, I get that strange warping of time, too: and it feels strange for me having first seen you play in, what, February 2016? It was funny, because you arrived late after bad traffic, draped in a faux-fur coat… and if anything, while the band’s rise has been pretty remarkable since then, you actually seem more grounded as an individual. You seem like a completely different band now. What happened?

I think it was 2017? (I think [it was]) I think I’ve surrounded myself in bullshit for a long enough time to work out who actually wants the band to progress and I can say whole heartedly these boys do – I feel more confident in myself and have learnt the ropes (I think anyway) and also surround myself with good people.

WR1

The company you keep can make all the difference. And there seems to be an awful lot of bullshit, even at the lower levels of music-making. It seems ironic that feminism seems to have been a major source of friction on the scene of late – I had some major grief at a gig earlier this year, which subsequently turned into a virtual riot on social media, simply because I was a bloke reviewing a feminist ‘punk’ band – and you’ve had some pretty rough treatment too….

Yeah – it’s been an interesting few years – I think there are a lot of rose coloured bullies in this industry – and what annoys me is it’s so sugar coated people are fooled by it, or worse they know but continue to idol worship as I call it… Thing is the good bands aren’t the nasty ones – ‘cos they don’t have to beat others down to rise up – they rise up cos they’re great.

It seems strange that there should be infighting and animosity between artists: everyone’s struggling as it is. Where does this kind of division come from? And how do you actually manage to operate financially as a band? It seems that these days, even bands with an international profile are dependent on their day-jobs to subsist. It’s something that Pissed Jeans have made a band career of documenting.

I have no idea honestly – thing is with anything subjective there will always be an element of competition which creates friction – the band I have issue with (or rather she does with me) I don’t see as competition because they’re everything I’d hate to be. Financially, fuck knows – even the bands at the top work day jobs haha! Merch sales I guess are the way forward.

You’re pretty on it with the merch and design generally – and everything is your own, from concept to execution. Do you have any background in either marketing or graphic design, or are you just a control freak?

Haha! I have an A-level in it if that counts? And a foundation degree in fashion design haha.

But yes, I am a control freak, lol.

Fashion… you do are a fairly distinctive look, and you change your hair more often than your underwear. What’s with?

Changing my hair – it’s a trying to find myself kinda thing – I got accused of copying someone’s style – so I had a bit of crisis like oh does that look like her or does that – every time I put on a dress I’d look in the mirror and be like fuck that’s too much like her – pathetic right? also I get bored haha!

I wish I had time to get bored! So would you say you have a short attention span? More importantly, around having a crisis and people focusing your appearance and image – do you think it’s something that’s a problem more generally for women in music, particularly in ‘rock’ (if you’ll excuse the phraseology)? Do you feel like how you look carries more weight or gets more attention than the music?

I think look is super-important, like you want to walk in the room and people be like ‘oooh she means business’ BUT I don’t think you have to dress a certain way to achieve this, it’s an air – I think if the music is good the rest will follow.

WR2

I know you’re a huge fan of Katy Perry, and that her work resonates on an emotional level – although clearly her image also plays a part – but do you think her wider appeal is about the music or the look?

I think she’s the whole package – I’m not a fan of her more recent stuff but if you go right back to the start she’s very much an artist in her own right before the crazy hair and whipped cream boobs – but you know music is a business if someone can make music, sell GHDs, perfume, jewellery and pop chips then even better!

So would you do whipped cream boobs or similar to shift units or to raise your band’s profile?

Haha! I’m sure there’s some integrity in it but I don’t think I would.

Wuss! Joking aside, what are your limits, and do you think that some so-called ‘feminist’ bands are exploitative in terms of sexuality?

Well I’ll do anything for a dare so the bar is quite high…. I think feminism is about equality (don’t get me wrong there are some wronguns out there and the light should be shone on them) I’ve never experienced anything adverse luckily but that’s not to say it doesn’t happen. But you can’t tar everyone with the same brush everyone has the right to feel safe at a gig. But my dad for example is a really cool guy who isn’t about pushing people and making nasty advances when it’s unwanted. Feminism is great, man-hating is not.

I think when it’s done incorrectly it almost makes people not take it seriously, if that makes sense.

Yes, there seems to be a current within feminist musical movements right now that seems to be staunchly anti-male. To my mind, this isn’t feminism, but perpetuates the same shit women have been facing for years but pitched against men, which is just sexism thrown the other way. You say you’ve never experienced anything adverse in our career to date… there are some bands who are your peers, who may also not have problems, but clearly appeal to a certain male, 40-50 demographic. How does that sit with you, and what’s your demographic?

I think if people are there for the right reasons it shouldn’t and doesn’t matter their age, if they’re there to look up people’s skirts mm maybe they need to have a look at themselves…our demographic is quite broad I think.

Do you think there are people who turn up to gigs to look up skirts? And do you think maybe some artists encourage that? Obviously, your primary thing is the music – and we’ll come to that next.

Maybe and maybe. People will always have their justification for both things I guess, I know accusations get thrown around a lot for example oh you’re bands only popular cos you have a hot girl in it (not my band I hastingly add!) But I dunno, maybe people will always deny it though if that is the intention.

So, while the popular take is that the internet has opened up the world to bands without labels, I still get the impression that it’s playing live to new crowds is the most effective way to build a fanbase. Do you think that’s a fair assessment?

I think so, but getting people there is difficult they’ve got to really like you ‘cos no-one has money nowadays and it’s expensive not just entry but travel beers etc.

Yes: it’s a competitive market, and under austerity, people struggle just to pay the bills. So how do you lure people?

By hopefully playing good music, I know that sounds old school and telling people I don’t think there’s any shame in saying hey I play in this band come check it out if it’s your thing great if not nice to meet a new person

There’s nothing wrong with old-school! And there’s a bit of an old-school feel to your sound now. What influences are you currently drawing on now the band’s sound’s evolved beyond the earlier Paramore etc. template?

Mmm… Marmozets, The Blinders, Metric are the bigguns at the mo.

And in terms of lyrical inspiration, how close to home are yours?

Very on the EP. ‘I’m Not That Girl’ was super personal, we’ve just started writing for our album and the lyrics are super hard hitting for me. It’s a bit like Paramore’s new album after laughter it all seems happy but if you read the lyrics away from the music they ate deep.

What drives your lyrics? ‘New Tattoo’ seemed to ache with anguish – and you have a substantial and expanding array of tattoos yourself. Any significance?

Well ‘New Tattoo’ is about seeing someone you really like to find out they actually have a partner already and were screwing around so it’s like a skin deep kinda thing, a tattoo is like a scar and relationships are often scars as well cos they stay with you forever in whatever form. I love all my tattoos everyone I have has a meaning and often designed by someone who means a lot to me.

You’ve just spun my head there! Relationships and meeting people is complex and difficult… do you think that being in a band changes how that works or makes it more difficult? Or do you feel like you’re just the same as everyone else on that front?

Yeah being in a band makes relationships really hard. Like really really hard. Either you’re with someone who isn’t in one and they don’t get it, like how you can spend so much time on something (because if you don’t it doesn’t work) or you’re with someone in a band who gets it but it’s difficult because you’re both so busy. It’s hard to balance everything I came out of a relationship not long back and he was convinced the band was more important than him, which wasn’t the case it’s just different like you wouldn’t make someone choose between going to work and a relationship so why bring in a band is any different I don’t know, it’s a business at the end of the day. There’s Lori who’s the front women of weekend recovery and there’s Lauren who eats chocolate pizza and drinks 6 cans of coke a day. It’s hard to balance sometimes but if the person you’re with doesn’t understand then they aren’t right , or maybe you aren’t right for them.

It’s relatable: reviewing music and being a writer means being holed up for hours a night. It’s not being unsociable or absent as a partner, so much as it’s juggling two careers. It’s more than just work / life balance. Des it feel like there’s a psychological pressure there, too? I’ll put this on the table first: I find it really difficult at times being a writer, a 9-5-er, a parent and all the rest: there just aren’t the hours in the day. Giving up anything isn’t an option, and cracking up quietly feels like all there is.

Yeah, I hate to feel like I’ve failed but sometimes there’s so much to do it seems impossible but it works.

WR3

What distinguishes success and failure for you? You don’t just do the songwriting and lyrics but all of the band’s design and promo, yes?

Yeah. I do everything I think failure is giving up.

Does that mean you’ll still be plugging away at 40? Also…. you’ve got a solo release in the pipeline, right?

I dunno. I know my limits. I do super exciting that should be out and about around June time.

How would you describe the solo stuff? And why do it?

I had some bad news after my tour back in 2017 so I just needed to get some stuff off my chest like big time! It’s electro poppy kinda Foxes, Kyla la Grange, or Sia inspired.

Do you ever stop? What’s the plan for 2019?

Writing an album, record album, more gigging, some exciting support slots on the pipeline and release my solo stuff too. Oh and crack on with my degree, haha!