Out Artists on the Rise
They’re screaming, whispering and crooning...they’re genre-busting, gender-bending and ground-breaking...they’re whipping fans into frenzies. Who are they? They’re this year’s quick and dirty dozen out artists, and they’re getting ready to bust out on the big time.
The Pussy Pirates
The Pussy Pirates might be a lot of things (ambitious, punk and queer, for example), but they insist that they are most certainly not a ska band. Self-identifying as “post-punk with no wave influence” with roots in jazz syncopation, their lyrics are chock-full of anger, humor and satire.
The quintet is composed of four riotous Midwestern grrls jamming on tenor/alto saxophones, trumpet, bass and guitar, with a lone male on the drums. Their new, live album, Pussy Pirates Plastic Paradise, will be released by Riot Grrl Ink in September. The title refers to the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” a.k.a. the ocean—the final resting place for most of our plastic refuse. Like most of their songs, the album is a tongue-in-cheek response to the problems of today. “The world is completely absurd to us so we’re going to have this absurd response to it,” says Gabriela Zapata, the power behind many of the lyrics, vocals and instruments. The album is 100 percent recycled plastic and cardboard, and uses Earth-friendly inks.
The band goes on the road after their album drops this September. When they tear through your town, expect to be overwhelmed by the group’s passion and their highly animated, interactive performances. For more info, visit thepussypirates.com. —Michelle Barnwell
If you’ve seen Shortbus then you’ve probably already heard Jasper James’s highly acclaimed and very sexy track, “This House.” What you might not know is that song inspired James’s latest album, Vibrator, which is currently being mastered and is scheduled to drop this month.
According to James, the album is “a lot of sexiness, something to make you dance” and is a continuation of the ideas that started with her Shortbus single. Her biggest influences on this album? “Hot sex, good sex, often.”
Sex isn’t the only thing on James’s mind. Her recent projects include a soon-to-be-released documentary called Yardies, about the crisis of homophobia in Jamaica, and she has also begun to reconnect with fellow DUMBA Collective (the now defunct community living/art space) members. Working off a series of ten-minute performances that showed at The Box last year, their goal is to take DUMBA global as a traveling collective with a one-hour show. She misses being a part of the “strong network of talented, queer women” that came together through DUMBA, and the spirit of “good art exploration” that they stood for.
Despite all the various projects on the horizon, James’s heart (and perhaps a few other body parts) lie in her music. Check out myspace.com/jasperjamesmusic. —Michelle Barnwell
A jill-of-all-trades, Jenny Hoyston does a little of it all. From ‘zine editing to organizing events such as Fabulosa Fest—a Northern California benefit featuring queer women in the arts—she’s not someone who remains idle. Above all else, she’s a musician, performing both as a solo artist and with bands LESBIANS and Erase Errata.
Hoyston was a born performer. Of her musical background, she remarks, “I studied piano and trumpet when I was growing up and played my first recital when I was five years old. I’ve been performing for such a long time that it seems like I’ve always done it.” She’s long since left behind such audiences of parents and their promises of cookies; Hoyston has been busy preparing for Europride this month in Stockholm.
Erase Errata is a punk/psychedelic band reminiscent of the Riot Grrrl greats of the ‘90s, but with a little more polish. Political lyrics compliment electric beats and a punked-up sound. Their last album, Night Life, was released in 2006 on Kill Rock Stars, home of former label-mates Sleater-Kinney.
On the other end of her spectrum, Hoyston performs with LESBIANS, which she describes as “folk/punk/comedy.” They’ll be performing at Fabulosa Fest this October.
Music from any and all of Hoyston’s projects can be found online at myspace.com/jennyhoystonparadiseisland and eraseerrata.com. —Brandi Bruner
Indie rock haven Olympia, Washington has spawned yet another attention-grabbing queer band. The all-female hip-hop/electro duo Scream Club has been making crowds move with irresistible beats and rhymes full of the genre’s trademark raunchiness, with an unexpected twist. “We’re really strong women putting out a positive message that you don’t have to put people down,” says Cindy Wonderful. While her cohort Sarah Adorable admits to being a fan of mainstream music, she also says, “It’s frustrating listening to rap on the radio; it is offensive. It feels good to make pop and hip-hop that’s positive.”
On top of touring, the two have managed to squeeze in collaborations with Peaches and The Gossip’s Beth Ditto. After putting out their first album Don’t Bite Your Sister on the queer-friendly label Retard Disco and their current record Life of a Heartbreaker on the independent hip-hop label Alpha Pup records, the duo will be releasing their upcoming full-length Big Deal on their own imprint, Crunks Not Dead Records, this fall.
“There’s so much positive music, and I want to be part of putting that out in the world,” says Wonderful. The two have credited the queer community with being “super supportive” of their work, and an encounter they had with a heterosexual fan also gives a sign of this group’s crossover potential. “We met this straight dude who rapped all my lyrics back to me,” says Wonderful. “I feel like I’m bridging the gap.”
Be on the lookout for their upcoming music video on Logo followed by a national tour at screamclub.com and crunksnotdead.com. —Sophia Dorval
The Trucks, based in Bellingham, Washington, formed five years ago in response to the lack of female bands available to play a college music festival in the Northwest. Marissa Moore, Lindy McIntyre, Kristin Allen-Zito and Faith Reichel joined their talents in a seductive combination of vocals, vox, keys, bass and drums that allows nothing but an all-night commitment to party.
Their style is a blend of frenetic girl-power meets ‘80s electro-pop with lots of toy instruments and random experimentation—not to mention assorted adornments of fishnets, wings and “classy” spandex; they describe themselves as what happens when “a marching band, the Peaches, and Robert Smith collided.” Their lyrics blend anger, humor and frank sexuality; they’re not afraid to ask for what they want, often in explicit detail. In “Shattered,” a song off their 2006 self-titled CD, their sultry, synthed-up sound builds the mantric chorus to an explosive climax that sends their devoted fans into a dance frenzy.
The Trucks recently toured with Northern State and are currently writing new material, playing a summer festival in Montana, and “sunbathing as often as possible,” Lindy adds. Now that they’ve successfully filled the gender gap in their local rock scene, The Trucks will soon go on tour in Europe. Visit myspace.com/thetrucks for more info. —Erin Karcher
Nicole Reynolds started taking flat-pick jazz guitar lessons in college and loved it so much that she decided to major in guitar performance. She wrote a “lot of folky little tunes” after college that became the basis for her first CD, Wolves Won’t Eat Us. Although she hadn’t performed onstage at all before the release of this CD, Reynolds discovered that she loved playing live after succumbing to pressure from her girlfriend to get out there and do it. Her first live appearance was opening for Melissa Ferrick’s 2007 East Coast tour.
Reynolds is heavily influenced by the jazz, old folk music and protest labor songs that she discovered as a high school student in Western Pennsylvania. Reynolds’s soft, angelic voice paints a rich tapestry of nostalgia, yearning and earnest simplicity that is further accentuated by her soft guitar and banjo strummings. Her tunes are catchy and melodic—“Wonderin’” is the kind of song you’ll listen to in the morning and have stuck in your head for the rest of the day.
Her new album Unordinary Mine is due to hit stores this month. As for future plans, Reynolds says, “I’d like to continue touring and farming.” She’ll be playing the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival before heading off to Europe to study organic farming. Check her out at nicolereynoldsmusic.com. —Erin Karcher
The ladies who make up the Brooklyn rock trio Taigaa! refuse to be caged into one category. “We come up with different genres for our music all the time,” says singer and keyboardist G. Wolf. They’re currently describing themselves as “Dance Drone Experimental Space Rock,” a sound that includes influences ranging from Ppongtchak, an early form of Korean Pop, to ‘70s punk à la The Raincoats. Tracks from the band’s second album, Off, incorporate instruments such as violins and horns to accompany Wolf’s sometimes soulful, and sometimes haunting vocals.
The birth of Taigaa! began in 2006 after Wolf and violinist K.O.K.O. decided to create a new band from the ashes of their previous project, Butterknife Krüsh. After witnessing her solo project, More Teeth, drummer Dust was invited to join the two. “From our first practice we were in love,” says Dust.
Being female in a genre that continues to be male dominated hasn’t phased them. “Every once in a while, someone says something offensive during a setup as if we don’t know what we are doing,” says Wolf, “but after seeing our show, the offensiveness becomes mega-friendliness.” Go to taigaa.com for more info. —Sophia Dorval
You’d think that a band named Screaming Females would be, in fact, all female. Not the case for this punk rock trio. Marissa Paternoster, Jarrett Dougherty and King Mike hail out of New Brunswick, New Jersey, a place that you may be surprised to find out actually kicks it up a notch or two in the music department.
“[New Brunswick] is home to some of the world’s largest basement shows, way overpriced rents and a much higher percentage of good bands than should be coming out of this small city,” says Dougherty, the drummer, otherwise known as Jarrett D, who’s often referred to as “the least queer” of all his bandmates.
Backed up by bass player King Mike, who admits to getting “man crushes,” Paternoster screams at the mic and gnaws at the guitar, creating sounds that induce both body movements and sing-alongs. “Most people don’t know what I’m singing,” she says. “They make an effort to mouth the words and I really appreciate their enthusiasm.”
Once you witness them performing songs with lyrics warning, “do not trust those pretty girls, they will only break your heart,” in between some unavoidably head-bobbing guitar rifts, it’s easy to get why they have an instant following wherever they go.
Together since 2005 and formerly known as Surgery on TV, the trio recently finished a summer tour playing from their two albums Baby Teeth and What if Someone is Watching their TV? along with a self-titled 7-inch album. Fans also can look forward to a string of shows on the East Coast throughout the summer and fall.
Aside from putting on kick-ass shows, what else inspires Screaming Females? “Oh my god, the Aerosmith documentary, Pump. A masterpiece,” Paternoster quips. Check them out at myspace.com/screamingfemales. —Liz Gold
You could say that Cheeky was formed through mutual admiration. When Angie Boylan heard about a band fellow Long Islander Kate Wadkins was starting with another local, Kate Eldridge, and their college buddy guitarist Brian Schleyer, she immediately asked to be the drummer. “I think I just wanted an excuse to hang out with her because she’s the coolest,” Boylan says of Wadkins, who plays bass. “And yeah, the band sounded pretty cool, too.”
Adds Wadkins, “We all wanted to ask Angie to play with us, but knew she was in two other bands. I couldn’t believe she asked us, she’s a wild animal! It’s been a pretty hectic year for us, so we’re trying to take things a little slower for now.”
After a whirlwind of just a little over a year playing together, the punk rock quartet recently finished up a tour promoting their Choke on a Cheeseburger EP, released last December by Quote UnQuote Records and on 7 inch by Freedom School Records. They’ve got a double fist full of songs ready for a full-length album and are working on an “Art of the Underground” 7-inch single, due out by early next year.
Eldridge, who sings and plays guitar, says that the band’s only message is “‘Don’t be a jerk,’ which should apply to everybody!”
“I think it’s important to us that three of us are women playing music,” says Wadkins. “There’s a lot more girls playing in bands in New York right now, and that’s been really exciting for us to see and be a part of. It can be frustrating dealing with the boy’s club, or the hetero club for that matter, but it’s really important that you keep playing.” Get more Cheeky at myspace.com/cheekyli. —Liz Gold
After being voted best band of the month last year by their hometown fans in Durham, North Carolina, Midtown Dickens gave back with an all-day music festival in a warehouse filled with punks, artists, kids, puppies and singer-songwriter-friend Kimya Dawson with the release of their CD, Oh Yell!?
Kym Register and Catherine Edgerton have been playing music together since they were five, which clearly translates into a fluid, playful onstage dynamic. Register and Edgerton have played together professionally for three years, and with the addition of drummer and friend Michelle Preslick last year, they found they right beat to complete their sound.
The Dickens describe themselves as a “multi-tasking, DIY, folk punk-grass trio.” They have a “choose your own adventure” approach to music that unfolds every time they step on stage. At a typical Dickens show, Register plays acoustic guitar and banjo, switches up with Preslick for a song or two on drums, then drops her guitar for a resounding trombone finale. Edgerton juggles an assortment of instruments including accordion, slide whistle, ukulele and the saw.
After touring with such bands as Bitch and the Exciting Conclusion, Tilly and the Wall and Old Time Religion, Midtown Dickens will embark on a West Coast tour in July before crawling up the East Coast in the fall. Currently the band is recording a new album that Register says will “concentrate more on the dynamics of each song—hopefully sounding like the best kind of summer ever.” Visit myspace.com/midtowndickens for more. —Erin Karcher
Those who remember Tami Hart’s folk rock debut album, No Light In August, may be surprised to encounter the gritty sound of her current band Winning Looks, but it’s business as usual to the 27-year-old veteran rocker. “Though my albums were mostly acoustic, there has always been a punk element. Nothing has really changed,” says Hart. Her bandmate Kelly Harris describes their guttural tunes as “Raw and honest. To the point.”
The group’s self-titled 7-inch record was recorded by riot grrl legend Kathleen Hanna of Le Tigre and Bikini Kill fame, and released this past May on Waiting Records, an indie label started by Andrew Martini, bassist for the queercore band Limp Wrist. In addition to writing all the music for the Winning Looks, the prolific Hart recently returned from touring with her other “dance trash” bands—Making Friends, who have a single on an international Crunks Not Dead compilation album, and the aggressive electronic Crooklegs, who will be making their New York City debut in September.
While Harris states that “Being gay is not the main focus of Winning Looks’ lyrics or stage banter,” she admits that, “There are times and places where it comes out more than others….We got totally harassed at [a local NYC venue] last summer....They stole our money and called us fu*king dykes.” Despite that incident, “I wouldn’t want to be anything but an out musician,” she says. “There have never been negative aspects for me,” says Hart, “because I’ve always felt lucky and honored to get to do what I love—
make music.” Check out myspace.com/winninglooksrock and waitingrecords.com for new singles and the latest tour info. —Sophia Dorval
8 Inch Betsy
The all-girl trio 8 Inch Betsy has been winning over crowds across the country with their punk rock ways since Liz Burke, Meghan Galbraith and Stephanie Levi formed the band in the summer of 2004. The Chicago-based group has shared the stage with Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls and has played with bands such as Bitch and The Gossip.
8 Inch Betsy signed with Queer Control Records in 2007. After releasing their first full-length album, This Time, Last Time, Everytime, in January 2008, 8 Inch Betsy joined their label mates on the Queer Control Pass The Torch Tour. When asked what the experience was like touring with their label mates, drummer Stephanie Levi replies, “Awesome. It was so amazing how we all got along. There was no tension, no weirdness; everybody was just really supportive.” The tour was such a success that there are plans in the works for a second Queer Control Tour slated for this October.
8 Inch Betsy draws diverse crowds, and Levi says that not all audiences are “expecting these three girls to make so much noise and rock the house.” They are always working on new material and plan to release their sophomore album within the year. You can guarantee that 8 Inch Betsy has every intention of continuing to rock your pants off. —Sara Sugar