After doing what I often do – talking about music with anyone who will listen – this time at a feminist group, I was offered the opportunity to write an article about feminist bands. I have had to cut this list down repeatedly for length, and a lot of good bands got cut, but below are some of my favourites. The final choices are based on combination of factors: The bands having intersectional feminist principles, strong female role models (still not common enough in mainstream rock, indie and punk music) and/or strong role models of various gender identities including those who may not identify as male or female. A lot of these are also bands that I feel not enough people I try to talk to about them have heard of yet.
Songs that will make you fall in love with them: It All Means Nothing, Hopeless, Boyfriend (Live), Doom 84, I don’t Mind It, Boss, Because the Night (cover with Garbage)
Starting with one of my favourite bands of all time. At uni I came across a cover version of ‘Because the Night’, a song I love, covered by Garbage and some other band I hadn’t heard of before. I started the song – Garbage opened with the lead and it was sounding pretty good. Then suddenly, this powerful voice and guitar effortlessly and instantly pushed everything else aside. Marissa Paternoster became my new hero.
Love guitar solos? Mix that with a garage punk rock sort of sound, and you get Screaming Females. I’m a sucker for guitar solos and would say that Marissa is one of the greatest lead guitarists to grace the rock scene in years. She has all the skills but none of the clichéd pretension. Not forgetting the rest of the band though: My melodic bass hero King Mike (I play bass, but I wish I played bass like Mike) and the awesome Jarrett Dougherty on the drums. The further you go in their back catalogue, the wilder the music gets (‘Boyfriend’ being a great example – the live version is best, watch the video online – it’s basically the gig you wish you could’ve been at), whilst the newer stuff is a little more polished but still has the confidence and power, just a slightly more focused, cleaner sounding power. The most recent record, ‘Rose Mountain’, is an album without a single bad track and which I refuse to stop recommending to everyone because it’s awesome.
Songs that will make you fall in love with them: Dana Katherine Scully, Crimson Wave, FDP, Horse Grrls, Men Explain Things to Me
An unapologetically feminist band with a bouncy, poppy, punky sort of sound, mixed with rock n’ roll and surf elements and great sense of fun. Check out their music videos, especially ‘Dana Katherine Scully’, a great song and video about how fantastic Dana Scully from X-Files is. They also write fun songs about periods (a feminist cliché but who cares). From the surf themed ‘Crimson Wave’ to the more confrontational ‘FDP’ (First Day of Period) with its battle cry of “FDP, don’t fuck with me!”, both songs are fun and can at least bring a little joy to ease the worst PMS. Topics also range from the overtly feminist ‘Men Explain Things to Me’, to the chronicling of those girls that maybe loved horses a little too much as kids, with the primary school nostalgia and energy of kids full of sugar funnelled into the song that is ‘Horse Grrls’, where you’ll find yourself singing along to its bizarre, yet fantastically rhymed, “Horse girls / Horse girls / They live in a different world / They know the different breeds / Of all their favourite steeds!” They’re also great live, and have an awesome aesthetic. They’re brightly coloured, often sparkly, have great clothes and instantly form a strong relationship with the crowd, building up a cosy party atmosphere where everybody wants to dance – even if they’re experiencing the effects of FDP at the time.
Songs that will make you fall in love with them: Most Space, Cruel Optimist, Plans, Chasing, Good Luck, Yes All Cops, They/Them/Theirs
Worriers make energetic, melodic punk music. The band hails from Brooklyn, with music based around the songwriting of band lead Lauren Denitzio, and the rest of the band, consisting of Mikey Erg, Rachel Rubino, Audrey Zee Whitesides, John McLean, Lou Hanman, and Nick Psillas, among other contributors. Their most recent album, ‘Imaginary Life’, is produced by Laura Jane Grace from Against Me and is a solid record, with rolling guitar melodies and lyrics like “What doesn’t kill you just makes you a mess / But no one ever wants to tell you that” (‘Cruel Optimist’). It’s pessimistic but it feels genuine, and it rings true to me. ‘Imaginary Life’ is great end-to-end and mixes prescient political social commentary based songs with classic relationship and break-up songs – often with an amusingly snarky take. They have a whole song (‘Most Space’) ostensibly about manspreading on public transport, but overall about people with power (let’s face it, usually men) dominating public or shared spaces. They also have a song about personal pronouns and rejecting society’s gender constructs (‘They/Them/Theirs’), and how we don’t need to force labels on everyone. “You are fighting between a rock and why bother / We are floating between two ends that don’t matter”, emphasizing the question: Why do people need to care so much about how people identify their gender, when it’s nobody’s choice but each person’s own?
Songs that will make you fall in love with them: Monstro, Tall Boys, Somos Chulas (No Somos Pendejas)
Ever been to a gig where all the tall guys are standing around the back and sides of the room from start to finish? Where you can actually see the band and the stage clearly? When a band writes a song like ‘Tall Boys’, with lyrics like: “Fuck you tall boys!” and “Get to the back! / To the back!”, it generally convinces people to think about others in the room. The song says something about acknowledging your privilege and sharing, in a very basic illustrative way, that can be applied to a number of other scenarios. The song wasn’t actually played at the gig I was at, but its effect was still felt. Seeing as one song had an effect like that on a crowd, you can only hope that people leave the gig with the band’s other messages too.
The band’s signature song, ‘Monstro’ first smashed its way into my attention. The saxophones, the guitars, and Victoria Ruiz’s voice instantly demanded I notice them in a mixture of English and Spanish, with her proclamation of “She’s brown! / She’s smart!” It was one of the most genuinely punk songs that I’d heard in ages, and at a time where our society needs this sort of music most, both here in the UK and in the USA – where the band is from. This is a band that has messages that they want to share, and you know that they have genuine passion and belief in what they say. They make you want to go out and find the nearest protest march, to find the cause and actually weigh in and do something about some of the injustices that are currently threatening to grow in the world.
This is what music is about, and this is why more people need to stand up and take notice of the great feminist bands about at the moment.
–Emma Ripley is a bass guitar playing, music obsessed, comic book, martial arts, theatre and pop-culture nerd.