First Aid Kit | Subverting expectations set for women

It’s been nearly a year since First Aid Kit released ‘You Are the Problem Here’ for International Women’s day. The single was written in response to the lenient sentencing of Brock Turner, following his very public trial for rape and sexual assault at Stanford University in California.

The band, which comprises sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg, wrote the song out of anger and frustration towards rape culture, but also in an entirely pre-#metoo world. The swell of support for women, and the rise of Time’s Up, is something that the sisters never anticipated.

“As a woman, we’re used to thinking that [gender inequality] is never going to change. I mean no one’s ever cared before so why would they now? But it’s amazing that change is finally happening. It feels crazy that it’s happening now and not a million years ago,” Klara says.

“We do have a super long way to go, but personally I feel so much stronger after the Metoo movement. I’m not afraid of speaking up anymore when I’m uncomfortable. Myself and Johanna, we’re not going to let the little things fly. Because that’s what really gets to you. That’s what leads to these big things happening, because we always let these big things fly,” Klara says.

In the year that has passed since releasing that record, the Swedish duo wrote and recorded their highly anticipated third album, Ruins. But before getting there, they had to make a lot of big changes, and step away from the band that had consumed the entirety of their adult lives.

“We couldn’t go on the way we had. We’d worked so hard, and it was really fun, but we got to a point where we needed to stop,” Klara says.

“We needed to take time away from each other, and from the First Aid Kit world. Because that had basically been our whole lives. I was 14 when we started the band, and everything was so exciting that it got to the point where my body was spent, and I couldn’t do it anymore. I was so exhausted.”

Klara’s body and mind, which had been through a huge amount of physical stress over the decade of being in First Aid Kit, began to falter.

“I remember we were on tour in Europe and we were talking about making a music video, which would mean we wouldn’t have as much time at home between tours, and I started crying. And I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t imagine just one day of work, I couldn’t do it,” Klara says.

It was, of course, a confusing time for the young woman, who struggled with balancing her need to rest and desire to work.

“It’s tough, I felt a lot of guilt for feeling that way, because I thought I was doing what I always wanted. And why wasn’t I appreciating it, what was wrong with me. Now I understand that better, that it wasn’t strange because I had been working so much, but also because it was our whole lives. I needed to figure out who I was outside the band, and if it all falls apart, that I’m still going to be a person who has other things,” Klara says.

“I think we’re all trying to figure that stuff out. I felt so much better in my own skin, and just the feeling that if this doesn’t work out for some reason, I’m still going to be a fully formed person. I have friends outside of this. And I think that’s a good thing to have, so you don’t feel so dependent on it.”

The sisters agreed to take a six-month break, with zero pressure to write or work in any capacity. During that time, her relationship of five years ended. Moving back to Sweden from the UK, Klara was struck by the inspiration that would shape the record.

“I’d had all these ideas about where my life was going, and then all of it changed very quickly. But I got to write about it, and now I can share it. And people say they can relate to the songs, and they’re in the exact same situation now that I was in, and it’s such a beautiful connection that we have with people,” Klara says.

As a new chapter of her life outside of the band, Klara is keen to continue challenging and expanding what First Aid Kit can do.

“As women, people expect us to be a certain way. There’s an expectation that we’re the Swedish, bohemian sisters who make beautiful folk music. And, well, yes. But we also do other stuff. We don’t want to limit ourselves,” Klara says. But just in the way that they empowered so many women, singing “I hope you fucking suffer” to any and all men who have abused their positions of power on ‘You Are the Problem Here’Klara says they continued to be empowered and energised by the movement across the globe pushing women to the front.

“I feel such a sisterhood, we’ve come together. We need to change how we raise children. I feel there’s more and more people every day are realising it. That change will be better for everyone. But it’s going to take a long time, but I think we’ll get there.”

Originally published in Beat Magazine.

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Bianca Martin | Punk is an Attitude

“Giving femme, queer, POC, trans, and gender non-conforming artists an extra leg up is imperative to their growth and success,” says Bianca Martin. 

“There’s nothing more punk than doing something you love and being your truest self. To me, this means radical vulnerability in songwriting and complete dedication to your passions. It means standing up for yourself and your values, and placing an importance on your community.”

Through her love of punk, Martin has experienced firsthand the striking state of gender equality within the music industry, and beyond. Rather than let this be, the drummer for The Girl Fridas and Piss Factory has strived for change each day since her arrival in the scene.

As a musician, booker, and fan, Martin has experienced difficulty gaining recognition, representation and support in the industry, from not being taken seriously, to micro-aggressions, abuse, and outright physical harassment.

Since her move to Melbourne, Martin has taken a proactive approach in supporting non-cis-men in creating music, driven by her dissatisfaction with the treatment of non-cis-men in the industry.

“[I was] sick of regularly being the only women on lineups and sick of seeing my queer and trans friends constantly looked over in favour of ‘mates’. I felt less inclined to go to shows where my identity wasn’t represented, because I also knew there would be a likelihood of being one of few women in the audience. The more of my friends I spoke to, the more this became an obvious issue.

“I had friends who desperately wanted to go see live music regularly, but didn’t feel safe going to a show where they knew they would stand out.

“It’s so easy to approach venues to put on shows in Melbourne, I figured it only made sense to use the privilege I had to take action into my own hands. It gives them a space where they can focus on music rather than defending their identities and existence.”

Martin regularly puts on events promoting safer spaces, and gender inclusive lineups within the scene, working with Girls Rock Melbourne and Sticky Institute, to provide support and representation for artists.

It’s an impressive effort, to say the very least. But Martin’s clear passion for DIY culture, and encouraging self-expression is so very punk. The community she’s helping to foster is important, as there is certainly a need for support and encouragement of non-cis-males in the industry.

“I don’t hear cis-male artists saying they’re having difficulty getting offered shows, or having bookers and sound people take them seriously, or that they get hassled and heckled or that people go out for a smoke during their set.

“Because of the society we’re raised in, cis-men generally feel more confident and deserving of shows. Giving femme, queer, POC, trans, and gender non-conforming artists an extra leg up by offering them shows first in environments where they feel comfortable is imperative to their growth and success.”

Representation is crucial in creating a shift in challenging what is considered punk, and the misconceptions, and dangerous gender norms and inequalities that exist within the industry, and beyond.

“There’s a saying, ‘You can’t be what you can’t see,’ which is something I keep going back to. Unsurprisingly the riot grrrl movement was a huge inspiration for starting the Girl Fridas. It really wasn’t until fully exploring that movement that we began to understand that what we wanted to do was realistic and achievable,” Martin says.

In early 2017, Bianca proposed a punk event for Melbourne Music Week, gathering her dream lineup, and fuelled by the fact she’d be able to pay them well, a rarity in local shows. However, the powers that be at MMW asked her to join the Live Music Safari, as her desire to represent the diversity within Melbourne’s punk scene fit the theme for the year, celebrating 40 years of punk.

This application of Martin’s original proposal to a large-scale event has allowed her to bring the punk acts she’s so passionate about to a wider audience, something she’s excited to do. “I’d like to broaden people’s perceptions about what punk can be,” Martin says. That’s pretty much as punk as it gets.

Originally published in Beat Magazine.

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Kids at Midnight | Love Safari

“What’s happening at the moment, and it’s an awesome movement that needed to happen, is more and more women are taking control of their careers and opportunities, by learning to produce, by running events, by climbing that ladder to be the person that then books and mentors others. That’s how we level a playing field, by doing it.”

You may know Jane Elizabeth Hanley as Kids at Midnight, but the indie electronic artist’s passion for female empowerment in the music industry drives her to work far beyond her own music. With gender inequality remaining one of the most pressing issues on the Australian music landscape, Hanley says that female focussed events have never been so important.

“The more we see each other succeeding because we’ve worked hard, the more younger artists will see that hard work gets you somewhere, and the wave of quality will wash over the industry like a tidal wave. And if you don’t support female artists/DJs (by support I mean going to gigs, buying the music, sharing the mixes) you absolutely cannot complain there are not enough of them. The end.”

Taking this attitude on board, iconic Melbourne venue The Carlton Club is opening itself up for its first live music events, with a firm focus on female driven events and lineups, approaching Hanley specifically to curate an event.

The resulting event is Love Safari, an all day event on the Hasti Bala & Deck, featuring a mammoth indie-electronica lineup featuring some of the most exciting female artists, DJs and producers in Melbourne, including Rosaline Yuen, Aurelia, The Girl Fridas, Ruby Slippers Adriana and Whiskey Housten. Continue reading

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The Shins | James Mercer

Though James Mercer, frontman of indie rock darling The Shins technically began work on the band’s new album, Heartworms, about two years ago, he confesses his songwriting is far from a linear process.

Mercer’s writing is a labour of love, and some songs on the record have been in the works for close to ten years.

“I’ve always done that, there’s always these ideas where I hit some sort of an impasse with the song, and I can’t figure out how to make it work, so I set it aside. There are songs that I was working on before Oh, Inverted World that I still can’t figure out, so hopefully they’ll come out one day,” Mercer says.

“Some of those songs I’ve been working on for so long. The Fear is a song I’ve had floating around for years. I remember showing Eric Johnson that song when he was in the band, so that would have been touring for Wincing the Night Away.”

Even the titular track has its roots far earlier in Mercer’s illustrious career.

Heartworms is pretty old, it’s something I was considering for Port of Morrow, but I couldn’t figure out what to do with it. Otherwise, everything is new, and I wrote it during that gap after I toured with Broken Bells.”

Despite this, it’s far from disjointed. Mercer effortlessly brings the old and new together to create a cohesive and palatable structure. However, the album is dynamic in its emotions, something that makes a lot of sense when you take into account it was written over many stage in his life. Continue reading