Sunday, 30 December 2012

I wanna get sick/I wanna catch everything you've ever caught

I reviewed Veronica Falls' new record, Waiting For Something To Happen, for the Feb issue of Q (out now). I expect it'll be one of spring/summer 2013's most beloved indie soundtracks, which'll take on a  sweet transformation for me since I rinsed it lovingly to death back in bitter, wintery November, a month that didn't quite suit some of the sunburst, coming-of-age guitar magic that's at work on the record. Tell Me, the opening track, is especially lovely, and filled with the kind of inquisitive, wide-eyed desire/hunger for experience and adventure that growingpainspop sounds like when its at its giddy, aching best.

Sunday, 23 December 2012


The plan was to allow myself a good, healthy fortnight to process ALL THE FEELINGS before I blogged about Queer Zine Fest London's hugely successful inaugural bash. But now that the aforementioned measure of time has passed, I find I'm still deep in the throes of emotional recalibration, and I'm not sure I'm able/inclined to articulate how very much the event meant to me just yet. Expect a belated blog post re this at some point in the new year. 

I managed to put together two zines in time for QZFL. The first, WASTED, is a fanzine for the vanished London haunts of my queer youth, featuring illustrations by Michelle Mendonça. The cover photo features M and me in drunken slumber on the night bus. It's one of my favourite photos of us, and was taken during the very early, inebriated days of our courtship. Here's the blurb:
This is a fanzine about the queer haunts of our youth. It’s a love letter to the lost heart of queer London, one that’s been obliterated by Cross Rail expansion, ConDem-led recession and the exodus of queer culture from central to east London. This is a map of the places were we fell in love, the clubs in which we found community, friends and home. This is for all the places that existed before Facebook was a thing, before the smoking ban came into force, for beloved dives in and around Soho, Tottenham Court Road and Leicester Square, a paean to once-thriving queer venues that are no more. 

Paypal £1 and yr addy to and a copy can be yrs!

The second, Why Can't You Draw Something Nice? is a queer art zine by Michelle Mendonça. She's tech challenged, so I handled the grunt work (margin twiddling, layout fiddling, pagination wizardry) and whipped up an intro. M is mega talented, and I think her work will take off in a mighty big way come 2013. WCYDSN? is also £1. Send yr details to for the goodies.   

Saturday, 22 December 2012

You better bring yrself

I've written an article on queer women who are/do poly and what monogamous types can learn from them, which can be found in the current (January) issue of DIVA Magazine. Its out now and features mega babe Ana Matronic on la cover. Word of the day: frubbliness!

I've been taking stock, as crits/writers/the world is wont to do at this time of year, and am feeling mighty proud of the pieces I've written for the magazine over the past 12 months. I'm particularly grateful to be working for/with an editor so consistently committed to covering talented queer women and exploring issues that matter to our communities, both within the mainstream and outside of it. My features for DIVA in Twenty Twelve have included interviews with THEEsatisfaction, Staceyanne Chin, Beth Ditto and Hannah Blilie of Gossip, Stooshe, Peaches, Grace Petrie, Skunk Anansie's Skin and Nona Hendryx, along with investigative/reportive pieces on lezsploitation and in/visibility in UK TV, the rise of UK based lesbian activism (in response to the ConDem coalition and austerity measures), the achievements of queer women on the UK zine scene, the new anti-squatting laws and the aforementioned poly article. 

I'm biased, obvs, but I think DIVA does a spectacular job of representing queer women. Not yet a subscriber? Then fix that ish up sharpish, friend, and ensure yr 2013 rules by supporting and enjoying radicallesbianfeminist print publications!  

Thursday, 20 December 2012

I've got to show the world/all that I wanna be/and all my abilities

Week seis of my more! magazine column is out now, and awaiting yr perusal. This week: coming out, over and over again! Micro-outs! PDAs! Queer intuition! Its all there, folks.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Kill my blues with yr love

I interviewed Corin Tucker during the lead up to the 2012 US presidential election. We talked politics, feminism, motherhood, zines and the benefits of being an older musician. I also asked her if its true that the person on the front cover of All Hands On The Bad One is in fact her, and that the picture was taken while she was being carried out of a gig after picking a drunken fight with a bouncer and passing out, because I read this somewhere aaaages ago and have always hoped it was true.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Have faith in you and the things you do

#5 of my more! magazine column is now out. This week: falling in love! Navigating my first, serious girl/girl relationship! Realising dyke coupledom didn't automatically = butch/femme gender role dynamics! Also, good news:  I've had word from Bauer HQ that my originally slated 6-week run has now been extended to 9. Huzzah!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

And the sky was made of amethyst

Week #4 of my more! magazine column is out. This week: online dating!  Adventuring into the world of and navigating the crazies, kinksters and threesome-seeking straight couples to find...The One!      

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

To taste the sweetness will be enough

My latest column for more! mag is out now. This week: Losing yr lez v-card! Debunking the penetration-is-king myth! Queer-made porn vs woeful heternormative sex ed! Awkward first times! Sexxxual liberation, lez style!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

"When I was at church, they taught me something else/If you preach hate at the service, those words aren’t anointed"

My latest column for more! magazine is out now, on the shelves of yr nearest reputable newsagents and featuring K-Stew's smug mug on the front cover. This week: finding your tribe, rites of passage (goodbye tresses, hello generic lesbian haircut) and the joys of gay clubbing.

Writing this column has been an interesting exercise so far. I've been out for 8/9 years, and the experiences of those years has allowed me to write (relatively) freely about the pleasures and trials of being queer with (relatively) little qualms about who will be reading them. As I celebrate my queer coming-of-age in this column, writing gaily about strap-ons and losing my lez v-card, I'm very aware, on a personal level, that others do not enjoy the same freedoms. I guess the coming-out story might sometimes feel like a hackneyed narrative for seasoned queers. Some of us would rather be busy getting on with the important stuff then picking over a process that should, in a decent world, be as incidental as puberty. If, like me, you came out years ago, facing only mild, curious surprise and fond acknowledgement from yr loved ones, its easy to forget how terrifying this ordeal this can be for those of us who don't have the acceptance of our families, those of us who labour under an impossibly conditional kind of love. I'm thinking a lot about chosen families this week, and the beautiful, brave strength of queers who have had to adapt and transform our collective idea of 'family' in order to ensure loving, supportive structures are there to embrace us when the old, traditional ones fail. How inventive and wonderful we are.

And here's that Macklemore track again, because its pertinant to the above and all I can listen to at the moment. 

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Bringing scents of lined-up orchard trees/dripping heavy with pears and dancing leaves

I reviewed x4 albums for the Decemember edition of Q - James Iha's Look To The Sky, Matthew Friedberger's Matricidal Sons of Bitches, Chelsea Wolfe's Unknown Rooms and Rolo Tomassi's Astraea. I wrote these reviews up in early September, around the time I'd been spring(winter) cleaning my casette collection and, coindentally, came across Iha's solo debut, a 20p Oxfam find I'd picked up moons ago. 

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

More more more

Peep this week's issue of More! magazine to catch the first instalment of my big, gay column on coming out. Feels sweet to be writing for a magazine I  perused during my pre-babydyke years; I'd leaf through a bunch of 'zines each week in the local newsagents while munching on penny sweets, but More! was one of my preferred reads during those mid/late teen years, mostly because they could be relied upon for the kind of kinky problem-page letters that didn't make it into the more prudish teengirl publications. Also, they boasted the much-loved Position of the Week feature, which I'm very glad to say is STILL RUNNING! Seasoned queers, this is lighter fare than my DIVA stuff, and aimed at the young bi-curious/not-yet-out types (yay that I can be a part of helping heterocentric teen media cater for this demographic!) but worth a peep for some racy moments and ritesofpassage giggles. Go check it!

SMUG zine

SMUG, one of 3 zines I'm ambitiously hoping to debut at Queer Zine Fest London. Cover art by Louise Z  Pomeroy.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Queer Zine Fest London 2012

In between guillotine sessions with the stacks of pink QZFL flyers I've been printing on our creaking HP Photosmart,  I chatted to The Indy about why zine culture rules. Less than a month to go before we take over Space Station Sixty-Five! If yr attending the festivities, let it be known here.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

We sing of what we know/in our own accent

I wrote a piece about Bristol's politically-conscious folk hoppers for The Guardian. Trying to write through fluey brain fog is never the one. Still, yay for regional hippyhop types who're questioning what Britishness means in an age of riots, Coalition-led cuts and deepening class divides. Grau axed the '77  Joan Baez rap video I linked-up in the piece, so I've produced it here, for yr pleasure.

New Strings On An Old Guitar / Clayton Blizzard from Hans Lucas on Vimeo.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

I need a second skin/something to hold me tough

I gave my trusty punker jacket its last rites last night. 7 years of wear and tear had reduced it to shreds, and though I was loath to let it go, the huge split along the seam on the left arm was irreparable. It was a cheap, tacky thing, covered in zips and pockets, too shiny to convince as real leather, and I loved it. 

I bought it from Primark for a tenner, and customized it with a scatter of badges. It was one of my favourite gig jackets: stretchy enough to squeeze a jumper underneath it in winter and slim enough to pack away for the journey home after sweat-pit venue shows. Primark products aren't famed for their longevity, so I was surprised when it lasted past its first year. It was an anomaly in my Primark shopping experience. It was a survivor.

I find Generation Primark's disposable clothes culture disturbing, and not just because their threads are solely responsible for clogging up the rails of once-decent charity shops nationwide. Cheapness doesn't bother me at all - I was raised on thiftcore! - but I tend to wear my clothes till they fall apart, so I expect good mileage outta them. I treasure threadbare knees, frayed edges and torn, worn holes the same way that older cultures value wrinkles: as battle scars, honour badges, a sign that someone (thing) has truly lived. I invest in clothes emotionally, and am always surprised when others don't. They're intimate, familiar things, pressed close to our skin, our sweat, our heartbeat. They are comforting constants, witnesses to the minutiae of our everyday frustrations and pleasures, soaking up the years of our experience, holding a thousand memories in their stitching. 

When I think of my jacket, I think of all the adventures I had wearing it, all the music I experienced with it. I think of how I pinned my 'i went to yr concert and i didn't feel anything' badge to it's lapel after filming the Keep On Livin' karaoke video at Unskinny Bop's Mo Crackers event. I think of how sweaty I got wearing it at every punk gig I ever attended at The Fighting Cocks. I think of how my girlfriend used its loose belt ends to pull me in close, for a kiss. I think about how I'd stash it under the DJ booth at Club Rogue while setting up my cds for the night, cavalier about the culture of mold spores it'd fester in during my set because I was a young, drunk, queer punk and cheerfully at home in the filth of smelly, mildewed basement clubs. So many memories wrapped up in this one crappy/precious jacket! And so sad, to say goodbye.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

'Cos he doesn't know what I do

RiRi does PJ-chic! For those of us who were around in the 90s, TLC's Creep video was the ultimate game-changer in the r n b boudoir-wear stakes. Baggy silks, wind machines and fierce gurl swing for the win win win. N.B Fenty would have been 6 y/o when this had MTV airtime. 6!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

I feel it rush through me and silence my aches

I have a handful of album reviews in the latest November issue of Q: Tori Amos' Gold Dust, Bo Ningen's Line The Wall and Corin Tucker Band's Kill My Blues. My Q debut happened in the September issue, when I reviewed Dan Deacon's America and Flaming Lips' Heady Fwends, the record responsible for this year's best cover of Roberta Flack's First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (Broadcaster's Peggy Seeger effort winning silver, obvs) *and* that Badu/Coyne video beef, but various deadlines and the exhilarating, sleep-sapping commitment its taking to organize the From the Back of the Room screening and Queer Zine Fest London (more on that soon) have kept me from my regular blogging duties here.  

Friday, 31 August 2012


Exciting news! I'll be screening Amy Oden's From the Back of the Room, an underground documentary on women in diy punk cultures, on Sun 28th Oct at Shacklewell Arms, E8. Live, post-screening sets courtesy of awesomely brash punk trio Skinny Girl Diet and rad South Ldn punx Woolf. Tickets on the door, and online here:

I'm also curating a zine to commemorate the event. Topics: women + punk! Love letters to yr favourite women in punk, constructive critiques on punk scenes/cultures, thoughts on being a female-identified punk etc. Submissions (200 words max for written pieces and/or b&w illustrations, A5 size) should include yr name and any email addy/web site info. Send 'em here: Deadline: Sun 21st Oct.   

Date: Sunday Oct 28th
Venue: The Shacklewell Arms, 71 Shacklewell Lane, E8 2EB. Tel: 020 7249 0810 Nearest tube Dalston Kingsland
Door tax: £5

Monday, 20 August 2012

Girls Get Busy zinefest @ The Shacklewell Arms 25.08.12

I've been invited to give a small talk at the Girls Get Busy zinefest, which is happening in conjunction with the Feminist Library's Summer Fete weekend, this coming Saturday at The Shacklewell Arms. A bunch of other rad zinesters will also be in attendance, giving readings, talks and workshops. Its a free event, and runs from 1.00 -5.00 pm. See y'all there.

Friday, 17 August 2012

"I still haven't got a clue what any Breeders songs are about and fuck knows I'm not worrying about it now"

I WAS AT THIS SHOW! H/t to Pamzine #6 for bringing it all back. It was the first (and so far only) time I have borne witness to the awesomeness that is The Breeders live. It was a sticky, overcast day in summer '02, and we got down to the Astoria (RIP) super early to make sure we'd secure a sweet spot front and centre to the stage, all the better to adore the Deal sisters and their glorious garage jams. We were total babydykes at the time, and some of the older lesbians we'd made friends with on the club scene were also queuing. One of them needed to visit the loo, but didn't wanna risk losing her place in the queue. Shamelessly, she stuck her hands into her knickers and pulled out a bloodied tampon, tossing it away down a side street. I remember thinking it was a total show-off move; she was out to wow us babydykes with her radical Jennifer Finch-style cunt politics. We were grossed out and impressed in equal measures, so I suppose it worked. I was told a few years later that her girlfriend at the time of the gig had beaten her regularly during their relationship. I don't know if this was fact or just a nasty rumour, but it was the first time that lesbian domestic violence had entered my consciousness. It sounds naive now, but back then, processing the idea that this kind of abuse wasn't limited to the hetero world was a huuuuge, disturbing headfuck, even if my own dysfunctional background meant I understood the invisibleness that often cloaks domestic violence victims, and the paradoxes that are normally at work, masking everything; how you can be a gutsy, assertive rebelgrrrlhero to your friends and also, away from them, a closet victim, too lacking in strength and self-esteem to exit an abusive relationship/friendship/family dynamic, or ever expect anything better for yourself. I never saw the tampon-missile dyke again, but I remember everything about the gig: how my friend dropped an E and had a panic attack just as The Breeders tore into the opening chords of No Aloha; how I learned to use my arms to protect my ribs from being crushed against the metal barrier when the chorus on Cannon Ball kicked in and the huge, sweaty, heaving crowd behind me surged forward; how I basked in the thrill of pretending I was strong enough to single-handedly withstand that sea of moshing, pogo-ing bodies like some mini Hulk; how I knew all the lyrics, sung (screamed) the loudest and won the coveted set list prize at the end of the show when Kelley Deal instructed the security guard manning the barrier to pass me that magical sheet of crumpled white paper.

Monday, 6 August 2012

2nd International Alt Press Festival

My haul from the Alt Press Fest, which was held at Conway Hall in Holborn this year because its old home, St Aloysius Social Club in Euston, is now a boot camp for young Catholics and trainee priests. 

Required reading for anyone who attends music gigs:

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

YELLOW HAIR, FAR AWAY STARE: an interview with indie pop legend Rose Melberg

In the early Noughties, when I was a wide-eyed babydyke and falling in love with every girl I met, I discovered Jamie Babbit’s 1999 cult coming-out comedy But I’m A Cheerleader.  As well as introducing me to Clea DuVall and Natasha Lyonne (swooooon), it hipped me to the big-hearted jangle pop punk of Rose Melberg’s Go Sailor, a three-piece outfit featuring bassist Paul Curran and drummer Linton (of Henry’s Dress and The Aislers Set). As far as I'm aware, an official soundtrack for But I’m A Cheerleader never materialized, but an equally smitten friend of mine was dedicated enough to hunt down a cache of those pre-internet queercorish gems and put together a bootleg version that I treasured during those first few years of queerhood; Ray Of Sunshine in particular became my personal anthem for many a giddy girl crush. After a little digging, I found some of Merlberg’s earlier records, and discovered she was something of an underground icon, an influential figure on 90s US indy pop scenes, an International Pop Underground Convention star and a musician active peripherally during the riot grrrl era, releasing albums via hallowed labels such as K Records, Lookout! and Slumberland.  

Her first band, the all-girl twee punk quartet Tiger Trap spurned major label interest for indie autonomy, while The Softies, a duo formed with best friend Jen Sbragria (who went on to join All Girl Summer Fun Band) earned Melberg a kudos for turning out delicate, shivery guitar meditations on youthful girl-girl friendships, often dwelling in that space where platonic romance blurs into something devotedly fraught, and complicated, She also drummed in Vancouver-based K Records act Gaze, turned out a some very fine solo albums, and more recently, put together all-girl twee pop band Brave Irene, but it’s the sweet, breezy, sea n sun punk of Go Sailor that has my heart. I might also add that Go Sailor never released an album proper, but put out an LP that collected all three of their three 7” releases and a handful of compilation tracks.  The Softies recently reunited, and performed a show last month at Chickfactorzine’s 20th anniversary party at the Bell House, Brooklyn, a benchmark that precedes the release of Mark Baumgarten’s book, LoveRock Revolution: K Records and the Rise of Independent Music (out July 10th). The Softies aren’t the only band of Melberg’s to have reformed in recent years, as news comes that a reunited Go Sailor now gear up to play another Chickfactor-related show, this time (much to the fangurl excitement of this writer) at London's The Lexington, a date that marks the band’s first ever performance in the Big Smoke. I caught up with Melberg to talk motherhood, the queer punk communities of her youth, her role in riot grrrl, why she’s always preferred making music with women and how, two decades on, she’s just as prolific as ever. 

CRA: How are you?

Rose: I’m well, thank you. It’s been cold and rainy for weeks here [in Vancouver], but its looking like a beautiful day.  

CRA: Go Sailor are playing their first ever London show this week. How long were Go Sailor officially together, back in the 90s?

Rose: We technically never broke up; we just stopped playing because we all moved quite far away from each other. We started playing just after Tiger Trap broke, in the winter of '93, so at the beginning of '94. We did a couple of shows here and there, just after I got married in '95. I lived in Sacramento, Paul and Linton lived in San Francisco, so I would take the Greyhound bus there for band practice. In the entire life of Go Sailor, we never lived in the same town. Then I moved to Portland, and for the year I lived there we played a few shows.  

CRA: So out of the many bands you’ve been in, Go Sailor had the shortest active time span?

Rose: Definitely.  

CRA: And yet it’s the band that I associate you with the most. 
Rose: It just goes to show, it’s not about longevity, its about the quality of what we did [laughs].   

CRA: How have you balanced motherhood (Melberg has a young, preschool-attending son) with music?

Rose: My son was born in 2002. We lived out in the country for a while, and for the first few years we were out there I continued to play music. The last Softies record was written while I was out there; we traveled a lot to make it happen. Once I got pregnant I stopped making music. There was a good 5 years where I didn’t write or play. It wasn’t until 2005 that I started writing again, for my first solo record (Pass Through The Clouds). I was completely isolated with my toddler, playing by myself. That record was released in 2006, the same year my husband (Mint Records co-founder, Bill Baker) and I split up, and I moved back to the city.  
CRA: There’s this long-held fallacy that motherhood saps women of their creativity, but many of the women artists I've spoken to say motherhood intensified their creativity. Was that the case for you?

Rose: Absolutely. There was certainly a new depth to my creative world that I wanted to write about, but just didn’t have the time. The first few years, you have no time. And taking that time off inspired me to create. After 4 or 5 years of not writing, it had built up in me, like an explosion, and I felt such a void in my heart where that used to be; that was what compelled me to create again. I’d saved it all up for so long! Taking a long break from something makes you realize whether it belongs in your life or not. I had to make that record. I was feeling so much emotion, and that’s always been my main source. I was rich with experience by that point.

CRA: Now you’re back out on the road in the US with The Softies. What’s it like to be reunited with band mate, Jen Sbragia?

Rose: It's wonderful. Jen has twin babies now, so she’s very busy. But she’s testament to what we were just talking about. She’s really felt that feeling of waking up from a fog  [since the band have reformed]. It’s made her so happy to be playing just a little bit of music. 
CRA: You’ve performed at Chickfactor zine’s 20th anniversary last month, with a host of fellow indy pop icons (Black Tambourine, Louis Maffeo, Small Factory). What was that like?

Rose: It was amazing. It was magical. So many of the bands that played were people that I knew from 20 years ago, people that I knew as a teenager, bands that I worshiped and loved and that inspired me when I was young, and first started playing music. To see us all as adults, and meet them again, feeling much more like a peer than I did when I was 19 was so validating to me as an artist. I felt a true sense of community that was 20 years in the making.

CRA: Was there anyone you were especially happy to be reunited with?

Rose: Pam (Berry, of Black Tambourine, and the co-founder of Chickfactor zine), Jeffrey from Honeybunch and the Small Factory people. The Aislers Set (Amy Linton’s other band) was a later part of my life, but even them. It was like the story of my life as an artist, all in one place. There were so many people from different stages of my life, in one place. It was one of the best parts of my life, when I was actively playing music, traveling and making these connections. It’s hard to articulate how special it was. Its what you wish your high school reunion would be. Because I felt so proud of everybody, and a sense of pride in my self too. My son, my story, my experiences.

CRA: You had a lot of major label attention during your time in Tiger Trap, and made a point of staying staunchly independent.  Do you still remain opposed to the idea of majorlabelsville?

Rose: There are no major labels knocking on the door of a 40-year-old single parent mom, but its nice to be in a place now where that’s not an issue anymore, especially in this climate. It’s a very different industry than it once was. I still stand behind all those convictions, but it’s a lot easier to stay indie now than it was back then; you didn’t have a lot of options 15 years ago. So it was a lot more tempting to buy into those ideas of what it meant to a successful musician or make your music accessible. Its still amazing to me that some of the clichés about what happens when you sign to a major still exist, so it hasn’t changed that much; I do still feel really sad when I see bands take that route, because its so unnecessary.

CRA: Thinking of anyone in particular?

Rose: I am, but I don’t wanna say who. I don’t want to say anything negative, because I respect everyone’s right to make their own choices and have their own experiences.

CRA: I discovered you and Go Sailor via But I’m A Cheerleader, so your voice and music took on a queer association and soundtracked my coming-out period during the early Noughties. Would you say you have the same queer fan base in the US as you do here in the UK?

Rose: I suppose we were part of the East Bay punk community that at that time was very integrated and tied in with queer and punk politics; we came from that community so it was always a part of our circle, our lives and our experiences.  Tiger Trap brought a much more direct queer attachment, for a number of reasons, but for me Go Sailor wasn’t just about politics, it was about us being a part of a political community. Its funny; I don’t often think about these things. I think we were all of an age – and I can only speak for myself – I felt I was coming into my politics in a more thoughtful way, and understanding my own place within the queer community a lot better than I did when I was 19, 20 years old and it was more reactionary.  As I matured, it was cool to have Go Sailor included in a scene I felt a connection and resonance with in a more welcoming way - it wasn’t as confrontational; it was inclusive.

CRA: A lot of your music, especially some of the more well-known Go Sailor tracks, focus on topics friendship and love, and a number of folk have commented on the ambiguity of some of those songs, about how they could be sapphic in nature. I notice that in previous interviews, you seem to prefer to keep circumspect about going into detail on that.

Rose: I feel like [in] any of my songs, I try to leave a lot of space for the listener. I don’t want it to be just my story; I want people to hear their own story and have it mean whatever they want it to mean. I don’t wanna spoil it for anybody. For whatever reasons, these songs mean a lot to people, and I don’t wanna take that away from them. I don’t want to take them out of that song. I love how included people feel in those songs. But I don’t mind telling the specific story of songs when people ask.

CRA: How about Ray Of Sunshine (which features on But I’m A Cheerleader)?

Rose: That song was about Jen, and The Softies. She was my best friend in the whole world. I wrote a lot of songs about Jenn at that time. We were never romantic partners, but we lived together and wrote music together. For a year in Portland we were like life partners, we did everything together. We grocery shopped together, cooked together. There are a lot of emotions around best friendships. Songs like The Softies’ I Love You More, which to a lot of people is a really obvious song about being in love with a straight girl or a gay boy, it’s about gender confusion and jealousy and not being able to give someone the type of love that they want, but really that song was about the fear of losing my best friend to her boyfriend. The kind of intimacy I have with my female friends is pretty deep, and it’s as intimate to me as male partners that I’ve had. That friendship was such a huge part of my daily experience. I was 23-years-old, my emotions were very much on the surface. It was all very lovely and dramatic.

CRA: You’ve said: “[My music] really grew up in the Northwest.  It was born in California, but it grew up in the Northwest.” Can you elaborate on that?

Rose: My musical world was so opened up by making these connections with K Records. It opened up a whole world of female driven music for me when I was 18.  Being pen pals with people helped too; that’s how I met Alison from Bratmobile. I was very drawn to that community and the freedom and openness of what was happening at the time around Olympia – riot grrrl and the international pop convention.  And then being on K Records, and to some extent feeling like a part of that community, and then moving to Portland when I was 23; that was when The Softies became most active. We made two records there. Then I moved to Vancouver. I was still playing with the Softies then, as well as playing drums in the band Gaze. Most of my active time as a musician happened in the Pacific Northwest, Portland, Olympia, Seattle, Vancouver. I felt a tremendous amount of support and acceptance, from those scene, which was lovely to feel. 

CRA: Go Sailor and riot grrrl are very much connected in my mind, but it’s a link that doesn’t seem to be made explicit in online music press...

Rose: It’s an interesting question that’s often asked of me. It’s whatever people perceive it to be. All I have is my own experiences. My own experience of riot grrrl was … I knew a lot of the people who were involved in making it become what it became. We hung out, played shows together, but I always felt peripherally involved. I was inspired by it, but I wasn’t part of the political movement of it. It was never part of our agenda; I just wanted to be in a band playing pop songs, punk songs. I was really young and insecure about my politics, I felt so unformed as an artist, and you can’t stand behind something unless you truly know it. I didn’t know who I was yet. It had a huge influence on me – not as an idea, but rather the women: Molly (Neuman, of Bratmobile) Alison (Wolfe, of Bratmobile), Kathleen (Hannah, of Bikini Kill), Tobi (Vail, of Bikini Kill). That’s what meant something to me – that they were encouraging and supportive and inspiring, so it was more specific. And we are often left out of that conversation a lot, which is fine by me. Tiger Trap is rarely brought up in all the recent books and documentaries about riot grrrl, even though we were an all female band playing shows with these bands.  Its neither good nor bad, its about how people wanna perceive it, because we weren’t trying to be a part of something, we just wanted to be in band. I know this is a bit general, maybe a bit cliché, but I think just by being a bunch of women in a band in 1993 was political. Maybe that’s a cop out, and maybe I should have been a little more vocal about my politics.    

CRA: Riot grrrl has become canonized as this golden-age utopia of punk feminism, but I’ve spoken to a number of female musicians who feel that riot grrrl inadvertently silenced other affiliated scenes and bands, and co-opted them, and I think its important to make space for dialogue about that, and to reintroduce those folk in to the conversation.

Rose: Exactly. It wasn’t the only thing going on at that time. There was a lot going on at that time.  It wasn’t just about female musicians. It was also about music. I was a nerd, and into so many scenes. I was in to [New Zealand-based label] Flying Nun, New Zealand pop music, Creation Records. It was just about music to me. It didn’t start out with my politics leading me to music, it was music that led me into a new world of politics.  I always wanted to be a part of what was happening musically, and I think there were a lot of people, who felt that way, men and women. 

CRA: What do you have planned for the rest of 2012? I hear your tinkering with a few new Softies songs. 

Rose: I’m in 7 bands here in Vancouver. Go Sailor, The Softies, I occasionally solo stuff, there's Brave Irene too. I also play bass in band here in Vancouver called Bleating Heart, and I play drums in two bands, which has been amazing after so many years [of principally playing guitar]. I’m exponentially better than I ever was, and honestly I’m enjoying playing drums more than anything. I’m also in a band called Puppies, with two other women. 

CRA: 7 bands and raising a child as a single parent. How do you manage it all?!  

Rose: I have my son half the week, so the 3 days he’s with his dad I practice a lot. I do 3 or 4 practices a week, sometimes two different bands in one day. Puppies are recording next week for the first time. One of them has never been in a band before; she’s a very dear friend, and I only set out to play drums to support her, but its turned in to something really fun and quite creative and we’re playing our first show in the  next month. Every band I’m in has women [in]. It’s always been a part of my life as a musician; I feel most creative and comfortable and inspired and excited [working with women].

CRA: Sounds like you’re a very busy lady.

Rose: I am, but I’d rather be busy doing this than anything else.

Sunday, 8 July 2012


On breasts, slut rock, Butcher Babies, Rockbitch and Tribe 8, for The Guardian. I was deep into a dedicated rnb phase when Rockbitch were a touring band, and consequently missed out on the wild spectacle of their debauched rock shows, but I'm enjoying the reminiscing that the publication of this piece has prompted - from friends, friends-of-friends, readers, my girlfriend (who managed to see them 3 times before they folded as a live act) and folk who enjoyed 'experiences' with the troupe.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Perched above the city on a pair of power lines

A few snaps from the Frankie Rose gig at The Lexington, last night. Whooped like a teenfangrrrl when she came out for a one-song encore saying she was going to play Girlfriend Island because someone (me!) had "Twotted" at her earlier hoping to hear it. 

Thursday, 21 June 2012

No one wanna mess, mess with the rules

"I’ve been hurt and I’m angry and playing bass and shouting about it makes me feel better. That’s all it is. And if that freaks people out then good." A justifiably righteous response from Ms Nash re all the sniping her new ish has provoked from the Twittersphere. STICK TO YR GUNZ GRRRL.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

You want them to notice/the ragged ends of your summer dress

My latest Guardian Blog: on Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! coming out as trans, the traditions of blurred masculinities in rock and how I found community via the LGBT punkrock scene as a young queer coming out in the early noughties. Predictably, more than one publication managed to fuck up on pronouns while reporting this, before rectifying with amendments and apologies. Here's to a (near) future where the press knows this ish inside out. The tireless and awesome Trans Media Watch have an accessible guide for anyone looking to school up.

I shiver each time I listen to this. For the guts of it, the heart and the honesty. Beautiful. And PUNK AS FUCK.

Friday, 11 May 2012

In a picture perfect world

The June issue of DIVA came out yesterday, and I'm proud to say it includes a hat trick of interviews I wrote, with Peaches (on her upcoming album, hybrid DJ act and opera project), Stooshe (on London pride and not being feminists *sigh*) and, best of all, my first ever front-cover feature, an 8 page spread with Beth Ditto and Hannah Blilie of Gossip.

I first met Beth in 2009, at a squat house in East London when Sister Spit were touring. I was there to buy zines, talk up Wears The Trousers first print edition, and watch Michelle Tea and her troupe do their thing, and ended up being invited to read on stage with them - my first public speaking event as a writer! 3 years on, after PLENTY of unpaid writing experience, I found myself commissioned to interview Ditto for the UK's leading queer women's print publication. To talk with Beth again, this time under professional queer journo circumstances, was wicked rewarding.

Figuring out what it is to be someone who operates at this weirdo intersection where lo-fi, non-profit, queerpunk ziney stuff meets with grown-up employment as a writer for respectable broadsheets and glossy queer magazines is a trip. It means having each foot in a different world, and finding a way to reconcile that in a way that works on a personal/political level. I'm still navigating it all, and unlike Beth and co, still very much on a salad days income, but I flatter myself that there's a parallel to be had between this and the way Gossip manage their success in the mainstream. I guess living and working compatibly with your politics is something that a lot of people strive to do. 

I asked Beth and Hannah how they maintain their queer punk feminist values in majorlabelsville, a sphere traditionally so patriarchal, heteronormative and corporate - not because I expected them to defend their success, but rather because I see their trajectory from tiny, fierce underground punk band to mega pop pin-ups as radical and inspiring, and I wanted to prompt that discussion. Gossip is a progressive, empowering force in pop culture, and I'd like to see more queerpunk bands succeed in this way, occupying the mainstream without compromising their values. Happily, they were both amiably receptive to the question, and, I suspect, glad to address it with a fellow queer lady writing for a queer women's publication. Hannah affirmed this when she spoke about how the majority of interviewers they encounter are either uncomfortable with or ignorant (?!!) to Gossip's identity and message/s as a queer political band. Context is everything, eh? Pick up a copy to find out how they answered.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

By the waterside, summer wading in sunder

A little something I wrote on Poliça's Give You The Ghost album for The Guardian here. I'm pretty certain  'Lay Your Cards Out' will end up on many a 'best of 2012' list come the end of the year. Also, I guested on The Guardian podcast to interview Northern acoustic punker Louise Distras, on protest music, DIY and raising a finger to political apathy.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Dissatisfaction with the culture of male hysteria

I'll be attending a Pussy Riot fundraiser on Sunday April 22nd at Shacklewell Arms in East London, to give a small talk on punk, feminism, politics and protest. The line-up is still in progress, but bands confirmed so far include Viv Albertine, Zoetrope, Female Band, New Noveta and Wars. Come watch me blush my way through, in the name of solidarity and grrrl activism. I'll be on stage at 4.30 pm.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

"When I look at my daughter’s face, I know I flew in the face of tradition and culture. She’s an extension of my radical progressive politics. Her birth was outside the norm"

The May edition of DIVA Magazine is out today, and features my investigative article on lezsploitation in UK TV. It also contains my interview with poet and activist Staceyann Chin, on the politics of sex, feminism, the journey towards pregnancy and single-parenting for lesbians.
Aging and motherhood are big topics for me at the moment, and as I navigate those things, I find myself reaching out for older, wiser dykes who have traveled/are traveling those roads and can report back with compass and maps. Talking with Chin was important and rewarding in that respect; she makes aging and motherhood look sexy, rewarding and radical.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

"And god help you if you are an ugly girl/'course too pretty is also your doom/'cause everyone harbors a secret hatred for the prettiest girl in the room"

I can understand why any real discussion on the politics of beauty raised in Samantha Brick's Daily Mail article is being undermined under a tide of ridicule; women openly admitting confidence of this magnitude is considered an ugly thing, an exercise in vanity rather than an observation on women's internalized misogyny, and the Mail is renowned for baiting readers with terrible writers and right-wing rhetoric. But whether we like it or not, Brick is right: women can be the worst haterz.

Girls are trained to be deeply judgmental, of themselves and each other. Society teaches us to internalize rules about body and beauty and behaviour, and to enforce these ideas in competitive, violent and self-destructive ways. Women are rarely encouraged to truly support each other, and being bold enough to claim yr a victim of prettiness is massively taboo because it destabilizes the idea that women are  rewarded (in any true, meaningful or lasting way) for being pretty. We are socialized to strive for beauty, to pluck, starve, bleach and surgically modify our way to beauty, but never own it. Confronting the ways women punish each other - for being too pretty or not pretty enough - is uncomfortable, because it means acknowledging our part in propping up patriarchy, but the issue of the Mean Girls/Dawn Wiener syndrome is a conversational we need to have, preferably in more radical and progressive spheres than the pages of the Daily Mail.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

I stopped talking an hour ago

Deborah M Withers' 'Women's liberation, relationships and the 'vicinity of trauma' is essential reading for anyone who organizes, participates in or is connected to feminist activism. I'd really like to see this conversation expanded to a point where the issues she addresses - the dis/function of trauma in feminist spaces, silencing in group activities, inchoate personal/collective voices and invisible/inarticulated languages of inter-personal oppression - can be properly confronted, and strategies for evolving the WLM out of these traps can be considered and implemented.

Withers takes the 70s women's lib movement (specifically Bristol-based groups) as a jump-off point, but I was struck by how the verbal accounts of those women who felt marginalized and silenced in supposedly safe spaces could just as easily be women of today, me even, speaking about their experiences in feminist and homosocial spheres.

Take a minute to sign up (if yr not already an member), and grab the paper, for free, here.

Monday, 12 March 2012

I ate the meklah fruit, I fell in love with blues

My Q+A with Cat and Stas of rad Sub Pop duo THEEsatisfaction is out now, in the April edition of Diva magazine. We talked about recreating samples, the (unspoken) power of instrumentals (and slang), hip hop rebellion, and making music "travel". THEE are crazy talented, and also the first out black queer female outfit to be signed to Sub Pop. I've been hyping/hearting them for some time (here and here).


Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Take a lathe, and scrape all the glitter off

I saw this in Liberty, just before Christmas. How do girls know what they really want when we grow up in a world that force feeds them aspirations before they've hit puberty? It made me think about the wild yearning power of Courtney Love's early journals, and about how we use diaries to write our futures, how they are spell books, a place where we pour out our secrets and desires.  I couldn't see a target age group sticker on this creepy little life-planner, but the bold, bright font colours look like crack for the pre-school crowd. I wanna go back and slip queer-feminist zines inside each copy.