What’s it like being a girl in a band?
Musicians such as Viv Albertine and Kim Gordon (who even named her autobiography “Girl in a Band”) have written about this fateful question, the inevitable interview sham. Now, I think it’s my turn to say my piece. Although I am by far not as influential as Kim, or by far as experienced. I think I, as an eighteen-year-old with a few years’ experience of being a “girl in a band” have earned the right to comment.
For some bizarre reason, there is still a distinct lack of women in the music business. In case you needed one, a blatant example of this would be in this year’s Reading and Leeds festival- where there is only one women in the entire main line-up. However, what’s shocking about this is that it’s not that there is a complete lack of women in bands, it’s just for some reason we don’t get booked as much as our male counterparts. Why is that? I mean, surely there must be a reason other than obvious sexism? Women are just as skilled at music as men, and to quote the wonderful Brody Dalle, “I don’t play guitar with my f***ing vagina, so what’s the difference?”
To talk more about my experience as a female musician, there has always been expectations of me, just because of my gender. When I started learning guitar at school, I was taken to the classical guitar teacher who taught me pretty, girly chord progressions and finger picking styles. Now, of course this was useful for me to learn, but I was easily bored and longed to learn how to play rock n’ roll and power chords with the other guitar teacher whom, for some reason the boys were taken to. I must add, I soon gave up on the guitar teacher, and taught myself most of what I know.
When I started gigging, doing solo acoustic stuff, I was about fifteen, and I knew that as soon as I walked in, a teenage girl with an acoustic guitar that people would sigh, “Not another saccharine sweet singer/songwriter.” That was never me, and it was never what I wanted to do and I knew that then. I had to join a band, play electric guitar, and make lots and lots of noise. Women seem to have the expectation placed on them that they should sound sweet and innocent, and be sweet and innocent in their lives as well as their music and I wanted to break away from this. We should be able to play and sing however we want, whether that be loud and aggressive, or soft and sweet.
In the band, I’m doing something that I’m truly passionate about and that I’ve always dreamt of doing. It’s funny though, sometimes me and the other guitarist are the only girls in the building in rehearsal studios, and sometimes have to deal with condescending comments from sound guys (Also, why is it always sound guys?) and the men who work in the studios. A lot of women seem to be valued more or their looks rather than their playing which is both heart breaking and infuriating.
All of this aside, if you were to ask me that one question- “what’s it like being a girl in a band?” I don’t think I could give you a straight answer. Playing in a band is the one thing I know I’ll always enjoy doing and I know it’s the one thing I’m meant to do. I’m clumsy and careless in all aspects of my life apart from when I pick up my guitar, it all seems to just fall into place. Being a girl in a band for me is simply just me living my life.
So, ask me what it’s like being a girl eating a sandwich, or a girl catching a train. Music is such a controlling force in my life and pretty much surrounds everything I do. Playing music comes so naturally to me, like sleeping, and eating and I’d even go as far and say breathing. So please, please, please come up with some more interesting questions. Me and my fellow musicians would really appreciate it.
And a point to finish, maybe if we had more women in all aspects of the music industry, we’d stop getting asked stupid questions.
You can check out Beth’s band, Velveteen Riot, here: https://velveteenriot.bandcamp.com