underground since'89

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

jigsaw talks to stillsuit

listen to stillsuit here

JIGSAW: Describe the feminist punk scene in 2013.

Jaime: There is no "sound" or social clique that umbrellas the scene. It is more a "movement" (for lack of better word) of people and bands who are working towards at the very least events that feel comfortable and inclusive to everyone and at the most a world that feels inclusive to everyone. Death Drive, May B Knot, Centre, Best Friend/Girl Friend, Wizard Apprentice are only a few. All of these projects sound totally different from each other but everyone in them is completely inspiring and working on really cool shit outside of music as well.

Vanessa: (it's hard for me to answer this one because i've been a real curmudgeon about shows lately, hate everything) but there seems to be a resurgence of queer/feminist/ conscious of the fucked up world punk in the bay area in the past year or so. some bands are sbsm, believe, may b knot, crabapple, no babies, death drive.. an interesting thing is that while bands might have similar politics, they all sound totally different- from electronic or dancey stuff to stuff to variations on punk stuff. permanent ruin and replica are good hardcore bands that are happening here, alabaster choad is a great band that doesn't exist anymore.

JIGSAW: Who are your favorite bands to play with?

J: We just finished a month-long tour with Death Drive and Velvet Chains, which is the solo project of Ryan from Death Drive. Those are my favorite bands to play with. Not only is Death Drive a really fucking good band, they are amazing people and we were incredibly fortunate to get to spend so much time with them. I got home from tour feeling refreshed and excited as opposed to drained and grouchy, I credit Marissa and Vanessa and the Death Drive crew for that outcome.

Marissa: I kind of like playing shows with shredder dude type bands because I always think of it as this really cool challenge. Last years tour it felt like we were playing a lot of shows with dudes with guitars doing things that were maybe technically challenging but altogether boring. I definitely spent a lot of time watching these bands and just waiting to annihilate them. It happens a lot where we’ll get the cold shoulder until after we play. I honestly see myself as a relatively inept guitar player but I also view this as a large aspect of my style of playing. My style is messy chaos, it’s ripping off slash but not trying to copy him. I also like playing shows with hardcore bands. We played a show in St. Louis with a band of teenage girls that had a definite Flying Lizards vibe to it which was really cool, they’re called Willis. In Philadelphia we played with this absolutely mind blowing band called swarm. They had two drummers, a bassist, and a singer and then three dancers that were also singing for the whole time in like a chorus type way. It was interesting I realized that we only played legit establishments like 3 times out of a month long tour, everything was mostly basements.

V: Playing with death drive was really great. being on tour with them kinda made me feel excited about music in a way i hadn't in a while. i feel like i hadn't danced so much to a band in a long time. i like shows in small places put on by nice nerds. minneapolis was also a great show, we played at a friends' house and all the bands were really good, there's a really good band from there called tips for twat- we played with them last year and they were my new favorite band. also gula gila, from chicago are really awesome. i like house shows with easy load in situations the best really.

JIGSAW: What are your songs about?

M: Vanessa and I write lyrics pretty separately, occasionally we’ll fill each other in on what we are singing about or even write like a chorus that we both sing. I tend to write stuff about mental illness, feminist identity politics and critiques of the world around me and how I’m treated as a woman in the world. My lyrics on 5656 are based on an essay by Jo Freeman pertaining to feminist trashing. There's really only four lines “deny reality/infect but don’t admit/do I still exist?/am I in my head?" The first two lines are mainly about passive aggressive exclusion of someone in order to make them go away, the last two lines are referring to a part of the essay where Freeman talks about during being trashed, essentially being passively aggressively blacklisted, she began to believe she was a figment of her own imagination. There is another song 9 that I really like the lyrics of and the origins of the lyrics – I was really really upset by the death of Whitney Houston which was weird because I never really considered myself a fan or anything but when she died I cried for days and as was just so upset. As with anytime when it seems like the whole world is upset about something people come out of the woodwork saying what about the starving children or the victims of war and whatever other world atrocity you can think of and why aren’t you upset about that? This implies that it is somehow not possible to be upset over the death of a celebrity while also being upset about any other injustice in the world. It’s ridiculous. Not to mention I find it pretty fucked up to be lectured on what is and is not appropriate to be mourned. So on that song some of my lyrics are “which atrocity is worth it? which atrocity deserves it? who am I to decide?” which is pretty self explanatory

JIGSAW: Is playing in a band a viable political action?

M: As a band we have definitely talked about being blatantly political. I think a lot of the time we end up preaching to the choir in a lot of ways which is fine. It’s interesting because we’re not doing anything that I kind of default to when I think of being political, we’re not really lecturing crowds or handing out pamphlets or anything, but it’s real that we play music that is pretty traditionally gendered as male and that is a political act in and of itself. That idea also applies to things like playing at girls rock camp and picking specific songs to demonstrate specific ideas, like for that we made a point of playing a song that heavily features a guitar solo –or how we end up playing a good amount of shows where we are the only performers who aren't cis-men. I also consider it political that we put out our own record sans crowd sourcing and we make a point of having free access to everything we've put out. I think all of these things are import at the same time I don’t know if we are necessarily effecting change.

V: i think culture is still a really good place to struggle, if for nothing else than being a performer, being a decent person, demystifying the idea of playing music playing in a band. i want to show that we're just totally regular nedrs who just figured out how to make music in our own way, and that that is something anyone can do.

JIGSAW: Does Girls Rock Camp reinforce the gender binary? If yes, what way do you see around that limitation?

J: Retrospect is 20/20, I think that given hindsight the founders of girls rock camp would have named it otherwise. i don't have experience working with any other rock camps, but have been very involved with bay area girls rock camp for over 5 years and i think that "girls" and "rock" wouldn't likely be included in the name of that organization given a chance to do it all over. again, i only have experience with bagrc, and can't speak for every rock camp out there, but i don;t think rock camp reinforces the gender binary in that it is open to and serves not only girls but also gender non-conforming youth. the body of volunteers in mentorship roles represents a huge spectrum of gender identities as well. there is a constant and on-going discussion around gender during programs; we talk a ton about gender expression, respect campers' pronoun preferences, and witness a lot of gender exploration under the rock camp roof. the bummer thing about the name is that gender non-conforming youth potentially face having to out themselves or be read as a gender they don't identify as as to the "rock" question, very few of the songs turn out sounding anything like traditional "rock" music. yes, the instruments involved make up the stereotypical rock band (with the exception of turntables, which rock camp has offered in the past), but most of the campers have no background in western music theory or experience playing on their own or with others. some songs definitely have a "rock" vibe, but most songs are more on the punk or experimental tip. right now there is a really good R&B band that formed during a 2012 summer session. they are called True Religion, keep your ears to the ground for them.

M: At this point I feel like it just happens to be called girls rock camp – there's options beyond just the traditional rock instruments and while there is the big element of forming a band I don’t think its like meant to be a breeding ground to produce more women playing rock, its more about self-esteem and a way to express yourself and something that you can do with your body beyond sex and childbirth. I think of it as being similar to sports in this sense. Forming bands is more of an exercise in learning how to collaborate and work with others the rock is just a means to an end. When I was working on ladyfest 2005 I remember one of the other planners at some point said something along the lines of “I don’t necessarily identify with being a woman but I do identify with oppression.” And that really struck me –recently some people organized a ladyfest here in the bay area and while it definitely wasn’t sticking to gender binary in content it still had this name that seemed outdated. Also queer rock camp in olympia is specifically moving beyond this boundary


Erika said...

"Retrospect is 20/20, I think that given hindsight the founders of girls rock camp would have named it otherwise."

I am going to disagree. First: Rock & Roll Camp for Girls was formed in Portland, Oregon 2000 by a single individual, Misty McElroy. I know that there were MANY who contributed, and many many more who picked up the torch - but originally, it was her vision.

Misty was deeply hurt by the coup that disposed her 2005, and I was too - seeing how it affected her - so I doubt she talks much about the camp anymore. But I have a hard time agreeing she'd name the camp differently should she do it over. Rock was not seen as a throwback genre back then, and it wasn't narrowly defined, either.

Regarding the gender binary - when I volunteered at R&R Camp For Girls in Portland (2004, 2005) I recall there were several transgender volunteers. It seemed - at least then - not rigid about those things at all. At that time there was also an effort made to include girls with disabilities, and low-income families (which is why my daughter was able to attend - and for that I am grateful).

I realize that ROCK is now seen as unfashionable - and I also realize that there is this idea that girls should prefer not to rock, because rock is seen as anti-feminist? or something. But this galls me. I love rock music. Always have. (of course, I am "old".) My now 17 year old daughter likes rock (though most of her white friends like indie-pop and her non-white friends like hip hop).

Today I was told by Carla Black of MEOWonline that Misty originally conceived of the camp after attending Carla's ROCKRGRL conference. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ROCKRGRL - Carla also mentioned to me in passing that she (Carla) had caught a lot of flack for using the terms "rock" and "girl." (As you can imagine, the name "MEOW" also is not without controversy.)

No matter what we call something, it seems like someone will feel excluded. So maybe in addition to thinking about how we USE words, we should also be open to redefining old words to make them more inclusive - you know - make the words mean what we need them to mean. So we can all feel well enough to keep moving ahead. Otherwise we'll go in circles on this stuff forever and miss the big picture.

Like, how do we treat each other?

Erika said...

Tobi, I didn't necessarily expect you to publish my first (poorly-worded) comment. And I didn't realize, until after I wrote, how much hurt there is behind it.

I still wonder: why can't we openly discuss what happened to the founder of Rock n' Roll Camp for Girls?

Does pretending something never happened mean that it never happened? Or do things still affect us even when we don't speak of them?