For Single Moms In The Music Industry, The Battle For Respect Is Real

Vick Bain, Director of The F-List and Parents in Performing Arts

A recent report by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s youth radio station, Triple J, indicates that women are still underrepresented at almost every level of the music industry, including festival lineups, the boards of major music bodies, radio and at record labels. The only silver lining was that the gender pay gap has somewhat narrowed (though parity is still yet to happen) and there’s been an increase, too, in the number of women in management level at indie record labels in Australia.

There’s been broad acknowledgement that the pandemic has disproportionately affected women, who are largely responsible for housework, caring for children, home schooling and also caring for their parents. For single mums, in particular, the demands are magnified and their finances are likely to already be ravaged by the time they’ve taken off work to have a child, the expenses of raising a child alone and having to work part-time to accommodate caring for their child. It may seem to some that working in the music industry is not a place that is forgiving or accepting of women who require some flexibility, or who are competing with men who are fearless in their capacity for self-promotion.

For Grace, 38, a music publicist in Melbourne (whose name has been changed for privacy concerns), her constant challenge is to not internalise all the judgements made of her as a single mother. Her son was one and a half when his parents divorced. At 8, he’s sat backstage next to Nick Cave and seen some of Australia’s biggest acts performing major venues.

“Some people in this industry don’t understand why there’s a child, why I can’t find a babysitter, why I can’t get my parents to look after him,” says Grace. “I do find there’s a certain demographic – normally middle-aged men – who just don’t respect me if they see me backstage with a child. My client barely even spoke to me when I showed up with my child recently. The women I know in the industry are great, but I get a lot of judgement from women at the school gate who are appalled my child might be out later than 7pm. My son goes to work with his dad too, who also gets comments like, ‘some women weren’t born to be mothers.’ There’s still this outmoded idea that women working and raising a child is weird.”

As the publicist for an artist who is also a single mother, Grace has observed first-hand the way that artists can be placed on a pedestal and immune to the blatant judgement and opinions of others, even though they privately discuss their own fears of being judged.

“One of my clients is also a single mum to two kids aged 2 and 4, so I take care of them backstage when she’s performing. We talk about this shame we feel, this perception of being unprofessional or also trying to hide our kids to avoid the judgement that we might not be doing our job. My son enjoys going backstage, he loves venues, he loves music.”

Maria Amato has been the CEO of the Australian Independent Records Association (AIR) since 2016. Though her son is now in university, she recalls that it was financially and personally challenging to work in high-profile positions, while running her own business, as a single mom.

“I’ve been a single mum since he was 4 years old. [From 2010 to 2014], I was CEO of the Melbourne Film Festival and I’ve always run my own business,” she says. “I was lucky that I had help from family if I needed to travel overseas to look after him. When my son was little, 15 years ago, bringing a child to the office wasn’t even something I would have contemplated.”

Amato was fortunate that in working for herself, she could work early in the morning, do school drop offs and pick-ups, and finish any work late at night if needed. She has no regrets over the past financial sacrifices she made through going part-time to raise her son. He lets her know that he appreciates her choices, too – as well as her current success.

“My son thinks it’s fantastic – he’s super proud of me as an independent, self-sufficient woman doing what I love on my own terms,” Amato says. “I think it inspires him in his own life. I did have mother guilt of working so much, so I have always taken him on holiday every year – all around Australia and overseas. I just want all moms to know that they are awesome, single moms are awesome, widowed moms are awesome. Do what’s right for you. If anyone at work is making derogatory comments, it’s not acceptable. Don’t allow that toxicity to infect to you.”

For UK-based Vick Bain, her experience as a single mother informed her choice to advocate for mothers in music. She’s curator of the F-List (a list of all the UK women in the music industry), former CEO of the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers & Authors (BASCA) and Board Director of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, Delic and Parents in Performing Arts.

That success came long after Bain’s partner left a year into their relationship, mere months before she was to give birth to their twins. She subsequently lost both her home and her job, leaving her homeless and reliant on friends for help.

“That summer was the most difficult period of my life,” she recalls. She was Music Administrator at Festival Hall in London at the time. “It became apparent, as my pregnancy went on, that my partner would bail out and the landlord of the shared house I was in evicted me. Luckily, at 30 weeks pregnant, a friend and his wife rented me a one bedroom flat in a nice area of London. I had to leave my job because the temporary contract wasn’t renewed because I was pregnant, which they were allowed to do at the time.”

Bain relied on government support and cheap rentals during the first years of being a mother. She returned to work for a day, then two days a week. She also freelanced in bookkeeping and administration for creative businesses. Over a nine-year period, she rose to CEO at BASCA, when her twins were 13.

“It was tough on my kids. They were too old for au pairs and I’d moved us out of London because we couldn’t afford it, but it meant I was commuting for four hours a day on top of work, for nine years.”

When Bain left BASCA, after a year of battling breast cancer, she opted to follow her dream of pursuing a PhD on women’s careers in the UK music industry, while also advising music industry clients on diversity and inclusiveness. This was the foundation for the F-List.

“Only 20% of artists are female, and only 14% are writers. It surprised me how few women were being invested in and supported,” she says.

“I’m also the Director of Parents In Performing Arts,” says Bain. “I know, as a single parent, how hard it is.”

Bain’s daughter, Amber, now works as the Social Media Manager for the F-List, and aspires to follower her mother’s path and work in the music industry.

The lengthy commutes, the welfare dependency and her loneliness in those years of living outside of London for the sake of providing her children with a garden are not taken into account in her CV, but so often mothers are not given credit for their professional accomplishments in the context of achieving so many other important things.

For Grace, who has her son 60% of the time, her frustration is with clients and strangers who make the assumption that she is not fulfilling her responsibilities as a mother nor as a publicist.

“I’m able to do my job, being responsible for all these people backstage, and look after my child,” she says. “I think there’s some people who just don’t get that. I think it needs to be accepted, and in some places and spaces, encouraged.”

Larkin Poe Tell Empowered Stories on New Album ‘Self Made Man’

Photo Credit: Bree Marie Fish

Contemporary blues duo Larkin Poe channel stories of self-empowerment and community into their fierce new album, Self Made Man.

Describing themselves as “first generation music makers” of their family, the sister duo of Rebecca and Megan Lovell were originally part of the acoustic family band The Lovell Sisters in 2003 alongside younger sister Jessica. The group disbanded in 2010, leading Rebecca and Megan to join forces as duo Larkin Poe, built on a foundation of blues and soul with gritty melodies and slick harmonies.

Though their parents worked in the medical field, they instilled a love of music into their daughters by encouraging them to play instruments like classical violin and piano. But it wasn’t long before the Atlanta-raised siblings discovered a passion for bluegrass music. Becoming enamored with the “power” and “energy” of roots Americana in their early teens, they picked up instruments fundamental to the genre, like guitar, banjo and mandolin. Rebecca became the youngest and first female to win the MerleFest mandolin contest in 2006 at the age of 15, while Megan mastered the lap steel guitar, referring to it as her “real voice.”

Their Georgia roots come to life on Self Made Man. The album takes their stories from the road and turns them into 11 bold and brash songs, including the fiery “Keep Diggin’,” inspired by the people of their hometown who made a habit out of feeding the rumor mill. “We have a collection of really eccentric, strong-willed gossiping Southern women in our family, and if there’s one thing that Southern women know how to do, it is stick their nose precisely where it doesn’t belong,” Rebecca tells Audiofemme. “But they stick it in such a fashion that it’s very polite and they’re blessing your heart the entire time.” The track is filled with foot stomps and hand claps while the lyrics advise listeners to believe actions over words, exemplifying the duo’s ability to wrap the truth around clever phrasing.

This sense of humor is also reflected in the album’s title, a tongue-in-cheek reference to the outdated stereotype that the key to success is being a white male. The Nashville-based duo defied this suppressive norm by founding their own record label, Tricki-Woo Records, in 2017, and self-producing their own albums, including Self Made Man. “We’re real do it yourself-ers,” Megan professes. “It felt like the right title for now, considering how much control we’ve taken into our own hands and that we’re feeling very empowered as artists and as producers.”

Part of this empowerment comes from the years Larkin Poe spent touring. Their 2019 trek took them across Europe and Canada, in addition to opening for a range of acts including Bob Seger and Keith Urban throughout the U.S. in 2018. Their appreciation for cultures around the world has instilled the artists with a profound sense of community that they manifested into their fifth studio project. “We’ve felt a huge groundswell underneath us,” Megan proclaims. “I think that’s why this record, even more than our previous projects, has a feeling of positivity and optimism and empowerment.” While writing for Self Made Man, the sisters aimed to encapsulate the deep connection they felt performing for global audiences, discovering the commonality that exists between the artist and fans during live shows. “While we are incredibly different, from place to place, there are so many more similarities about humans than there are differences,” Rebecca observes. “There really was this overwhelming sense of unity. That sense of human connection was really pure and unadulterated.”

Writing for Self Made Man also held a mirror up to how the sisters have evolved as songwriters, making a conscious effort to pivot from writing from a solely personal state to an all-encompassing perspective. “When you’re writing as a young person, you tend to write very introspective. I think the older we’ve gotten, the more important it’s been to think about us as a community,” Rebecca explains. “At a certain point, you do have this shift where empathy can play a larger part in your songwriting, this widening of focus where you’re able to think about other people’s perspective and what might we need as a group, what’s going to feel good for us to share together.”

The sisters hope that fans take away the feeling of self-empowerment and unity that they poured into the record and carry it to their own journeys as the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic. “This album was really meant for this time. There are a handful of songs that really do seem to apply and the sense of coming together in spite of being worlds apart,” Rebecca says. “Hopefully these songs will be good companions to people in this uncertain time.”

Follow Larkin Poe on Facebook for ongoing updates.

ONLY NOISE: This Is A Man’s World

Luci Turner performing on stage with her band, BEAU + LUCI, in 2018. Photo by Alexandra Scuffle.

ONLY NOISE explores music fandom with poignant personal essays that examine the ways we’re shaped by our chosen soundtrack. This week, Luci Turner takes stock of the trials, tribulations and triumphs she’s experienced as a young woman working in the music industry.

Life in the music industry isn’t easy. As Hunter S. Thompson said, “The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.” What Thompson never had to face, however, was a drunk fan telling him to smile more, or attempting to grope him behind the merch stand. 

As an indie musician, music journalist, and editor by trade, and publicist, social media manager, band manager, tour promoter, head of merchandising, marketing team, and handler by necessity, I’ve worked on every side of the industry, accomplished tasks I never thought I’d have to out of absolutely necessity, and learned skills I probably would’ve been just as happy never learning. I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the really ugly: the unfortunate (read: nonexistent) restroom situation at an off-road mud park in the middle of nowhere in south Georgia; the incident involving a very intoxicated young man who managed to land himself in a trash can in an attempt to get an arm around my sister’s waist; the Gollum-esque man who got a nice grip on my right buttocks and proceeded to tell me, “No, it’s okay. I’ve got daughters.” Obviously that did not make it okay, and I’ve still got questions.

As I look back on these occurrences, it’s obvious that despite the advances made over the decades, the music industry is, in many ways, still a man’s world. But my belief — and my hope — is that, with the music itself as an equalizer, it doesn’t have to be this way. 

I grew up in a very small town, a back-pew Baptist born with the somewhat shameful affliction of being a female. I learned to sit down, cover up, and keep my mouth shut at a young age, because that was what was acceptable and expected. I learned to cross my legs and hold my tongue, and I learned at the age of ten that I had to stand farther away from the microphone because I could belt out a song with greater volume and enthusiasm than the boys in the choir. 

But my “alternative education,” as I call the music my father exposed my siblings and me to, told a different story. There was power to be found in being a woman; pride, even. I remember seeing photos of Debbie Harry, clad in short, skin tight dresses or ratty oversized t-shirts, her hair bleached an impossible shade of white and her eyes lined with heavy black liner, glamorous and provocative and undeniably female, and thinking, “I want to be just like her one day.” She was strong, fearless, bold, and utterly unconcerned with what anyone thought of her. She was the antithesis of what a Southern Baptist girl should aspire to be. 

Debbie Harry opened a door for me. In fact, she blew the whole house up and put a whole new world on display. As I listened to Blondie obsessively and began to discover other bands fronted by powerful women — Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Heart, Patti Smith — I couldn’t help but wonder why it had taken me twelve years to discover them. Didn’t anyone ever wonder where the women were when listening to the classic rock stations? My exposure to rock wasn’t limited, so why were all of my favorite bands comprised solely of men? Hearing “Heart of Glass” for the first time was so impactful that it startled me, even at such a young age, with the realization that so few women were represented on the radio, or in the pile of CDs hidden away in a spare closet.

Years later, as my sister and I made our way into the music industry as singer-songwriters fronting a rock band, that realization — and the questions it sparked — never left the back of my mind. As we found ourselves leading a band of four young men, working with male producers and engineers, and dealing with various managers/snake oil salesmen looking for a quick buck and a plane ticket to Australia, Los Angeles, or New York, we were constantly reminded that we were girls — young girls, with little experience, no technical training, and no family or friends in the industry who knew the business and had already walked the path. But at the same time, we found ourselves in the precarious situation of being forced to learn our own lessons, own up to our mistakes, and take ownership of the victories, despite the producer who made a point to exclaim, “Who’s your daddy?” in the moments where tensions rose and creative control was questioned. 

Looking back, I still remember the sickening realization that I would never be considered an equal by that producer. His words spun around in my mind, infuriating, subjugating, and disrespectful. Would he have said “Who’s your daddy?” to a man — regardless of age — or simply considered the options and allowed the artist to follow his gut? We were faced with a similar maddening situation on the stage, as well, in a group of men hired to back us. All four were older, if only by a few years, set on holding their experience, credentials, and manly wisdom over the heads of two young women who, in their opinion, lacked everything but marketability. 

We weren’t considered equals. We were “the girls” — a product to be sold — and they were the musicians. We couldn’t possibly have the same knowledge, connection, or love of music; we were too young and too female. It was an attitude enforced by management, of systematic inequality and a lifelong belief that to be male was to be more: powerful, intelligent, worthy. It was with that group, however, that my sister and I experienced the most growth, because we were constantly and consistently challenged. There were private moments of great frustration, when I felt like I was either going to burst into tears or lose my temper, because it could never be easy; our opinions were always questioned, our ideas met with egos. 

Letting that group of players go was one of the most relieving moments of my life, but the endurance and sheer tenacity it created in me was one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. Still, though, I had no answer to the question that haunted the back of my mind: where were the women, and what would happen if, instead of having to prove ourselves to men, we were surrounded and supported by other women? 

That question was answered, at least partially, in the span of a few short months, as we became more involved in the Atlanta music scene. We were befriended by musicians of every age — male and female — who made one thing very clear: there, and on stages across the country, we weren’t “the girls from Waycross.” All that mattered was the music and what we could do with it. 

The playing field was level when it came to the music. Worth was based on how good we were, how passionate we were, how willing we were to look foolish, make mistakes, and feel vulnerable, not our age or gender. Money and marketing teams can’t change that. Radio directors and talent buyers can’t, either, and while the issue of women’s presence on the radio, at festivals, and in the music industry as a whole — not only as artists, but as producers, engineers, journalists, and executives — demands to be addressed and improved, in my heart, there’s only one reason that it matters at all. 

In music, we are equal. Not in the festival lineups, the radio play, or the mindsets of too many — not yet — but we’ve tasted and felt the equality that some of us may have never known before. Once you get a taste of it, there’s no satisfying the hunger. As long as there’s music to be played, there will be women fighting for their place on the stage, men and women who rally around us and stand beside us, and generations of songwriters coming behind us, ready to prove again and again the revolutionizing, unifying, unspeakable power of music. 

While music, at its core, is equalizing, there’s a long way to go in equality for women in the music industry. For more information, check out these 5 Women in Music Organizations to get involved. 

ONLY NOISE: A Woman Like Your Kind

Today is International Women’s Day, and people are celebrating in many ways. This American Life devoted their entire show on Tuesday night to listening to the stories of five women who were sexually harassed by media executive Don Hazen, giving individual voice to members of the #MeToo movement. Mattel came out with 17 new Barbie dolls celebrating diverse and historic women like artist Frida Kahlo, Australian conservationist Bindi Irwin, and NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson. Our favorite female and non-binary music festival, The Hum, has announced a new run of shows slated for May, and various Women’s Day events have sprung up across the world. In my own way of celebrating women, here are five groundbreaking female musicians pushing their formats forward.

U.S. Girls

U.S. Girls mastermind Meg Remy has always looked to the past for inspiration – her decade-deep catalog often reverberating with sounds of ‘70s disco and Phil Spector’s girl groups. Those influences haven’t dissipated entirely on Remy’s latest LP In a Poem Unlimited, but Remy has forged something completely new from them. Remy has garnered more widespread attention with this album than any prior release, and while that could easily be attributed to its near perfect track list, it may have occurred as a result of topic and timing.

In a Poem Unlimited chronicles female rage in an era when it’s finally being recognized. From James Bond-tinged revenge epic “Velvet 4 Sale,” to the satirical “Pearly Gates,” Remy and her U.S. Girls collective have crafted something fresh and relevant, wrapping rocky subject matter in swaths of multicolored silk. Standout track “M.A.H.” (“Mad As Hell”) combines these two assets seamlessly, succinctly verbalizing what women have been feeling for too long over an ABBA-esque dance cut. “As if you couldn’t tell, I’m mad as hell,” she sings. “I won’t forget, so why should I forgive?/Supply me with one reason why, boy?” Pertinent questions these days.


Chicago rapper CupcakKe, aka Elizabeth Harris, has been in the game for longer than you might think. Harris began releasing music on the web in 2012, and her 2016 mixtape Cum Cake caught the attention of critics for its unabashed lewdness. None of that raunchiness is lost on CupcakKe’s most recent LP Ephorize. Harris is the lightning-tongued, pornographic poet we’ve all been waiting for. Her brand of female sexuality is raw and unapologetic, debunking the myth that women are less sexual creatures than men with streams of dirty verses. She celebrates LGBTQ love on “Crayons” and her love for dick on “Duck Duck Goose.” Cupcakke is easily one of the most progressive MCs on these matters, and when it comes to the societal damning of women’s sexuality, she’s furious. “Females have sex on the first night they get called a ho for that one night stand,” she raps on “Self Interview,” “Men have sex on the first night, congratulations!” “Most wouldn’t comprehend/Double standards need to end.” Preach, High Priestess Cupcakke.


Scotland born, Los Angeles based producer SOPHIE is making pop music dangerous again. The transgender artist is seemingly allergic to binaries, and therefore makes music that is difficult to categorize. There are elements of techno, disco, and deep house, but her work also boasts more the “difficult” sounds of industrial and noise music. “A lot of the stuff I’ve done takes the attitude of disco but tries to bring the sound world forward,” she told Teen Vogue last year. “We’re in a different world now. I’m trying to imagine what music that’s positive, liberating, weird, dark, and real could be in the current day.” SOPHIE has achieved all of those descriptors in her music, and she’s one of the few contemporary artists that can truly be called cutting edge. Her live shows are a mixture of theater, rave, and performance art, and her skill as a producer is unrivaled. She can turn the fizz of soda into a symphony and the screech of latex into a solo. SOPHIE will undoubtedly have a hand in how the future of pop music is shaped.

Moor Mother

Moor Mother is the project of Philly poet, musician, and activist Camae Ayewa, whose music blurs the lines between hip-hop, gothic industrial, and spoken word. Moor Mother is angry, and she has every right to be. She raps about domestic violence, race riots, and police brutality through layers of distortion, and her live sets are a blatant display of her rage. Ayewa’s music is compelling through headphones, but contagious in person; her body thrashes with each verse, making the air around her taut with fury. Her last record, 2016’s Fetish Bones is a stirring amalgam of disturbing poems laid over horror movie noise-scapes. Moor Mother’s sound is a much-needed slap in the face to oppression.


Jerilynn Patton is one badass woman. A top-notch producer and steel mill worker from Gary, Indiana, Patton, aka Jlin, has taken the independent music community by storm with her last two records, 2015’s Dark Energy and last year’s Black Origami. Jlin’s music is instantly recognizable, and while it incorporates electronic genres like footwork and house, her stamp of authenticity lies in the clanging metallic rhythms, West African percussion, and dizzying synths she weaves through her beats. Her live sets are robust and disorienting, causing more convulsions than dancing. In an industry, and a genre (electronic music) that is overwhelmed by men, Jlin makes harder beats than just about anyone.

NEWS ROUNDUP: The End Of The iPod, Required Listening & More


  • Read This: The 150 Greatest Albums Made By Women 

    The list was compiled by various writers on NPR. The outlet calls it “an intervention, a remedy, a correction of the historical record and hopefully the start of a new conversation… it rethinks popular music to put women at the center.” Starting with The Roches’ self titled debut and ending with Joni Mitchell’s Blue, the list provides a nearly endless amount of music. Get started here.

  • Apple Is Getting Rid Of The iPod

    Do you remember your first MP3 player, that magical square that gave you instant access to hundreds of your favorite songs and meant that you no longer had to lug around a skipping CD player? They may not be around much longer. Apple has reported that the company will no longer sell the iPod Nano or iPod Shuffle, which were its last devices that could be used solely for playing music. Demand for apps, the rise of streaming rather than owning music, and those weird new headphones are the likely reasons. 

  • Brooklyn’s Rock Shop Is Closing

    After they replaced their live music events with a foosball table, Park Slope’s Rock Shop didn’t really live up to its name anymore. The owners have now announced that the bar will be closing permanently at the end of July, due to the  high expenses of rent and property taxes in the area.

  • Other Highlights

    Listen to a NIN cover of David Bowie’s “I Can’t Give Everything Away,” a heartwarming story about a historical punk couple, Rick Ross’s blatantly sexist statements about female rappers, Charlie XCX’s latest video has A LOT of “Boys,” watch Kesha’s video for “Learn To Let Go,” listen to a new Alvvays track, and watching Billy Joel lose it in Moscow in 1987 is oddly stress-relieving.

A Female-Fronted Future: Thoughts on SXSW 2017

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Snail Mail at SXSW 2017. Photo by Lindsey Rhoades

I didn’t even have to break out my “The Future is Female” t-shirt to sound the alarm; at South by Southwest last week, the message was loud and clear. In a whirlwind five days, I saw dozens of acts – mostly emerging or signed to small labels – and only three of those bands did not have women on stage. I didn’t even have to try to make this happen. I made, as I always do, a must-see list, hoping to catch some new-to-me projects at showcases along the way, and in both cases, the most compelling artists at this year’s SXSW were women.

Now, it’s 2017 and women playing music shouldn’t inspire an epiphany. It’s a wonder then, that at this year’s Coachella, only 25 percent of the performers are women or prominently feature a female player. After facing criticism for gender-biased exclusion in years past, GoldenVoice (the company that books Coachella and its NYC sister fest, Panorama) killed two diversity birds with one stone by booking Beyoncé, the fest’s first black female headliner (and its first female headliner in ten years – Björk was last to hold that honor, in 2007). When Bey dropped off the bill shortly after announcing her pregnancy with twins, Lady Gaga was named as a replacement. This year’s Governors Ball doesn’t fare much better, with all-male groups, male DJs, and male rappers outnumbering women performers and groups that have, say, one woman in a band of five (like the Strumbellas or The Head and the Heart) by a shocking margin of ten to one. Lorde is closest to a headlining spot (followed by Beach House and Phantogram, both male-female duos) but she only gets second billing Friday night. Most of the women are relegated to earlier daytime slots, which begs the question – why can’t more of these slots be filled with ladies?

SXSW is pretty different than either of the above-mentioned fests. It’s really just a series of shows held in venues all over Austin, and SXSW-goers can certainly pick and choose what they want to see from a much wider array of artists. But music industry honchos – reps from labels, booking and PR agencies, and, of course, journalists – make up the bulk of the crowds. This year’s buzzy performances could populate the stages of tomorrow’s blockbuster festivals, even if they don’t yet have a big enough draw. That’s what’s exciting about the chaos. It provides a peek at who’s flying under the radar but poised to reach greater heights.

And this year, women ruled. Likely the biggest name of the bunch, the line to see Solange’s headlining slot at the dazzling YouTube house showcase wrapped around the block. Lizzo and Noname, two lady rappers with critically acclaimed albums out last year, routinely packed shows all week, and bring an energy to the stage that could easily translate to large festivals. Sylvan Esso, a male-female duo who toured festival circuits a few years ago on the strength of their 2014 debut, were on hand at SXSW to play new material to dense crowds as well. Any of these acts could’ve easily populated lineups this year.

Meanwhile, there are more than a few names that are likely to crop up when it comes time to book Coachella and Gov Ball for 2018. Hurray for the Riff Raff’s alt-country, pro-immigrant vibes won tons of hearts. Melina Duterte’s solo project, Jay Som, has evolved into an arresting full-band indie rock onslaught with the release of her excellent LP Everybody Works, which came out the week before SXSW. Her former tourmate Michelle Zauner, who founded Japanese Breakfast, played some gorgeously shoegazey sets (during the one I saw, she did an excellent cover of The Cranberries classic “Dreams”), and will get a big signal boost opening for a run of Slowdive’s upcoming North American performances. She’s not to be confused with The Japanese House, an electronic trio from England led by Amber Bain who may just be heirs to the xx throne. Similarly, Sneaks, Tei Shi, and Anna Meredith all brought unique blends of unclassifiable, off-kilter pop to SXSW’s many showcases.

There were a whole bevvy of astounding punk, grunge and garage acts, too. Speedy Ortiz’s Sadie Dupuis brought her Sad13 solo project up to full-band speed with killer all-woman backup. Baltimore babies Snail Mail delivered vintage teen angst, former Swearin’ singer Allison Crutchfield and her new ensemble the Fizz, New Paltz newbies Diet Cig made a ruckus with little more than a drum kit and guitar, Cherry Glazerr veered into delirious heavy metal, and at the She Shreds showcase, Jillian Medford of Ian Sweet triumphantly announced she’d gotten her period before a raucous set – no one batted an eye. Meanwhile, Pill, Downtown Boys, and Priests, three of the most important acts currently touring, didn’t shy away from political messages and protests, either in their songs or in between them. It’s easy to imagine any one of these rockers tearing up an afternoon stage at Governors Ball, once bookers get the hint.

By contrast, of those three man-bands (which sounds as ridiculous as it should when someone refers to bands featuring women as “girl bands”) I saw, two of them bored me to tears: Floridian punks Merchandise haven’t managed to really grab my attention the way they did with thir 2012 EP Children of Desire, even though I still keep giving them a shot. And Spiral Stairs, the revived indie rock project of Pavement’s Scott Kannberg, felt like a slog rather than a celebration of their upcoming record Doris and the Daggers, their first in nine years. I would’ve rather seen a band that was actually called Doris and the Daggers, because they probably would’ve played with much more conviction. I won’t keep my fingers crossed that they’ll get a headlining slot on a big fest any time soon, but there are plenty of real, live, female-fronted bands that certainly deserve a shot, and if this year’s South by Southwest is any indication, their day could be coming soon.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

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.

TRACK OF THE WEEK: Bleached “Can You Deal?”

Jennifer Clavin has a stern message for rock critics, and it comes in the form of the latest single from her band Bleached, “Can You Deal?” It’s the title track from a forthcoming four-song EP (which will be out on Dead Oceans March 3rd), and it was inspired by Clavin’s frustration with a music community more focused on her gender than on the content of her records. Last year, Bleached released their sophomore album, Welcome The Worms, and it dealt with some pretty heavy topics – abusive relationships, drug and alcohol addiction, searching for a sense of self – and pound for pound, each scorching guitar riff matched those issues with raucous gravitas. The production dwarfed the lo-fi sound of their debut record, 2013’s Ride Your Heart. But Clavin says that relatively few music writers wanted to delve into any of that; instead, one question kept coming up in interviews: the dreaded, reductive, “What’s it like to be a girl in band?”

It’s a tricky question, one that assumes male-ness as the default; no one would ask a male musician what it’s like to be a guy in a band. If the question is rephrased to exclude gender markers, it becomes, simply, “What’s it like to be a person in a band?” which reveals how acutely lazy the sentiment behind the question is. A woman cannot compare her experience as a woman in a band to this supposed “default” because she exists as a woman even when she’s not playing music. There are lots of musicians, Bleached included, who sing about personal experiences in their work, and while the best confessional songwriting taps into something relatable and universal, it’s still rooted in something specific. There is no universal experience that all women share based on their gender, but “Can You Deal?” points out how frequently folks seem to forget that.

More often than not, women are asked this question as a means of provoking some kind of feminist declaration. That can feel like a trap for a band or musician that doesn’t focus on politics in their work, especially since men are never asked to take a similar stance. It’s obvious that there’s still gender bias in the music industry – from festival line-ups that favor male acts, to rude sound guys who dismiss female players’ ability and know-how, to ads for gear featuring scantily clad models – and for some musicians, that’s certainly worth discussing. But asking a woman to re-live whatever gender-based affronts she’s experienced (which are, arguably, part of a larger system of patriarchal culture) doesn’t combat the issue in any real way, especially when it comes at the expense of ignoring the actual art that she’s making, the influences behind it, or what she hopes to achieve with it.

In the interest of putting this very tired question to bed once and for all, Clavin compiled essays, visual art, poetry, and lyrics from dozens of women in the industry. The resulting zine is also called “Can You Deal?” and features work from her bandmates, as well as Lizzo, Tegan Quin, Patty Schemel, Jane Weidlin, Liz Phair, Sadie Dupuis, Alice Glass, EMA, Julien Baker, Mish Way, Hayley Williams and more; it’s out the same day as the EP and all proceeds go to Planned Parenthood. Bleached will be touring to promote both throughout April, and hopefully this time around, Clavin will get to spend more time professing her love for Black Sabbath than railing against stereotypes.

Listen to “Can You Deal?” below and pre-order the LP here.

TRACK PREMIERE: Sara Curtin “Careless”

Sara Curtin
Sara Curtin, one half of the DC folk-pop duo The Sweater Set just released the single “Careless” from her forthcoming sophomore solo album Michigan Lilium, and AudioFemme is pleased to premiere it. Strummed like the folk star she is, the song both sounds pretty yet carries some seriously emotionally intelligent lyrics (“Boy I’m troubled, I should know). It’s smart yet delicious, like a kale smoothie as yummy as a milkshake. Listen to “Careless” below.


PINS band photo

In an age where genres seem to only exist as a conduit for music journalists to flex their encyclopedic knowledge of rare stratified sub-genres or inventing hollow multi-hyphenated descriptors: PINS is a breath of fresh air. The red-hot Manchester quartet are putting out straightforward punk with refreshing pop sensibilities, and doing it all with that effortlessly cool flair that made rock ‘n’ roll sexy to begin with. They’re touring the States now and are set to release their sophomore album Wild Nights June 9th (on Bella Union). While out on the road Faith Holgate (vox/ guitar) and Lois McDonald (guitar) took the time to answer a couple burning questions about the band, their style, and what music gets their gears turning.

AudioFemme: First an easy one – what’s the origin story behind PINS?

Faith: I wanted to do music my whole life! I tried to join a bunch of different bands, but nothing felt good and I’d end up quitting after two practices. So I decided to make my own band. It took around a year to have a stable line up, but it was a lot of fun. We had a small rehearsal space in Manchester where we would meet up, drink beer, and play music all night.

AF: What are some of your major musical influences?

Faith: My go-to bands are Suicide, Velvet Underground, Spacemen 3, the Fall, Modern Lovers, and the Brian Jonestown Massacre. But I go out to see live music all the time and constantly feel inspired. For instance we toured with Drenge and I was like we totally need a baritone guitar, or when we saw Sunflower Bean and we were like we need to do some psych bass!

Lois: I think the Beatles at the moment, there’s so much music they made and so many different techniques they used it’s amazing. But influences for me change day to day with my mood. I try to listen and soak up as much as possible. There’s the garage girls from the 60’s which are collectively like an anonymous enigma of attitude, but most recently I’ve been listening to Wire, The Fall, Drenge, Girlpool, Timber Timbre and Deap Vally.

AF: What’s touring with four girls like?

Faith: For the most part it’s like a hen party.

AF: On a more serious note, being a “girl-gang” group do you feel a sense of responsibility to be visible and vocal for young female, and otherwise, musicians out there?

Faith: Yeah, myself and Lois run Haus Of Pins, which is a cassette label, and although it’s not exclusive to women at all we do like to champion girls. Our shows are often girl-heavy too, again, we don’t exclusively ask female acts to open for us, but it’s something we are aware of.

AF: How’s the music scene in Manchester?

Faith: It still needs the ladies to join the party! The local scene is very male heavy. New bands to listen to are Peace and Love Barbershop Muhammad Ali, whom I recently played keys for, and Black Lung, they seem to be conjuring up something exciting.

Lois: There’s lots of different scenes happening here, and it’s nice to be near so many other cities that are thriving creatively too. Bands from here I’m into are Kyogen, Bernard and Edith, and Bad Grammar.

AF: What’s your favorite city to play?

Faith: Paris!

Lois: That’s a tricky one, we did two very different shows in two days recently in Berlin and both were amazing, but I’ll always love playing Manchester.

AF: You guys are constantly being praised for your slick fashion sense, how does fashion fold into your music?

Faith: The aesthetics of our band has always been important to us, from the way we make the stage look to the videos we make, to the covers of our records and the clothes we wear. I suppose image is both a reflection of who we are and another extension of our personalities. However trivial putting makeup on and getting dressed for a show could seem, for us it has become a ritual, it’s a uniform that visually unites us.

AF: What were some of the driving forces behind soon to be released LP Wild Nights?

Faith: Dave Catching and Hayden Scott were great driving forces. They showed us how to enjoy recording. Most of it was done live and then we played around adding textures, it was so much fun.

Lois: The album is sort of summed up by the title, going with the moment and enjoying every minute whilst you can.

AF: What’s everyone’s current favorite jam?

Faith: I’ve got Crocodiles Boys album on repeat.

Lois: Probably the entire of Drenge’s album Drenge. I love “Let’s Pretend” and “Fuckabout” live.

AF: What comes next for you ladies?

Faith: We’re touring the US in June, then playing some festivals in Europe and doing a headline tour in the UK and Europe later in the year. Still writing music and working on different projects.

AF: And last, but not least, if the band had a theme song what would it be?

Faith: Cyndi Lauper – “Girls Just Want To Have Fun”.

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VIDEO REVIEW: The Jane Doze “Lights Go Down”

The Jane Doze

When music’s spun by women, it just sounds better. The Jane Doze is not one, but two beautiful – and more importantly, stupidly talented DJs. The duo has shared the stage with legends such as Calvin Harris and Diplo, although we think the real stunners here are Jane Doze. These heart-breakers also have a heart of gold, their new video for “Lights Go Down (feat. Curtains)” shares the story of their fan and friend Kirby who was diagnosed with cancer. After connecting with her through Twitter the two traveled to meet her in her hometown of Houston, Texas. Thankfully they were also able to recently celebrate her cancer remission.

Watch the video for “Lights Go Down” below. It will not only get you dancing, but give you the warm fuzzies. A portion of the song’s proceeds will be donated to First Descents, an organization that provides outdoor adventures for young adults affected by cancer. Cheers to hope and healing through music and nature.

TRACK PREMIERE: Led to Sea “Breathe Some”

Alex Guy

Elevate your Friday with the premiere of Led to Sea’s new track “Breathe Some.” It’s the first song from the upcoming album, The Beautiful Humming of Ms. Fortune, set to drop May 5. Led to Sea is the solo project from the Seattle-based violinist, violist and singer Alex Guy. In a sea of recycled pop production grey seagulls, Guy soars like a dove. Her sound merges her classical sensibilities into an experimental package with a pretty pop bow. Some of that shining production quality is likely due the engineering and co-producer role of notable Jherek Bischoff (David Byrne, Amanda Palmer, etc) who Guy worked with over the past two years creating the project.

Us femmes always enjoy anything that expands our music education while pleasing the senses – and “Breathe Some” does exactly that. Cheers, Alex Guy. We must add we get a kick out of imagining how many fans will be surprised to learn you’re a classically trained woman with striking eyes, rather than another bloke, with a name like Alex Guy.

Listen to “Breathe Some” below:

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