Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Teenage Tantrums

I have been playing music since I was thirteen. I am now 32. I think I have played in eight bands total. I moved to San Francisco in 2005 and since then have played in one band, with my former roommates Jess Scott (of Brilliant Colors fame) and Tommy Strange (of Zero Defex fame). We have a tape, it was made in an afternoon, which is also how long the band lasted. It is now 2010. And I have been in one band, for one afternoon in the past five years. My first band, Skinned Teen, formed after we went to see Huggy Bear and Bikini Kill in London, where I grew up. One of the girls I was hanging out with told Kathleen Hanna we were in a band, and she offered us a show the week after that. We were not in a band, just wanted to be after witnessing the life affirming and life changing spectacle of Bikini Kill and Huggy Bear… We were thirteen and fourteen, and had just discovered underground punk rock, after a year or so of going to see bands like Mudhoney and Nirvana, Jesus and Mary Chain and PJ Harvey. Whatever the NME and Melody Maker were championing that week was what we were into, obviously not completely, for instance the Grebo scene seemed dire to my ears at least... Witnessing the HB/BK tour made us feel like it was in our hands, our boredom and alienation could be transformed by none other than our own sense of what was possible. Huggy Bear used to make a fanzine for every show they played, sometimes a huge elaborate 100 page opus, sometimes a one sheet thing folded in half, that they called Bullet-Teens. The fact that they were all super ancient (probably in their twenties…) yet constantly referred to teen culture and youth as being the true punk troops made us want to realize that vision. And we did.

We didn’t play our first show with Bikini Kill, we played a month or so later at an all girl band show, which also featured the awesome Furbelows, which was Jo and Niki from Huggy Bear’s all girl garage band. We made a tape in my bedroom and gave ‘em out to whoever asked, and ended up putting out four records by the time we broke up, when we were all seventeen. After that I played in a bunch of bands that only made tapes, bands that only existed in name and concept, and bands that were more about hanging out and skateboarding than actually making music. From the Fucking French Boyfriends to Elle Touer, SS Lucifer to the Frigidairres, the first “real” band I did was when I was 19, called Petty Crime. By “real” I mean a band that played shows and existed as part of a punk community rather than as a hang out opportunity between the six or seven girls I skated with. I actually have a list somewhere of every band name we came up with, something like fifty conceptual bands, some of which made tapes, which I think I still have, some of which were just conversations.
When I was in Skinned Teen there were a group of dudes at our drummer Esme’s secondary school who were in a Pearl Jam cover band. It used to drive them absolutely fucking insane that we played shows with Sonic Youth offshoots and they were playing in the beer garden at local pubs. They couldn’t understand why we, who “couldn’t play” were somehow given all these opportunities to “make it,” while they languished with their guitar skills and “Jeremy” covers in cruddy old Brentford pubs. We refused to give interviews to the music papers, we didn’t want to “make it” we wanted to make music, have a good time and connect with other grrrls. We wanted to find the weirdos who didn’t want to be part of the music industry, who wanted to make their own thing on their own terms. To make a subculture rather than pursue sponsorship opportunities. When we get sent demo tapes at MRR, I like the ones that sound like they were made by people who can’t help but exist in that same idea of music. Music that sounds like it wasn’t an attempt to make a perfect carbon copy of a specific era of hardcore or punk history. I like it when a band sounds like they were trying to make a certain sound, but couldn’t, so they ended up with some weirdo shit out of necessity rather than conceit.
I started writing about this because for the first time in about five years I picked up my guitar and started playing again last week. I am not sure why I stopped, but I am going to try make myself play regularly. My friend Tobi says that she sets aside a couple hours a week just to play guitar, otherwise it doesn’t happen. I am going to try do this. I am also going to try and write every day. This pile of drivel that I emit each month is the only thing I write anymore. I used to put out my own zines, which I haven’t for a few years. Mostly I don’t think I have the time to do it, running MRR is super life consuming… I haven’t even made anyone a mix tape for an epic amount of time, which I used to do on a monthly basis. I wrote this just to remind myself to continue to produce punk culture outside of these inky pages you hold in your hands. And if you are reading this, and I owe you a mix tape—it’s on the way!

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