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“What I really resent most about people sticking labels on you is that it cuts off all the other elements of what you are because it can only deal with black and white…” Siouxie Sioux
I have been playing in bands since I was 16 years old. When we were 15, my sister Jessica and I started going to punk shows every weekend in LA to see the likes of the Adolescents, the Dickies, X, TSOL. We were obsessed with the Slits, Blondie, Siouxie and the Banshees. One weekend we went to see F Minus at the Glasshouse. It was during their set when Jessie and I decided to start a band. That week we learned to play guitar and have been playing punk music since. Currently I am the singer, one of the guitar players, and songwriter for Bleached, a punk band from the San Fernando Valley. We are releasing a new EP on March 3, 2016 titled Can You Deal? After 5 straight months of touring, there was an energy in our band playing together that we wanted to try and capture in the studio. We recorded these songs in a 3 week break from touring when we felt like we needed to keep moving. After spending months working on the last record, we wanted to go back to the process of recording quickly, capturing the energy we were experiencing on stage. Alex Newport produced and mixed them with us. The songs are raw. The recordings are too. Just how we wanted them.
Last year we released a full length album titled Welcome The Worms which was a deeply personal record. It was a record about being in and getting out of an emotionally abusive relationship. It was a record about getting spun out on drugs and alcohol. It was a record about totally losing myself in order to find myself. It was also our most ambitious body of work yet, with guitar work and guitar sounds and production we had only dreamed of until then. And yet to this day I am still fielding interview questions that have more to do with my gender than with the art I am creating. Somehow the conversation usually derails into some variation of the following question: “What is it like to be a girl in a rock band?” What does one want from this question? It is a lazy question, is it not? What does me being in a band have to do with my gender? The question is asked with a feigned surprise that women can play well, play loud, make records, and tour as if it has not been happening for years. There is a sense of novelty to a girl playing guitar and making rock music. There is an element of surprise that we are females and being interviewed about the music we make…as women.
Here is my answer to your question. Being girl in a band is no different than being a girl in any field. We have people consistently pointing out our gender as if it relates to our ability to do our job. Our gender is pointed out in nearly all coverage of what we do as if it was integral to understanding our band. Labeling me as a woman in a band just puts me in a box, and doesn’t allow everything else I am to be seen and heard. My band is labeled as a “girl band” or a “female fronted” band. Why the necessity to differentiate? Is it a warning? Women have been playing rock music for decades. When does the novelty wear off? The labeling is reductive. And does not (and has not) done us any favors. When can my band simply be labeled as “a punk band”?
I create music and art because I need to. To express, to bond, to reconcile, and to connect. And to use my voice. To have it received with such a generic filter and off hand labeling is insulting. The title track to this EP, “Can You Deal?” is about this experience. “You know that it’s me, Who Else Could I Be? Don’t You See?”
Can You Deal? is for every girl out there who is sick of every male sound engineer telling them what they think is right for their set up. Can You Deal? is for every girl who has been told that “girl bands are in right now” by an A&R guy. Can You Deal? is for any girl mulling over press photos knowing their band will be picked apart before someone even listens to the music. Can You Deal? is for everyone who can stop referring to my band as “female fronted.” It is for everyone who can stop feigning surprise every time a woman plugs in and plays well, or gets behind the drums, or has the sickest bass style. It is 2017. Can You Deal Yet? I look forward to speaking to you about the music.
-Jennifer Clavin, Bleached