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Interview podcast

Thelma and the Sleaze on Pride, Self-Empowerment, and Keeping Local Venues Open

“Having lived through these cultural shifts in society where how you get music has changed so much, I think it’s crippling to artists that people will spend money on cryptocurrency and NFTs, but they won’t buy records… Venues and DIY shows are becoming extinct… so get the fuck out to shows and support these bands! You don’t have to like the band playing, so grab a beer and hang out with your friends outside. That these rooms even still exist is so important.”

– Lauren “LG” Gilbert, “Sounding Out with Izzy”

In the latest episode of “Sounding Out with Izzy,” Lauren “LG” Gilbert from Nashville-based queer blues rock outfit Thelma and the Sleaze stops by to discuss recording a live EP at Muscle Shoals, her band’s award-winning hometown touring documentary Kandyland, the But I’m a Cheerleader soundtrack, and the importance of keeping local venues alive under the ominous shadow of late capitalism.


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Interview Live Music

Catching Up with Bad Static at Arlene’s Grocery

In less than a year, the Brooklyn-based riot grrrl quartet Bad Static has rapidly captured the attention of the local scene with their abrasively acidic thrashers inspired by horror films and biting she-punk legends like the Runaways and the Anemic Boyfriends. In less than ten months, the band has already received thousands of streams and even won the emerging artist award from Deli Magazine.

Bad Static’s debut EP Cherry Cyanide explores the duality of the sweet and the sour with hair-raising screams and descending power chords. The name Cherry Cyanide comes from a chemical compound found in cherry pits called hydrogen cyanide, which is so poisonous that ingesting as little as 0.1 grams can kill a person.

On June 9th, Bad Static took the stage at Arlene’s Grocery on a bill with Friend, Public Circuit, and Midnite Taxi, where they packed their set with several of their hard-hitting singles, including the anti-creep anthem “Peach,” the invasive and violating “Ectoplasm Nightmares,” and covers of the Runaways’ “Cherry Bomb” and MARINA’s “Bubblegum Bitch.” Lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Nicol Maciejewska sported a white tank top, ripped fishnets, and an aqua-blue Jackson strapped across her chest with the words “ABORT THE COURT” emblazoned on it in silver lettering. Bassist Kelsie Williams and lead guitarist Mario DiSanto provided the noise factor that bolstered Maciejewska’s blood-curdling screams, and Squelch’s Amanda Fortemps filled in for Demetrio Abikkaram-Ricardo on drums.

A Grrrl’s Two Sound Cents caught up with Bad Static, along with their playwright collaborator Mo Zelle, to discuss their joint project The Cherry Pit Demos, as well as the band’s response to the overwhelming support they’ve received in such a short period of time.

You started in 2021 and have already been labeled a “buzz band to watch” by several publications. What is it like to process all that attention so soon?

Nicol Maciejewska: It was definitely surprising, especially since I’m very new to music. We didn’t even get to play any backyard shows before we went straight into playing venues.

Kelsie Williams: It’s definitely really cool that we’ve gotten such amazing feedback from the start.

Maciejewska: I was expecting a lot more people to be really mean. It just comes with the territory. People are just always so critical of music, especially in punk. People always have something shitty to complain about, whether it’s the sound of the recording or the vocals, but we haven’t really gotten much of that. We’re still waiting for it.

What made you decide to repackage “Bubblegum Bitch” as a punk song?

Maciejewska: I honestly just wanted to scream the word bitch! I’ve always liked MARINA and I wanted to sing a song that wasn’t traditionally punk. We’re used to covering “Cherry Bomb,” which is more aligned with our sound and we thought it would be fun to do something unexpected.

Williams: Even the way that we grew up in the Tumblr sphere, the people who were more alternative might have narrowly missed MARINA and gone straight into Arctic Monkeys. We often get really mixed reactions when we play that song live because the punk kids don’t really know it and the pop fans are totally bamboozled that we’ve stripped the song of its original melody, so it’s always interesting.

Nicol, I’m so used to seeing punk kids with Strats. What made you decide to go with the Jackson?

Maciejewska: It was actually a Christmas gift. I would have either gotten that or the Fender Squier, cause those are the cheapest ones. But everyone already had the Squier and I think it’s fun to stand out, even with gear. I like playing punk on a classic metal guitar. I also went with it because of the whammy bar, which I barely use, but I think it looks cool!

Are there any influences on the ‘Cherry Cyanide’ EP that people might not expect?

Maciejewska: It’s funny you say that, because a lot of people assume we were inspired by ’90s riot grrrl bands, but we were actually looking a bit further back. Our two major influences were The Runaways and Anemic Boyfriends, which is a much more niche band. I found one of their 45s at a record store called Rebel Rouser, and I became obsessed with their vintage rock vibe. A big influence on our horror-themed songs is the band Jack Off Jill as well.

Williams: We’re obsessed with horror, especially old horror. Our name is a Frankenstein reference, so it all circles back to horror.

Speaking of horror, “Ectoplasm Nightmares” is one of my favorite songs off your EP. What can you tell me about writing it?

Williams: I came up with the lyrics “exorcise my brain, perform a lobotomy,” after a breakup. I was going through the stage where it’s impossible to remove the other person from your thoughts, even when they’re not physically in your life. It feels like the only cure is to stab an ice pick through your eye and forget it all.

Mo, what inspired the two songs you wrote for the band on the Cherry Pit Demos?

Mo Zelle: I wrote a play in my senior year of college, and I interviewed 34 different drag artists across the country for research. I wanted to talk to everyone about who they were and how they wanted to perform, and it opened up my eyes up to different forms of performance art that I wasn’t exposed to before. I really started to think about the idea of queer people being on display for other people to look at, similar to the concept that George C. Wolfe explored in his play The Colored Museum. I collaborated with a variety of different artists who could really deliver the sound I envisioned for those songs. One of the songs is called “Dirty D. Ike,” which is based on an experience I had in high school where my ex-girlfriend’s mother violently dragged me by the ear and called me a “dirty fucking dyke.” It was a really traumatic experience, but I’ve reclaimed it as a namesake for myself whenever I perform. Nicol and I are very close and it was really special to see and hear Bad Static give that song the life it deserves.

What else can we look forward to from Bad Static in the near future?

Mario DiSanto: We have an album coming soon, which I’m producing. The sound is going to be very gritty and reminiscent of early punk, so stay tuned for that!


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Artist Feature

The Inflorescence Navigate Growing Pains on Debut LP ‘Remember What I Look Like’

Helmed by Tuesday Denekas (guitar/vocals), Milla Merlini (drums), Sasha A’Hearn (bass), and Charlee Berlin (guitar/vocals) San Diego indie pop quartet The Inflorescence are bringing an inimitable blend of pop punk-infused riot grrrl anthems to angsty Gen Z-ers around the world with their debut LP Remember What I Look Like, out today on the legendary pacific northwest indie label Kill Rock Stars (Bikini Kill, Sleater-Kinney, Bratmobile, Fitz of Depression). Combining the emotionally-tangled ballads of modern indie powerhouses like Mitski with the irresistibly saccharine melodies of pop punk virtuosos like Saves the Day, Remember What I Look Like weaves punchy guitar riffs with candid lyrics about navigating the harrowing psychological turbulence of being a teenager.

While most of these songs could be classified in the realm of teenage angst, they still have the ability to strike a chord with every listener, regardless of age. Being a teenager might be temporary, but what adults almost never tell you is that those feelings never actually go away; you just get better at concealing them. That’s why older millennials of the TRL generation never really stopped listening to their favorite emo deep cuts from the early-to-mid 2000s. In fact, older millennials have actually been the biggest champions of newer iterations of that sound popping up on Olivia Rodrigo records.

My personal favorite song on Remember What I Look Like is “Tomorrow Night,” because of how well Denekas’ lyrics illustrate the process of overthinking. Their brain is perpetually trapped on the hamster wheel of self-doubt and co-dependence, with lyrics like “Why can’t my brain just stop spinning/Stop pretending it’ll ever work and try to make it right/I guess I’ll find a way to fight it off tonight/But I guess I’ll try again tomorrow night.”

A Grrrl’s Two Sound Cents spoke with bandleader Tuesday Denekas over email to discuss the writing process for Remember What I Look Like, how supporting your local music scene can help uplift women and queer people, and much more!

I understand that three of you, minus Charlee, were in a previous band together before you formed the Inflorescence. How has your music evolved since reforming?

It’s almost evolved in every single way. I’m really grateful for the band I was in before because Milla and I would have never have met otherwise, and without Milla this band literally wouldn’t exist. Songwriting wise, I think it’s still evolving for us, being so young it’s nice to switch up the writing process and start thinking more deeply about what we want to express through the sound and lyrics.

You recently signed to Kill Rock Stars. How did that initially come about?

My mom had known Slim for a long time and after we finished up recording the album we thought it would be a waste to not try and send it to people. My mom sent to to Kill Rock Stars first because she said it was by far the coolest label and a label she thought would really fit us. Slim emailed back saying he loved it and the ball just kept rolling from there (aka talking about this and trying to get the paper signed for almost half a year).

As a follow up to the previous question, who are some of your favorite legendary bands affiliated with Kill Rock Stars?

Sleater-Kinney and Bikini Kill personally have a special place in my heart from my childhood. I always grew up around music and my mom always told me about riot grrrl bands growing up, so going from listening to them on the car ride to school in 5th grade to now, being on the same label as they were? It’s pretty insane and something I can’t think too hard about before I start crying, hahaha.

What would you say is the main thematic through-line on a song like “So Much of Nothing”?

“So Much Of Nothing” is about me and my relationship with depression. For me, my depression just feels like absolute emptiness and an overwhelming feeling of no emotions. There would be days of laying in my bed staring at my phone and feel absolutely nothing. Not a single feeling. It was really scary sometimes to feel so empty and that song is mostly about that. The overwhelming feeling of nothing. This was the first song I wrote after a very long time of writer’s block. I had nothing to write about because I literally felt nothing. One day I was like, “Okay, well I’ll just write a song about that!” and it finally got me out of my writer’s block.

What has songwriting taught you about yourself?

Songwriting has always been one of the most difficult but also rewarding things I do. Songwriting has been a great way for me to get out my emotions in a way that felt productive. A lot of the time I sit and do nothing about how I’m feeling because the thought of changing your situation is so overwhelming but songwriting always helped me heal whether the situation was resolved or ongoing.

What gravitated you to the melodic and guitar-heavy sound of pop punk?

I grew up on Pop Punk and throughout the years I’ve definitely stepped back from listening to the genre but bits and pieces always continue to be put in my songwriting. I’m a sucker for pop melody’s and Smashing Pumpkins guitar so I kinda just smashed it together.

What’s one record in your collection that is guaranteed to give you comfort every time you listen to it?

Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge literally means everything to me. My Chemical Romance was my whole childhood and listening to it now brings me heavy good nostalgia.

Was there any point in the process of putting this album together where you surprised yourself with how far you took something?

OMG! I love this question. Writing “Tomorrow Night” was the most difficult songwriting challenge I’ve ever had and it literally took me months to finish the lyrics for it. The first verse sat in my notes app for months before I did anything with it. When I finally sat down to finish up the chorus, the part which took the longest to write, I started just randomly singing and suddenly “Just try your hardest and stare right at me, and break my heart like you have already” came out and I had never written a line down so fast in my life. I just sat there and was like, “damn thats literally so sad, WTF??” I guess in that moment I finally realized how much “Tomorrow Night” would mean to me as a song.

I really related to the final track “Board Game.” (And I have to admit, you guys really got me with those iPhone messaging sound effects, my eyes kept darting to my phone, haha). Did it feel cathartic to write about?

“Board Game” was super fun to write! I had the idea of using the metaphor of a Board Game to describe how it felt to be used and manipulated and the entire song came out in like 10 minutes. I took a lot of inspiration from “Your Best American Girl” by Mitski, especially with the climax of the song. Board Game wasn’t originally the last song on the album but after seeing everything put together it made sense for it to be the final conclusion to “Remember What I Look Like”. Something I realized after we put it at the end of the album was that the last line is “I don’t know why, but I can’t recognize you anymore” and with the album name I think it just wraps it up very melancholy which I really like.

What advice do you have for young girls and non-binary AFAB folks looking for music by likeminded people?

GO SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SCENE AND NOT JUST THE STUPID WHITE BOY BANDS!!!!! There’s enby and woman artists everywhere, look in your local scene for it, support them, buy their shit, stream their music. There’s so many bands who are underground that deserve so much recognition for their art and it’s so easy to discover the ones near you.


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Artist Feature Music

Riot Antigone Transforms a Maligned Heroine into a Symbol of Feminist Reclamation

When writer/director Seonjae Kim originally conceived an off-off broadway play and rock concert based on the Sophocles greek tragedy Antigone, it was always the plan to make the titular character and her greek chorus into a riot grrrl band. But Kim never could have predicted how popular and in-demand the production would become within New York’s underground rock scene. 

Since premiering at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club in 2017, Riot Antigone has sold out 120-person theatres and houses six times, with several additional shows being added to accommodate demand. One of the production’s most popular musical numbers “Girl Riot,” was recently featured in a Marc Jacobs campaign.

The story of Antigone is a classic case of a maligned woman in a greek tragedy, in the same vein as Medea, Ariadne, and Clytemnestra. Antigone was the daughter of Oedipous, and she also served as her father’s guide into exile. Later she was sentenced to a public execution after she illegally buried her brother Polyneices. 

The original Greek tale by Sophocles focuses less on Antigone and more on the glorification of the story’s male “hero,” Creon, the man who orders to have Antigone executed. The fact that such a fascinating character was so easily glossed over has always unsettled Kim, and ultimately became the catalyst for the birth of Riot Antigone

Riot Antigone will be released as an album on April 8, 2022. The soundtrack consists of theatrical, headbanging thrashers with the distortion turned up to 11, punkifying Antigone and her greek chorus with a modern anarcho-feminist spirit. Each song poignantly tackles abuse, the inherent exploitation of female socialization, heartbreak, and vigilante justice, with vocal nods to riot grrrl and queercore pioneers like Bikini Kill, Sleater-Kinney, and Tribe 8. 

The most chilling cut on the record is the spoken-word monologue “Free She,” in which Antigone unleashes the full extent of her wrath against all of the failed attempts to silence her.  “You think I’m a scapegoat/You think I’m the cautionary tale/You think I’m the tragic heroine/But I am the writer,” she bellows defiantly, plowing through the rumbling militaristic percussion. As the ensemble erupts in cheers near the end, she continues: “This stage is my battlefield and my words are my bombs/If you try to take them from me, they’ll just blow you away.” 

I spoke to Riot Antigone’s writer and director Seonjae Kim about the genesis of the play, her favorite bands of all time, her experience co-directing sessions for the album, and the long-awaited return to the stage for the full cast and crew.  

How have the past five years of putting on this production evolved for you? 

After the first show we put on in 2017, all of us–the cast and crew–were really hungry for more of the community we had built around this production, so we put on more shows and started raising the money to make the album. The beginning of COVID was also the beginning of the recording process for us, so we had to take a collective hibernation as we figured out the next phases of our lives. 

Once we resumed the recording process it felt really great to return to something celebratory. This is a story about power and finding your voice. 

As a former theater kid and a dedicated punk, I felt incredibly validated by this production. When was your first riot grrrl awakening? 

Probably high school. I was a bit of a social floater that didn’t belong to one group and I was incredibly angry. I was very anti-popular culture at the time—I’m not anymore, now I unashamedly love people like Taylor Swift and Ariana—but high school was around the time I discovered riot grrrl. I was born in ‘91 and in the early-2000s riot grrrl was way past its heyday, but I really connected to the anger and the raw emotional vulnerability of that era. I really wanted to express that mentality through music and poetry. So even though I wasn’t necessarily a musician, I really connected to that sensibility. I really gravitated to the DIY ethos where you don’t have to be an expert in a certain field in order to love doing it. 

What were some of the first bands you gravitated to? 

Well I have to say Bikini Kill, cause there wouldn’t be a movement without them. I really love Hole as well—some people might get upset with me for categorizing them as riot grrrl but they are to me, and I’ve always preferred their earlier stuff to Nirvana. Sleater-Kinney, Bratmobile, and X-Ray Spex were hugely important to me as well.

I saw Midori Francis (Ocean’s 8, The Sex Lives of College Girls) perform a chilling rendition of your “Free She” monologue at an event with the Lesbian Mazer Archives. How did that come about? 

That was actually organized by Gina Young, who put together the event. We connected over social media and they were looking for riot grrrl artists and creators to feature. And obviously I said yes, because Midori’s one of my favorite actors and it was such an honor to have her perform a piece that I had written. I sadly wasn’t able to make it to that event due to an emergency, so I’m incredibly grateful that it’s been documented online. 

Out of curiosity, do you even remember writing that? This might just be the writer in me talking, but I feel like I can often tell when something is composed in such a whirlwind of passion. 

You know it’s interesting, because we had two premiere productions and that monologue was one very conscious change I made between those two shows. I realized that Antigone needed a moment after claiming her voice in “Girl Riot” where she actually uses it, so I decided to write a spoken word piece. So it was planned, but you’re partially right; I cannot for the life of me remember what was actually going through my head while I was writing that. 

You mentioned that Antigone was a character who you deeply resonated with in high school, and that you felt disappointed with the focus of the tragedy being on the male hero. When did Antigone start to pop up in your life again? 

Around when I was just starting to find my own voice as a director. I was a theater major in college and I was performing in a lot of Greek tragedies. At one point I was cast as Antigone, so before performances I would play “Rebel Girl” to get into the spirit. I was always really into the Greek classics and punk, so I decided I would combine the two. It was an evolution from being the seed of an idea to writing an original script and eventually approaching musicians to collaborate with on an original soundtrack. 

I had always written, but writing a play was pretty daunting at the time. I’ve sort of expanded to writing in television and it’s a muscle I’m still training, but it’s something that I’m really proud of. 

One of the standout tracks for me was “Actor for Hire.” What was the original concept behind that song?

That song stemmed from the pressure to play a role that society expects us to play as women. It felt very apt for a story about Antigone. I was very inspired by early Sleater-Kinney records when writing it. I liked that the metaphor was very on the nose because it really cuts to the core of how degrading the “traditional” role for women as mandated by society is. And being an actor in the industry is no less dehumanizing as it was hundreds of years ago, so I really wanted to push that metaphor as far as it could go and also give the performer a fun tongue-in-cheek range of energy to tap into. 

What I thought was really cool on many of the vocal parts were all the subtle nods to riot grrrl classics like Tribe 8 and Sleater-Kinney. It feels like all your performers really embodied the spirit of the greats. 

That’s really nice to hear. We definitely had a deep understanding of the larger diaspora of riot grrrl, and I love that you got those two references. They definitely weren’t conscious references, but they were definitely embedded in the shared vocabulary and the language of the ensemble. 

I appreciated how Mori said she treated her “lack of experience” in producing as an advantage. Would you say that sense of DIY freedom has also served as an advantage for you? 

Definitely. If there’s anything I’ve learned from my three decades on this earth, it’s that you just have to do things through trial and error. Trying and failing is way better than waiting until something feels right. I’ve never, ever regretted going after an opportunity. It’s always the stuff that I never tried or was too afraid to go after that I ended up regretting. Some fear definitely held me back for a long time, but the ethos of riot grrrl continues to inspire me to embrace the rookie spirit, because trying something new is always going to be scary. 

What was it like to be present at these studio sessions and witness the process in real time?  

That was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, to be at the helm of producing a rock album. Mori was leading a lot of these sessions behind the soundboard, and collaborating with her was incredibly easy-going and a lot of it was done in her bedroom. The drums were recorded at a studio but a lot of the vocals were tracked in Mori’s house, which was incredibly fun and very DIY. We had the time of our lives. 

Riot Antigone will be released as an album on April 8, 2022.

An upcoming live performance of Riot Antigone is scheduled to take place on April 14 at Elsewhere Zone 1 in Brooklyn, NY.

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Artist Feature Interview New Music

Being the Cowgrrrl: A Chat with Sofiiak About Their Eclectic Debut

Seattle-based punk virtuoso Sofiiak’s debut EP Cowgrrrl (the revolution demos) is slated to come out on November 26 via Riot Grrrl Records. The project is a genre-bending fever dream that spans country, jazz, dreampop, and riot grrrl. The best way I can describe sound of this EP is if Le Tigre and Dolly Parton were catapulted into the 1930s to play at a jazz lounge in Kansas City with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.

Sofia Krutikova is the brains behind Sofiiak. They grew up in the mosh pit, which opened the door for them to work at local Seattle venues as a sound engineer. There, they quickly fell in love with the intricacies of producing, which led them to enroll in KEXP’s 90.TEEN public radio program in high school. Krutikova has also made a name for themself as a journalist in The Stranger and as a co-founder of the Riot Grrrl Records label, which publishes monthly zines modernizing the riot grrrl movement.

On this EP, Sofiiak combines the searing bite of Bratmobile records with the serene tranquility of Mazzy Star and the cracked-out production glitches of hyperpop records.

I sat down with Sofiiak to chat about the EP as well as their favorite bands, their love of Rico Nasty, and the punk essence of Charlie Parker. We also talked about their obsession with the omnichord, a portable synthesizer with preset string-rhythms and bass lines that has the ability to produce otherworldly sounds.

What is the most important statement you are trying to make with this project?

That self-care is really important. It’s super easy to get burnt out in the music world and in general. I touch on this in the song “online school during covid,” but daily life can get super repetitive. Continuing to live from project to project and shift to shift is really unhealthy. It’s a really big anti-capitalist statement in favor of self-care. With the production I was really exploring pushing the boundaries of how many weird sounds I could make in Logic while sharing the invasive thoughts in my head about injustice and physical and mental burnout.

Who are three people who make up the Holy Trinity of Riot Grrrl for you?

Well Rico Nasty is up top. I love her. I think that her ethos is the most hardcore Riot Grrrl mentality I’ve ever witnessed. I would also say Bam Bam because they are grunge pioneers, and I believe that Riot Grrrl and grunge go hand-in-hand. And of course, I’m gonna have to go with the classic, Bikini Kill.

How did you cobble all of your versatile influences together for this EP?

I would say that jazz is a big influence, especially Charlie Parker and bebop jazz. I took a jazz history class during the making of this EP and the history of jazz is just insane because none of them were doing it for profit. They were playing music just for the sake of playing music. When you really think about it, the first punk bands were 100% jazz. They weren’t trying to appeal to mass audiences. They were tinkering and improvising. And I took a very similar approach in making this EP. This is music for me. If audiences like it then that’s just a bonus.

I was very inspired by Hannah Jadagu, a bedroom pop artist who signed to Sub Pop this year. I was also influenced by a lot of Russian darkwave and goth, being Russian and Ukrainian myself. There’s this one song called “Disconnexion” by La Femme. It’s a club track with a banjo, and that’s the type of chaos I’m going for. I was also highly influenced by a lot of country music, especially Dolly Parton. I’ve been loving everything that Lil Nas X and Orville Peck have been doing as well.

I’ve always been attracted to the STEM field of music. I’m an engineer at several venues in Seattle and I love being in control of live sound, so being able to utilize that background in my own music gives me the freedom to create the exact sound that I want.

– Sofiiak
Photo by Anya Kochis

How important has your background as a sound engineer and mixer been to your own music?

I think it’s super important. I’ve always been attracted to the STEM field of music. I’m an engineer at several venues in Seattle and I love being in control of live sound, so being able to utilize that background in my own music gives me the freedom to create the exact sound that I want, rather than other people dictating what I get to sound like. Producing has also been beneficial to the way I operate as an engineer because it gives me more knowledge of how to apply effects correctly, depending on the setting.

How’s that search for an omnichord going?

I’m so glad you asked, because I couldn’t stop talking about the omnichord in the latest article I wrote for The Stranger. I’m still looking for one. One of my friends has one, so I might go over to their house and jam. I believe the omnichord will arrive in my life when the universe deems it fit.

What does Dolly Parton mean to you?

I love Dolly. I was Goth Dolly Parton for Halloween. I love her aesthetic, her sound, and what she does with her platform. She’s the picture of humility. She basically funded the Maderna vaccine and it feels nice to know that my vaccine is Dolly-approved. The amount she was able to accomplish in such a male-dominated field like country music is incredibly inspiring. I would love to do a goth-inspired synth cover of “Jolene” at some point.

What influenced the vocal techniques on this EP?

A lot of it has been riot grrrl approaches to vocals. I did choir for two years when I went to Russian school, but my choir teacher was hell. A lot of my vocal style comes from trying to match pitch with the records I listen to while incorporating theory into it to make sure my voice stays in key. And I’m addicted to reverb. I love how it envelopes the vocals in a blanket of echoes. I think there’s so much you can do with vocal effects that a lot of people in mainstream music don’t utilize cause they’re afraid of sounding weird.

Daily life can get super repetitive. Continuing to live from project to project and shift to shift is really unhealthy. It’s a really big anti-capitalist statement in favor of self-care.

– Sofiiak
Photo by Anya Kochis

Your lyric on the final track about dickheads who question your music taste was really cathartic to hear. Dudes who musicsplain are the absolute worst. What drove you to write about it?

I’ve worked at record stores since I was sixteen and I’ve literally had men come up to me and ask me, “Do you even buy records?” at my literal job! Like, YES I buy records sir, I’ve been collecting since I was twelve. Whatever. If these men need to believe they’re introducing me to Nirvana in order to feel special, then that’s not my problem. It’s actually pretty sad.

Did you really break your guitar while singing Angel Olsen?

Yes! I was playing “Shut Up Kiss Me,” and I broke the whammy bar on my guitar. They couldn’t get it fixed at Guitar Center so I ended up having to buy a new one. That’s okay, I still love you, Angel Olsen!

What are some of your favorite music discoveries you’ve made this year?

I love this one song called “Autopilot” by russian.girls. I’ve become a big fan of Vegyn’s production, especially the work he does with Frank Ocean. I fell into a Billie Holiday rabbit hole after watching the Billie Holiday biopic. I just love the way she wrote about her personal life in her lyrics and her vocal style. The new Snail Mail record is incredible as well. I really wanted to book an interview with her for the zine, but she’s literally been on the cover of Rolling Stone, so I never expected her people to get back to me. I’ve been listening to so much Regina Spektor. She makes me feel seen as a Russian-American musician and that Soviet Kitsch album is just incredible. That one later Miles Davis album – I think it was called Doo-Bop – is also great. That was basically a hip hop album.

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Album Review Music

Pretty Sick Ventures Into Shoegaze Territory on New EP

Singer-songwriter, model, and bassist Sabrina Fuentes wears many hats. She started the NYC-based new age grunge band Pretty Sick when she was only thirteen, capturing the attention of audiences all around the globe with her darkly sardonic vocal range, dirty grunge-laced basslines, and songs about being caught up in toxic relationships, with heavy instrumental accompaniment from a multitude of rotating band members. This time she is joined by Wade Oates of the Virgins on guitar and Austin Williamson from Onyx Collective on drums.

Last year, Pretty Sick released their debut EP, Deep Divine, through the UK indie label Dirty Hit. Earlier this week, they released their follow-up EP, Come Down. And if Deep Divine was meant to encapsulate being caught up in the intoxicating rapture of self-destructive youth and toxic love, then Come Down represents the dreary hangover of the aftermath.

Fuentes’ uninhibited lead vocals, Wade Oates’ crisp, feedback-heavy guitar solos and Austin Williamson’s tom-heavy drum fills are guaranteed to grab every listener by the throat. Songs like “Bet My Blood” and “Devil in Me”—with their crunchy guitar solos and vocals that sound like they’ve been run through Courtney Love’s blender—are heavily contrasted with slower cuts where Fuentes emits these soft “ooohs” over pedal-heavy distortion.

“I have a real taste for pop music, and my songwriting style has a real pop music sensibility,” Fuentes said in a recent interview with Alternative Press. This is no more apparent than in the lead single, “Dumb,” an infectious earworm with a hook that is eerily similar to “Hanging Around” by the Cardigans.

Fuentes’ vocal range alternates between the airy, mystic coos of My Bloody Valentine’s Bilinda Butcher on “Pillbug” and “Bare,” the unrestrained trills of Babes in Toyland’s Kat Bjelland on “She,” and the grating screams of Mia Zapata from the Gits on “Self Control.” “Pillbug” could easily pass for a B-side off of My Bloody Valentine’s Isn’t Anything, which is the last thing I would have expected from a grunge band. And that only adds to the EP’s allure.

Come Down as a whole is an amalgamation of reflections on love lost, and what it’s like to grow up in New York—a laborious and emotionally-draining undertaking that both prepares you for the crushing weight of heartbreak and simultaneously leaves an even nastier bruise when a relationship doesn’t work out. And it sounds magnificent.

Listen:

Categories
Interview Music Theatre

A Conversation with Gina Young About Queer Theatre & Feminist Historical Recovery in Music

The first year that I attended college in New York City, I had gone to a party at a nightclub in the Financial District. I remember hearing a song that blared through the speakers with these rapid, mosquito guitar licks and a woman’s playful, childlike voice shouting, “Wanna disco? Wanna see me disco?/Let me hear you depoliticize my rhyme!” That song was called “Deceptacon,” and the band was a lo-fi electronic rock outfit called Le Tigre. I later discovered that the lead singer of Le Tigre was a feminist punk pioneer from Olympia, Washington named Kathleen Hanna. And she was a leader and a torchbearer for the Riot Grrrl movement, which originated in the early nineties.

After hearing Le Tigre for the first time, I immediately fell down a Riot Grrrl rabbit hole. I read all about the punk scene in Olympia, Washington, where Kathleen Hanna, drummer Tobi Vail, and bassist Kathi Wilcox formed the band Bikini Kill. I then discovered other quintessential Riot Grrrl bands like Bratmobile, Huggy Bear, Team Dresch, Tribe 8, and Sleater-Kinney.

What made Riot Grrrl so great was the fact that it grew out of a need for young women in music—many of whom were queer—to build their own musical communities outside of male-dominated punk scenes. With their blisteringly emotional and unabashedly political songwriting that called out institutional sexism, homophobia, and sexual assault, bands like Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney made me realize that my feelings of resentment and anger—just aching to be seen and heard as a young queer woman—were shared by many of my queer feminist foremothers. It didn’t feel like I was shouting into the void anymore. There were others.

Bikini Kill Performing at Club Asylum in Washington, 1992.

Unfortunately, there are still many critics and music fans who believe that Riot Grrrl died at the tail-end of the nineties, which is false. Riot Grrrl is not some miniscule niche movement from the past. The movement has spread to at least twenty-six countries. Bikini Kill reunited last year, and over the past five years, new Riot Grrrl chapters have sprung up in places like Paraguay and Argentina.

But after some of the most well-known American Riot Grrrl bands—including Bikini Kill and Bratmobile—disbanded in the late nineties, the male-dominated music press seemed determined to quash any and all evidence that Riot Grrrl ever existed. And they almost succeeded. Riot Grrrl is still rarely acknowledged as an important part of rock canon and feminist history. I have been an ardent music fan since I was fourteen, and I still didn’t find out about Riot Grrrl until I had graduated from high school. 

Sleater-Kinney Performs at SXSW Music Festival in Austin, TX, 2005.

But the spirit of Riot Grrrl is still very much alive. We now have musicians like Tamar-kali Brown, Maya Glick, Simi Stone, and Honeychild Coleman writing brilliant punk anthems and curating alternative spaces for black womxn in punk, like Sista Grrrl Riot and Decolonize Fest. We also have punk bands led by trans women like G.L.O.S.S. (now broken-up, but still fantastic), Against Me!, and Trap Girl writing queer anarchist anthems. And who could forget about Pussy Riot doing elaborate public demonstrations and risking arrest to protest Putin’s Russia? 

A few weeks ago I attended an event called “Riot Grrrl’s Little Siblings,” which was curated by the June Mazer Lesbian Archives and the award-winning playwright and musician, Gina Young. Gina Young has written and directed several queer feminist stage shows and musicals including STRAIGHT PLAY, BUTCH BALLET, and This Is Why I Don’t Come Home. She is also a singer/songwriter who has released several albums and toured the country opening for artists like Le Tigre, Team Dresch, and Kimya Dawson. Gina also served as a leading organizer in the NYC chapter of Riot Grrrl in the early 2000s, while they were still a theatre student at NYU/Tisch. 

I first encountered Gina’s work when I left New York and came back to Massachusetts for winter break during my sophomore year of college. I had been sitting in the back of my family’s minivan on the way to a family gathering out of state. I wore out my Riot Grrrl playlist on Spotify, blasting songs by Tribe 8 and Sleater-Kinney on a loop, and one of the first songs that popped up on Spotify’s radio algorithm was one of Gina’s most beloved songs, “So Called Str8 Grrrl,” a confrontational punk anthem that chronicles the turbulent relationship between two young women. Gina narrates the song from the perspective of a girl who is already out (“I know you see me/Over your boyfriend’s shoulder”), and sympathizes with her love interest, who is still not ready to come out because she fears that her family and her inner circle of friends will reject her.

While media that caters to queer people has certainly increased over the past couple of decades, that doesn’t change the fact that many queer people—especially trans, nonbinary, intersex, disabled, and BIPOC queer folks—still do not feel seen, heard, or adequately represented on screen or on stage; let alone behind the camera. Legions of queer people, myself included, do not even feel safe holding hands with our partners in public. Gina has always understood the necessity for queer people to create our own spaces of outside of mainstream society, which is why I was so eager to talk to her. Gina’s first two albums, Intractable and She’s So Androgynous, have been my biggest comfort records during quarantine, and they recently released a collection of previously unheard demos and bonus tracks, in a compilation album called Little Sibling.

I first reached out to Gina after attending “Riot Grrrl’s Little Sibling.” We spoke about how cleaning her house during quarantine has led to the creation of these new digital Riot Grrrl archives, being inspired by writers like Kathy Acker and Audre Lorde, and why it’s so important for queer creators to take the reins ourselves when the overwhelmingly white, cishet male gatekeepers will not let us through the door. 

Who was the first artist (musician, author, filmmaker, or otherwise) who you felt like you could genuinely relate to? 

Definitely Riot Grrrl bands like Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney. I was raised in a conservative area (13 years of Catholic school!) so it wasn’t until I found bands like that, and writers like Kathy Acker and Audre Lorde, that I was able to understand who I was and who I could be.

When did you initially discover that you had a knack for crafting these stories that you’ve transformed into plays, songs, and films? Was it something that you always enjoyed, or was it a more gradual discovery?

I grew up in a family and community full of musicians and singers, which was really inspiring. I know now how lucky I was to have that. And then I was the kind of kid who was just always—every time there was a family gathering or a dinner party or free time at school—I was like “OK! We’re making a play!” and I’d be roping my cousins and my friends into making something. We’d put together whole musicals to show our parents, or write songs, or make up dance choreography to songs on the radio. My cousin Joanna and I did a whole “lip sync concert” to Motown songs at the beach one summer, with makeup and costumes like baby drag queens or something.

The biggest thing for me is that the media declared Riot Grrrl “dead” in the mid-90s, when actually, Riot Grrrl chapters and bands and activism were going strong for like another 10 years. And I think that’s important to note; they tried to erase us.

– Gina Young
Credit: Gina Young Collection at the June L. Mazer Lesbian Archives

I really enjoyed “Riot Grrrl’s Little Siblings.” What made you decide to get in touch with the Mazer archives, and what do you feel the current media discourse about Riot Grrrl today is still missing?

Thanks for coming to the event! What happened was that Casey Winkleman from the The June Mazer Lesbian Archives was in the audience for the last play I wrote, which was called STRAIGHT PLAY (a queer beach blanket musical). She approached me after the show and was like, “hey, the Archives would love to have a copy of the script and any incidental materials from the creation of the show, like notes and the program and stuff.” I was like, “be careful what you wish for!” Haha. A few months later I sent them a *massive* box of materials from my music career and from my theater company, SORORITY. Then I spent a large part of quarantine going through all my old things and creating a digital archive of over 500 images from my personal collection for them. It includes riot grrrl zines, flyers and photos from the late 90s and early 2000s, a lot of material from all of the plays I’ve done, and a bunch of other feminist and queer stuff from y2k to the present that I thought people might want to see. This will all be available online via the Mazer’s website.

So then, I suggested we do an event together—mainly because they mentioned that the Mazer didn’t have any riot grrrl materials yet! I think most of their audience is a little older, and most of my audience is a little bit younger, so I thought this could be a perfect opportunity to do something intergenerational and really bring people from different walks of life together. So we did an event called “Riot Grrrl’s Little Siblings” on Zoom, which took the name from Little Sibling (my new album of old demos and live material I just released), and we had performances I curated from some of my favorite SORORITY regulars, I sang a couple songs, and then the Mazer and I did a slideshow of some of my materials and a Q&A. The whole thing was recorded so I think you’ll also be able to watch that online via the Mazer’s site and eventually SORORITY’s YouTube as well.

But to answer your question about the media discourse, the biggest thing for me is that the media declared Riot Grrrl “dead” in the mid-90s, when actually, Riot Grrrl chapters and bands and activism were going strong for like another 10 years. And I think that’s important to note; they tried to erase us. So it’s twice as important to tell our own stories and preserve our own history. And now I see Riot Grrrl and queercore bands getting attention all over Spotify and TikTok, and Bikini Kill is touring again, so it’s clear that everything that was happening back then is just as vital and relevant today.

When did you first come up with the idea to start SORORITY, and what is your favorite part of getting to curate these events and performances? 

SORORITY came about in 2016 because I was looking for an artistic community. I had moved to Los Angeles about 5 years prior, and while LA has so many amazing queer and feminist artists, a lot of them didn’t know each other and there wasn’t a centralized hub for our work. (LA is a really decentralized city—with traffic it can sometimes take an hour or two to get places you might want to go.) I wanted to create a community for the kind of queer and feminist work I wanted to see, and the kind of people that I wanted to hang out with. It’s a great alternative to the bar scene, too—I love queer bars, but SORORITY is a space that doesn’t hinge on alcohol, and the shows are usually salon-style, so it’s like an exchange of ideas with a room full of interesting people and sister artists (of all genders). So yeah, we’ve been doing the shows for five years now—just hit our five year anniversary! I think my favorite part of curating the events is just getting to hang out with everyone and see their amazing work. Also to know that I’m providing the kind of space for emerging artists and queer folks that was so important to me when I was finding my voice.

It’s really cool to be a small part of the movement [where] queer and trans people are ready for representation, and we demand to write the roles, play the roles, and have safe work environments.

– Gina Young

I also recently discovered your Team Gina raps, and I loved how they took a genre that can be (sometimes, but not always) homophobic and misogynist, and reappropriated it to cater to the queer feminine gaze. How did that project come about?

Haha Team Gina!! Well first of all, I think it’s important to note that not all hip hop is misogynist and homophobic, and the hip hop Gina Bling and I bonded over was often by women and queer artists who were underground at that time. Gina Bling and I met in Olympia Washington and both ended up living in Seattle. We were introduced by Cindy Wonderful from Scream Club and were instantly like, “Woah! We’re both named Gina!! We’re both allergic to cats! We’re both obsessed with musical theatre… and butches!” It was wild to have so much in common. Like how many people do you know that own tap shoes, know all the lyrics to Low End Theory, AND want to hang out at the Wildrose (Seattle’s lesbian bar) every weekend? So we became best friends, and we wanted to start a performance art pop project that was flipped pop culture on its head. You’re totally right about how you characterized our intention. We were like, what does pop music do? We’re going to do that, but queer it. So most of our tracks were produced by “producers,” we had costume designers and stylists, we had stage shows with a ton of synchronized dance moves, kind of like what the Spice Girls or Destiny’s Child might do, and then we tried to really flip a lot of pop culture tropes on their head, especially when it came to gender. The other Gina went by Gina Bling because she wanted to manifest glamour and luxury, I went by Gina Genius because I wanted to manifest business savvy and being the brains of the operation (that’s why my Instagram handle is @ginagenius) but above all, our guiding principle was FUN, like any time we had a “business meeting” we would watch Sex & the City and weigh all of our band decisions on how fun it would be or not. Touring to play underground queer venues in Croatia and Slovenia? Woah sounds incredibly fun! Opening for misogynist boy bands? Not so much. We made one music video that went really viral, in the early days of YouTube and Facebook when going viral wasn’t even really a thing yet. It’s called Butch/Femme and it’s all about how much we love butches; the video is a bunch of butches auditioning to be our girlfriends, haha. Team Gina’s music isn’t really available on streaming platforms, but I still have a few of the CDs left in my online shop!

The most surprising part to me is how many people come to my class to heal from bad experiences they’ve had with other teachers, universities and acting studios. That challenged me to grow really quickly.

– Gina Young

How does it feel to continue to have young queer kids reach out to you about your music after all these years? I imagine it must be overwhelming and also rewarding. 

It’s really cool and honestly it was so unexpected. Like after I stopped touring I kind of expected all that to stop. And it did for a few years. But then a younger generation of queers and feminists found my music on Spotify and TikTok and started messaging… and I can’t speak for everyone but I know for some of them, they appreciated that I never hid anything with pronouns or calling out politicians… it’s all pretty out there and explicit. And it’s an honor that the songs mean so much to people. “Punkrockdyke” is a song that still resonates with a lot of folks, because it’s basically about finding someone to love who is as militant and passionate as you. And “So-Called Str8 Grrrl” is another one that resonates, which is funny because it’s just about that kind of universal experience of falling in love with a “straight” girl who is clearly not straight at all, but chooses maybe a safer path because she’s not ready to be on your level yet. My music is on the streaming platforms and I love hearing from people that they’ve put it on playlists for their crushes and stuff.

@grease_bat

I have no desire to be desired by those who have not deconstructed their desire #queer #fyp #foryoupage #tiktokqueer #forthegays #trans #lgbt #gay

♬ So-called Str8 Grrrl – Gina Young

When did you first come up with the idea to hold acting classes, and in addition to your students, do you feel like they’ve helped you grow in certain ways as well?

Honestly Feminist Acting Class was born out of my own frustration with actor training. As with a lot of institutions in this country, we’re taught that this is “just the way it is” and that we can’t do anything about it. But… why not? A lot of the old giants are dying. A lot of the dinosaurs are going extinct. When I studied theatre, there was so much sexism, racism and homophobia. It was normalized in the classroom, and in the work that was taught. The vast majority of plays produced in America are written and directed by straight white men. So then the quantity and quality of roles for straight white men is vastly superior to those for the rest of us. We’re relegated to stereotypes and villains and trauma porn. It’s really cool to be a small part of the movement [where] queer and trans people are ready for representation, and we demand to write the roles, play the roles, and have safe work environments. And women & other groups will no longer accept harassment, sizeism, etc. So my class, Feminist Acting Class, is an experiment to see what an acting class free of sexism and stereotypes might look like. One where we make the rules.

The most surprising part to me is how many people come to my class to heal from bad experiences they’ve had with other teachers, universities and acting studios. That challenged me to grow really quickly. I’m not a trained therapist or anything. But I think I’ve stepped up my game to better hold space for everyone. And my students have also challenged me to improve the ableist practices in my teaching. There are certain things that as a white, physically abled teacher I will always need to grow on. Holding classes on Zoom has been one way to make them more accessible to disabled and chronically ill students. And the biggest reward has been seeing students become best friends. I mean seriously, so many of them keep in touch, collaborate on projects and support each other’s performances. I LOVE TO SEE IT.

What do you feel is the most important thing that audiences should take away from your work?

I talk about this a lot… we are a community. Part of the reason that I love theatre and live music is that it puts us in the same room together and reminds us that we are accountable to each other. We don’t have to feel isolated all the time. And I hope that especially, after this pandemic, there will be a renewed interest in building queer and feminist community and supporting each other and each other’s creative work. I hope my work reminds you that you’re not alone and encourages you to connect with like-minded people. That’s it, yeah!

Categories
Interview Music

A Conversation with Froggy About Their New EP, Riot Grrrl, and Frank Zappa

Combining the lighthearted satire of the Dead Milkmen with the raw, grating energy of Babes in Toyland and the Lunachicks, Philly-based hardcore riot grrrl trio Froggy deserve just as much praise as their indie contemporaries in bands like Priests and Skinny Girl Diet. With songs like “Midwest Emo Scum,” “Silverskin,” and “7/11 Nachos,” Froggy strikes the perfect balance between unrelenting rage and absurdist humor, poking fun at the music industry and dumping on society’s unhealthy expectations of young womxn.

When I hop on a zoom call with songwriter and bassist, Brooke Feenie, she is in the middle of designing a flyer for an art contest that the band will host on social media in a few days. In addition to writing songs and playing bass in Froggy, Feenie designs most of the band’s merch, promotional materials, and album art. Observing her intense DIY work ethic firsthand, it’s incredibly clear that lot of time, care, and effort goes into the band’s output.

As children of the internet, Froggy are highly aware that in order for a band to succeed in the digital world, the marketing and branding side of the hustle is just as crucial as musical talent and band practice, if not more. “We’re still learning. We’re trying new [marketing strategies] all the time… It’s very competitive,” Feenie tells me. “A lot of musicians think they’re above [promoting their music] on social media, but at the end of the day, a band who only posts once a month is not going to grow,” she adds.

Drummer Fiona Clark is the second member to join the call, enthusiastically telling Feenie that she’s just washed her brand new costume for next Halloween. “[Fiona and I] are going to dress up as the members of The Garden from their music video, ‘Call This # Now,'” Feenie tells me.

We are eventually joined by lead-singer/songwriter, Morgan McClain, who ends up getting ambushed by a large dog. “This is Callie, my partner’s dog,” McClain says as she attempts to wrestle the dog back to the floor.

As I chat with the band for an hour, we discuss a wide range of topics including their brand new EP, “Sopa de Elote,” the Philadelphia punk scene, the Riot Grrrl movement, and Nikki Sixx being a fan. 

What were the first songs you learned to play on instruments? 

Morgan: The first song that I ever successfully learned to play on guitar was “Brain Stew” by Green Day. 

Fiona: Dude, no way! “Brain Stew” was the first song I learned on drums! I had seen [a kid from school] perform “Brainstew” at a 5th grade talent show and decided to learn it as well. 

Brooke: The first song I learned on bass was “Feel Good Inc.” by Gorillaz. I was going through a serious Gorillaz phase at that point.

Fiona: I went through a phase in seventh grade where the only band I listened to was Green Day! 

Morgan: Me too, I started with [Green Day] and then I got into Blink-182, My Chemical Romance, and just kept going. I think we all had that pop punk/emo phase in middle school! 

Brooke: Oh yeah! In seventh grade I fell into that dark niche hole where everybody was into the emo trinity–Panic! At the Disco, Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance… 

Morgan: My sister is 11, and she’s just entered her hardcore emo phase. She’s listening to all the stuff I used to listen to when I was her age, which is crazy. It’s really cool to see how my taste has been passed down to her! 

Walk me back to when you initially started playing together. When did the magic really start to happen? 

Morgan: Well, it started with me in quarantine. I posted on my Instagram story, asking if anyone would like to start a punk band, and [Fiona and Brooke] were the first to respond. We then started sharing our ideas and piecing together what each of us had written, and those became the first couple of songs! 

Fiona: Yeah, it was meant to be. We should probably make up a more interesting story, though. I can pretend Morgan sent me to the hospital and Brooke was the doctor! 

Morgan: Yeah, or I could like, pretend that I hit Fiona with my car!

Brooke: Like Gorillaz? Or we could just be like Twenty One Pilots, and change the story all the time! 

People always ask us who our musical influences are, and it’s always been a little bit of everything.

– Morgan McClain
Froggy – Left to Right: Brooke Feenie (Bass), Morgan McClain (Vocals & Guitar), Fiona Clark (Drums)

What initially sparked your interest in playing music, and how has your relationship with music developed over time? 

Morgan: When I got older, I started to deal with really bad anxiety. I wasn’t sure how to handle that until I picked up a guitar. My parents had put me in music school, and I remember one of the administrators asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I probably should have said something mature, like, “I want to be a professional musician.” Instead I said, “I wanna be a rockstar!” and they just scoffed. But I’ve always maintained that mentality. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that music is the best outlet for me to express myself and get my energy out. The biggest inspiration for me was Riot Grrrl. That is what drives me to continue working on my craft, and not care about what the outcome is. 

Brooke: I actually used to listen to a lot of techno music, so I didn’t really think about playing much as a kid. Then my parents took me to see a Sleater-Kinney show, and that was my [first foray] into punk. When I first heard The Dead Milkmen, I obsessed over their basslines and also realized how easy it is to write these silly lyrics that also have substance. My dad bought me a bass one Christmas, and I decided to join a music program, which was where I formed a lot of close friendships. It was mostly dudes, and I went through a brief phase of [internalized misogyny] that I definitely regret now, but that experience really helped me improve and get to where I am now. 

Fiona: I was in 5th or 6th grade. One of my close friends had asked me if I wanted to join his band, but I couldn’t join because I didn’t know how to play an instrument. The following year, I decided to learn how to play instrument so that I could join a band like my friend. I enrolled in classes where I learned to play a variety of different styles, but nothing has really stuck with me until I discovered Seattle grunge and Riot Grrrl. Those scenes really spoke to me more than anything else. 

We’ve never really tried to hide what we like or what inspires us.

– Morgan McClain
Froggy – Left to Right: Brooke Feenie (Bass), Morgan McClain (Vocals & Guitar), Fiona Clark (Drums)

It’s clear that you guys have really studied your Riot Grrrl history. Are you the type of band to wear your influences on your sleeve, or is that something you try to avoid?

Morgan: We’ve never really tried to hide what we like or what inspires us. 

Fiona: Yeah, sometimes we’ll write a song and think, “Oh my god, this could totally be a Lunachicks [B-side],” but we’ll usually just go for it without thinking about it. 

Morgan: People always ask us who our musical influences are, and it’s always been a little bit of everything. All of the music the three of us have listened to over the years has [melded] together. Whatever pops out of our heads sometimes ends up sounding like something else, but that is never intentional. When you think about the infinite amount of music that has been produced over time, it would be pretty difficult to write a song that doesn’t sound like anything else. 

I’m not a lyric writer, but whenever I come up with an idea, [Brooke and Morgan] will have written an entire song ten minutes after I tell them! It’s crazy and so awesome.

– Fiona Clark

I would also like to point out how striking your song titles are (“7/11 Nachos,” “Midwest Emo Scum,” etc.). I really loved how the lyrics tackled serious topics with layers of humor, and I was wondering if you are aware of how well you are able to balance the two? 

Morgan: We’re definitely aware of that, but we never go into [a session] thinking, “We’re gonna write this type of song today!” because that never works. It just happens naturally. “Midwest Emo Scum” was written by Brooke about a [weird] interaction that she had with an older musician. A lot of the sillier stuff comes from Brooke. She wrote “7/11 Nachos,” “Midwest Emo Scum,” and “Pizza Ball (An homage to Eric Andre).” Those are the heaviest Dead Milkmen influences. I usually write with a more serious tone. I wrote “Silverskin,” and Brooke and I collaborated on “Livvie Folds.” I’m more on the heavy side and I love to combine that with Brooke’s more lighthearted tone. 

Fiona: Yeah, it’s crazy. I’m not a lyric writer, but whenever I come up with an idea, [Brooke and Morgan] will have written an entire song ten minutes after I tell them about it! It’s crazy and so awesome. 

Brooke: I was talking to our producer the other day. I had written another song about a creepy dude that I’d encountered, and I was saying, “Dude, why am I always running into these creeps? It’s getting annoying,” and he said, “Well, at least you’ll never run out of stuff to write about!” 

Morgan: Yeah, same. Whenever I get angry about these horrible situations in my life, it’s very [cathartic] to be able to transform those awful experiences into songs. 

Fiona: Yeah, but at what cost?

Brooke: Yeah, Nikki Sixx told me the other day to keep up the great songwriting, but I also wondered, “at what cost?” 

Morgan: Oh god! That was incredibly overwhelming too. Like, holy shit! Nikki Sixx has heard us sing and play! That was just too much to process.  

Brooke: Yeah, that was really cool. He asked us to send him some merch the other day too, and we were like, “Yes, my liege!” 

Whenever I get angry about these horrible situations in my life, it’s very [cathartic] to be able to transform those awful experiences into a song.

– Morgan McClain
Froggy: Morgan McClain (Vocals & Guitar)

Were there any records that challenged how you thought about music? How have your relationships to music changed over time? 

Morgan: Great question! For me it was the records that captured the essence of punk [and its subgenres]. I’m much less interested in records that try too hard to be musically advanced. My favorite album of all time is “Facelift” by Alice in Chains. A lot of people don’t consider that to be their best album, but it’s always been my favorite because of how well it channels the raw emotional energy of punk. Another favorite of mine is “Bricks Are Heavy” by L7.

Brooke: For me it was “We’re Only In It For The Money” by Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention. [That album] changed everything for me. The intricate sounds and vocals they produced totally blew me away. I loved the way he wrote about stuff that was culturally relevant, and used crude humor to communicate the message of each song. I know Frank Zappa wasn’t exactly the biggest feminist in the world, but he always did what he wanted and wasn’t afraid to poke fun at society. Hearing him mock religion, misogyny, and electoral politics really resonated with me, because I have my own strong opinions about all of those topics. I constantly try to channel that type of attitude in my own writing. 

Fiona: The record that had changed everything for me was “Ladies, Women, & Girls,” by Bratmobile. That was the first Riot Grrrl album I ever listened to. I had never heard anything like it before, and it blew me away. 

What do you value the most about being in a band? 

Morgan: What I value the most is the sisterhood. You need to have chemistry with your bandmates if you want your band to last. If you are going to be putting your heart and soul into making music, you have to be each other’s support network. We spend all of our time together. We practically live at Fiona’s house. That bond is what allows us to thrive.

Brooke: We always take care of each other and take one another into account. Without that type of relationship, a band has no foundation. 

Morgan: Definitely. I recently went through a nasty breakup, and I was a total wreck after that. Brooke and Fiona were the people who helped me get back on my feet, and I have no idea where I’d be if it wasn’t for the band. 

Brooke: Yeah, I always say that if I didn’t have Froggy, I’d either still be getting bullied or I’d probably be dead. 

Morgan: Yeah, me too! That’s why the band is so important to me. We all really believe in what we do. 

What is the DIY music scene like in Philadelphia? Are most of your gigs community-driven or are they more isolated? 

Brooke: There’s a lot of pop punk and post punk bands, but it’s also an eclectic mix. I would go to shows every weekend [before lockdown] and the lineups were always unique. I went to one show that blended reggae, punk, and hip hop. Philadelphia was the birthplace of the Dead Milkmen, Ween, and Bloodhound Gang. Those are three of my biggest inspirations, and they practically formed right in my backyard, which is nuts.

We haven’t gotten to play many live gigs during the pandemic. We’ve been playing a lot of outdoor, socially-distanced shows since things started opening back up. My podcast has really helped us book gigs. Bands that I’ve interviewed were gracious enough to add us to the bill on several of their shows. We’ll be playing at FDR Skate Park in a couple of weeks. We were also invited to play at Camp Punksylvania in September by two lovely ladies from Riot Squad Media. We’re very honored and fortunate to have connected with these other bands in the area. The overwhelming community support has been unreal.