Yes All Women (Can Rock): 7 Female-Fronted Indie Bands to Check Out

Phillip Morgan ‘18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
With a decades-long reputation for rebelling against the ideals of the superficial, whitebread, corporatist, bigoted meatheads that run mainstream society, you’d think the punk and indie rock community would be completely accepting of, or better yet, welcome, the female presence in underground music. Sadly, this is not the case. The age-old backhanded insult “Yeah, she’s pretty good for a girl” persists to this day, music journalism as well as the fans continues to focus largely on the image of female artists rather than their musical ability, female musicians are still assumed to be the girlfriend of one of their bandmates, and a disturbingly large crowd of punk fans still think it’s ok to stagedive into girls way smaller than them or try to kiss the women performing on stage.
Fortunately, despite all of that, more and more talented female-fronted or female-centric indie rock and punk acts have been rising to prominence in the past couple of years. These aren’t just bands where there is a girl in the band trading vocals with one or two of the guys every other song, these are bands where the dominant voice is unquestionably female and the band is unquestionably awesome. So here they are, seven of the many fantastic bands of late tearing down the punk patriarchy one beer-soaked basement stair at a time.
7. Chumped (Brooklyn, NY / Anchorless Records)

For several years now, pop-punk has become a genre that’s ridiculously easy to make fun of, given that most pop-punk purists today have an eerily uniform aesthetic along with this weird obsession with a dark mystical land known only as “This Town.” So a band like Chumped, who takes all of pop-punk’s  trademark tropes and adds their own quirky sense of humor and heartfelt lyricism, sounds like a much-needed breath of fresh air. Sure, singer Anika Pyle is just as down about her 20-something angst as her peers, but there’s always a sense that she and her bandmates will still strive to overcome their own lack of growth through sheer force of sharp wit, and the distinction makes all the difference. Chumped will be playing in Boston on November 8th at The Brighton Music Hall opening for Canadian punks PUP, and their debut LP Teenage Retirement will release on November 18th via Anchorless Records. In the meantime, check out the video for “Something About Lemons,” a song from their self-titled 2013 EP that condenses all their lyrical and visual humor into one enjoyable package.
6. Potty Mouth (Northampton, MA / Old Flame Records)

Straight outta Smith College, Potty Mouth exploded onto the indie rock scene last year with their debut LP Hell Bent, a no-frills collection of songs that near perfectly blended the proto pop-punk of Descendents with the urgent yet quirky indie rock of Sleater-Kinney. Despite the raw energy of the music, however, most of what Potty Mouth has to say revolves around general apathy for what others think of them as women, as students, as young adults, and most importantly, as musicians of the punk persuasion. Even frontwoman Abby Weems’ voice sounds jaded from judgment as she sings with an overtly casual, almost lethargic low tone for pretty much the entire record, delivering the lyrics with a cool yet brutally honest attitude. Weems isn’t concerned with sounding nice, and that cuts a wide swath between her and many of her contemporaries while also giving Potty Mouth an honest, bare-bones feel that not many bands can pull off.
5. Joanna Gruesome (Cardiff, UK / Slumberland Records)

Joanna Gruesome’s sound is pretty hard to pinpoint because the band flips flops between two almost polar opposites. This Welsh quintet can’t decide between abrasive, no-wave influenced indie/punk and the shoegazy jangle pop most of their peers on Slumberland Records seem to idolize, so they’ve resolved to just shift in and out of the two extremes on all their songs. And it works. Singer Alanna McArdle switches between a wispy dream-pop voice and a harsh, sneering tone constantly throughout their songs, and the rest of the band follows suit with every switch. However, even with the split personality, there’s a certain catchiness in their songs that never goes away, even in their more rowdy passages. Tons of bands can be either really angry or really catchy, but to do both, while constantly juggling two extremes of indie/punk, is no small feat. Keep on the lookout for Joanna Gruesome’s eventual return to the states.
4. Little Big League (Philadelphia, PA / Run For Cover Records)

Little Big League, for all intents and purposes, are not your typical post-2000s emo band. While their heartfelt lyrics, intricate tempo-shifting song structure, and moody guitar melodies certainly fit the bill, their overall sonics have more of a LoFi grit one would associate with noisier post-punk acts like Cloud Nothings and Parquet Courts. Frontwoman Michelle Zauner also prefers a more relaxed mid-range snarl in her vocal delivery that’s closer to Patti Smith than the urgent high-strung vocals most of her contemporaries are known for, but periodically she’ll let out an anguished banshee wail that would make Cedric Zavala proud to remind the listener just how powerful her voice really is. Their sound only expands in scope and precision on their sophomore LP Tropical Jinx released earlier in October, as Zauner’s vocals feel rawer than ever and the band seamlessly adds tiny hints of grunge, post-punk, and no-wave into their already well-crafted LoFi emo mix.
3. Perfect Pussy (Syracuse, NY / Captured Tracks)

Few bands, both musically and physically, can achieve and maintain the level of utter chaos that Perfect Pussy seems to embody on a daily basis. Taking synth-backed post-punk guitars, adding a ton of no-wave noise, and framing all that sound within blazing fast, jarring rhythm patterns, Perfect Pussy’s sound is one that hits you like a brick to the face. Much of the perceived aggression stems from their reputation for a frighteningly in-your-face live performance, due in no small part to the ferocity of frontwoman Meredith Graves. Vacillating between a megaphone-filtered howl and a turbo-charged spoken word moan, Graves’ lyrics tend to get lost in the dense wall of noise around her, but when the words do connect, they go for the throat. Already an extremely accomplished writer and speaker on contemporary feminism and underlying gender-bias in the punk community and beyond, her frustration with past experiences in that regard more than shows in both her and the band’s violent live persona. Perfect Pussy released their debut LP Say Yes to Love earlier this year.
2. Speedy Ortiz (Northampton, MA / Carpark Records)

Having already wowed most of the universe with their excellent debut LP Major Arcana last year, putting Northampton’s Speedy Ortiz this high on the list was a no-brainer from the start. Often foregoing the more direct urgency of a punkish sound, this band prefers odd dual melodies and rhythms with quirky, sometimes dissonant chord structures centered around a familiar, almost nostalgic 90s indie/punk vibe, but is creative and playful enough with their sound to avoid sounding redundant. Meanwhile singer Sadie Dupuis runs the vocal gamut, totally in control of her voice as it flows between high and lows, but always letting go of just enough restraint to give them the same raw feeling channelled by other, more outwardly crazy bands. Indeed, Speedy Ortiz’s energy and weirdness is more cerebral and internal in nature given their more low-key live performance and off-kilter musical and lyrical choices, but that doesn’t make them any less fun to watch or listen to. They dropped an EP earlier this year called Real Hair.
1. Cayetana (Philadelphia, PA / Tiny Engines)

If Cayetana’s brand of bare bones power trio indie/punk brings nothing else new to the table (spoiler alert: it does), there is unquestionably within their whole repertoire a sense of unabashed honesty without judgments or preachiness. Frontwoman Augusta Koch’s voice speaks plainly and bluntly on tragedies past and her mistakes, but substitutes the coarse tones of aggression and despair with a brighter, more soulful approach to vocal style that conveys a sense of understanding that she can’t talk you out of your own decisions or redo her own, only tell you her stories and hope you learn from them. Musically, the band takes their subtly complex rhythm section and cloaks it in Koch’s simple yet endearing guitarwork and earnest, point-blank lyrics, making sure their tightness as a band and abilities as individual musicians are always present but never overbearing. This allows them to break down nearly every barrier between themselves and their audience, and their energetic, deeply personal live performance is not to be missed. They released their debut LP Nervous Like Me back in early September of this year.

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