Alt-rock group, VENUS GRRRLS, met at the Leeds Conservatoire, setting out to create a safe place in the industry for all women, not only with their music but also at their live shows. The group is active in eliminating any preconceived ideas of what music should be, they are re-designing the image of the place females have in the industry. Since the release of their latest single, ‘Goth Girl’, they have seen a surge in popularity, most recently being played on BBC 6 Radio.
We spoke to GK, Jess and Grace from the band to discuss ‘Goth Girl’, the music industry and more.
You’ve just released ‘Goth Girl’, it calls out the prejudice that is still seen within society, does this come from direct experience?
Grace: GK writes the lyrics, but it’s based on something we can all relate to, about being bullied at school for being different. It also delves into stereotypes of goth culture and witchcraft including the strange accusations people have on those practises. It’s also a song inspired by ‘Bikini Girls’ – ‘Rebel Girl’ about the celebration of friendship and being different.
The Riot Grrrl movement is definitely emulated in your music, can you tell us about why it is so important to you as a band?
Jess: The Riot Grrrl movement and the band ‘Bikini Kill’ is something that gelled us as a band. ‘Rebel Girl’ is the first song we ever played together as a band. It’s the ethos of our band, even whilst our music is gravitating away from that sound. We still want to try and put the message out there about inclusion, which is something that movement started.
Knowing that you take inspiration from ‘Bikini Kill’ what is it they represent that you hope to mimic?
Grace: The idea of ‘girls to the front’ and creating a safe space. Something that’s really important to us is to inspire other young women, especially those of gender minorities to pick up an instrument, and to normalise women being instrumentalists. Which again ties into inclusion.
How do you think the music industry can be more responsive towards minorities in the industry, including LGBTQ+ artists?
Grace: Supporting these bands from the ground up and not treating anyone as a novelty. Something I’ve witnessed is the lack of representation for these people on festival line-ups, I know there was a whole commotion last year surrounding the Reading and Leeds fest because there were literally only about ten women on their line-up. It’s just not good enough, there are so many women, transgender, non-binary people making music and they need these opportunities that our male counterparts get.
Jess: Somebody’s argument to this has been, not putting people on stage, just because they’re women. This isn’t an excuse, there are plenty of talented women, non-binary , trans well, any minority really, that are doing really well. They’re just not getting chosen. These barriers are also linked to capitalism and classism.
It seems there are many collective within Yorkshire, including ‘Girl Gang’, where do you feel you fit in with this?
Grace: ‘Girl Gang’ have given us great opportunities since day one. Leeds has a lot going for it in this relation and aiming for similar goals to what we’re trying to do as a band. In terms of us fitting into this, we just want to help.
Jess: Once we have more of a platform and grow our audience we can use our voice for avocation. We try to now but the bigger we get, the bigger impact we can have when trying to change the industry to be more accessible.
Grace: Manchester has supported us incredibly. Someone I’ll mention is a company called ‘Brighter Sound’ that gives opportunities to gender minorities to help them in the industry. We also played a day festival called HER fest, and ‘Girl Gang’ put on a day festival, all of these are putting females to the front. Primavera, a festival based in Barcelona, have a 50/50 split line-up and don’t even make a point of it anymore, which is how it needs to be.
Jess: When I was there I wasn’t even conscious that I was seeing more women, it just seemed normal and it just goes to show that it is achievable and there are no excuses for it not happening here. Everyone deserves a balance, and this leads the way in breaking misogyny and not being novelized.
You’re big advocates for self-love, do you think that the process of song-writing and performing has helped with this, especially when dealing with Alopecia and staying positive?
GK: Yes I’d absolutely say it has helped! Performing and song writing most definitely allowed me to discover who I was, at my own pace and in my own way. Being on stage weirdly felt more like home than being off it. It most definitely solidified me into who I am today. I guess being on stage, I (in some ways) had to compartmentalise my insecurities, e.g. whether my wig might come off during a performance, or get caught on the headstock of a guitar. I just had to roll with it and think about the fact that even if that were to happen, then I’d just own it and deal with it. A lot of our songs are honest and truthful about emotion, so in a lot of ways my wig coming off on stage would be kind of raw hahaha. But of course, I would prefer to do this on my own terms as opposed to it coming off suddenly, most likely from whipping my hair a bit too hard. The worries I had about whether people in the audience could tell if I had Alopecia, disappeared for the most part the more I was on stage. Eventually I got to a point where I just had to accept that when performing, my eyebrows were going to sweat off, and my fake lashes would likely be hanging off my eyes for their life, and that I’d get hot and clammy under my wig. I just kind of thought to myself, well this feeling is mine and mine only, and that’s kind of cool. However though, I’ve discovered setting spray and more useful makeup products these days. It was essential I went through them as it definitely allowed me to accept wholeheartedly that I was hairless.
What are your views on PRS instituting a license fee for ticketed small-scale live events?
GK: I think it was disappointing on PRS’ part. It just contributed to the already widening gap between large capacity venues and independent ones. Of course, the larger venues which can hold high-profile events will be able to afford these fees. The smaller ones just can’t, especially in the current climate! I don’t really know what they were trying to achieve, but I think they’ve actually gone back on this decision temporarily now after they received (rightfully) a lot of negative feedback about it. I think it’s a step forward as PRS’ needs to really listen to the voices of these venues as, where would we be without grass root venues? They are the foundations of the music industry. A building without a foundation, collapses.
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Photography by Milly Hewitt