Cat Valley Lambast Music Industry Sexism on New Single “Manager”

Photo by Tommy Calderon Photgraphy

Cat Valley, a self-proclaimed “angry lady band” out of the small, bay-side Bellingham, Washington just North of Seattle, aren’t shy when it comes to calling out sexism—particularly within the music industry.

With that familiar Riot Grrl verve, relatability, and self-possession, the feminist foursome lambast crude Craigslisters, interruptive male coworkers, and even their own fathers on their new track “Manager,” a new single off their forthcoming EP Feral.

Along with being a clever, catchy, feminist banger, “Manager,” is a pertinent representation of the group’s folksier roots, and the louder, more electric sound they’ve landed on now.

“‘Manager’ is kind of an interesting song. It does start a little softer and you can hear some of our singer-songwriter-y roots in the beginning and then it gets really loud and surfy at the end,” says Abby Hegge, guitarist, vocalist and one of the founding members of Cat Valley.

Originally, Cat Valley was a duo, formed when Hegge met guitarist-vocalist Whitney Flinn in 2016 at her house show birthday party, organized by a mutual friend. “She asked my friend Tyson to book the house show for her and she and I were both playing singer-songwriter music at the time – she plays harp and I play acoustic guitar music,” remembers Hegge. “It seemed like a good genre match so Tyson got me on the bill. I heard her play and I cried, and she heard me play and she cried, and then we were like, can we jam?”

They named their band “Cat Valley” as an ironic nod to another all-male local band playing around at the time, “Dog Mountain.” “They kind of had some dudebro energy and we thought it would be funny if we named ourselves Cat Valley because it was the opposite of Dog Mountain. I did text them and asked them if it would hurt their feelings if we did that and they said to go for it,” Hegge says.

The origins of their name also complements the feminist themes that arise naturally in their collaborative songwriting. “We knew we wanted to write songs about feminism because we were both getting fed up with different things we were doing within our lives. And so, kind of through the songs being angry, that kind of elevated them to a louder place,” explains Hegge. “And then we realized we wanted them to be louder, so we started playing with more effects, started adding distortions, and then one of our friends offered to play drums for us.”

When that drummer friend had to move on, Hegge and Flinn were able to find drummer Melanie Sehman through their volunteerism with Bellingham Girls Rock Camp, a youth program that encourages social change through teaching music. Shortly thereafter, they recruited bassist Kristen Stanovich for the band, too. “Melanie was like, I’m a drummer, I like your music, let’s play,” says Hegge. “And then our friend Kristen joined the band, who is actually the partner of Tyson, the friend who initially introduced Whitney and I all those years ago.”

From there, the foursome began churning out fresh music, which they say is inspired by groups like La Luz and Sleater-Kinney, two all-women rock bands that also have ties to the Pacific Northwest and, like Cat Valley, draw from the patriarchy-bashing tradition of the Riot Grrl movement.

Their first demo, which features a cover image of Hegge’s orange cat, came out in 2016, followed by a self-entitled EP released in 2018. 2021’s Feral EP, while similar to past work, takes the themes they’ve always explored even further, and showcases how far they’ve come as a group.

Sure enough, Feral strikes a brilliant balance—it’s charmingly relatable, unabashed and bold. “Manager”—which begins somewhat sweetly before seething with rage over the intergenerational trauma of limiting gender roles by the end—is a perfect example of that.

“We were thinking about seeing our mothers feel more of the burden of raising children than our fathers and taking the kids to school and doing what their husbands say and those kinds of ideas,” says Hegge. “And we’re kind of yelling about some of our experiences that we’ve had, like Whitney getting talked over at a meeting, and a gross guy who answered one of my Craigslist ads by hitting on me.”

In fact, the title “Manager” comes from Hegge’s experience of watching her manager at Guitar Center—a woman—have to continually convince customers that she was actually the manager.

“[Customers] would come in, talking to her about something, and then she’d be like, oh yeah no this thing can’t happen, sorry. And they’d be like, can I talk to the manager? And she’s like, I am the manager. And they’re like can I talk to your manager. And she’s like, no I am the highest manager here. And they just wouldn’t believe her and would leave,” she recounts.

When asked if the band ever worries about the audience’s response to the “angry feminism” in their songs, Hegge balks. They are proud to be angry. It offers them a source of catharsis, particularly in a music industry that continually underestimates them because of their sex. “One time somebody wrote an album review of us and said it was all acoustic. We were just like, is this because we’re girls? What? There’s literally not one acoustic instrument on this album,” says Hegge. “Stuff like that.”

“I didn’t realize how angry I was – Whitney was a big catalyst for me realizing I was angry, honestly,” she continues. “She was already fired up and she’s a little older than me so she had experienced more and knew what sexism looked like and she’s very good at standing up for herself. I was like, oh wow, she’s really angry, she’s got a lot to be angry about. I bet I do too! And then I realized that I did and I was like, wow, I’ve really been playing it nice and pretending like nothing bothers me, but I don’t have to.” 

Cat Valley’s fierce and original Feral EP drops November 12th. Additionally, the group will be playing a handful of shows around Seattle and Bellingham over the next few months. Their next show (with Kitty Junk) will be at Seattle’s High Dive on October 28th.

Follow Cat Valley on Facebook for ongoing updates.

Melbourne Punks Plaster of Paris Distill Queer D.I.Y. Ethos on Debut LP Lost Familiar

Photo Credit: Kalindy Williams

Melbourne three-piece post-punk purveyors Plaster of Paris are bristling, vulnerable and truthful on their debut album, Lost Familiar, out June 23. After years of thrilling Melbourne with brain-shuddering, pelvic-shaking garage rock on stage at some of Melbourne’s finest rock venues including The Tote Hotel, The Old Bar, and The Espy, putting their raw, live energy on record has been long-awaited.  

Formed nearly a decade ago, shifting lineups and changing band names solidified in the last five years, bringing us the Plaster of Paris we know and love today: Zec Zechner is on vocals, Sarah Blaby is the goddess of guitar riffs, and Nicola Bell is deadly behind the drum kit. Zechner came from a grassroots, feminist, DIY collective from the inner West of Sydney, while Blaby is Melbourne born and bred. The two met when their former bands played shows and toured together. Both were involved in queer-friendly, trans-friendly shows and bonded over their proactive political and personal attitude to art.

“We’re not your average four piece – we don’t have a bass player,” explains Zechner. “Essentially, Sarah and I write songs together. I write the lyrics, and I like to use a really organic process – having a theme, a really visual idea, and building a song up slowly, like a painting. I like to use really visually strong lyrics, built around how I see the world. It’s almost a diarised experience. We’ll hum along a melody, then Sarah will write a riff around it. Then I’ll polyrhythm, and weave it in and out of guitars. And of course, Nicola’s an amazing drummer and an amazing filmmaker, who’s been nominated for multiple awards for her films.”

Working with engineers Casey Rice and Paul Maybury, plus post-production by Nao Anzai, Lost Familiar was recorded at Atlantis Studios in Tottenham, a church-based studio in Fryerstown just outside Melbourne, and the rest was done at Secret Location studios. The mastering was done at Rolling Stock studios in inner-suburban Melbourne.

“We love Casey, we love Paul,” says Zechner. “They’re fantastic engineers and producers. We wanted to work with Casey because they’re from a really DIY, punk background in Chicago. They’ve also worked with [Melbourne punk band] Cable Ties. They get a really punk guitar sound, which suits Sarah’s angular, sharp guitar – not unlike Gang of Four. Paul lived close to us, and we wanted to get the work done and finish the album sooner, plus the two of them are friends. We wanted a bigger drum sound and guitar feel, which Paul executes beautifully. He has a reputation for that real garage vibe.”

Nao Anzai has worked with big names in Australian music, including studio engineering for David Bridie and Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, as well as doing live engineering for Tropical Fuck Storm and Alice Skye. “Nao is a wonderful engineer. He has worked on Cash Savage and the Last Drinks, Teskey Brothers – a lot of big names,” gushes Zechner. “It was just really good luck and a good friend introduced us to them. He did a beautiful job, and he’s got magical hands. He does a lot of live shows, festivals and things around the country and overseas.”

Thrashing out of the speakers with the spiritual essence of Hole’s “Violet,” Plaster of Paris’ “Newcomer” was originally released in 2017 on a dual 7” vinyl along with another track “Oh Wow.” The band decided to remix and include them on the album.

“’Newcomer’ initially came to me when I moved to Melbourne, but it took time to make sense to me,” says Zechner. “I talk a lot about Australian experiences – being a newbie, and reflecting on being the daughter of migrant parents. Moving from a small town to a big city, searching through dusty bazaars… searching for lost family, found family and connections, someone you can rely on to be there. That’s where the album title came from, too.”

Zechner’s dad is Austrian, her mother from New Zealand. “That’s informed my experience as a queer woman, growing up in a small town [Albion Park, south of Sydney]. Since 17, I was always moving to the big cities, fleeing childhood trauma: I’ve moved to Darwin, Canberra, Sydney. I’ve had a nomadic life, trying to fit in. I’ve worked in Indigenous communities in Darwin, and Nicola has too. That’s a big passion for us,” explains Zechner.

Another track, “Danceflaw” was inspired by the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, which Zechner responds to with determination to take a stand against terrorism and fear.

“I love ‘Danceflaw.’ That’s one of my personal favourites,” she says. “Both Sarah and I were in LA for a lesbian wedding in Palm Springs in 2016. We happened to be there during Pride and we were going to go out that night, but [the nightclub shooting] happened that night. The song is about how it’s political to stay visible, and remain visible, and to keep going to the dancefloors as a queer woman and queer person. Don’t let homophobia or outside influences pressure you into not being your fabulous self.”

Zechner and Blaby ended up going out that night and being together with community, drinking cocktails and supporting each other. “The next day, I remember seeing rainbows drawn on the footpath around Silver Lake in LA, and thinking about how beautiful that was,” she recalls.

The political and the personal are intertwined, anthemic and empowering on Lost Familiar, which has a wholly fresh take on the early ‘90s riot grrrl sound that was exploding in Zechner’s formative late teens. “My dad bought me a classical, nylon-stringed guitar for my birthday,” she recalls. “I remember staring at the Hole Pretty On The Inside cover, Babes In Toyland, Sleater-Kinney – also Sarah’s favourite band – then going to see Nirvana at the Big Day Out [festival]. I loved Nina Hagen and those big diva vocals, Marianne Faithfull, Anita Lane, and of course, Kate Bush.”

Zechner’s passions also extend into goth and darkwave bands like Depeche Mode, Bauhaus, Sisters of Mercy and The Cure. “I love buying that goth stuff on vinyl because it’s so rare,” says Zechner. “I’d rather buy that than a meal. In iso, I was living in my Sisters of Mercy hoodie. I saw them in Melbourne and sang along to every song until I lost my voice.”

It was important to Zechner and the band that they align with like-minded people, so opting to release their album on Psychic Hysteria was an organic fit. “Psychic Hysteria has similar politics to us… we’ve worked really hard at keeping this precious DIY thing quite strong and really grounded,” she says. “Sarah worked with Kurt [Eckardt] at PBS [a local community radio station]. It was my idea to say, ‘Do you wanna put my band on your label?’ And he said ‘yeah.’ They’ve got some amazing bands like Hearts and Rockets, Zig Zag and Shrimpwitch.”

Having found a supportive community, Plaster of Paris are ready to thrive in 2021. They’re currently organising an East Coast tour; in the meantime, Lost Familiar provides a burst of their band’s “unapologetically queer, feminist and D.I.Y.” ethos, satisfying fans who’ve had to wait a while for a debut, and likely bringing new fans into the fold, too.

Follow Plaster of Paris on Facebook and Instagram for ongoing updates.

WOMAN OF INTEREST: Lena NW Brings Rap, Gaming, and the Apocalypse to Life with Nightmare Temptation Academy

Lena NW’s video game/album Nightmare Temptation Academy begins with a giant trigger warning. The elements of the game the player is cautioned about include “graphic sexual cartoon violence,” “glamorization of romanticizing of mental illness,” “furries,” “feminism,” “cartoon vagina,” “cartoon penis,” and “inter-dimensional sex.” This opening encapsulates the darkly hilarious art that is the work of Lena NW, also known as Fellatia G.

NW has been known for games including Viral, which explores internet culture through a quest to become a social media star, and Fuck Everything, which addresses rape culture and the male gaze through a bar setting that allows the player to have sex with various people, animals, and inanimate objects. Her creations are incisive, educational, entertaining, and disturbing all at once.

Nightmare Temptation Academy takes place in a high school during an apocalyptic era, mixing social critique with teenage angst — a lot of teenage angst. The soundtrack to the game, interspersed throughout it in the form of music videos and performed by NW’s rapping alter-ego Fellatia G, features lyrics such as “I hate my fucking life and I kind of want to die,” “I’ve got no self-awareness but I’m still so self-conscious,” “I’ve been forced to endure my existence / I never consented to being born,” and “Dorian, you’ve got me worrying / snorting heroin again / laced with fentanyl / blaming mental illness / it’s detrimental to your health.”

Throughout the game, you navigate through high school as the protagonist, a horny and depressed 14-year-old girl, tries to convince a senior boy to have sex with her, contemplates suicide, views a classmate’s erotic art featuring two boys in school, and argues about feminism with a popular girl.

NW started rapping when she was 15 and selected the name Fellatia G to take ownership of her reputation as a high school “slut.” She embodies this persona in a way that almost parodies herself; when she noticed that the song “Armageddon Is So Whatever” contained no sexual references, she added the evocative, seductively sung simile, “It all just blows up in your face like a hot load.”

Nightmare Temptation Academy is largely a reflection of what NW was dealing with during her own high school years. “I struggled with depression and not fitting in and all the stuff going on in the world, but it’s easy to sort of be like, ‘Oh, I could not exist,’ and that’s almost a comforting place to go,” she says. “In the process of making music like that, I’m dealing with these feelings. There’s almost a sense of humor in having to deal with this condition — it’s almost like a coping strategy to make light of your darkness, to have fun with it.”

The apocalyptic theme seemed particularly appropriate to DB during this time in history, especially now that the release of the game happens to coincide with the coronavirus pandemic. People are trying to “cope with the feeling like either we’re being robbed of a future or the future is uncertain, and trying to grapple with feeling everything is hopeless,” she explains.

The game also hyperbolizes the brainwashing that technology allows for: in the fictional school, the characters put on helmets that directly implant messages into their minds. “It’s like the cyber space of our of millennial internet culture deteriorating on the other side of the screen,” she says. Even as the world is ending, the characters are still wrapped up in their own petty social dynamics, which serves as commentary on the lack of concern many people currently have for world issues.

You can currently download to game and play for yourself on, but be warned: You will encounter graphic sexual cartoon violence, cartoon genitalia, furries, feminism, and much, much more.

Follow Lena NW on Instagram and Twitter for ongoing updates.

PREMIERE: True Dreams Follow EP with Title Track from Upcoming LP No. 1

When I meet up with feminist punk duo True Dreams at drummer Hannah Nichols’ Brooklyn apartment, they’re wearing what they call their “uniforms”: black school girl skirts, leather harnesses, and crisp white Dickies button downs, each emblazoned with half of the band’s logo: Nichols’ shoulder says “TRUE” and guitarist Angela Carlucci’s says “DREAMS” in a slimey green font with pink stars Carlucci embroidered herself. It’s a twisted take on the “Best Friends” necklaces girls trade with their gal pals in grade school, each half of the necklace a broken heart that connect to the other whenever said besties reunite. Nichols and Carlucci are very much two halves of a whole, their friendship the gooey glue that holds their band together; on their forthcoming LP No. 1, you can hear it pulse in their call-and-response vocals, shouting out supportive messages to one another (and to anyone else that might need to hear them).

“A big part of our band is our friendship,” Nichols says. “We’re best friends – [Angela] is like a sister to me. You can’t separate the two.” They co-write everything, and Carlucci says the act of writing together is a huge adrenaline rush. “We really try to make it 50-50,” she says. “There’s no one leading.” The egalitarian approach is rooted in their political ideals, which make their way into the songs as well.

Carlucci and Nichols met at a video shoot for an ex-boyfriend’s band, back when Nichols was just beginning to learn drums on an electronic kit in her living room. Carlucci had already been involved with a number of anti-folk bands, most notably with duo The Baby Skins and as a backup singer with Herman Düne, as well as releasing solo work under the moniker Little Cobweb. As the two became close, they realized making music together was the next step, and punk music felt the most accessible. “Growing up listening to punk bands was what made me want to play drums,” Nichols says. “[Punk] is fairly easy to pick up; it’s simple when you’re first starting out. It was what I wanted to do and what I was capable of.”

Carlucci says “as soon as I learned Hannah was learning to play I was already scheming” to get a band going, but it took a while for Nichols to feel confident enough to do so. They formed True Dreams about four years ago, and the project is now beginning to bear fruit – they released a three-song EP in 2016, and slightly re-mastered versions of those songs will appear on their forthcoming full-length No. 1, out Novembver 22 on King Pizza Records in Brooklyn and Lousy Moon Records in Frankfurt, Germany. Audiofemme is pleased to premiere its first single and title track, “No. 1.”

“No. 1” is an excellent introduction to the album, a delightfully lo-fi affair recorded mostly live in a few days at their friend Frankie Sunswept‘s New Hampshire studio. The single quickly gets to the heart of what the band is all about; its jangly guitar riffs show off the duo’s DIY garage rock influences like Shannon & the Clams and Bratmobile. “It’s made to feel empowering,” Carlucci says. “It’s about getting dumped and owning the bad feelings around being dumped, feeling that thing that happens in New York where you feel really alone and lonely but there’s people right next to you on the subway.”

Carlucci’s verses dial up the snotty factor when she sneers “I am my own horror show” and laments “Why is it so hard to find somebody who will call me No. 1?” Nichols chimes in her support with a deadpan echo of Carlucci’s inner monologue (“Never should’ve left you!” she agrees as Carlucci bemoans the end of a relationship). “[My vocal] is kind of calling the person out on treating me bad, and [Hannah] is basically like, ‘Yeah what she said!’ like a team or something,” Carlucci says. “That’s how it goes down with your best friend when you get dumped,” Nichols adds with a laugh.

There are a couple of songs on the LP of a similar theme: the contemplative “Across Your Arm” and seething surf-rocker “The Scum” both express frustration with being taken for granted. Though these frustrations feel acutely personal, there are just as many moments on the LP that express frustration with society at large. Whether it’s the rollicking, tongue-in-cheek “Female Artists” or the incensed “Please Sir,” (Nichols warns: “If you were born a woman you better act sweet/We’ll save you a piece, We’ll save you a seat” and Carlucci spits back, “Everything I’ve suffered for and all that I’ve achieved/doesn’t mean shit when you’re a piece of meat!”), these songs demand respect when it’s lacking without feeling heavy-handed – more like complaining about the state of the world to a girlfriend than excoriating the patriarchy. “I feel like the act of creating this band is sort of a feminist statement in a way,” Nichols says. “It feels good to scream.”

Even if the band’s feminist anthems are cathartic to perform, their casual delivery is all in the spirit of fun. “We play music to have a good time,” Nichols explains. “We’re not here to like, try and be self righteous or condemn other people. We want to open up a conversation; we want people to have fun when they see us. It’s like… we could be your friends, but also, shut the fuck up and listen to us.”

In other words, True Dreams is not looking to alienate anyone, just state their piece. “If you’re trying to connect to people and have them hear what you’re saying, singling them out or telling them they suck is not gonna get anyone to hear it,” Carlucci points out. “It’s a little bit scary, but I’d be happy to talk with anyone who felt negative about it.” Their biggest goal is to inspire young women, particularly those keen to start their own bands (because “There aren’t enough, aren’t enough FEMALE ARTISTS!” as the two sing on “Female Artists”). “Music was so important to me [as a teenager],” Carlucci says. “I would love to somehow influence women or girls, especially ones in high school, feeling left out or different and not really knowing where they fit in [to start their own bands].”

For now, the pair live double lives – Carlucci as a baker and Nichols as a barber – and rock out on short weekend tours. But they’ve got big plans; in February, they’re off to Europe to play shows in Belgium, France, Germany, and possibly more. They’re having a blast – like their mutual heroes The Ramones – with making music, but what drives them day to day is knowing that they’re at the forefront of a progressive sea change. “The world is really changing right now in a tangible way and I feels good to part of it,” Carlucci says “We’re with the change, adding our part to it, and that’s awesome.”

True Dreams’ No. 1 is out via King Pizza/Lousy Moon Records on November 22. Pre-order the cassette here and RSVP for their record release show at Alphaville on 11/23.

PREMIERE: Lauren Eylise Documentary “The Most” Centers Female Experience

Lauren Eylise wanted to do something special for the music video for her song, “The Most.”

“The Most (Madonna-Whore Interlude)” comes off the Cincinnati singer’s most recent album, Life / Death / Life and explores themes of shame, expression, and owning the dialogue surrounding female sexuality. Because of her connection to the song and the conversation it promotes, she decided to film a mini-documentary targeting the exact same subject.

The Most documentary asks four Cincinnati women – Brittany, Savannah, Erin, and Sandra – as well as the singer herself, about their first introductions to sex, not just from a physical standpoint, but also about their mindsets surrounding it. Lauren wanted to feature women of different backgrounds, races, ages and experiences in order to properly portray the diversity of women in general. While they differed in first times, body image and upbringing, the women shared similar anxieties, initial introductions and perceptions. The documentary sparks a conversation about slut-shaming, the media’s role in body image and sex, sex portrayal through a predominantly male gaze and the harmful initial introduction many women have to sex and their bodies. The documentary closes by asking each of the women “Who are you?” All of the subjects look taken aback and contemplate the question. The doc then transitions into the music video portion, where Lauren creates a visual image of self-love to her song “The Most.”

Here, Lauren talks about The Most documentary, future visions for a similar ongoing video series and why she’s an advocate for open and honest dialogue about sex. We’re premiering it below in honor of International Women’s Day.

AF: Congrats on your premiere! What made you want to do this documentary-style video, rather than a traditional music video?

LE: Thank you! There were so many risks with it. For one, it’s an interlude. It’s the shortest song on the album, but it really means the most to me because of the commentary. It was definitely a labor of love. But I’m not gonna lie, even premiering it, I’m very nervous about it from a music perspective, with it being a lot more message-centered. It’s in alignment with me, but still. And then the actual music video portion of it is just me touching myself, which was very intentional as well! Every time we see sex portrayed, generally, it’s through a male gaze. Sometimes it’s a woman perpetrating it, but it’s pretty much her putting on a show of her internalized misogyny. As bare as possible, I don’t need to be doing anything extreme, it’s not about that; it’s about the female form.

I think it was Brittany in the video who mentions how women see themselves. She talks about seeing things in lines and curves and shapes and I’m like, sister, I’m with you! When I talk about sex it’s not necessarily in alignment with the way the male gaze perpetrates it. I see lines and curves and shadows and all those things I demonstrated. I’m very proud of myself and the team for executing it and I just hope it’s well received. But at the same time if it’s not, I don’t give a shit! If you don’t receive it, it’s not for you. It is for us, the women who are seeking to redefine that narrative.

AF: Why do this video and style for “The Most”?

LE: There are women, generations even, removed from this conversation. Woman and wife are not synonymous. Woman and nurturer are not synonymous – though, that’s a very positive and beautiful trait of women. My entire purpose of “The Most” was to express female sensuality and female autonomy therein through a woman’s language, a woman’s gaze, because it’s very important to me.

I love my parents, but a lot of their old paradigms and thoughts were manifested into me. ‘Don’t have sex until you’re married,’ which I’m not saying is a bad thing, but it can be a bad thing. We’ve gotta get to the why. Why? Why shouldn’t I have sex until I’m married? And why is that the beginning and the end of the conversation? I don’t even know my body and you’re telling me not to use it. I was not comfortable with [the fact] that I was 23, 24, 25, reflecting and trying to figure out my body. And what really sucked is that I’m trying to learn some of these things, and unlearn some of these things, in the middle of conflict with my body. I’m already using my body at this point, and so now I’ve got shame and guilt because of things I was taught that aren’t necessarily true.

Tradition and truth are not interchangeable. My purpose for “The Most” was really like a fuck you to patriarchy and the way that it plays itself out in life and the way that it manipulates women, and men too, and how we’re all bound to it and enslaved by it. Transforming our thought process around sex is important to me because it’s a pillar for bigger conversations.

AF: How did you find women who wanted to share their stories and perspectives of sex?

LE: These are all women that I know; we’ve become friends for sure. Brittany, I didn’t know her at all before. A friend of mine called me and said hey, my friend is getting engaged and she wants you to sing for her engagement. I said okay, I sang at her engagement, her and her wife Erica, and then I sang at their wedding. So we’ve built a relationship because I was so involved in their union. And then the other women I’ve worked with in more professional spaces and then came to build a relationship.

It was interesting; I didn’t know anything about them, to that degree. I was grateful that I had different perspectives. Savannah, who’s been comfortable with her body—she’s a dancer, whereas someone like Brittany who grew up in the church and had a lot of issues with her body image. It’s very reflective of women, generally. I appreciated their honesty and transparency. Even the conversations we had off-screen—I was bawling.

The Most
Photos by Kevin J. Watkins (@ohthatsdubs).

AF: What’s something you learned or had solidified in your mind about the various female perspectives of sex through filming this documentary?

LE: Something that was solidified was that I’m not alone in this. And they’re not alone in this. Sure, all different experiences [but] there were so many similarities. It was reassuring that the work I am seeking to do through my art is necessary. Because again, just as there are men who don’t know, there are women who don’t know. Women who are like very stuck in these roles and these beliefs, they don’t even know why they believe them. My thing is always like, believe what you want to believe, but know why you believe it. If your answer is just ‘the way it is,’ nah. Come again.

AF: You talk about how we need to open up a dialogue with other women and men about sex and that you’d also like to turn this documentary into an ongoing series. For future videos, would you include men in the conversation?

LE: Absolutely. We actually talked about that. I have a song that will hopefully make my next project, it’s called “Real Boy.” It’s a play on Pinocchio and it’s very intense. It’s a call for the destruction of toxic masculinity. Masculinity has a place, just like femininity has a place. Neither of them are tied to either sex. Women have masculine traits and feminine traits. But yes, this conversation definitely has to keep going. I’m going to use my art to push that conversation along, so I do hope that I can manifest that with this next song and this next project.

It’s funny because it was a male videographer who worked on this and it was interesting to hear his response to the women and to hear his response to the questions. He was baffled. He was like, ‘Man, I didn’t know.’ He was baffled at the entire concept of these roles not being innate to us. And I know there are levels to that. Some men are deeper in the rabbit hole and some are not. But he even said, I would love to have this conversation with women and more men because I don’t think a lot of us even know about these things.

Unfortunately, we have our experiences, and some of the women talk about their first times and whatnot, we make the mistake of assuming that all men are like those men we had those experiences with, when they’re not. I don’t think any real healing will take place until we have that open dialogue. It’s still going to be an imbalance if we have all these women healing and gaining awareness and then we have all these men falling behind. We’re still not connecting, and that’s important. We’ve got a lot of healing to do!

PLAYING ATLANTA: The Pussywillows Are Atlanta’s Hardest Rocking (and Hardest Working) Indie Rock Duo

Photo Credit: Kara Hammond

When watching Hannah Zale and Carly Gibson, the dynamic duo at the front of Atlanta indie rock outfit The Pussywillows, perform on stage, it’s easy to get lost in the effortless synchronicity presented. They are perfect complements to one another, standing toe to toe and side by side, pushing — and encouraging — each other. 

Offstage, they’re equally complimentary, full of exuberance, passion, and creativity. Hannah is lightning in a bottle, captivating the crowd with her dramatic mystique. Carly is equal parts intense and laid-back; quieter, but commanding and electrifying as she makes playing guitar look like something she was born to do (and trust us — she was). 

The two women are committed to their music, performing together as The Pussywillows and in stand-alone projects as Zale, Carly Gibson, and Gibson Wilbanks. In the middle of their eternally busy schedules, Hannah and Carly sat down with Audiofemme to talk music and their otherworldly connection. 

AF: Individually, you’re both incredibly talented performers, musicians, and songwriters; what made you decide to band together and form The Pussywillows?

CG: Thank you so much for the kind words and inviting us share our story! It’s funny how things organically happen. Hannah and I never thought about it much; we immediately started singing and writing together after we met. It felt like it created itself, with no question or hesitation. We were both strongly drawn to each other’s energy and our vocal tones happened to blend effortlessly.

From the very beginning, we’ve been riding on the same emotional life roller coaster, mirroring each other in our own fashion. Our lives seem to move in tandem and it’s one the most beautiful and healthy relationships to be a part of.  My weaknesses are her strengths and my strengths are her weaknesses; together, our polarity conducts some kind of unique power source that’s cathartically satisfying.

HZ: Well, dang. Thank you so much. I don’t think becoming a band was really a choice we made or something that we talked about at the beginning. We wrote together instantly and easily so we kept doing it. A lot of our connection came from being in the same place in our personal timelines and dealing with a lot of the same struggles. We still struggle and heal in tandem somehow. Carly makes me a better musician and person and that’s how I know we are onto something.

AF: How did performing as solo artists prepare you for working together as a unit?

HZ: I think our different backgrounds as solo artists are one of our greatest strengths as a band. While I was performing in Broadway musicals and reading books about artist management, Carly was already playing out gigs and soloing on guitar better than the boys.

We try to bring our experiences together to create a dramatic, energetic rock show that makes you feel something. We are yin and yang and let each other be completely who we are. We both felt like we were missing something playing alone that we have found in each other.

CG: We definitely had polar opposite backgrounds. In a nutshell, I’m from a weird hippie family full of musicians, and Hannah is from a musical theater-loving, Jewish doctor family. I was ignoring my homework and playing out in rock bands in high school while she was getting straight A’s and slaying Broadway musicals.

We grew up marinating in very different kinds of genres, but our common thread is ’90s music. The moody, chick-rock stuff is our jam, and was the vibe that inspired the songwriter within each of us to be born.

We strangely complement each other perfectly. Though we are opposites in a lot of ways, we share a soul connection that allows us to be on the same page, pretty much all the time. We catch ourselves harmonizing lines without meaning to and we often finish each other’s sentences with the same inflections and gestures. There is a whole lot of unconditional love and respect that we have for one another that’s the foundation to what we are as a unit.

AF: What’s been the hardest moment for you, and, on the other hand, what’s been the proudest? 

CG: Our hardest time was going through a nightmare studio experience where we wasted a whole lot of our time and money on a debut EP we could never use. We were able to pick ourselves back up, as a team, without blaming or taking it out on each other.

I think our proudest moment yet has been able to finally define and refine our sound as a band; to be able to get to the essence of our vision and belief in who we are as artists. We get to create our own world that people seem to really dig stepping into with us. Packing out rooms with a hyped audience screaming “PUSSYPOWER” feels super satisfying, every time.

We’re proud to be women playing rock n’ roll that’s for everyone. We aim to take back the word that has been so harshly demoralized and connotated with “weakness.”  We believe in a balance and respect of feminine/masculine energy that resides in all of us. Being able to tap into our individual truth and power without shame or judgement is what we strive for every day, and we hope to encourage our audience and fans to do the same.

AF: Your sound is self-described as “Tarantino feminism.” What inspires the music? 

HZ: Our music has that same neo-noir quality; it can be dark and has a sometimes sinister, shadowy feeling. We like to tell bold stories featuring strong female characters based on real events and people in our lives. We aren’t afraid to be a little cheeky and impolite. Tarantino doesn’t believe in linear timelines and neither do we; we live and write for the past and future at the same time. We want our music to be consumed, analyzed and enjoyed equally, not cause we are a “girl band.”

AF: Who has inspired you the most in your individual careers, and as The Pussywillows? 

CG: Having a musical family was the most influential part for me. Music was constantly around and supported, which I am so very grateful for. My parents played in groups all throughout my childhood, and we went to a lot of concerts and festivals. Music has always been the coolest thing in the world to me and looked like the most fun way to express [myself]. I started playing guitar at twelve years old, largely because I wanted to be able to connect and communicate with my dad and brother on a deeper level, to fit in and jam with “the guys” and have stuff to talk about. My brother showed me some live AC/CD footage for the first time and after seeing Angus Young play, I thought to myself, “THAT’S what I want to do. That crazy, sweaty little man is having the time of his life. I want to feel that.”

It was mixture of artists like Jimi Hendrix, John Mayer, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Bonnie Raitt, Grace Potter, Pat Benatar, Led Zeppelin, Heart, Joni Mitchell, Michelle Branch, Alanis Morrisette, Norah Jones, The Black Crows, Indigo Girls, and many others that inspired me to create music of my own. It all lead up to meeting – and eventually being mentored by – one of my local heroes, singer/songwriter/guitarist Caroline Aiken, who so kindly helped show me the ropes and gave me a platform to be heard in the Atlanta music scene. Caroline has also generously mentored Hannah and me as a duet to help tighten and refine our intricate harmonies, as well as giving us opportunities to share the stage with her.

Our sound is a melting pot. We naturally like to be diverse and dynamic by having a spectrum of feels, from light, heavy, to funky. Our biggest influences are Heart, Grace Potter, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, First Aid Kit, Indigo Girls, Jack White, and of course ’90s icons like Meredith Brooks, Alanis, Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers, TLC, and more.

HZ: I take a lot of inspiration from ’90s female singer-songwriters like Alanis Morisette, Jewel, Fiona Apple, Sarah McLachlan, Lauryn Hill, and Gwen Stefani. I also am extremely inspired by larger than life performers like Freddy Mercury, David Bowie, and St. Vincent.

Together, as The Pussywillows, we look to Black Sabbath, Tegan and Sara, The Runaways, Zeppelin, First Aid Kit, Jack White and lots more!

Photo Credit: Ed Lee

AF: You’re fixtures in the Atlanta music scene. How have the city and the creative scene impacted you and your careers? 

HZ: We adore playing music in the ATL! The scene here is exploding with talent. Depending on the neighborhood, I get to practice my jazz chops or write an R&B hook or headbang to live metal karaoke. Over the last couple years, we have formed this inner circle of players, producers, engineers, writers, dancers, venues, and filmmakers that have helped us take our art to the next level. These professionals are true friends who challenge us to dig deep and never give up on our goals.

AF: What are your plans for 2019?

HZ: Girl, you know we have big plans for 2019! We are putting out a 5-song EP this spring, along with music video shorts for every song. We are playing hometown shows and touring! We are also going to be in the studio working on more new pussylicious music. We are pushing ourselves to do what feels good and leave the rest behind.

Craving a little more #PussyPower? Connect with The Pussywillows on Facebook and Instagram for the latest and greatest.

INTERVIEW: Mima Good “Bad For Me”

Witches talk back nowadays. Raechel Rosen, aka Mima Good, walks an interesting tightrope thematically; her music weaves together the historical oppression of women with music that more readily brings to mind a candlelit boudoir. It’s the playful banter between hi-concept undertones and sexuality that make her new EP Good Girl stand out.

Raechel says her first single “Bad For Me” is about “attachment to trauma, how traumatic experiences can be so formative to our identities that we don’t want to let them go. It starts with… reminiscing about what it was like to be a young girl, before puberty and sexualization and boys, when I didn’t have to care. I’m mourning the girl I was before patriarchy got ahold of me, in a sense. Once the chorus kicks in, I am fully in its grasp, in a self-destructive trance.”

We talked with Raechel about how feminism influences her work, what the word “witchy” means to her, and how performance art seeps into Mima Good.

Give her single “Bad For Me” a listen below:

AF: Give us a little background on you: Where are you from? What kind of music were you dancing around to as a kid?

RR: I grew up in NYC and was obsessed with music and performing as soon as I could move. My parents raised me on classic rock and disco, my dad spoon-feeding me Springsteen in the crib and my mom blasting Abba, cheering “C’mon Raechy” until I’d begin to bob. The camera was pretty much always rolling; they got a full reality show season’s worth of baby footage.

AF: Where did the name Mima Good come from? 

RR: A feminist theory class in college (lol). We were reading Caliban and the Witch by Silvia Federici and it got me obsessed with the strategies of patriarchy from feudalism to capitalism, and of course witch hunts throughout time, specifically those in Salem in the 1690s. Most of those women burned at the stake were tried as witches based on accusations of being too political or too sexual, suspected queerness, “turning the eye of too many a married man” (literally just too hot); any woman who did not fit within the strict bounds of Puritan society could be murdered for suspected witchcraft. So I combined the names of two of my favorite “witches” and began this project as tribute.

AF: Your music is direct, sensual, powerful. It’s been called “witchy”, which is one of my favorite female musician descriptors (Grimes being one of your tribe). Do you categorize the music you make?

RR: I have a hard time describing my own music. I think its really exciting how much music is being made right now and how everything is fusing together. I kinda feel like we are moving past genre. I don’t know how to compare myself to others but some of my biggest inspirations are Amy Winehouse, Angel Olsen, Nina Simone, FKA Twigs, Talking Heads… I could go on for a very long time.

AF: I love the retro vibe on “My Demon.” Tell us about your writing process. Are the lyrics the frontrunner or do you start with a beat/rhythm in mind?

RR: It really depends on the song. “My Demon” literally came to me in a dream about my abuser – we were both sprinting toward each other ready to fight. Right before I reached him I woke with the first verse and chorus in my head. Most songwriters I know experience this once in a blue moon and it’s really the coolest feeling. I really felt like I didn’t write the song, so much so that I couldn’t finish it until it came to me in a similar manner on the 6 train. With other songs I usually start with the lyrics & melody, developing the chords and beat afterwards.

AF: A trademark move of yours is slowly peeling a banana onstage and circumcising it with a pair of scissors. It reminds me of watching Teri Gender Bender perform in Le Butcherettes: a kind of visceral representation of the lyrics themselves. Is this end of show act the only time you bend into performance art, or is crossing that line a consistent interest of yours?

RR: Haha yea, I was doing that for a bit last fall. I was thinking a lot about misandry at that time, both ironically and genuinely. I do love playing around with boundaries and pushing audiences’ comfort zones. My performance style is constantly changing based on how extroverted I’m feeling and what’s going on in my spiritual practice. Lately I’ve been focusing inward and on delivering my songs as honestly and beautifully as possible.

AF: In 2016, you co-hosted The Witch Ball in Brooklyn, “an inclusive, intersectional feminist party.” What role does feminism play in your work?

RR: I would really love to witness the destruction of patriarchy and all systems of domination in my lifetime, or at least for future generations to experience less gender-based violence. My EP has been an attempt at expressing my journey through a particularly formative trauma, how it held me frozen for years after and what it takes to truly get free.

AF: What artists do you currently have in rotation?

RR: Alice Coltrane, Girlpool, Valerie June, Hole, and ‘Everytime’ by Britney Spears.

AF: When can we see you live?

RR: Tuesday, April 24 at The Good Girl Party at Elsewhere in Bushwick! Doors are at 7:30, I go on at 10. I am bringing up some new live players, drums, bass, a 16-year-old trumpet player and my little sister on vocals for the last song. I am so excited for this show; it’s gonna be a meaningful one for me.

Do you live in NYC? AudioFemme x PopGun presents The Good Girl Party TOMORROW NIGHT at Elsewhere in Brooklyn.Get tickets to see Mima Good’s release show HERE!

WOMAN OF INTEREST: Jacqueline Frances

Jacqueline Frances is a Brooklyn-based stripper, writer & illustrator, standup comic and feminist activist who, through her pithy, impish, irreverent and patriarchy-smashing social media content, has managed to amass a small army’s worth of fans and followers of her “Jacq The Stripper” internet ethos. Her popularity is a sign-o-the-times; at this moment, we have found ourselves at the precipice of a cultural tide change whose catalyst can be attributed to the art+activism of women like Jacqueline. However it can be difficult to remain hopeful that the momentum will persist and continue to build into something larger than its current moving parts, which are all still limited by institutionalized racism, misogyny, classism, ableism, and a whole plethora of  heteronormative moors that preclude greater shifts in political consciousness. Saddeningly and maddeningly so…

Our electoral politics are a soap opera whose cast is comprised mostly of white, curmudgeonly baby boomers, and whose star is a sexual predator. Black people are still getting gunned down in our streets at alarmingly high rates by white law enforcement, and have zero structural recourse. Public schools are still dead broke, yet our Education Secretary is a billionaire. In every industry women still get shit pay compared to men, and are shamed or hushed into just living with it, or told that they simply don’t deserve equal compensation. Sexual assault is so commonplace that it’s rarely prosecuted and for the most part isn’t even considered a violent crime by those who are paid tax dollars to purportedly protect us. Meanwhile the sex worker community here in the U.S. has to fight tooth-and-nail for basic civil liberties, like not getting arrested for going to work. Our politicians have gone so far as to make the world a more dangerous place for this cohort; the recently passed, draconian SESTA/FOSTA legislation misguidedly conflates sex work with human trafficking, criminalizing any sort of digital advertising of sex work in the U.S. and thus making the supply/demand nexus ever more perilous. It also generally infringes on the First Amendment, and sets a dangerous precedent for the continued erosion of net neutrality. For example, sex worker activists like Jacqueline now must face imminent banning by the likes of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other online platforms.

Needless to say, while the #timesup movement certainly feels novel right now, it’s necessary to point out that time has always been up. I have personally never had time for this, and the fight is as exhausting as its ever been. Fortunately there are small pockets of the world in which there’s hope to be found, and fingers are crossed that the voices within those pockets will lead the charge to a new paradigm in which we will no longer have to deal with this crap. One of those voices is Jacq The Stripper, and she happens to be extremely funny. I got to sit down for a chat with her, which you can read below. We talked about her life and her art, and about obliterating the patriarchy one sex worker at a time. She is our current Woman Of Interest.

AudioFemme: So. What brought you into the world of stripping?

Jacqueline F: Money (laughs)!!  Money. Yeah. I always wanted to be a stripper, but the stigma was too great for me to actually consider it, until I was broke enough and far enough away from home to actually do it… and that was in Australia.

AF: Oh, Australia. So really far away! Because you’re from Canada, right?

JF: Yeah.

AF: Sex work is decriminalized in Canada, correct?

JF: That’s a great question. I’m gonna say that it’s definitely not like this New Zealand model we’re all chasing after. My knowledge of the laws in Canada isn’t very fresh because I’ve been an ex-pat for 8 or 9 years now, so I’m not fully aware of it. I can’t speak to the exact laws. I’d have to look that up.

AF: I always wonder about places where sex work is decriminalized – if the attitude around the sex industry in general is more relaxed.

JF: Totally, in Australia. It’s way more chill. It’s just like, stripping is stripping, and “full service” is full service, and if you wanna do both you can do both. But people aren’t expecting full service in the same way that they’re kind of optimistic about it here.

AF: That make sense. So how long were you stripping in Australia?

JF: A year. I spent almost a year there, and then I came to New York. I went traveling around the United States for a couple of months with my best friend. I was planning on staying in New York for a summer to make a shit ton of money (laughs)… And then I fell in love here, and I did not make a shit ton of money.

AF: Ha! I guess life can get in the way of plans, no?

JF: Yeah, New York City in the summer is like the worst time ever for money. I wasn’t allowed to work at the good clubs; they rejected me. I had to work at the really shitty clubs. It’s just part of the New York story.

AF: I love that the struggle is part of your story though! You’re admirably frank about the myriad hurdles you have to face in this work. I’ve been having a lot of conversations about intersectionality within sex work and how women within the community kinda self-stigmatize if that makes sense. I just learned the term “whore-archy” for example…

JF: Oh yeah! I mean I was totally guilty of that. You don’t even know you’re doing it in the beginning. But when one enters sex work, it can be such a lonely step. You’re doing it on your own. There are no rules or guidelines. It’s not an industry where teamwork is a pillar of your job. It takes a long time to find the language to express how you’re feeling and to find community. When I started 8 years ago I didn’t really know anything. I just knew I needed to make money and stripping sounded like a good way to do that so I tried it. Nobody was encouraging me to get into it. The narrative surrounding sex work is: “this is terrible; never do it.” When you decide to do it, you’re probably really influenced by that narrative, you know? 

AF: Right.

JF: But maybe now, the narrative’s changing. There are a lot more women speaking about their varied experiences, and I’m so grateful to be part of that.

AF: Yes! I want to get into your work as an activist. I found you on Instagram and started obsessing over your drawings and paintings and graphics, and then I read STRIPTASTIC! and realized you were onto something much bigger than making witty social media posts. What was behind your motivation to start publishing books?

JF: Ugh. Book publishing is the worst; I hate it, but also, I can’t not do it. When I published The Beaver Show, which is my memoir, I self-published. And as I was trying to find a publisher or an agent or anybody to even look at me (which I did not) I just started illustrating comics by accident. I just liked sharing little things that people said to me on social media, and I just realized there was a demand for it. I really enjoy drawing; I like single panel comics. I’m a comedian, so I really like a setup and a punchline. 

AF: Yeah, your jokes are hilarious. I love seeing your work reposted everywhere on Instagram!

JF: Thank you! Yeah, there’s a lot of humor out there. If you don’t have a sense of humor, you probably shouldn’t be a sex worker.

AF: That’s very true.

JF: With STRIPTASTIC!, I was going to have a section be influenced by other people’s experiences. Because my middle-class white girl experience is my experience, but it’s certainly not all experiences, and I really wanted to feature different voices. So I put out a call for a “stripper’s survey.” I was just like “Hey, doing a little survey; if you want to participate, send me an email.” And over 300 people responded. I couldn’t believe it.

AF: Wow.

JF: This was way before any of this was popular on social media. I was floored by how many people wanted to participate, and I definitely was not prepared! The survey was via email. It was so poorly organized. It’s a testament to me being an artist and not an organized person. But it ended up being so much more. I’m really proud of it and so happy that it exists.

AF: Do you think you’ll do more?

JF: Probably. I can’t stop (laughs). I’m doing more art, and I’m doing a lot of watercolors. I basically just do whatever pleases me. With a hustler’s spirit, you can turn ANYTHING into money. So I’m still keen to illustrate and I have a few ideas, but there are other ways that I want to tell stories that are on the horizon that are not single panel comics. It’s all very exciting!

AF:  So, I was reading some of your posts this week and you talked about your struggles with bulimia in the past. How has stripping helped you to cultivate a more favorable body image?

JF: There’s so many ways that stripping saved my life, in that respect. I was a ballet dancer growing up, so there was always this self-loathing feeling that you’re fat. And then I always loved fashion magazines, which is enough to make a child anorexic or bulimic. I struggled with it for a really long time, and then I finally got help, which was a little bit before I became a stripper. Then when I started stripping… I don’t know, being validated with money for your body is so healing. It’s so healing. That’s why it just baffles me when people like “How could you do [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][these] things for money”? I’m like “How could you NOT??!” Money is extraordinarily validating for women, because we are so shamed into thinking we shouldn’t have any of it. I’m a very physical person and I love using my body to fuel and finance my life. And that means I have to take care of it. Like, I realized that I actually HAVE to eat… and not purge (laughs). It’s like “No, you need your body to dance and walk around in these shoes for 8 hours.” Plus I’m a bitch when I’m hungry.

AF: I love how you invert this dumb narrative about how selling your body is degrading somehow, when in fact it’s as empowering as anything.

JF: Yeah I could go on for a really long time about how stripping has helped me heal. And anybody looks hot onstage if you put on the right shoes and the lighting’s right. I wish a lot of women had that chance to get up and cling to a pole and be like “Okayyyyy. This looks GOOD.”

AF: So how do you think we can create a safer world for strippers and sex workers? I’ve been thinking a lot about the decriminalization argument, and there are people who are for it and against it within the community. There are a lot of folks who are against because they think they’re going to make less money.

JF: Well, I can’t really speak to what I think would happen because my work is done in the club, but as I listen to the voices of independent sex workers, decriminalization would make the job a lot safer. I think the fear of making less money is part of what the narrative uses to divide us and keep us from wanting it. It would be great if we could unionize. And some people say “I won’t make as much money…” Yeah, but your work is a lot safer and you will be happier in the long run. You’ll have someone to fight for you and you’ll have health benefits. There’s nothing better than health services, because you live in a country where it’s like, a thousand dollars to treat a fucking ear infection if you’re not covered. I definitely want to fight for better labor conditions for strippers, and I definitely think that pimping should be done away with. I think the clubs should be run by women or sex workers. The people who currently run clubs are bad people a lot of the time and that’s pretty heartbreaking. Even I am afraid of being called out at work as somebody who’s an activist. So when I’m on the job, I’m just a very nice, pretty, not complicated blonde stripper. It’s simple what my hustle is. I’m not like a trojan horse in the club, because I don’t want to fuck up my job security.

AF: The ramifications of that would be getting fired for being outspoken?

JF: It’s totally illegal. But then again there are a lot of things that are totally illegal. Anyway, as far as improvements go, I think our work conditions are important to fight for. I also think a lot of strippers are ready to start mobilizing and organizing to make that happen.



AF: Do you sense a sea-change among your co-workers when it comes vocally fighting and advocating for sex work? In the social media community there is this kind of urgent imperative for a shift in thinking.

JF: Yes, absolutely. Now is the time to be involved, and I think a lot of women are starting to feel this way. Strippers, we’re like the flakiest people in the world, and we’re all showing up for each other, and it’s been really powerful. I think people are ready to fight for their rights to work and be treated with dignity and respect, or to be employees and get paid instead of paying astronomical house fees.

AF: So, across the board, you’ve paid these house fees everywhere you’ve worked?

JF: Every single place. Maybe one place I’ve worked where they paid us to go out there, because it was really far away. It was in the middle of nowhere in Canada, in the oil fields.

AF: What are some of your self-care rituals?

JF: Hmm… dancing. I take a lot of dance classes; I love learning from other people and other dancers. Ballet, hip-hop, jazz, whatever. I love dance classes. It still brings me so much joy. People talk shit about dance, but it’s so amazing. Art. Animals. Counting my money on the couch is a ritual, every night, that I do after work; it’s really powerful. Leisurely mornings. Travel. I know I sound so basic; I really love a green juice, too (laughs).

AF: Do you have any travel plans this year?

JF: Yeah, I’m going a lot. I’m going to Cuba with my wife for our fourth anniversary. And then I’m going to Morocco with my mom. And I’m going to Vegas and the Bay Area to hang out with some hos, and that’s in the next two months. I want to see the whole world!

AF: And it sounds like you totally will! Anyway I’ll start wrapping up the interview, but since we are a music blog, what music are you listening to right now, and what are your favorite songs to hustle to?

JF: Haha oh man. My wife is the music person. Hmmm. I listen to Elton John, and funk music. Who else? Love Cardi B. I took a dance class to “Finesse” last Sunday, it was so good. The class was so fun. I was so feeling it. What else. Alanis Morissette changed my life. Holler at my fellow Canadian angry girl! I’m so happy that she found happiness, but no album is as good as that one.

AF: As Jagged Little Pill? No.

JF: Peaches. I love Peaches!! I don’t know, I also love ’80s hair bands. I have my hustle pre-game – the songs I use to get ready for work. Peaches, Blackstreet, Rihanna, Britney, Fetty Wap, Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I like Lil’ Kim, obviously. Salt-n-Pepa. Oh, St. Vincent’s new album, jamming that hard. And when I’m kinda relaxing I really like Nice as Fuck. I think they’re like sweet peace and love music. To dance to, I love dancing to Björk, Nine Inch Nails, and Marilyn Manson, and anything by Guns N’ Roses.

AF: What words of wisdom would you give to baby strippers and baby sex workers who are entering this world?

JF: Try it. You might hate it. If you’re going to be a stripper, show up alone and show up sober. And see how you feel. Don’t have any expectations, just go and try it. And then try it again if you like it. If you don’t like it, don’t go back. Stay true to who you are and don’t do anything you don’t want to do. Your boundaries are your own, don’t [base them on] other people’s boundaries. It’s not your business.

AF: Right, that’s a problem, too – girls get uppity over other girls’ preferences.

JF: Well, that’s slut shaming, and it’s not like we invented slut shaming. It’s a patriarchal thing that’s supposed to divide us; there’s all of these things in place to make us hate each other, and it’s a huge problem. You have to check yourself every day. I know I still have moments of jealousy and shaming others, or imposing my values and my boundaries onto others when it’s none of my fucking business. It’s so deeply ingrained.




AF: How do you think we can elevate the conversation around sex work in an effort to help cast aside all this toxic stigma? Like stuff that we can all do to improve people’s understanding of it. You’re kinda an archetype for it at this point!

JF: I’m an archetype?

AF: Definitely!

JF: It’s great, no pressure (laughs)! I would say… well, in my experience, we can elevate these stories by not thinking that others can tell it for you. When I say others, I’m saying somebody in media who’s like “I love your story, I want to help you tell it” or “let me tell it for you.” A lot of people come up to me and are like “Would you consult for free on this film I’m writing about a sex worker?” No! Absolutely not. People who haven’t done sex work need to sit down, and they need to pay people [that have], because you pay writers, you pay storytellers, you pay filmmakers. Pay people who have done the work to tell their story. If you haven’t done the work, it is not your story to tell. I feel very strongly about that, and I actually have a policy where I don’t really work with people who haven’t done sex work, especially from a publishing point of view, as far as stories getting out there. It’s important to listen. Everybody’s story matters, so let’s listen to theirs, too. Like, the “happy slut” narrative is great, and fun. It’s a hook. I can make people listen to the dark stuff because they’re sitting there laughing. It’s important to just listen. I think men especially have real problems with that.

AF: Yeah, ’cause men are generally so used to having the microphone they don’t know what the fuck to do when it’s taken out of their hands. It’s actually infuriating. Even those who are self-proclaimed woke people still can’t wrap their minds around sex work without either fetishizing it or making it about themselves.

JF: It’s funny, because men are of no concern to me in my activism. And maybe that’s problematic, but that’s just the way it has gone for me. My concern is empowering women to speak their truth and to feel proud of the work that they do. If we have more women that are proud of the work that they do, it won’t be so challenging to do it; it won’t be so random to encounter a woman who is a sex worker and who’s comfortable talking about it, you know?

Below please find our “Striptastic” playlist for all you kindred movers and shakers. Catch Jacqueline at her next live appearance on 4/30 at The Village Lantern. For more info check her site here.


ONLY NOISE: Let Them Eat CupcakKe

You don’t have to be intimately familiar with Chicago rapper CupcakKe to glean that her work might be sexual in nature – if titles like “Deepthroat” and Cum Cake don’t tip you off, I’m not sure what will – but on Tuesday, YouTube saw fit to censor her video channel, pulling clips for the aforementioned 2016 track and “Duck Duck Goose,” which appears on the artist’s latest LP Ephorize. The video platform replaced them with a message that read: “This video has been removed for violating YouTube’s policy on nudity or sexual content,” failing to realize that CupcakKe is a lot more than just a raunchy female rapper. She’s a one-woman revolution.

Born Elizabeth Harris, the MC discovered her love for performing in church, where she read original poetry “strictly about God.” But by age 18, CupcakKe was ready to pursue less pure material. She unleashed her single “Vagina” in 2015, and its corresponding music video went viral, racking up over two million views on YouTube. The homemade short features a half-naked CupcakKe getting hot and heavy with sexy foods like cucumbers and a pinwheel lollipop. Like many of CupcakKe’s music videos, “Vagina” is a frill-free production, positioning the artist amongst un-styled couches and kitchen tables. CupcakKe is in a familiar space; she is unburdened by the presence of men, and most importantly, she is in complete control of her situation. The combination of these factors produces something very interesting: subversion and perhaps mockery of the male gaze. CupcakKe may be deepthroating a squash and rapping about her “young twat,” but she makes it explicitly clear that her pleasure is the number one priority here.

The two videos that YouTube erased on Tuesday are extensions of CupcakKe’s empowered, sex-positive ethos. Both are shot in modest home settings and feature a lone CupcakKe interacting with both banal and sexual objects. “Duck Duck Goose” feels particularly impactful, and could stand alone as a treatise to reclaim the female body from a musical genre that has exploited it for decades. In the opening moments, CupcakKe crawls into bed with a few of her favorite dildos, licking and sucking and propping them up against a miniature Statue of Liberty to demonstrate height. But unlike the sultry, “come hither” gaze we are so accustomed to seeing in music videos, pornography, film, and fashion ads, CupcakKe is smiling ear to ear. She nibbles and strokes her multicolored dicks, but she also places them on chairs and pats them on the head, as if they were little dolls attending her tea party. It quickly becomes apparent that CupcakKe is commanding her own desires, and she is doing so with a high dose of humor and self-awareness. She is carving out her own piece of female identity, one that doesn’t fit squarely in the “angel” or “whore” packaging society likes to wrap women in. But women who burst out of these boxes are rarely welcomed by the people who boxed them in to begin with.

On Sunday, before CupcakKe’s videos were pulled, music journalist Margaret Farrell saw the rapper live when she made a guest appearance at Charli XCX’s Elsewhere gig. When CupcakKe performed, Farrell overheard “two dudes” standing behind her who seemed to completely miss the point of CupcakKe’s work. “[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][They were] discussing how they loved Cupcakke because she rapped about weird, gross things, but since she’s a woman it’s cool,” says Farrell. The dudes went on to say that it’s problematic when a guy “raps about ‘fucking in the ass and fucking in the mouth’ but when [CupcakKe] does it it’s like ‘fuck me in the ass, fuck me here,’ and that’s just cooler for her to say,” Farrell continues. “Yes, it is amazing that she is asserting her sexual agency and creating a new narrative around sex, but the way they phrased it was like she is their sexual object – it was extremely gazey… It was just a shallow assessment of what she’s doing.”

My assessment of these dudes’ assessment boils down to perceived ownership; that many men cannot understand art in which a woman is not the object of a man’s desire. These dudes clearly couldn’t hear what CupcakKe was really rapping. She’s not draped across a convertible waiting to be fucked; she’s doing the fucking, and it’s not about you. Nearly every musical genre has difficulties with this concept. Rock has a long history of objectifying women and reducing us to greased up RealDolls, and hip-hop has a similar relationship with women. Whether its 2 Chainz throwing cash at butts in “I Luv Dem Strippers,” or the lady bodies used like stage props in 50 Cent’s “Disco Inferno,” it’s not hard to find examples of sexism in the genre. Rick Ross can rap about date rape, Bizarre can rap about getting his sister gangbanged for her birthday, XXXTentacion can land on a Vulture “Best New Songs of the Week” list after gruesome domestic abuse charges. But when CupcakKe raps about enjoying blowjobs? God forbid.

It feels crucial to support an artist like CupcakKe, who is not only wildly talented as a poet and MC, but who is reclaiming her body and right to pleasure, as well as inverting and subverting traditional modes of objectification. The disembodied dicks in “Duck Duck Goose” and the banana in “Deepthroat” signify farce as much as they do arousal; CupcakKe may be swallowing them in one frame, but she’s patting them on the head and pulverizing them with her teeth in the next. She’s reducing one of the most over-analyzed symbols in the post-Freud era – the phallus – to a couple of candy-colored, silicone toys. It’s a righteous reduction, as women have been rendered like plastic playthings for far too long. But even when CupcakKe is trying to extinguish a long enforced double standard of the music industry, she’s not afraid to champion her sexual enthusiasm. One lyric from “Self Interview” sums this up perfectly. “Females have sex on the first night, they get called a ho for that one night stand,” she raps. “Men have sex on the first night, congratulations!” “Most wouldn’t comprehend/Double standards need to end.”

On Tuesday, in response to YouTube scrubbing her videos from its site, CupcakKe wrote on Twitter: “I kn the fuck y’all didn’t deleted deepthroat video off YouTube at 23 million views @YouTube PUT IT BACK UP NOW” When she noticed another video had been pulled, she lamented, “And they just deleted duck duck goose one more and my entire channel is gone.” After only a few hours, and an outpouring of support from fans, the video platform ceded and returned the music videos to the channel. A representative from YouTube spoke to Pitchfork on the matter, stating: “With the massive volume of videos on our site, sometimes we make the wrong call. When it’s brought to our attention that a video has been removed mistakenly, we act quickly to reinstate it. We also offer uploaders the ability to appeal removals and we will re-review the content.” All CupcakKe had to say was, “They back up thanks y’all.”


MORNING AFTER: Coffee And Omelettes With Dahl Haus

“Hey, you’re Blaise, right? Can I talk to you outside for a second?” It’s Goth Prom at Footlight and I’m ambushing Dahl Haus’s leading lady Blaise Dahl with zero chill and a nervous peppiness out of place for the event. We look (unintentionally) identical; blonde hair, sheer top (can’t lose?) but she’s far more composed than I am. And she’s boasting bubblegum pink heart-studded platforms, which she manages not to trip over after I grab her hand and lead her to the bar section.

That’s the story of how I got Blaise to have breakfast to me, or at least the fun, sexy, not-text-message-based version.

Incidentally, I know guitarist Daniel Kasshu—in a very intense, Best-Friends-on-Snapchat way—but I’ve never exchanged words (or pictures) with Blaise. Instead I’ve made assumptions from the sidelines: she’s 1999’s Jawbreaker personified (minus the homicide), she was deemed “precocious” ever since she emerged from the womb rocking blue eye shadow and a thundering bassline (probably half right), she has a sharp sense of humor and a strong sense of justice (true, see her entire Twitter presence).

What’s confirmed, though, is that Blaise’s voice is special: sultry, strong, used to croon lyrics that feel matured past her 22 years. It’s the glaze over the sometimes wavering/sometimes crunchy guitar, the bass with a heartbeat, and the drum machine that was not available for comment in this interview. Sure, you can hear certain influences: Garbage, PJ Harvey, Hole—and that’s her jamming with Court’s bassist Jennie Vee in this “Lips Like Sugar” cover—but most of all you hear Blaise Dahl.

So now we’re getting coffee at a booth in Williamsburg’s most infamous diner, her in a plum thermal and matching lipstick, me in a spangly gold minidress and fur-collared cardigan.

The Scene: For most, Kellogg’s is a hotspot for drunkenly sobbing at 3 A.M., but Blaise has more innocent associations. At age 16 she won a scholarship from ASCAP to attend the first New York-based Grammy Foundation industry camp for teens. They housed her in a nearby apartment, had the campers work out of Rubber Tracks, and Kellogg’s was always on the menu… like, in a bi-daily way.

“One time I might have ventured into french toast/pancake territory,” she says, but really, she’s an omelette girl through and through. As such, we order Mexican and avocado omelettes with coffee and wheat toast galore.

11:49 Blaise actually never went to prom. She ditched public school after ninth grade, choosing to finish her education via virtual private school. She was in the middle of an extracurricular life: dancing, figure skating, and low-key becoming a rock star. Eventually she picked up guitar at School of Rock and before long was touring arenas with their All Stars program.

I ask if she’s like me and feels that Pretty in Pink emptiness about it, before receiving the obvious answer: “No,” she says, laughing, “Absolutely not.”

12:06 It’s always been my conviction that you know you’ve made it when there’s a Barbie doll of you, so I can’t believe Blaise hasn’t made a doll of herself yet.

“I would love to,” she says emphatically. The closest she got was sandwiching her old Bratz dolls in her pedalboard for her 21st birthday show and posting it on Instagram. “And then a friend of mine commented, ‘Oh my god, you look really good here.’ So I probably should take the one that most resembles me and put it in a totally Blaise outfit like, ‘Here I am.’”

She’s psyched Barbie’s getting more inclusive and expansive, from the Ladies of the ’80s Debbie Harry doll to the differing body types introduced last year. But she acknowledges that as a child she never looked at Barbie’s proportions as something aspirational (same, mostly ’cause I already had the neck of a baby giraffe). Instead, playtime was an excuse to craft elaborate stories, likely inspired by her grandmother’s soap operas.

“She was watching The Young and the Restless, The Bold and the Beautiful,” She recalls. “So I remember doing some really fucked up shit with them, like they were drugging each other, there was a murder plot. One was living out of their car.”

12:36 Delving deeper into our childhoods (we possibly had the same Playskool doll house), Blaise tells me about some early struggles of being a woman in music. That is, the time she got in trouble for wanting to excel at a school lip-syncing show.

At this point Blaise had already developed a work ethic from her dance lessons, and after becoming the leader for a “Get the Party Started” routine she was ruffling some elementary school feathers. Her teacher confronted her mother after school, stating: “Blaise is being very bossy to these children; she’s making them practice at recess.”

“I don’t even think I was necessarily rude about it,” Blaise says. That work ethic was already ingrained in her, and besides, she was way over playing tag at recess. Eventually the group performed the song, even managing to sneak in a curse word (it’s “ass,” guys) when the teacher couldn’t get to the boombox in time.

“And that was a very proud moment for me, that was my first kind of rebel cred,” she concludes.

“Very rock n’ roll. Also with the whole bossy thing, do you think they would’ve mentioned that if you were a guy?” I ask.

“Probably not.”

We joke about it until a dark silence settles over the table, replaced with patter about how we both love coffee. The waiter asks if we want more. “We’re good, but thank you,” Blaise says.

1:10 So it seems the Welcome to the Dahl Haus EP is potentially expanding to an LP in the near future. The material’s there, but she’s worried that the fleshed-out but lo-fi Garage Band-mixed songs won’t sound cohesive with her newer, Logic-mixed tracks, which loses some of that Sparklehorse-influenced sound. She has a million ideas she’s toying with, but the bottom line is that she doesn’t want to release music haphazardly, and that perfectionist streak has not worn off throughout the years. All of a sudden our table is getting cleared, save for 13,000 slices of bread.

“They’re trying to kick us out,” She says, and we start laughing nervously.

“I think we’re fine, we’re patrons, we have our toast,”

“I’ll probably finish it.” (She doesn’t, and I’m sad).

1:16 The Hole Pandora station, at least the last time I checked, keeps redirecting me to Nirvana, and I don’t know how I feel about this. Weird that a woman’s artistry is perma-linked to her husband? Uncomfortable for expecting ’90s girl acts to be lumped together? Maybe she can help me.

“I would assume they would give you Babes in Toyland, L7, or even Elastica,” she muses, remarking that the ‘90s had such a “girl power element” and those acts are finding this moment to be prime for reuniting. “I think we should celebrate women in music,” she adds, but admits she feels conflicted about how “female singers” has become some sort of category, because “‘Male’ would never be a genre.”

She’s especially concerned about how getting a female bassist is now trendy, “like having a trophy wife or something. And there are some people who write material where they want higher up vocal harmonies. But there are also a lot of people who think,” She puts on a slower, alt-bro cadence, “‘D’arcy Wrestzky looked really good in the original Smashing Pumpkins line-up, we want a female bassist.’”

And the coffee flows.

1:21 Blaise has bad skin to go with her doll heart, which I don’t see (my own bad skin is on full display) but she insists that under the magic of make-up it’s there. Tea tree oil usually helps with zit-zapping, but this time she had to go with one of those very Pinterest-y baking soda + water pastes.

Yes, it inflamed her very sensitive skin, but “the funny thing is that it actually kind of worked, and so I may go home and do it again.”

1:40 I’m recounting the night at Footlight and my caginess upon meeting Blaise, and she reveals that she secretly shares similar anxieties, despite that seemingly composed demeanor.

I’ll always push my conversation to the side and try to be understanding of what other people have to do for that reason,” she admits. “But I also see how other people interact to get what they want and that’s not necessarily seen as rude.” Clearly this is an ethos on which Blaise has based her life. She’s always forced herself to get things done on her on terms and—

Aah, goddammit, they’re kicking us out.

2:50 We spend an hour killing time at Norman’s Sound and Vision, flipping through beloved movie soundtracks and adolescent favs (KMFDM reminds her of her “emo phase”) and dishing about our secret love for Marilyn Manson. She’s been remixing random songs for the thrill of it, and apparently “This Is The New Shit” aligns perfectly with “The Ketchup Song.” It’s a grand old time, with chatter at a rapid-fire Gilmore pace. Thanks, coffee.

But her dad finally comes to retrieve her, and as she’s leaving, she shouts that my outfit is fabulous, really “on point.” Huh.

Standing in front of Kellogg’s, I’m in awe of the ways Blaise has used her voice, has fought to use her voice, from the very beginning. I’m impressed she’s retained this strong sense of self from day one, keeping her from being just another “female singer” or the sum of her influences. And I’m also amused, because she never realized I (intentionally) ripped off her stage look from Don Pedro’s a few months back.

Blaise rides into the distance. A doll modeled in her image walks back up Meeker Street.

You can stream Dahl Haus demos below, plus check out some Garbage covers (and more!) via soundcloud, or peruse tour dates via the band’s official website.

WOMAN OF INTEREST: Indira Cesarine of The Untitled Space

“There is a need to reweave our nation’s social fabric as it is being torn.” This is Linda Friedman Schmidt’s poignant appraisal of Trump’s America. Schmidt is one of 80 female visual artists taking part in UPRISE/ANGRY WOMEN, an exhibition at Tribeca’s The Untitled Space gallery this Tuesday, just in time for the Inauguration – and nationwide marches of resistance. The exhibit will run until January 28th, and will showcase the work of artists from all over the country.

Just two months ago, enraged and stupefied by the outcome of November’s Presidential Election, artist and founder of The Untitled Magazine and Space Indira Cesarine rallied her fellow creative women to action. On The Untitled’s website Cesarine invoked artists to submit topical work embodying their post election fear, devastation, and outrage…it was an open call for artistic activism.

“The 2016 election has brought to the surface extremes of sexism, racism and discrimination,”Cesarine wrote. “A dark cloud looms over those who respect ideals of equal rights, human dignity and humanitarianism…Artists are encouraged to empower themselves and others with works for the “Angry Women” exhibit that responds to the political and social climate as well as explore themes revolving around feminism today and female empowerment.”

UPRISE/ANGRY WOMEN will feature works by new and established contemporary artists, including pieces by Rose McGowan, Jennifer Dwyer, Kristen Williams, Haile Bins, Boo Lynn Walsh, and Cara DeAngelis, to name but a few.

Additionally, the exhibit has partnered with the ERA Coalition – the organization working to pass and ratify the Equal Rights Amendment in our Constitution. The Untitled Space will donate 25% of all proceeds from the exhibit to further their initiative.

I sat down with Cesarine at her gallery to discuss feminist art, a woman’s right to choose, and the importance of solidarity.

Audiofemme: What was the impetus for UPRISE/ANGRY WOMEN?

Indira Cesarine: I think that every woman with any level of integrity, who has any concern with human rights and progression and the importance of diversity and equality – a lot of those people are really shocked by the outcome of the election. I think it was a wake up call to a lot of people. Right now our human rights are being put up in question, and the idea that you can take those as a given is no longer a fact.

I thought this was a great opportunity to shed light on how woman are feeling today, through the work of female visual artists, and not only address how women are feeling about the election, but about the future of women’s rights, about the challenges that women face, and the importance of solidarity.

This is the first exhibit at the gallery that is open to submissions. We had over 400 artists submit over 1,800 works of art.

Originally the show was going to be twenty artists, and I’ve decided to extend it to 80 artists, just one work of art per artist, that way we can have as many different women in the show as possible. The work is so unique and has so much passion. Quite a few works are unique pieces that have been made just for the show, while others were made while the election was going on or in the past year when everything was reaching blood-boiling temperatures.

What is your biggest fear in regards to women’s rights given the current political climate?

One of the biggest issues is [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][Trump’s] determination to roll back women’s rights with regards to abortion, and I think this is one of the most dangerous and potentially horrific things that could happen to women today. I strongly believe that no one should be able to tell a woman whether or not she’s allowed to make decisions with regards to her body…particularly when it comes to the early trimesters of pregnancy.

They just passed in Ohio, a ban on abortions after twenty weeks, and in many states they’re trying to close the gap of when you can have an abortion. But the problem with that is that you can’t even get a lot of the testing for disease and various things that might go wrong in your pregnancy. Like the Zika virus; you have to be further along to be tested for things like that. It’s one of those issues where there are a lot of women that may have been raped, and, just the amount of women who can’t afford to have kids, that may be stuck in the middle of this political war over whether the government should be allowed to dictate these sort of things. I don’t think the government should have anything to do with it.

For me, it’s also a really personal issue, because my grandmother died of an abortion. My mother was eleven when my grandmother died. Her mother had already had several children. She was married to a very abusive man. This was at a time when there was nothing you could really do if you had an abusive husband, there was no legal recourse to do anything for domestic violence, and she got pregnant again.

She finds out she’s pregnant with her fifth child, they’re dirt poor, she cannot afford it…she physically and mentally was not capable of having another child. So she sought out an abortion on her own and died of blood poisoning. She was rushed to the hospital and nobody would help her.

When you look at those circumstances – I really think that could potentially happen today if we revert back to the coat hanger tactics where women have to go to back alleys to get abortions.

This whole pro-life thing, well whose life are supporting here? What about the women who are living and breathing right now on this planet? These basic human rights that people take for granted – at the end of the day that is all potentially going to be pulled out from underneath us, if [Trump] gets his way. I think it’s all a big tactic of reverting women back into the home, being barefoot and pregnant and taking away the progress we’ve made.

"Our Bodies Our Choice" by Kelly Witte
“Our Bodies Our Choice” by Kelly Witte

It’s absurd because people think that if you make something illegal it goes away, but it’s like Prohibition: it doesn’t go away. Women don’t stop getting abortions…they just get worse abortions.


You’ve formed an alliance with the ERA Coalition for this show; can you talk about the importance of their work?

The ERA Coalition was founded by Jessica Neuwirth, and they have an incredible board of directors which includes Gloria Steinem and a lot of important feminist activists. They’ve recently worked with Patricia Arquette, Jane Fonda and a lot of phenomenal women who are all very vocal about the importance of having an Equal Rights Amendment in the Constitution. I think it’s incredible that in 2017 we still don’t have an Equal Rights Amendment in the Constitution. A lot of people think that it’s in the Constitution, but it’s not. There are all kinds of sex discrimination issues that are in various laws and elements of our system, but when it comes down to making it to the Supreme Court, there is nothing in our Constitution that says that you can’t discriminate against women. Sex discrimination happens on a daily basis to women all over the country, and there’s very little you can do about it.

It’s up to interpretation state-by-state.

Exactly! I think that it’s very important for the ERA to be revisited and that there be a movement for it to be included in the constitution. Many years ago it was three states short of being ratified, but largely in part to this woman Phyllis Schlafly, who insisted that, ‘if there’s an ERA amendment, we’re going to have to use co-ed bathrooms and women might lose some of the rights they have as housewives, and gay men might be able to get married!’ But, guess what? All those things are commonplace now. The ERA amendment never passed because they created this fear campaign that ‘women might have to use co-ed bathrooms and they could get raped,’ and as a result, a lot of women got scared and voted against it. It’s fascinating that it was a woman who created the fear campaign against the ERA amendment, and I hope that it does have a possibility to be reconsidered.

I read in an interview that when you originally became an artist you didn’t initially gravitate towards activism; that it was something you later came to. Was there some kind of catalyst in your experiences that made you think, ‘I have to take action’?

It’s really interesting you ask that. I went to school at Columbia University and I got a triple major in art history, French literature and women’s studies. I was actively working as an artist – painting, printmaking, photography – all kinds of things before I started my path as a professional photographer. I was incredibly active when it came to feminism and women’s rights issues when I was in high school and in college, but with my photography I got steered into working as a fashion photographer. I had all these incredible opportunities that happened to me when I was so young, that diverted my attention away from my artwork and from feminism. As a commercial photographer I tried to create empowering images of women, but often the work gets diluted by the time it is published in the magazines. They edit the photos and definitely the message is lost.

Although I was one of the few female fashion photographers out there when I started in the early 90’s, so in many respects I was a pioneer of sorts as a woman in a male dominated industry. It wasn’t until many years later, after I launched my own magazine, and stopped working freelance, that my interests really shifted back to my art and interest in feminism as an important aspect of my life. I think that when I started working on the GirlPower issue of The Untitled Magazine, which was an entire issue dedicated to feminism produced exclusively by creative women. I think that was a turning point for me for sure. I launched The Untitled Space gallery that same year, which focuses on Women in Art.

Artwork featured in the UPRISE: ANGRY WOMEN exhibit, left to right, Ingrid V. Wells, Annika Connor, Lili White
Artwork featured in the UPRISE: ANGRY WOMEN exhibit, left to right, Ingrid V. Wells, Annika Connor, Lili White

How has working so many years in the fashion industry – a microcosm often accused of abetting the objectification of women – altered your perception of how society treats women? Has it informed your approach to feminism?

For many years when I was working as a fashion photographer I didn’t even tell people I was a feminist, as the fashion industry didn’t really align with feminism. It was treated like a bad word for a long time. I think that has changed now as they have seen the younger generation take a vast interest in the subject and it became “trendy” to be a feminist. For the most part I don’t really think the fashion industry (or the modeling industry) really promotes feminism with the general focus being so much on looks. Some designers are incorporating body positive fashion and there is a push for plus sized fashion in the past few years but I think we have a long way to go.

Are there any artists in the show you are particularly excited about?

We received artwork from artists all over the country, and they each brought a different message to the exhibit. I was extremely impressed with the diversity in the artwork, and the artist statements. We had such a varied response – from anger to fear, sadness, and humor. Some of the artwork is very serious, with a dark ominous undertone, while other artists created very powerful satirical works that have an enormous amount of strength in the message behind the humor. We have artwork from emerging seventeen-year-old artists, to very established artists who have exhibited in major museums. Rose McGowan created a very dynamic video art piece called “WOMANSWOMB”.

"Donald Trump with a Crown of Roadkill" by Cara Deangelis
“Donald Trump with a Crown of Roadkill” by Cara DeAngelis

With exhibits you’ve done like Self Reflection and In The Raw, there was a huge focus on women reclaiming their image from the male gaze; how will UPRISE differ from past exhibitions?

Previous exhibits have had that element, but I think that this particular exhibit is very political in nature. I think that previous exhibits here were very focused on themes revolving around feminism and, like you said, reclaiming the female body. But this particular show is probably one of the most emotionally engaging exhibits. This is probably the most diverse exhibit we’ve done.

I definitely think that the undertone of the female voice as a roar is very powerful throughout all of our exhibits, and it’s my mission to make feminist art as a genre more accessible and viable in the art market, but I also felt that this show meant a lot to women who were grappling with their emotions and trying to figure out how to handle it, and how could they in some way have a positive impact. How could they inspire and empower other women to be the strong voices that we need right now to combat what we have ahead? We need to put our combat boots on.

The idea of anger is really motivating, and it’s a good thing to hear because I think people shy away from it too much.

Oh, so many people said, “do you have to call it Angry Women?” I’m playing on the stereotype of women being angry as being bad; that women have to smile all the time, be pretty, be nice to everyone; that women can’t have a stern, distinctive point of view, strong voice; that they’re not allowed to be leaders in their community or the workforce, because what happens when you have a female boss, if she’s remotely strong, everybody says she’s a bitch. Men don’t get treated that way; it’s a total double standard. I think that’s one of the biggest things holding women back. That systematic attitude that a powerful woman is angry…there’s something wrong with that.

I couldn’t agree more. I think the whole idea of just being ‘positive’ and not speaking up is such a subjugating tactic.

Of course. I think that it’s important to channel your anger in a positive way so that you can empower yourself and empower others while you’re at it.

I was thinking of the exhibition when I saw Madonna’s speech at the Billboard Women In Music Awards; what did you think of it?

I thought it was very powerful, we wrote about it in Untitled, I thought it was great. I think she said some very powerful things about the stereotyping and discrimination she faced being a female in music. I think that it is important for women to speak up and be honest on these subjects and it was a brave thing for her to do.

Within the music industry, many feminist musicians take issue with language like “Front-woman” or “Female Musician.” How do you feel that nomenclature exists within the art world? Is saying “Female Artist” empowering or limiting to you?

I know a lot of female artists who feel their gender has nothing to do with their work, and for many it’s not relevant. I think when it comes to feminist art as a genre, your work is revolving around your gender as a focus, so it’s a different story. I personally have no problem putting “female artist” in front of my name, I’m proud to be a woman and for me personally it’s something that is relevant to my work.

UPRISE/ANGRY WOMEN opens Tuesday, January 17th at The Untitled Space gallery, 45 Lispenard St, NY.

"PRotest" by Indira Cesarine
“PROTEST” by Indira Cesarine

LIVE REVIEW: Madame Gandhi + Fuck Rape Culture @ Baby’s All Right

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”]

Photo by: Anna Maria Lopez
Photo by: Anna Maria Lopez

In the midst of crisis we assume those who suffer go unheard. And certainly that is how the victim of the Stanford Rape Case must have felt when her assailant Brock Turner was sentenced to a mere six months of prison after leaving her violated and battered behind a dumpster. The culprit for such unwarranted mercy was none other than Judge Aaron Persky, though the organizers of last Monday’s fundraiser at Baby’s All Right would assert the culprit was also the rape culture we live in. “Fuck Rape Culture,” the event put on by NYC’s GIRLCVLT directly donated its proceeds to the campaign striving to recall Judge Persky’s position. Even after the Brock Turner case Persky has been found unfit to rule, as he has sentenced Ming Hsuan Chiang-the man who pleaded no contest to a severe domestic violence felony that left his fiancé beaten to a pulp-to weekend jail. Persky, after his insolently lenient sentence, then bent over backwards to make sure Chiang would be able to get to work on time each Monday.

Fronting the recall campaign is Michele Dauber, a Stanford law professor, sociologist and activist. Dauber was present throughout the Turner case and took to the Baby’s stage last Monday, relaying how in court Persky “paid a lot of attention to Turner’s pain, Turner’s injury, and treated him as if his reputational injury was the injury that really mattered. And we really are here today to say enough is enough. Women and other survivors of sexual violence ― because it’s not only women ― have fought too hard and too long to be treated as if we do not matter.”

The evening was peppered with some remarkable acts including The Skins and The New Tarot. Amber Tamblyn offered an impassioned poetry reading while actress and rape survivor Rose McGowan gave an admirably vulnerable speech. Though the performer that stole my heart for the night was Kiran Gandhi, whose musical project Madame Gandhi finished off the evening with lingering beats and the appropriate amount of optimism to ignite the crowd even more.

[/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”]

Photo by: Alberto Vargas
Photo by: Alberto Vargas

I’d just seen Gandhi at the Girl Power Fest last weekend, and while she never short-changes a crowd, she did seem to have phantom drum set while performing for the small Hester Street Fair. At Baby’s however, Gandhi was fully rigged with her kit, expert lighting, and badass “Ableton Queen” Alexia Riner. Gandhi, who will release her debut EP later this year and a full-length record to follow, interspersed tracks like “Moon In The Sky,” “The Future Is Female,” and “Keep Her Close” (a total banger), with informed discourse on “Herstory.” “I just have a bit of trivia, some Herstory,” said Gandhi. “If you have the answer just raise your hand and we have some merch for the person with the right answer.”

“Who was the first female millionaire?”

(Madam C.J. Walker)

“In the entire history of civilization, how many female world leaders have there been?”


I admit my hand stayed by my side the whole time. It seemed that the overarching point of this portion of her set was to shine a light on how shamefully little we are taught about women in history.

During her performance, Gandhi read from the Feminist Utopia Project, articulating a vision for the future of girlhood that equips young ladies with tools of strength and wisdom as opposed to focusing solely on their aesthetic traits.

Gandhi’s sets are multidisciplinary experiences, like the performer herself. She sings, speaks with the cadence of a great orator, conducts readings, drums wildly, beat-boxes, and engages with the crowd in ways I rarely see. She is in control while remaining warm and inviting. She is a great hope for the future of music and activism. And that future is female.


TRACK REVIEW: Lié “Failed Visions”


The world isn’t feeling too positive lately, so a grungy garage rock song feels like just the thing we need to get these emotions out. It’s the sort of track where you can choose to head bang and shout your heart out, or just sit and soak in it, letting it fill you up and expand inside. We have just the right song for these types of moods and circumstances: Lié’s “Failed Visions.”

This trio of Vancouver badasses are cooking up some deliciously grungy post-punk music. Their debut album, Consent, provided social commentary about rape culture as told from the perspective of these three rockin’ ladies. It’s pretty damn relevant to some recent events, and great to hear the voices of strong women speaking their truth and not backing down from some of the more infuriating parts of our system.

“Failed Visions” is a single from their upcoming sophomore album Truth or Consequences, out August 12. Check out their single and let these tunes fill you up rather than rage, disappointment, and the slew of other negative feelings many of us are holding onto lately.

PLAYING DETROIT: Cheerleader “Bitchcraft”


There is nothing coy about Flint-based Cheerleader’s first full-length album, Bitchcraft. It is a riotous collection of defiant anti-apologies, that if delivered in any way other than Cheerleader’s impenetrable assault, would reinforce the very holding back they’re fighting against. Bitchcraft is the ultimate “fuck you” manifesto aimed to destroy, disarm, and devour the state of counterrevolution. Fully equipped with an advanced artillery of punk purism and unflinching feminism, Bitchcraft doesn’t knock. It grants itself permission.


The power of Christina “Polly” McCollum (lead vocals, guitar), Ashley MacDermaid (bass), and Nisa Seal (drums) is not contingent on image, labels or accessibility, rather their undeniable cohesion in being able to tear down the construct and crippling societal misogyny without compromising sincerity. The album opens with a shrill “WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR, HUH? WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?” which feels more like a dare than a question. The words bleed into the opening track “Beauty Queen” where McCollum delivers the first of many deafening blows with repeating the lines “I am more than my body.” Although the album clocks in just over 23 minutes, don’t mistaken its brevity for a shortcut. Quite the contrary. Cheerleader is free of filler or watery withdrawals, saying what needs to be said without finding polite euphemisms to spare feelings. Closing out the track “Friday Night Bites” during an Addams Family worthy bass line, McCollum exclaims: “No one cared about you then/no one cares about you now,” a testament to that one thing we have always wanted to say to that person we’ve always wanted to say it to. That’s the beauty of the anti-beauty of Cheerleader’s debut album. They have found a way to inspire without the squishy connotation.

To say this is an important record for women is like saying it’s wet when it rains. The overarching message of reprisal through rebellion and tenacity channeled by audacity is what, when conjoined with their tightly woven, Bikini Kill sludge, elevates Bitchcraft from an argument to an uprising.

Listen to Bitchcraft in its entirety here and check out the track “Beauty Queen” below:

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][fusion_soundcloud url=”″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]


VIDEO OF THE WEEK: Cassandra Violet “Lady”

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”]

Folk pop singer Cassandra Violet came out with a new music video for the track “Lady” from her upcoming Body & Mind EP, to be released this coming January.

Inspired by the infamous cat-calling video documenting the verbal and sexual harassment we femmes in the city know all too well, Violet portrays a young woman helpless to the control of a male cult leader.  While the period garb, desolate backdrop, and hazy effects might set the video in the past, when the two sisters escape the oppression of the cult leader, they overlook a modern city, fearful of what awaits them.

Thus, the story hauntingly answers the question of what it’s like to be a woman in society, even to this day.

Violet’s vocal prowess is reminiscent of folk pioneer (and fellow blunt-banged beauty) Joni Mitchell, with her effortless command of the drum-powered build up that helps drive the narrative through.

Check out the video here:[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]


weyes blood

Twice a month, AudioFemme profiles artists both emerging and established, who, in this industry, must rebel against misogynist cultural mores. Through their music  they express the attendant hurdles and adversities (vis-a-vis the entertainment industry and beyond) propagated by those mores. For our sixth installment, Amber Robbin profiles Weyes Blood, a one-woman psych folk powerhouse that challenges notions of waif-like femininity with hauntingly dynamic vocals, darkly emotional lyrics, and unexpectedly melodic sound effects.

Artist Profile: Weyes Blood

Weyes Blood is the otherworldly musical persona of folk-suffused, musique concrète-inspired artist Natalie Mering. Based in New York City with prior roots in Philly and Baltimore, Mering has previously collaborated with experimentally driven acts such as Ariel Pink and Jackie-O Motherfucker. Her second full release, The Innocents,  came out on Mexican Summer October 21st, following The Outside Room, her 2011 album on Not Not Fun which was recorded, mixed, and produced by Mering herself.

Music is in Mering’s wise blood (which, by the way, is the play on words intended by the literary-inspired pseudonym, “Weyes Blood”). Her father was a rocker in 1970s LA turned Christian parish leader, yet Mering has cultivated an aesthetic undeniably her own. Her mellifluous vocal sound is pure and ancient, driving forth compositions that are rich with artfully-chosen sound effects she seamlessly strews over traditional instrumentation. The result ranges from whimsical to profoundly heart-wrenching, with darkly psychedelic passages and hopeful glimmers of choral brilliance throughout. From the warped piano arpeggios of “Some Winters” to the acoustic simplicity of “Bad Magic,” Mering’s bereft, hovering bay unhinges the listener’s soul and carries it between intimately familiar portraits of a past life, conjuring memories that still breathe with tangible emotion.

The album is, indeed, an imprint of the past for the deep-timbred songstress. The Innocents chronicles the lost, wandering soul of an early twenties Mering and captures the distress and abandon felt by many in that age of angst and aching. Although written in the thick of her experience, Mering’s work echoes with the mature understanding of an old soul painfully aware in the midst of its own torment. She ponders her loss in “Some Winters,” the second single off the album, and faces what’s left in the aftermath of a jilted love affair…

You won’t hold me in your arms anymore

We paid our price

Lead from the soul

I’m already gone

The house of stone we built has turned into sand

and you know I’d still hold your hand

A hope I can’t conceal

A memory how we used to feel

A potential third single, “Bad Magic,” was recorded in Mering’s apartment. One of the most beloved and bare tracks, the ballad unfolds as if Mering is slowly, solemnly rallying herself yet again to face the day, despite her enduring anguish. Harboring a bursting chest and eyes forever wetted, she pushes on, for she knows instinctively that there is nowhere to go but forward. The minor melody tugs and lilts from verse to chorus without pause, like the perpetual pep talk of her heart that refuses to come up for air. It is her salvation, this inner monologue…

Make the best of death

and love what’s left

You’re not just a time bomb

Just cause you went off don’t mean you’re scattered everywhere

It’s still there

in the palms of your hand

Just give it one more chance

Don’t wait to understand

Just find a new way

Every melody is “a new way” to move forward, each chunk of poetry a new pearl to bolster her resilience. Every track of The Innocents introduces yet another approach to coping with life as we know it, cracking open our chests for the sake of remembering how we ourselves coped in the face of those most formative, and innocent, years.

Femme Unfiltered: On Natalie Mering

When I was a Broadway hopeful going to musical theatre/circus school, it became abundantly clear to me that only a few select roles were available to women. Just as in most artistic industries (see also “the world”), the options were: virgin or whore. Ok, there might have been slightly more variation, but seriously…ingénue = virgin, sassy sidekick = whore. (If you were lucky enough to have the breadth, you could also play women over 40 – the hag.) However, there was one other, lesser known category which I incessantly fit into – the dead girl. The dead girl was sometimes a ghost, sometimes an angelic symbol of love, innocence, or some other idyllic value. More a spin-off on the standard virgin with a dash of saucy see-through-ness, she served all celestial purposes of the play. She was imposing, she had sway, but she was meant to be known of, more so than seen or heard.

It was intriguing to me, therefore, when I came upon Weyes Blood and its continuously-dubbed “ethereal” front woman Natalie Mering. Mering demands to be seen and heard, and is by no means a waif beyond her waif-like appearance. Her instrument is deep and resounding, and her otherworldly musical concoctions are far too all-encompassing to garner any sort of comparison to a gaseous existence.

It hit me that Mering’s persona challenges all familiar notions of what it means to be “ethereal,” for her art is feminine, celestial, and powerful, all at the same time. Mering spoke in our interview of how all humans have an animal side, so I began to wonder if, perhaps, we all had a self-reflective, otherworldly side to us as well – one that normally lies undetected by our fumbling, animal radar. Mering extracts this element of our being and magnifies it, keeping intact all of the inherent characteristics of a flesh and blood human being: the strength, the raw emotion, the jagged edges. She uses her spiritual presence to embody the essence of her suffering, her perseverance, her enlightenment, every discovery along her epic journey, forging an otherworldly image in solidarity with the human experience. She demonstrates just how ethereal we all are when consumed by our emotions, and especially when we manage to beat the odds and, miraculously, transcend hardship.

INTERVIEW 10/17/14

I had the chance to chat with Natalie Mering aka Weyes Blood. Here is what she had to say.

AF: So Ms. Mering, how did you come to create the very specific sound of Weyes Blood? And how has your past work with Jackie-O Motherfucker and Ariel Pink informed your style?

Mering: Well, I was already making more improvisatory music when I met Jackie-O Motherfucker, and they’re more improvisatory. I don’t know how much they influenced my sound. I feel like Ariel inspired me to be more personal about my songwriting and write more from a conversational perspective. But mostly my sound is cultivated through my love of sound effects and early music, which is old church music, and trying to combine something super futuristic and also ancient.  

AF: What about a musician’s personality, both as an artist and a person, makes them better suited to solo work? Why are you a solo artist?

Mering: I think it was because I couldn’t find anybody who had the same standards as I did to be in a band with. In high school and college, I always wanted to make music, but it was the ultimate, most important thing to me, and it was kind of impossible to meet anybody like that.

AF: In terms of work ethic?

Mering: Yeah, in terms of work ethic. In terms of wanting to pursue it as their career. In terms of where I was coming from artistically. It just wasn’t in the cards for me, so I just played solo.

AF: How do you feel about the word “ethereal”? Does it describe you, or just you in relation to your art?

Mering: Probably just my music. I think ethereal is a fantasy element. That, as human beings, we have ethereal elements – all of us. But we’re pretty much animals, so ethereal is kind of the escape word that we wish we could transcend to. I take it as a compliment.

AF: How did you get into music? Especially, what’s your vocal training background?

Mering: My whole family are musicians, but I was in choirs a lot in middle school and high school.

AF: Where do you get your song ideas?

Mering: Just life experiences and how insane life is.

AF: How does the creative process usually begin for you?

Mering: It’s either music or lyrics, and it’s usually kind of like a lightning flash, but it’s also very half-baked. I get little imprints of songs and melodies, and then I flesh them out by playing them over and over again. And listening. Really listening is a huge part of it. I think I have really good ears.

AF: When and how do you decide upon the unconventional sound effects you use on each track?

Mering: I guess in any atonal sound there’s usually a melody, even though it is atonal, that will kind of sync up and match with the melody of the song. So, it’s almost like pairing…it’s kind of like a wine pairing. (Laughs.) Like some things go better with other things. It’s not all totally random. And once again, listening is the biggest thing. Listening to its relationship to the song and deciding if it adds to the song and brings it more life, or if it’s distracting to the song and takes away from it. Because with sound effects it’s pretty black and white.

AF: Do you find that you face discrimination and adversity within the music industry as a female?

Mering: Yeah.

AF: Do you consider yourself a feminist? What is your definition of feminism?

Mering: I am a feminist. The definition of feminist is to want equal opportunities and rights for women, paying women the same amount, etc. etc. But really what happens in music, is music is really just a big cult of the personality anyway. So, like a male personality is usually more appealing to everybody on a marketing level or an excitement/popularity level. I feel like women have to get in there and make incredible music to get the same amount of attention while a man could make music that’s more based on having a crazy personality, being a kooky guy, and everybody loves it. I think that that is what attracts a lot of people.

I don’t know, it’s also more difficult for men because it’s a little easier to be more singular as a female. So I wouldn’t say it’s totally this terrible thing being a woman in music. It can work to your benefit also. I just find that in terms of the people that I have worked with, it’s easier to get pigeon-holed as “mellow chick music” even though I think I can bring a lot of intensity and excitement. I think that’s happening less and less as more women are doing solo music than ever before, but some people just hear a female voice and that’s the first thing they think.

AF: What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of your work?

Mering: Probably hearing something in my head and then trying to make it a reality, in real life, only to find that it always comes a little short of the fantasy.

AF: What’s the most rewarding aspect?

Mering: Getting to connect with people and make people feel that living is worthwhile via creation and art. I think that’s a very elating experience.

AF: In multiple interviews, you talk about The Innocents being about disillusionment and innocence ending in a person’s early 20s, and how once this album was recorded, you realized you’d already grown past that theme. What themes are you exploring now?

Mering: I don’t know, probably ones that are just more existential. Things beside heartbreak.

AF: What’s beyond heartbreak?

Mering: I don’t know. Like not having a heart anymore and trying to figure that out. (Laughs.)

AF: That’s dark! Alright!

Mering: I mean, it’s existential, it’s dark, but there’s also a lot of lightness – I’ve been writing some happy songs too.

AF: So what’s next for Natalie Mering and Weyes Blood?

Mering: The album comes out next week and then I’m gonna do some heavy touring. I put together a backup band, so still kind of solo, but also with a full band. I’m gonna record my next album next year and just get cookin’ because time is flying and things are changing, and the new set of songs that I wrote are already getting old. Which is one problem with the music world. Creativity kind of comes so fast and albums are these laborious, long events. I look forward to recording the next album. That’s what’s next for me.


INTERVIEW: A Chat with Grrrl Fest Organizers

Here at AudioFemme, we’re all about making spaces for women in the music industry, whether that’s as music makers or behind the scenes – booking and promoting shows, running sound, shooting bands, and, of course, bringing you top-notch journalism reviews. So we got super excited when we found out about Grrrl Fest, a day-long celebration of women in the creative arts. Organized by an inspiring group of young feminists, it features performances from a dozen or so up-and-coming bands that feature female musicians, short films, spoken word performances, zine-writing workshops, button making, a book sale and a silent auction, and that’s to say nothing of getting your tarot cards read and covering yourself in “glitter tattoos.” Not only are we pumped for Grrrl Fest to take over Silent Barn on June 14th, we were also so impressed with the scope of the event that we just had to learn more from two of its organizers, Ebun Nazon-Power and Bridget Malloy.


AudioFemme: In your words, what is the mission of Grrrl Fest?

Ebun Nazon-Power: Grrrl Fest is about supporting and empowering females (girls and women and anyone who identifies as such) in whatever it is that they do. However, Grrrl Fest is mainly focused on the creative fields such as music, bands, dance, spoken word and art. I think our mission is to reveal to all those young women out there that it is totally okay to be creative and self-expressive in an environment where people (not just females) are being supportive and helpful. We wanted to show girls that there is no one way of being a feminist–there are tons of different kinds and ways. So being in a place where people are coming from all over the city and elsewhere and are all about equality and feminism, it can be a life changing experience and hopefully have a positive effect.

AF: Who makes up the core group of organizers? How do you work together to organize the event?

Ebun: The “core” group I guess would be myself and my other classmates: Christopher Gambino, Savannah Galvin, and Clare Burden, Esme Ahsley-White, Abbie Hornburg and of course my art teacher Bridget Malloy. However, we have plenty of volunteers from different schools who are working with us. The core group organizes at The Beacon School and all the other volunteers are organized through social media like Facebook.

AF: How long have you been doing this?

Ebun: This is the very first year that we are doing this. We honestly began this enormous project like two months ago!!

AF: What inspired you to put Grrrl Fest together?

Bridget Malloy: Some students and I were hanging out in the art room during a free period and Ebun put on her band T-Rextasy. It was such a cool sound. It reminded me of some of the 90’s girl bands. At the same time, I was looking at Savannah’s artwork on the wall. It was this really cool text piece. It reminded me of writing on a bathroom wall. So then somewhere along the way I said, “We should do a ‘Girl Fest!’” Next thing you know we are planning, making calls, getting sponsors and the rest is history. People got right on board too. It was really great how it all just formed so naturally. It really felt like it was the right time for something like this and that many people wanted to see it happen.

AF: You’ve got tons of performers scheduled. What did you look for in terms of artists who you wanted to book?

Ebun: In terms of artists, we automatically knew who was going to play – She Monster, Petal War, and T-Rextasy (in fact, they were kind of the main reason grrrl fest started) which are all teenage girl bands. And then a lot of the people volunteering had some other artists they knew of that could possibly play. We also held auditions at The Beacon School for anyone who wanted to perform whether it be spoken word, dance, or music. We of course wanted mostly female artists, but since Grrrl Fest is not about excluding anybody, we also had several males in mind that were really excited to get involved such as Granted, Yabadum, The Backup Sticks, and Shemp. The only requirement is that every band performing has to do a cover of a female musician/band. We are really excited about this!

Bridget: Petal War, an all-girl band with some of the members being Beacon students and Willie Mae members, had played a show at SXSW and it just seemed like the right time to support all of these amazing young women!

AF: Besides great music, what else will be happening at Grrrl Fest?

Ebun: We will have activities (weather permitting) out in the garden of Silent Barn earlier in the day, from noon to 6pm. There will be tables with hands-on activities: button making, zine making, glitter tattoos, tarot card readings and more. The activities will teach and allow people to really participate in the event. Our sponsors will be in attendance to connect with the crowd too and get them involved in their organizations. There’s a silent auction which will help us to raise money for art in schools. And there will be art for sale benefiting young entrepreneurs with a portion of their sales going to various organizations at Grrrl.

AF: How did you go about getting sponsors for the event? Can you tell us a little bit about them?

Bridget: The sponsors for the event really happened so easily. First I have to say The Beacon School has truly supported this from the start. In addition, the people over at Silent Barn were behind this idea from the beginning. Nat Roe has been a dream to work with. He has been with us every step of the way and has supported pretty much anything we sent his way. He was the one that suggested we take the event into the night and have Pottymouth and the rest of the bands play later on in the evening. Originally it was going to be a six-hour event but now it’s about a twelve-hour event! As for the rest, we literally got on the phone and made calls or emailed people we thought could add to the event. BUST Magazine and Tom Tom Magazine were some of the first to back us up. Then Bennington [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][College] came in with a generous donation. They really supported us from the minute this whole idea began. Libby Hux was a huge player at Bennington she literally got right on it and made calls and wrote to people to make that happen. As for Planned Parenthood, Lower East Side Girls Club, Bluestockings, Center for Arts Education, CHiPS, Willie Mae, Makers… we just reached out and asked if they would want to participate. They all said yes! We were thrilled! We even had some people contacting us once people got word of the event.

Ebun: Getting sponsors was not even on my mind when we first started this event actually. It was not until one of the magazines (Tom Tom) e-mailed me asking if they were sponsoring the event and I was like “Oh, duh!” I had some connections with some of the organizations such as WIllie Mae Rock Camp for Girls which is an organization that supports girls in doing music and Tom Tom which is a magazine dedicated to female percussionists.

AF: What aspect of Grrrl Fest excites you the most?

Ebun: I am excited about almost everything! I am excited to see how everything is going to be pulled together. A lot will be going on between these 11 hours and hopefully every bit will be exciting. All of the bands and performers are INCREDIBLE, the crafts should be really fun, and the t-shirts and tote bags (made by classmate and friend Clare Burden) are absolutely phenomenal. Hopefully it will continue to happen every year, and even on a larger scale![/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]