Women’s day: Musicians talk music industry, Girl Power and more

Yesterday was International Women’s Day and we chose to celebrate it by giving some of our favourite female musicians a space to open up about the good and bad of the music industry. We chat about sexism, female representation, how the industry is evolving and how inclusivity is still not fully within our grasp. 

Words: Renette van der Merwe // Simone Barton

Charlie - As Everything Unfolds

Charlie Rolfe – As Everything Unfolds

Do you think the music industry is finally shifting to be more inclusive of women?

The industry is slowly getting there. Although I’m in a lucky position where I’m a recognisable frontwoman, we need to start supporting women in behind the scenes jobs: tour drivers, sound engineers and techs.

I feel women in these jobs are not represented enough and we still have a long way to go! We’ve had some incredible women on our team and I thank them for their hard work and perseverance in an industry that sometimes doesn’t acknowledge them.

Sophie - Glitchers

Sophie – Glitchers

Would you consider music a tool to dismantle constructs like sexism? 

100% yes! It’s one of the main aims of Glitchers, write catchy tunes with important messages to make people think.

Our song ‘Suck It!’ is about smashing the social constructs around sex and violence, ‘since when did a vibrator become more offensive than a gun?’. It features a female orgasm which has already seen to be too much for some that review the EP, but that just confirms to us why we did it!

Call people out on behaviors that they may not have noticed are sexist and then they listen to the music and think ‘ah, fuck, I’m one of the shitty people they’re referring to’ and hopefully change their ways!

Alyssa Guardrail

Alyssa Laessig – Guardrail

How do you think representation of women in music can be improved?

We can improve representation for women in music by encouraging every artist to bring their most authentic creative self to the stage regardless of gender expression.

Being vulnerable and sharing creative work makes everyone feel insecure at first, but it’s much much scarier when your gender puts a target on your back. If we can remove that target, I think we’d see more musicians flourish.

Audrey - Pleasure Venom

Audrey Campbell – Pleasure Venom

You’re not only a woman, but a woman of colour in alternative music. How proud of you of showing girls like you that this is possible for them?

It’s the main thing that keeps me going. Money and social numbers mean so little at the end of the day. I always get my greatest boost of energy from live sets and interacting with fans (which I haven’t done in like a year now). 

The primary reason I even created Pleasure Venom was to fill a void of women/women of color comfortable enough to express how unsettled we feel as we navigate a world controlled by a corrupt system and government that pushes back and won’t budge on progress, whether it be in the music industry, BLM, or our lives in general. Looking back, it wasn’t even a conscious choice, it’s just what came out and it felt GOOD. I wanted to just keep leaning into my truth and telling my story. It’s all there in the music. Every frustration and resentment and my working through it even if it’s a bit harsh and over-the-top! The shit is FUN and REALLY cathartic for me! Getting all that off my chest felt necessary and at this point not sure where my mental health would be if not for this project. 

Here at Pleasure Venom we are all about RADICAL self-care and equality for ALL no matter your sex, gender, race, sexual orientation, etc.. 

I want things to be different for womxn and girls coming after me. It’s actually really difficult to put into words sometimes. I know I sometimes come across as having this very tough exterior, but I am a multi-faceted and nuanced-as-hell person, and I’m a really a huge softy at times about it all. I have been left sobbing at my computer by messages from women and women of color telling me how much our music has helped them and encouraging me to keep at it! It really does mean so much, it’s very validating and humbling.

The world needs more bold rule breakers. ‘Well behaved women seldom make history.’ Every woman I admire has pissed off the patriarchy in some way. So live loud, take up space, and never shrink yourself for ANYONE!

Lorna - The Hyena Kill

Lorna Blundell – The Hyena Kill

Who were some of the female musicians you looked up to growing up and did you ever feel as though there wasn’t enough representation?

I feel incredibly lucky to have grown up in the 90s during the Spice Girls frenzy. It was a blessing to have had these 5 women, all their each individual characters, shouting about girl power at such an influential age for me. I still listen to them frequently. What other band can sell out a stadium tour after a 10 year hiatus with no new album and a member down? They shaped my youth and they’re the reason I still hold pop music so close to my heart.

Beyonce’s original 16 piece all female touring band The Suga Mamas were absolutely life altering for me. I’ve watched her live performances and studied them over and over. These women are so empowering and so accomplished at their instruments. Beyonce said herself the band made her step her own game up. They certainly set the bar for me. Her two drummers at the time, Nikki Glaspie and Kim Thompson, are some of my biggest drumming influences.

I saw Skunk Anansie live for the first time a few years ago and it left me speechless. Skin was absolutely breathtaking. It took me a while to properly digest that gig and the power that woman emits onstage. The ferociousness and passion oozing out of her was contagious and it made me want to play drums louder, faster and harder. I found a hero I didn’t know I was missing that night.

There’s no doubt that women were and are underrepresented in music. But growing up, when I found an influential woman amongst all of the men (of which there are many who are incredibly active and supportive of a gender neutral industry), it meant the absolute world to me. It still does. To feel represented, inspired and able to relate to someone; and that if they’re up there smashing it up on stage, I can do the same. I also think a part of the reason for that is, in a split second, I become subconsciously aware of what they may have gone through to get where they are. The fight to get on that stage and be heard and the respect I have for that. And it’s not just the women you see on stage, it’s the ones behind it too such as sound engineers, promoters, pr and booking agents. Who knows the doors they potentially had to kick in to be taken seriously in their profession. But I hope that by those women kicking in those doors, it leaves them open for the following generations to walk through with less hassle, which has been happening slowly throughout the history of music. But even after my comparatively small 18 years of drumming and gigging, I can feel positive change in the air now more than ever. Girl Power.

Ginny - Colorwave

Eva-Gina Berkel – COLORWAVE

Do you have any advice for other women who want to get into alternative music?

Do it, join the family! Whether you’re an instrumentalist, a vocalist, a sound engineer, a producer, a journalist, a manager, a promoter, or the next indie label boss – know that we love to have you here! 

The second piece of advice I would give is slightly more complex, but comes down to one seemingly simple statement: Know yourself, trust in your abilities, and don’t lose sight of the things that make your creations your very own. (…it’s an ever-evolving journey, I know!)

 Because at this point in time, unfortunately, you’ll still be confronted with a lot of double standards. As a female musician, people (press, spectators, even fans) will compare you to other women a LOT. It won’t have anything to do with what you actually sound like. They’ve even coined a genre for you that won’t describe the sound of your music at all. The same thing goes for producers, journalists and managers. I’m not here to judge whether you decide to capitalise on the “female-fronted”, “female-produced”, “all-female…” label. That’s up to you.

My advice is more related to the fact that you’ll be compared to other women a lot. And comparison can lead to competition, even if it doesn’t happen outside of your head: In your mind, you might find yourself competing with others. Judging yourself, imposing expectations on, and internalising narratives about yourself that have nothing to do with your actual abilities. And while there are many harmful side-effects to the act of comparing oneself to others, a significant one that a lot of people don’t talk about is: Your work will become less strong, less impactful, less you.

The wonderful thing about the alternative music scene is that it can express what the mainstream is afraid to express – the uncomfortable topics, big, raw emotions, great injustices, etc.

Comparison can make you adapt to an imposed standard that either doesn’t fit ALL that you are and/or is utterly outdated. So when the outside world starts comparing you to others: Don’t lose sight of the fact that every human being brings their own unique story, struggles, talents, fears, values, and insights to the table. Not only does that make for a wonderfully diverse world, but it also means that there is enough space and success for everyone.

Let’s make our differences count and lift each other up! That’s what this scene and this world need the most.

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