Sunday, August 22, 2010

Faye's history of lady instrumentalists [part four: L7, Kittie, Emilie Autumn, MSI, Cobra Starship, Neon Trees]

Hi! Faye here, your friendly neighborhood Spiderman co-mod! I've been doing a series on female instrumentalists for the past several weeks over here at Deeply Problematic. Missed a few? Catch up: [part one, part two, part three] -- or, see where this whole thing started!

L7 is a really important female band; I think of them as alternative metal, but they're as much associated with the grunge scene. A heavy guitar 'grind' and bold riffs form the basis of much of their sound. They were formed in 1985 by Donita Sparks and Suzi Gardner, who shared electric guitar and vocals, and were joined by Jennifer Finch and Dee Plakas on bass and drums respectively. (Greta Brinkman, Gail Greenwood, and Janis Tanaka have also played bass for them.) At the 1992 Reading Festival, Sparks, in response to the crowd slinging mud at the band, removed her tampon on stage and threw it back at them. On the other end of the spectrum (or not, possibly), the band formed Rock for Choice, a pro-choice group which still organizes benefit concerts. Their songs have been on at least twenty compilation records, and soundtracks including Natural Born Killers, Foxfire, and Tank Girl. For all practical purposes the band is defunct, but they definitely left a lasting impression while they were around.

Lyrics Excerpt: We turn the tables with our unity| They're neither moral nor majority. | Wake up and smell the coffee | Or just say no to individuality.

Kittie is an awesome heavy metal band. To be honest, metal isn't really my thing, but I'm always impressed when I listen to Kittie. The band formed in 1996 when Mercedes Lander (drums) and Fallon Bowman (guitar), were respectively 12 and 14 years old. Lander's sister Morgan joined as lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist, and bassist Tanya Candler played with them as well until leaving in 1999 to finish high school. The band has gone through several lineup changes since then (their longest-lasting members have been Talena Atfield and Jennifer Arroyo on bass, and Tara McLeod replacing Bowman on guitar). They've enjoyed major success since their first album, Spit, debuted in 1999. The band has five albums out and continues to headline tours today.

Lyrics Excerpt: She's led to believe, that it be ok| Look at your face, scarred in dismay| But times have changed, and so have you| I think I'd rather crucify then learn

Emilie Autumn is a wonderful violinist, pianist, harpsichordist and singer. She identifies as asexual (though not aromantic), has bipolar disorder, and is a survivor of sexual assault and abuse and speaks out on these subjects. Her music ranges from fantastical to deeply personal in theme, and her style has also varied - symphonic ballads, jazz-infused piano/cabaret, gritty industrial goth-rock, all with an amazing amount of skill. Unhappy with her experiences and the loss of integrity she was expected to endure when breaking into the industry, she created her own record label, Traitor Records. She has also written an creative autobiography, worked in costuming and all manner of other artistic endeavors.

(Electric violin solo - original composition)

Mindless Self Indulgence (or MSI) is a band that describes itself affectionately as Industrial Jungle Pussy Punk (they have no real genre; it might be synthpunk and has influences from dance to ska to reggae to punk). Their musical creations are fairly tongue in cheek, ironic and usually blatantly offensive in some way. Kitty (Jennifer Dunn) is their drummer and was webmistress/designer for the band. Their first bassist, Vanessa Y.T., is strangely unmentioned in histories of the band, but obv. important to early recordings. Their second bassist, Lyn-Z (Lindsey Way, nee Ballato) is a fan favorite because of her crazy onstage antics. During her audition for the band - after having just learned bass and knowing she couldn't ace it on musical talent alone - she downed a hidden vial of Bacardi, lit a match off a friction strip glued to her bass, and breathed fire all over the ceiling. It worked! And the rest was history. (Media moment: here's a great interview with her in which she talks about what it's like being a woman in the industry.)

Lyrics Excerpt: All the problems |Make me wanna go | Like a bad girl | Straight to video | Little darling | Welcome to the show | You're a failure | Played in stereo

Cobra Starship has had two female keytarists. They started out a very odd supergroup, and their first keytarist, Elisa Schwartz, was with them for their first single, the theme song for Snakes on A Plane (which might tell you something about how seriously this group takes itself...) However, while they kept their sense of irony and tongue-in-cheek playfulness - their stated goal is to "make hipsters learn to dance" - they became a legitimate pop-punk/dance-pop band and continued to make music, and Schwartz was replaced by Victoria "Vicky T" Asher on keytar. She's pretty awesome: she was a film major at NYU, has worked with Terry Gilliam and Michel Gondry, directed commercials and music videos (for CS and others), as well as working as a solo musical artist and in other bands.

Lyrics Excerpt: Hey Mr. DJ | You gotta put a record on, yeah | We're gonna bury this town tonight | We're gonna dance all night

The band Neon Trees is an AMAZING synthpop band out of Provo, UT. Although they've been big for some time in that scene (they were named Band of the Year in SLC in 2009) they got exposure first touring with The Killers in 2008 and then with 30 Seconds To Mars this past spring, around the time their album Habits dropped. Their show is energetic and upbeat, inspiring dancing and clapping, with influences from new wave and electronica all the way to arena rock and MoTown. Handling the drums with gusto is the talented Elaine Bradley, who does some of the backing vocals as well. Unfortunately, because they're so new, there isn't a lot of info on her: I can tell you that she lived in Chicago at one time (presumably not when she joined the band), has an amazing military jacket that tends to reappear in videos, nearly always wears something sparkly and is a HELLA good drummer.

Lyrics Excerpt: Here we go again | We're sick like animals | We play pretend | You're just a cannibal | And I'm afraid I won't get out alive | I won't sleep tonight

Next time: we take it down a notch - or do we really? - with some of the women from the contemporary indie/folkrock/blues/what century is this, again?/twee/acoustic rock scene.

Do you like these posts? Is there anything you'd like to be seeing? Please comment! We love to hear from you! And please, please consider helping keep Deeply Problematic on the web with a greatly appreciated donation, if you can!

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