Like us Get In Her Ears girls – and most women in music – Slowcoaches bassist & vocalist Heather Perkins is pretty fucking sick of the pervasive misogyny inherent in the music industry today. Fortunately, her band and her voice provide a much-needed antidote to all the patriarchal nonsense we’re forced to stomach. We caught up with Heather to talk about Slowcoaches’ 2018 recording and touring plans, shouting back against sexism on Twitter, being appreciative of your band mates, and taking time to recognise and deal with your own mental health issues effectively…
Hello Heather! It’s the start of a brand new yearand we’re keen to know what’s in store for Slowcoaches. Can you tell us what’s coming up for the band in 2018?
I’ve been mainly writing our second album, which will come out this year. I’ve moved out of London and I’m writing back in the town I grew up in which is weird but also really refreshing. Its given me a new place mentally and physically to write from, which is always interesting. We have a new track coming out in a couple of months which I’m really excited about. We’re also planning a huge tour in a huge country for later in the year, and I’m so damn excited but I don’t know how much I’m allowed to say about that right now.
That sounds exciting! We saw your tweets about Bono’s Rolling Stone interview at the end of 2017, in which he brands new music “girly” and says hip-hop is the only place in music where men can express “rage”. Where were you when you first read his comments?
I don’t know where I was when I read it, but that’s because I read so much shit like this all the time now that it kind of becomes an everyday occurrence. I genuinely couldn’t give a shit what Bono thinks, but the things he says have such reach and they shape the opinions of his already small-minded but huge audience. He reflects an opinion that poses a huge problem to women in the music industry and the world in general, that’s what’s so frustrating about it.
We also saw that you’d been tweeting about the first release on Slaves’ new label ‘Girl Fight Records’ too?
Yeah. This is the first time in a while that I’ve let something like this really piss me off actually. It took me a whole day to totally get my head around why I was so angry about it, and I realised there were so many layers to the whole thing that I found offensive – both as a woman and as a woman musician. I think this is why:
Slaves are a band with a lot of influence. Their opinions and endorsements affect the way their audience perceives music and more widely, the way they perceive the world. So, they’ve chosen to start releasing music under the label name ‘Girl Fight’. That’s the first kicker. The phrase ‘Girl Fight’ denotes pettiness, weakness and bitchiness. It has sexual and comical connotations. And more often that not a ‘girl fight’ involves two women fighting over a man. Those two words have layers of negative connotations that reach beyond simply pitching women as enemies of each other.
This is a problem then, when coupled with the fact that their first release is by an all-white, all-male band called ‘Lady Bird’ (check! Two more references to the female gender) – a song about a ‘traditional geezer’ who’s having a bad time in Wetherspoons which is something that we can apparently ‘all identify with’ (except for anyone who isn’t a traditional geezer – hell, I don’t even know what a ‘traditional geezer’ is.) So that alienates all us un-traditional, un-geezer types.
Congratulations Slaves! You’ve created the epitome of a ‘lads club’ right there. Everything about this label and this release screams ‘punk rock is a boys gang and you’re not invited.’
Denoting women as enemies of each other whilst promoting and supporting maleness in punk music is the ultimate ‘fuck you’ to all women, female-identifying and LGBTQ individuals who are making music of this genre. They are reinforcing the idea that rock music is a boys game. And their audience will believe them.
But notice how both label and band use words referencing the female gender: girl, lady, bird. Its like, adding insult to injury. Not only are women banned from engaging or identifying with the content, they are referenced with the intent to both sneer at them, belittle them and use them as a decoration, a name, an aesthetic reference.
It’s really disappointing to see a band with such a big fanbase belittle women’s efforts in punk.
What inspires you when you’re writing new songs?
It’s taken me a while to get in to the routine of writing. It’s fun and frustrating in equal measure. I get really angry at myself really quickly, especially if I don’t feel like I’ve got a great idea within the first 3 minutes. I’ve spent a lot of time training myself to persevere through those initial few minutes of total shit. It’s like doing warm up before you go for a run.
I’ve also been forcing myself to sit down and just write for an hour or something every day. It’s easier the more you do it. It also teaches you about the best way to write. Like, for you. A few weeks in, I realised I was writing songs that I thought other people would like. And it just wasn’t working. So now I’m writing songs for myself and its all flowing more easily.
In terms of what inspires me, it can be anything at all. I often think about the live show and how songs translate to be experienced on a stage. I guess that’s the place I often start from.
You toured the UK in 2017 and you’ll be back on the road in 2018 too. Can you talk to us about the positive and negatives aspects of being on tour?
Our last tour was amazing. It was a pretty long trip and I learned a huge amount about myself and what I’m capable of and what I’m not.
I suffer from severe anxiety and panic disorder as well as a few other weird things including DPD (Depersonalisation Derealisation Disorder) that can make touring quite tricky for me. I basically got back and finally admitted to myself that I just can’t do some things in the same way as some other people can. Admitting that was a bit of a relief and now I know that I need to be stricter with myself and look after myself a lot better when we go away. Otherwise I’m making my life a hundred times harder than it needs to be.
I definitely couldn’t get through touring without Sean and Oliver and our awesome little team. Doing something so challenging can be a real confidence boost, but next time I want to be able to really enjoy myself.
Here at Get In Her Ears, we’ve noticed that bands and artists have been much more open about their struggles with poor mental health this year. Have you noticed this too? Do you think this open attitude will continue to prevail in 2018?
I hope so. I think music is so inextricably linked to emotion that it’s a great place for people to start to explore and identify and swap experiences.
Do you have any advice for new bands or artists who are concerned about their mental health?
A few things I learned whilst on tour:
Try to be open and honest with your band mates and crew. Don’t bottle things up. It only increases tension and anxiety.
Being around someone with a mental health issue can be as challenging as having one. You’re not expected to provide solutions, but it can help you and others if you’re explicit about what you need at any time. If you want to be alone, say so. If you want someone to sit and just hold your hand, say so. If there’s nothing anyone can do at that moment, say so.
Challenging yourself is good, but be realistic about what you can and can’t do. It’s ok to say “I don’t want to”. Having a few ground rules when you’re on tour is important. It doesn’t make you any less punk.
Good advice. As a new music blog, we’re always keen to hear about other people’s favourite new bands & artists. Who are you listening to at the moment?
I’ve just been listening to a great record that came out this year called LA Women, by a New Orleans band called Patsy. Nice gritty upbeat, catchy garage punk.
Finally, if you had to describe Slowcoaches’ music in three words: what would they be?
Infectious, vital noise.
Huge thanks to Heather for taking the time to answer our questions. Make sure you’re following Slowcoaches on Facebook to keep up to date with all their new releases.
Photo Credit: Priti Shikotra