Why do I have to wear short shorts and my bandmates get to wear pants? I'm kinda cold.Last week I went to see the band Women and was struck by something odd. It wasn’t how good they were—it was my second time seeing them and there was gratuitous guitar wanking, inaudible vocals, and not much else. No, looking up through my PBR colored glasses at the stage I saw Women—but they weren’t women, like the people with boobs, they were Canadian dudes! Not only was there not a single woman on stage, looking around I only saw a handful of us in our best skinny jeans.
I wondered where are the ladies? Furthermore, what’s the deal with all these all- male indie rock bands with female band names?
First, every show I’ve been to lately is a complete dude storm—in both band and crowd. Now, I love a cute bro in glasses just as the next broad, but where are all the women at shows? Perhaps I’m in the wrong city or maybe we just don’t care about music and prefer to at home cooking dinner and making babies.
Maybe I’m being an “uppity bitch” but c’mon: Women, Girls, Girl Talk, Twin Sister, Communist Daughter, etc. A few years back, it was totally trendy to name a band after a woodland creature—Fleet Floxes, Grizzly Bear, Deeranything. But now you cannot get onto Pitchfork unless your band name is the Girly Girls and the lil’ Twin Bitch Sisters.
Is it satirical for a band of bros to call themselves Girls or Women? Like, ha! ha! we’re a bunch of dudes so it would be totally ironic to call ourselves something girly!!
I probably wouldn’t be so annoyed if I thought that popular indie rock was overflowing with female artists and those artists were respected and taken seriously. When female artists are buzzed about, it’s often not about the music. Kyle Forester of Crystal Stilts recently commented on this gender dichotomy on Pitchfork saying, “People love girls in bands, but they want to write lewd shit about them on Brooklyn Vegan. It is weird that the indie rock world is supposed to be politically progressive, but in terms of gender politics, it's sort of like 'Mad Men'.”
(you needn’t look further than Death Cab for Cutie sad sack Ben Gibbard to realize that, in music, the same attractiveness standards DO NOT apply for men and women. His wife's pretty hot though!)
There are a lot of awesome women in indie rock right now, but the bands that are the most blogged about are either a bunch of dudes with a lady name or a bunch of dudes with some sort of hot, maybe gimmicky female lead singer. For example, the New York based band Twin Sister; the band consists of five members- and the one girl is the vocalist. She has a “quirky” voice, conveniently contributing to the band’s sleepy, bedroom “dream pop”. I know little of Twin Sister’s background but the aforementioned uppity bitch in me suspects the lead vocalist was shoved in front of a microphone because she was hot in that indie-bangs-and-arm-tattoo kind of way and could sing. And behold! In an internet minute, Twin Sister’s album Color Your Life was given a 7.5 by Pitchfork.
Twin Sister and their lead lady are blowin’ up on the blogosphere, but they aren’t the only one with a strategically placed female lead singer. I saw the Brooklyn-and-blog based band Cults sometime in the late summer. Listening to Cults before seeing them live, the vocals sounded like they belonged to that of a 6-year old (and I loved it, by the way). I wasn’t far off. The lead singer looked about 19. Her voice is very twee and childlike and for Cults, it works well. But watching her fronting an all bro band, singing and sweetly swaying in front of an almost exclusively all male crowd, I was unsettled. (It should also be mentioned that one of Cults’ band members commented on the lack of women in the audience. sorry you couldn’t see me. I was in the back drinking beer.)
Don’t get it twisted—I love female vocalists. But with a new Brooklyn buzz band cranking out an MP3 a minute, it seems like cute female vocalists are a commodity for success—or at least a blurb on a blog.
There are women in indie rock. A lot of them. But women's music is often gendered- passed off as being sentimental or juvenile. Neil Young was taken more seriously than Joan Baez as an antiwar musician. I know a lot of women who are willing to admit they love Bob Dylan and I can’t say the same for men and Joni Michell. Today, Joanna Newsom, a probable genius, was at first passed off as being nymph-like with a childlike voice. Meanwhile, her 'freak folk' compatriot Devendra Banhart was touted as world-weary and wise. From politics to sports to media to indie rock, women’s accomplishments are often quantified, where man’s are simply accepted verbatim.
When I was doing DJ training for my college radio station a year ago, one of the (female) senior members of the station said to me, “It’s nice to see some ladies here”. Yeah, is refreshing to see actual Women, Girls, Sisters, and Daughters doing the Girl Talk and playing music.
Here are some talented bitches, Mountain Man. Get it? Ha! Ha!