Alex Nelson 22/08/2010
With the surprise release of new single 'Housewife' last weekend, its clear Gary Jarman and his band of brothers The Cribs, have a strong agenda when it comes to femininity and its inclusion in the music industry. A few months back, GIITTV's Alex Nelson posed the following questions to Gary about his involvement in the global music and arts festival that is Ladyfest. Here's what he had to say on the subject…
Hey Gary! Could you please give an overview of how you were/are involved in Ladyfest events?
I was involved in the London Ladyfest in 2002. I had been to see the Ladyfest Tour in 2001, and was just blown away. It was at a tiny basement club in Sheffield and the line up was Bangs, The Gossip, Sarah Dougher and The Lollies…I was just blown away. The Gossip were on first, and there was maybe 50 people in at that point, but they were just ferocious. It was unfathomable to think that they would achieve the crossover success that they have today, as they were SO raw, angry and confrontational. The whole night was very inspiring, with fanzines, self pressed tour 7"s, and great bands. There was NOTHING going on in England musically at that time, so this seemed revelatory to me. I think it was summer 2001, and I started The Cribs in September, so I would say this event was pretty pivotal to me.
The next year, when I found out that there was going to be another Ladyfest, this time in London, I just contacted them offering my assistance out of the blue and then joined the committee. The whole committee just seemed to help out in whatever way they could, so I was brought in ostensibly to help with the technical side of things - bands would send in their equipment requirements and I would look through the lists and figure out what we had, what we needed to rent, how things were gonna be set up etc. I guess technically I 'advanced' the shows….but when it came down to it, over the weekend I found myself doing loads of jobs, from setting up and breaking down the equipment on stage, setting up workshops and liaising with bands, all the way to making soup and cutting bread! It was a collaborative effort really.
With that in mind, what sort of bands and acts were really pushing for change around the time of the millennium? Which bands were you heavily involved with when organising Ladyfest events?
I wasn't really involved in that side of things around the millennium. I was at that time flogging a dead horse trying to get a print fanzine going in Wakefield, which no one in that city really cared about at that time. I remember the late 90's being a pretty miserable time for music actually.
Considering how miserable for music that time was, how have Ladyfest and other areas of 'female music' changed in the last ten years or so?
I don't know… It's difficult to comment, as I feel that my experiences being a closed off kid in a small town, learning about bands through old fanzines and tape exchanges 10-15 years ago is so different to the present day where I feel I am surrounded by talented musicians, both female and male, that I probably have a skewed perspective. All I can say is that I am definitely exposed to a lot of very talented female artists these days, so I can certainly vouch that there is a lot to be excited about.
Who, in your opinion, really stands out as a classic example of an influential role-model for women in music?
Poly Styrene from X Ray Spex. Very inspiring frontwoman - charismatic, powerful, and she really became a key player in the London punk scene, which was something of a mans world at that point. The Slits for a similar reason, but also for their fearless deconstruction and subversion of that very same scene once they were in it. The Raincoats for absolutely being themselves and not pandering to the stereotype of women in rock being something of a novelty, placing the emphasis more on their creative output rather than more superficial things. Those are 3 which I believe cover all aspects.
Female fronted bands often have similar sounds and styles to one another (but not always). An overriding sense of aggression can often be heard in records, sometimes passively, sometimes sexually. Why do you think this is?
I think that this is maybe more true in the 'Riot Grrrl' genre, but certainly doesn't apply to all female-fronted bands. Riot Grrrl has a sense of aggression for certain, but that is because it is punk rock! The Riot Grrrl tag is something that was initially attached to a movement of punk rock bands, and aggression/frustration/rebellion are key traits of punk. I personally think that it is a little strange that just because it is women playing punk that a separate category needed to be created for it, but if people were inspired by that, and it gave them a sense of unity then I suppose that is not necessarily a bad thing.
In light of this, would it be fair to say 'Ladybands' could warrant classification into their own sub-genre or 'scene.'?
No. I think to ghettoize is a very regressive move, and absolutely patronizing. Surely equality is far more important than separatism? What would be the point in grinding the same axe forever?
I think that when bands are first starting out, they are drawn to the idea of community, bands that are united by the same goal sticking together etc, which is why 'scenes' develop, and in some ways that can be inspiring - but the thought of remaining in that clique forever is just so limiting to the point of creative atrophy.
Plus, it would be very strange for an a cappella vocal group (for instance), an acoustic singer/songwriter, and a punk band to all of a sudden find themselves lumped together under one genre don't you think?! Women make up 51% of the earths population, so that would be a pretty fucking big 'sub-genre'!
Genres and sub-genres aside, do you think women in rock music now garner the equality and support they deserve, or are there still developments needed in these areas?
Rock music is inherently sexist in my mind…the cliche of the 'rock star', or 'rock star behavior' seems to just be that of an indulgent misogynist pig to me, and severely outdated, so the tag 'rock' is the problem for me. I fucking hate rock music. I think that there are certainly a lot of women kicking a lot of mens arses in that genre nowadays though.
Music in general is still in the doldrums though. For every incredible, subversive, inspiring step forward, you have a million wannabes waiting in the wings to be dressed up like a thanksgiving turkey and lip sync through some watered down version of whatever style of music is popular at the time, while concentrating more on their dance moves cos that is what people want largely. And there will always be people to facilitate that for their moment in the sun. Then you have people like Chris Moyles who is basically destroying ANY hope that the UK has of any type of culture, personifying and glorifying everything that is wrong with the modern British man, and getting paid a ridiculous amount to do so.
And finally, are there any female orientated bands or acts out there right now that you would recommend to readers?
There are lots, yeah. SHRAG from Brighton are one of our favorite bands and we have taken them on many a tour. They have the classic early 'Riot Grrrl' energy, passion and spirit, combined with an unashamed pop playfulness. Sometimes they can be surprisingly tender and pretty too. Not to pigeonhole, but they are like a combination of the 2 best Brighton bands ever (Comet Gain, Huggy Bear). We just came back from Australia where we were supported by a band called BRIDEZILLA…don't let the name fool you into thinking that these are bratty punks though, their music is very sophisticated, well crafted and textured. Very intelligent. TALULAH DOES THE HULA are probably the best pop band in Ireland right now, VIVIAN GIRLS I really like, JEMINA PEARL (ex Be Your Own Pet) just supported us in the USA and was amazing. She really could be like Joan Jett or something, a proper potential pop star. I just contributed some vocals to REBECCA GATES (ex Spinanes) solo record, which sounds brilliant so far. She has been working on it for a while now, so hopefully it will be done soon….she very much has her own style of songwriting, very peculiar changes, really pretty guitar playing and non linear forms. Very distinctive and individual. EXPLODE INTO COLORS I really like too.
There is just so many, but I will leave it at that for now!
More info on Ladyfest here:
The Cribs released their new single 'Housewife' on the 8th of August. Watch the video here: