Sounds of my Life | Riot Grrrl & Me

 

Originally posted at Serious as part of the ‘Sounds of my Life’ series.

Stephanie Phillips runs Don’t Dance Her Down Boys – a blog-shaped manifestation of her one woman mission to share a love of female musicians and female fronted bands with the world. She also contributes to various blogs we’ve previously featured here such as Black Feminists and The Girls Are, and below let’s us in on her life-defining discovery of Riot Grrrl.

I’ve always felt music hit me in a way that was different to other people. Certain songs can send chills along my spine and make me feel unsafe and uneasy. Others, from the first note, energise me and make me want to change the world before the song’s even ended. Even with my weird wiring for music, nothing has hit me as hard as when I first heard Bikini Kill way back when I was a chubby, unassuming teenager.

I am of the first generation that grew up with the internet and downloadable music so like most teenagers I spent most of my time searching for new music, desperately clicking on link after link hoping this song would be the one. That it would be the one to change my life. The song always comes around, you just never know when, fate’s not going to let you know in advance.

That song was I Like Fucking by Bikini Kill, an awesome title and even more awesome song. The song is a perfect, straight-to-the-point, two minute punk song that sees lead singer, Kathleen Hanna, sing about sex-positivity and how her love of pleasure does not make her less of a feminist. It’s fair to say that I was a tad taken aback by this. I wanted to know everything about this Bikini Kill, who they were, what they did and where they came from. This led me to Riot Grrrl.

Riot Grrrl is a feminist punk movement that started in the early nineties in the punk/indie scenes in Washington, DC in the US, moving to Portland and then very quickly to the rest of the states and various countries around the world. Bands such as Bratmobile, Heavens to Betsy, Huggy Bear and Bikini Kill were at the heart of Riot Grrrl. The movement started in reaction to the male-dominated punk scene as a way for the girls to create their own culture, call out sexism when they see it and express themselves. Mostly it gave young girls a voice. Not the timid, quiet one they were used to but a loud, strong, confident voice that told anyone that could hear, ’they were in control of their own lives’. As a teenager that had the same timid, quiet voice I was completely drawn into the idea that you could have this voice, that you could create your own culture, look however you wanted and, most importantly, be a feminist.

If I didn’t learn what feminism was through Riot Grrrl I would have never realised that I had actually been a feminist for years, I just didn’t know there was a name for it.  Feminism has influenced me my entire life and has led me to work on Ladyfest, the Riot Grrrl inspired grassroots music and arts festival, set up my own music blog about female musicians and start my own band.

I throw myself into the DIY ethos of ‘create not consume’ because I’ve grown beyond tired of the limp, stale offerings mainstream culture attempts to shove down our throats. If their culture doesn’t fit, throw it off and make a new one, that’s the Riot Grrrl way.

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Introducing | Stealing Sheep

Originally published at The Girls Are.

Gloom pop darlings Stealing Sheep have been on the indie gig circuit for a few years, but after signing with Heavenly Recordings they are ready to release their debut album, Into the Diamond Sun. We first discovered the three-piece a few years ago when they organised an eco friendly bike tour across the north England – any band that wants to put the pedal to the metal and ride on two wheels is a band we want to know about.

Stealing Sheep’s songs are like the smoke from the camp fire we’re sure they gather around every night; they bend, twist change into new and wonderful shapes. Their songs evoke images of a lone marionette or a disused fairground ride; beautiful, mysterious and dark. Stealing Sheep chat to us about recording at the legendary Abbey Road studios, downloadable sheep and a potential boat tour.

Could you explain who’s in the band and what you do?
Becky plays synths, Emily plays electric guitar and Lucy plays drums. We all sing and write the songs together.

You’re getting ready to release new single ‘Shut Eye’ – what can you tell us about it?
We recorded this song in Liverpool as part of our debut album, it’s about people and getting people together to try and change things for the better. We gathered lots of friends to sing the chorus with us and try and capture that feeling of togetherness. The song has grown over time as we started playing it on our second UK tour with Emmy the Great last year. It’s evolved musically based on these shows and how the audience has reacted. We also played in live at Maida Vale for Rob Da Bank and also for Mark Riley in sessions and every time we’ve recorded it in different ways and discovered more about the song. We worked with an animator in New York over Skype to create the music video and get across its meaning to people in a visual way too.

Continue reading Introducing | Stealing Sheep

Our Plastic Brits

tiffany_porter_zurich
Originally posted at Black Feminists UK
As someone who would rather sit on a barb wire chair in a locked room filled with the undeniably terrible sounds of Simply Red than do anything sports related the Olympics is a hard subject for me to tackle.
It’s boring, I don’t understand it and seeing all those toned, muscley thighs just make me feel insecure about my podgy, wobbly thighs. It isn’t my thing basically but I’m writing about it today because of a particularly vile brand of ‘othering’ that is being committed at the moment.
The Daily Mail has decided to unleash an aggressive campaign against athletes who will be competing in this summer’s Olympics who they have called, the new xenophobic phrase of the year, ‘Plastic Brits’.
The Mail have been going at the whole “they’re not from round these parts” bit for a while and their previous headlines on the subject include “Why we need plastic surgery”, “Team GB have ended up with a bunch of foreign wrestlers, I wish they would all shove off” and “London 2012 will be ruined by the call for plastic Brits”.
They take particular issue with Tiffany Porter, an American athlete who has dual nationality, and her appointment as the captain of Team GB at the World Indoor Championships in Turkey.
Jonathan McEvoy, Daily Mail reporter, complained: “British athletics played fast and loose with our national identity on Thursday by appointing as captain a ‘Plastic Brit’ who would not — or cannot — recite the words of God Save The Queen.”
Despite the fact that Porter has held a British passport since birth, her mother is British and her father Nigerian, the reporter still believes that she is not British enough, not worthy enough and certainly not one of us.
The use of meaningless, emotive notions of Britishness to show that she is not “one of us” is a cheap shot that I would hope that most people would see through but I fear they actually will not. The whole God Save The Queen line was thrown in so the average man / woman on the street would read it and cry “She CAN’T sing our national anthem. She WON’T sing our national anthem. Well then she’s not British enough, she’s not worthy enough, she’s certainly not one of us.
The term itself is so blatantly xenophobic and anti-foreign that I’m truly shocked that it has been repeated so widely in the media. We cannot accept this blatant attempt to set up an “other” for us to ridicule, mock and blame all our ills on. If Britain perform badly I’d bet a million quid that Porter and the other ‘plastics’ get to enjoy the blame for the British loss all by themselves. How lucky for them. Of course, being a hypocritical nation at our core, if we do well you know who will be the first to get a knighthood. “Our” Plastic Brits of course.

Introducing | Fear of Men

Originally posted at The Girls Are

The internet is a fickle mistress. It can make you or break you. A band could be the next best thing one minute and yesterday’s news the next. Fear of Men are one of the many bands that have become caught up in the fame-making machine, proving a mixtape and discussion favourite among many bloggers. Determined not to be labelled as another ‘buzz band’ the group have set their own path, releasing singles on labels such as Italian Beach Babes and Sex is Disgusting.

the girls are caught up with vocalist / guitarist Jess to discuss where art and music intertwine, the band’s popularity and unusual practice venues.

Continue reading Introducing | Fear of Men

How the Media Tackles Racism

Proud and Prejudiced: Channel 4

If you’re a TV addict like me you might have noticed that there has been a wealth of programmes tackling racism in the past few weeks, particularly focusing on the growing racial tensions in Luton.

My Hometown Fanatics, BBC Three, and Proud and Prejudiced, Channel 4, both focused on the Luton-based extremist groups the EDL and Muslims Against Crusaders. Another Channel 4 show about racism and multiculturalism is Make Bradford British; a Big Brother-esque two-part series that throws a mixed group of people from Bradford who failed a British citizen test into a house together to see if they can figure out “what it means to be British”. Yep, that age old question. Considering that we’ve been debating that for a while now it seems that they’ve been set up to fail really.

Now I have absolutely no idea why TV executives have decided that now is the time to discuss racism. Maybe they only just realised it actually existed. Maybe someone, a friend, acquaintance or even a passerby on the street, took them aside and whispered into their ear: “Oi you know that racism that you read about once. It still happens, you should do a programme about it.” Who knows how it happens, I suppose we can only imagine.

What I do know is that as a black woman who craves any type of representation in the media you would think I’d be happy that to have a debate about racism in Britain today on a nationwide stage. I would love that but I don’t believe that is the main aim of any of these programmes and that is why I was so desperately disappointed with all of them.

Make Bradford British sets out from the start deciding that multiculturalism has failed. I think that’s bollocks but everyone is entitled to their opinions not matter how much they frighteningly mimic David Cameron and his ridiculous world view. The housemates are all from a variety of backgrounds and are given the overwhelming task of deciding what it means to be British. Many of the housemates have their own prejudices and the programme is full of triggering and offensive language.

My main problem with the first episode is the way one of the Muslim housemates was set up to be the ‘problem’ of the house. Rashid was played out as the episode’s villain because he would not compromise missing out on praying at the Mosque to join the group on certain outings. Although he did finally give in and prayed while going out with the group, leading one white woman to realise that his faith and hers were extremely similar, I do not think the public will perceive him well. Rashid was portrayed in a negative light for the majority of the episode confirming many British people’s attitudes towards Muslims. I do not believe the one revelation about his character and faith at the end of the episode makes up for it. There is still another episode due to air Thursday 8 March, which could take a more positive turn but I do not believe it will because the makers of these shows are only interested in drama and shock value which leads me to the other two shows.

My Hometown Fanatics featured BBC Three presenter Stacey Dooley talking to the EDL and extremist Muslim groups with the aim of finding out why extremist groups are popping up in Luton. As you’ll probably be able to guess Dooley comes to no clear conclusion and, due to her truly terrible journalism skills, probably makes things worse.

Instead of taking a clear, rational look at what both groups had to say and using their own contradictory and nonsensical words to trip them up with Dooley decides to argue with every person she sees even going so far to say that it’s a “shame” that some Muslim women protesting had been rude to her. A “shame” is it. That a few women have in your eyes brought down all Muslim women because of what ‘they’ said. That’s a whole other blog post that I will tackle later because this one is already far too long. All the viewer learns from this programme is extreme, radicalised views that are great for getting annoyed at but do not actually tackle the real problem in Britain.

Proud and Prejudiced takes a slightly more removed view but still has the same result. The opposing groups both had chances to show themselves and show themselves up, which they did. The EDL leader, Stephen Lennon, repeatedly claimed that the EDL were not a racist group yet when Lennon brought out an Asian EDL member to speak at a rally the crowd turned, spat out racist remarks and several fights broke out. In turn Muslims Against Crusaders had their remarks countered by another member of the Muslim community who says the leader, Sayful Islam, did not know as much about the scriptures as he claimed.

In the end all three programmes are made for entertainment rather than to actually inform viewers. Producers will focus on drama and extreme views, which people can talk about in the office the next day, rather than a frank discussion on race.

What I would like to see is an hour dedicated to a roomful of people, a moderator and the free flow of ideas, experiences and values. Not to say that this would bring about the end of racism as we know it, but wouldn’t that be lovely, but it would at least inform the nation about what’s really going on in the lives of black people in Britain today. A safe space to take part in an honest discussion is the stepping stone to first understanding what racism is and then to breaking it down. But, I guess that would be boring to watch, or would it.

 

Originally posted at Black Feminists UK

Beatles Covers That Are Better Than The Originals

I like to think of myself as a bit of a music nerd with an encyclopedic knowledge of everything from Nicki Minaj to Archie Bronson Outfit but there’s one band I’ve been neglecting about all these years. I’m ashamed to say it but, my name is Stephanie Phillips, I am 23 and until a few months ago I had never properly listened to a Beatles record.

Now, that’s quite a feat you must be thinking, considering how many Beatles records are embedded into popular culture, on shopping centre soundtracks and used as background music in adverts (and there are a lot of Beatles records on adverts when you look for them).

I’m the kind of person who needs to be listening to music in the right way for it to make a real impact on me. I need to be detached from the reminder of adverts I’d heard it on or the recommendations of friends, colleagues or casual acquaintances that on hearing my Beatles tragedy feel I’m deranged and won’t be normal until I just listen to a teensy bit of ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’. If not then I can never fully connect with the song or artist making it better if I had never listened to it in the first place.

So I put myself to work a few months ago to correct this irregularity and forced myself to listen to a few Beatles tracks. What was the obvious outcome of this? Well, I loved them. Not all of them obviously. I think it was Kim Deal that said most of the Beatles records were just advert jingles, which is quite true. Songs like ‘She Loves You’, ‘Drive My Car’ and ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’, while catchy and enjoyable, still feel like they have something missing to me.

I loved songs like ‘I Am The Walrus’, ‘Dig A Pony’ and ‘Across the Universe’ as there was something otherworldly about the lyrics and song arrangements that made them stand out to me. I obviously haven’t listened to every Beatles song but while I was in Beatles research mode I found quite a few covers of the band that  I loved just as much, and sometimes more, than the original. So I’ve put together a small list for your perusal, add to it if you want to, question it if you want to but here’s my list of bands that matched or beat The Beatles:

6. Dig A Pony- St Vincent

St Vincent does what St Vincent does best and that’s lay out face-melting lead riffs that make thousands of brain dead fools splutter: “Wow, I wish all girls played guitar like she does.” Don’t get me started on that one. Riffs aside, Annie Clark’s energy alone during her solo performance of ‘Dig A Pony’ is enough reason for her to be on this list.

5. Across The Universe- Fiona Apple

This song is astoundingly beautiful and too be honest I don’t think it is any worse or better than the original because you just can’t go wrong with this. And, if you’re wondering yes I did first hear this song on the Pleasantville soundtrack. What’s wrong with that.

4. Happiness is a Warm Gun- Breeders

How can the super team of Kim Deal and Tanya Donelly ever go wrong. Back when the Breeders were a side project for both ladies they decided to cover one of the most inventive Beatles songs and they pulled it off. MOTHER SUPERIOR JUMP THE GUN.

3. Cry Baby Cry- Throwing Muses

Not to be confused with the Muses song of the same name ‘Cry Baby Cry’ is such an odd song only Throwing Muses with their forward-thinking approach to sound could do this song justice.

2. Don’t Wanna Hold Your Hand- Thee Headcoatees

The reason I love Thee Headcoatees cover of ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ is because it’s so childish and immature but they just don’t care. It’s probably not a cover that proper Beatles fans would feel matched the original but I love it.

1. Wild Honey Pie- Pixies

Many people have decided that ‘Wild Honey Pie’, which was written and performed entirely by Paul McCartney, was the worst Beatles song ever. With it’s repetitive, deep vocals and hellish carnival-esque feel it is certainly the most challenging. Obviously The Pixies weren’t put off by this. They stripped it down, turned up the distortion and threw on the trademark guttural screams and within no time they had themselves a winning cover song.