underground since'89

send vinyl, tapes and zines for review to:

tobi vail P.O. Box 2572 Olympia, WA 98507 USA

email mp3's, links, photos and flyers to:


Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Few Questions For My Readers

I get these interviews in the mail a lot that are difficult to complete as I often don't know the answers to the questions. Or if I do have something to say, it seems that the writer is looking for specific kinds of answers. So I have been sent some questions for a magazine article and the writer sent this comment as a preface to the interview:

"Essentially, I want to see if there's any sort of potential for a fourth wave of feminism movement, or possible resurgence of riotgrrrl. I also wanted to know what female musicians or even males out there you see are using their music as outlet for change."

Here are the questions:

1. How do you think women in rock music are generally viewed?

2. Do you think that there is any hope for a possible resurgence of riotgrrrl or fourth wave of feminism?

3. What bands do you know are politically/social active? How do you feel about these bands?

4. How do you think women in rock music are generally viewed?

5. Do you think there are misconceptions about females in punk/rock music? If so, what are do you think they are?

Please feel free to send in some answers...I have written to her asking for clarification. In the meantime, I'm interested in knowing what people have to say about question #3 in particular.


Tobi Vail said...

ok so no one wants to do my home work for me...i really am having a hard time. so i'll post here where i sent her and see if anyone has anything to add

Tobi Vail said...

her questions now have explanations.

1. How do you think women in rock music are generally viewed?
(By this I mean how do you see people respond to women in rock? What do people say about women in rock music? Take your bands for examples. I'm sure there was press on what people thought of you and your female band mates playing rock music. What reactions have you/do you currently see today? For instance, people generally say that females don't rock as good as men. Or women in rock are lesbians. Or anything positive to.)

do you think 'rock' exists in 2009? 'women in rock' seems to be something from 15-20 years ago...

let's see, there's still some of those women around--toody from dead moon is now playing in pierced arrows. joan jett still tours...kim gordon is still around...i'm sure there must be more, but most of the groups broke up--L-7, the Lunachicks, the Breeders, the Go-Go's, the Bangles, the Pandoras, Babes in Toyland, Shonen Knife, Rock Goddess, Girlschool, etc..are all gone for the most part at least. Kittie (sp) was sort of the last one...them and the Donna's. The Donna's are still around, not sure what the attitdue towards them was...I think there is some respect for women who are still around that are considered pioneers or ground breaking. Even Yoko Ono has sort of gotten a good rep now...Chrissie Hynde still makes music I guess....Moe Tucker seems to have a following to some degree. Patti Smith had a big resurgence in the late 90's. So some people who were more obscure or just had a few hits seem to have managed to stick around and found an audience.

Bon from Girl Trouble was a big local inspiration to me and they just celebrated their 25th year...so there seems to be a place for people who stick around.

What's interesting to me--as soon as women-in-rock was starting to be more common, rock was declared dead by critics and then splintered off into fragments--electro, indie, avant garde, experimental, noise, post-punk, drum and bass etc etc

So rock doesn't seem to really exist anymore...if it does, I'm not too aware of it.

Bikini Kill was a punk group, following the example of women in punk like Kira from Black Flag, Alice Bag from the Bags, Exene from X, Poly Styrene and Lora Logic from the X Ray Spex, Gaye Advert from the Adverts, Lorna Doom from the Germs, the Slits, the Raincoats...really this was so long ago that it's hard to put myself in that mind set or generalize about it. Hardcore was very male-dominated but there were always women playing music in that scene and we took a lot of inspiration from the original punk scene. we were also inspired by post-punk groups like kleenex and the delta 5, before very many people knew who those bands were, as well as by teenage jesus and the jerks and lesser known local bands

if you'd like to read something I wrote back then on yoko ono, here is a link:


Mecca Normal might have been our biggest influence and they are currently celebrating their 25th anniversary with a tour.

basically we were trying to change the world by encouraging women to join bands. we weren't trying to have a successful career in rock...we were politicizing culture...we saw that if girls were in punk groups, that would be a position of power to intervene in the cultural construction of gender according to patriarchal norms...it would give girls a platform from which to comment on patriarchy, it would also provide them an opportunity to change it

Tobi Vail said...

2. Do you think that there is any hope for a possible resurgence of riotgrrrl or fourth wave of feminism?
(I guess we can take this into two parts. First, do you think that riot grrrl was a movement that just stood on it's own, lasted a certain period of time, then came to an end? I'm trying to see you're thought on whether you see something like riot grrrl emerging again or not, based on bands, their political stance, lyrics, etc.

Second, of course riot grrrl was considered the third wave of feminism. Do you see a fourth wave of feminism starting to emerge in anyway? What evidence can you point to?

when we started riot grrl there was no 'wave theory' of feminist history...so that is a way of looking at that history that comes from today. there has been a lot of writing about whether or not viewing feminism in waves is useful or not..i haven't really decided one way or the other....but it doesn't necessarily seem like the best way of viewing things

there are some things that seem to have a connection to riot grrl, to be a continuum...Ladyfest as you mentioned and bands such as Partyline. I also see the New Bloods and Finally Punk as being influenced and carrying on a tradition of RG to some degree

I don't know if Mika Miko or Erase Errata were influenced by RG but they are very inspiring and carry some of the same energy, working in more of a most-punk sound.

I also like White Lung from Vancouver BC, Hello Cuca from Spain and Explode Into Colors from Portland.

I don't know what the future will bring, that will be largely up to the next generation of kids....whatever youth culture they create will be what happens. The most direct connection seems to be rock camp...I would say you might find your answer there http://www.girlsrockcamp.org/

on the one hand, rock camp is awesome because it gives girls access, encouragement and the tools to create

on the other hand, it is an institution...so as far as rebellion goes, it might end up being a little watered down..not sure what that will mean as far as creativity goes

Tobi Vail said...

3. What bands do you know are politically/social active? How do you feel about these bands?
(Well, how do you define politically or socially active? I'm not looking for a specific answer. The band in the riotgrrrl movement were politically and socially active, speaking out about women's issues like rape, domestic violence, treatment, equality, or the government, etc. Some bands that come to mind for me are Partyline who talk about what it means to be a girl, ralph nader, etc, and Shiragirl who talk about global warming, terrorism, and equality. So, bands that are either an inspiring, political, social voice through their lyrics or bands/musicians that take it further and go to protests, fight for rights, etc.

mostly I am interested in the punk groups, not all them seem to be very politically active... Here's my list: the New Bloods, Carnal Knowledge, Son Skull, Surrender...I'm sure there's more

Glue is a local punk group that are good, but I don't know what their lyrics are about...they seem pretty aware.

Tobi Vail said...

oh I just thought of another good one--Black Rainbow from Oakland, CA

Tobi Vail said...

5. Do you think there are misconceptions about females in punk/rock music? If so, what are do you think they are?
I just want to see what you think...there's plenty of them. Here are a few I've heard:

- women in punk/hardcore/metal are lesbians
- women musicians have little knowledge about equipment
- women can't play their instruments as good as men
- women can't rock

no one says anything like this to me. keep in mind i've been playing in bands for 25 years and am known as an outspoken feminist. i know that people do say and think these things, but i don't let it impact me one way or the other. i've always felt that women have a right to punk...

Tobi Vail said...

p.s. my favorite 'woman in rock' these days is the girl from the magick markers tied with the girl from little claw

for indie rock, vivian girls and telepathe are great

for noise/experimental

marissa magic
sharon cheslow
us girls

i also think nadia who used to be in fierced perm is cool

nicky click and jenna riot are working in the le tigre/julie ruin tradition

--anna oxygen is pretty great

and of course beth ditto is great, but i wouldn't call the gossip 'rock'. i think they are more disco/pop these days?

recently saw white magic, featuring mira billotte on vocals/piano...not sure if they fit into a genre but they are awesome

also am a big fan of her sister christina billotte (slant 6, quix*o*tic) but don't think she's playing in a group right now

i also follow mary timony and marnie stern

i liked the last two ton boa 'duets' record that came out.

sarah utter from bangs is playing bass in a group called Western Hymn (weird name!) with Craig from Old Haunts

sara lund recently toured in a new group, while she was pregnant

reminding me to mention that I am a big MIA fan

I also like Rye Rye

Recently I've been listening to the Soul Jazz Fly Girls comp http://www.souljazzrecords.co.uk/releases/?id=14230 totally amazing that you can now get all these tracks in one place

The Sliver Party said...


The Sliver Party said...



If she's "pretty" she's too mainstream and lacking credibility.If she's not "pretty" enough she's an angry manhater.If she makes "pretty" music she can't be respected.If she makes noise and screams,how can she expect success with a witch's wail like that?Smiles a lot=corporate sellout.Serious=selfpitying hag.
Delegates resposibility=corporate puppet.Takes control=diva.Apolitical=shallow diary writer.Political=naive blinkered retreads.If she makes 3 chord punk rock=tired formulaic ripoffs of more original male groups.If she makes Prog-overly complex pretentious tuneless noise.Young=too young to be taken seriously.Less young=invisible.Apart from that, it's a level playing field.

The Sliver Party said...

2.I think riot grrrl is very much alive but genre is dead.


wish i had read this last night!

1. i think there's not much to add to what you've already said, but i've always thought that "women in rock" really just meant "women willing (if not necessarily eager) to take part in mass media circus", and since so many radical punk women weren't playing the game that way in the early 1990s... well, i'm just being super obvious, but you know what i'm saying, right? "women in rock" is wholly about magazine sales in my mind; i've never really thought that there was anything righteous about grouping all these different kinds of people together. talking about the ideas that radical artists and punks had in a major magazine (instead of a lot of interviews i see now where groups have apparently nothing to say beyond what they like to buy and what their place is in the rock-surround monolith) ... now THAT would be spectacular.


ps i know it is a typograpical error, but somewhere in the middle of all this, you describe someone as "most-punk" and i think that's the best description i've heard of music in a LONG TIME and i am going to borrow it if thats alright with you,thanks

Tobi Vail said...

woke up and realized i forgot to mention

ida from glass candy
Adult. and Tamion12 inch front people

i'm sure there's more...

holly golightly, catpower...etc

M said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
M said...

"Women in rock" is just as relevant a term as "men in rock," though we don't use the latter. We always have to talk about "women" who play in a rock band or sing, as though they are doing something so completely different, but really we're just humans playing music. People should get over ideas that women don't rock, or can't rock or play their instruments or whatever. Just be respectful.

Women have been in rock music since the 60s...Maybe 15-20 years ago we heard more about "women in rock" but females playing rock has been around for a while. The history is long, and since then women have made some great headway. There are tons of females in rock...check out this blog:

Let's create a conversation.

Also, more people probably aren't commenting because they don't have a g-mail or blogspot account.

Tobi Vail said...

hello M
well yeah. certainly there is a long history of 'women in rock', but there is also a long history of women being systematically excluded from rock...i am not questioning that history, but rather trying to reframe how we look at it. is 'rock' a useful category in 2009? what does the phrase 'women in rock' convey in this era? how does it apply (or not) to bands such as bikini kill?
what were the "quote unquote" """"Riot GRRRRL""" bands trying to do?
'we' were not careerists, we were working in a punk tradition, trying to change society...
as for whether or not that is happening today, you tell me...
the girls rock camp is a positive thing
ladyfest is positive
i look forward to the future
in the meantime, there are all these great bands nowadays...so i tried to list some of them here
forgetting so many...like AID WOLF, PRE, RTX, Azita, the Vibrarians, Mirah, The Blow, Free Kitten, Be Your Own Pet (I like the singer), Two Tears, Leslie Keffer, The Carrots, Yellow Fever...Etc Etc

whatwewantisfree said...

i hate 'rock music' i am kind of writing my column about this. rock music makes me think about going to see jesus lizard/mudhoney/nirvana type of shows before i discovered the underground and getting in the pit and always always always having some dude put his hand up my skirt/down my pants. 'rock music' seems so meaningless. who cares?

what is women in rock music? rock music like lita ford or Sheryl crow? another thesis or coffee table book spells your fate.

clawd said...

1. How do you think women in rock music are generally viewed?

generally seen as a novelty and largely focused on looks (as i see in wider society/arts)

2. Do you think that there is any hope for a possible resurgence of riotgrrrl or fourth wave of feminism?

i see feminism and riot grrrl spirited activism as a continuum, a movement is good but i think most people outside of DIY/3rd wave communities see riot grrrl as a fad (and unsuccessful as it has not revolutionised how women are seen/heard), i feel like i see many people working within these communities who have done and will do for a long time.

3. What bands do you know are politically/social active? How do you feel about these bands?
amazing spirit: drunk granny, husbands, corey orbison, humousexual, methodist centre, sceptres, lemuria,

i am incredibly sceptical about the wave of vice celebrated 'DIY' bands, i am unconvinced by the mtv begging no age, mika miko et al. then again these bands can be an introduction to DIY ideas to kids with only mainstream media in small towns etc

Tobi Vail said...

does vice even exist anymore? i haven't seen or heard about it in years--other than the tv thing. regardless i think it's a mistake to give them too much power

Maya H said...

I don't think many women in rock are respected as musicians. There's either the misconception that they don't know how to write as well as men or that they don't know how to play as well as men. There also always has been kind of a double standard in the way people view women in rock. If a woman does something "obscene" onstage at a concert then she's doing it for attention or publicity, but if a man does it then it only serves to raise his "rockstar status".