A headline issue: 4 female artists making waves beyond the festival line-ups
Following on from International Women’s Day last month and with festival season bringing with it the usual controversies surrounding a lack of female representation on the lineup posters, particularly in headline slots, Seamonsters lead singer Naomi Mann puts forward five bands and artists who should be right up there.
There seems to be a common misconception that there is a lack of gender balance on festival lineups and in the industry in general because there are no “good female artists or female fronted bands”. It is both ignorant and saddening that female artists do not get the recognition deserved due to inequality in the industry – they simply don’t receive the same opportunities as male artists in terms of exposure and recognition.
Being a girl in the music industry, I’ve experienced this first-hand: an endless amount of challenges and undermining that male musicians do not go through whatsoever. It’s time for things to change, and this list highlights just a few fantastic women that you really should start listening to – because they’re out there, and they’re killing it…
1) Sunflower Bean
Fronted by the charismatic Julia Cummings, I discovered Sunflower Bean about a year ago and fell in love after indulging the first minute of their then most popular track, ‘Easier Said’. It’s an instant sugar rush of vibrant yet soothing riffs, creating an ambient, complex accompaniment for Julia’s honeyed vocals to float over. The trio identifies as rock yet their first LP, Human Ceremony, also subdues elements of psychedelic pop and folk. It’s subtly distinctive yet unassuming at the same time; in fact, it’s like nothing I’ve heard before.
My obsession grew after hearing their cover of one of my all-time favorites, ‘Harvest Moon’ by Neil Young. This establishes the key musical aspects that make their sound distinctive: Julia’s ethereal vocals and a mellow, reverb-infused guitar. Their most recent singles have been building up to the release of their second LP, Twentytwo in Blue [out now], and encapsulate their unique sound. Take the Fleetwood Mac-esque ‘I Was a Fool’ and the gentle, soul-searching ballad that is ‘Twentytwo’. The range of the band’s genre is further amplified by the shouty, unapologetic ‘Crisis Fest’, which seems to be the classic rock protest anthem for the modern era – “2017 – we know / Reality’s one big sick show” – the perfect explosive mind-booster to listen to in such uncertain times.
2) Jorja Smith
At the moment, the pop and RnB scene in the UK seems to be flourishing with a sparkling new set of female artists, from dark pop princess Dua Lipa to the more underground, yet blossoming, Jorja Smith. Smith’s voice alone is soothing and rich with passion, featuring elements of Amy Winehouse and Erykah Badu without appearing clone-like. At such a young age, this is poured through wise, meaningful songs – such as the heart-wrenching ‘Teenage Fantasy’ bitter-sweetly depicting the harsh truth of young romance, and “Beautiful Little Fools”, a reference to Daisy Buchanan from The Great Gatsby, in which she ironically suggests girls are simply beautiful and only dependent.
Jorja’s lyrics are eye-opening and painfully relatable, symbolising the difficulties young women encounter and softly giving them a strong voice. This is characterized in ‘Where Did I Go’ and ‘On my Mind’, two infectious RnB tracks that are both lyrically empowering and challenging. At just 19-years-old, she is establishing herself as a unique artist deserving of great success.
Canada-based Alvvays are the perfect modern rendition of 90s indie, fronted by Molly Rankin, whose charming, candy-coated vocals add an gentle feel to a wall of psychedelic, grungy dream pop. Yet again the band is boldly unique and distinctive, which was neatly established in their first LP, Adult Diversion. This gave the band an instant set of global fans, with sing-along hits ‘Archie, Marry Me’, ‘Adult Diversion’ and my personal favorite, the melancholic ‘Party Police’.
However, the band’s driving, shimmering layered tracks have immensely upgraded in Antisocialites, released in summer 2017. With a more synth-infused electric sound, Alvvays’ hypnotic pop gems ‘In Undertow’, ‘Dreams Tonite’ and the lush, lo-fi ‘Not my Baby’ show that they are here to stay. Rankin’s presence subtly proves that gender is insignificant and irrelevant when it comes to a band’s genre and sound, adding towards a gradual growth towards equality in the indie scene.
4) Dream Wife
Although not every girl band should have to scream “GIRL POWER” to make an impact with their music, Dream Wife are the feminist trio the world needs right now. Originally formed in Iceland, the band are making waves in the punk scene with a set of meaningful, empowering songs. Frontwoman Rakel Mjoll is a firecracker live, delivering explosive, alluring lyrics and, when supported by the guitarist and bassist, a delicious “IDGAF” attitude. Tracks such as ‘Hey Heartbreaker’ and ‘Kids’ are sweetly enduring, revealing elements of innocence juxtaposed with plenty of determination, anger and power. This is highlighted by Rakel’s manipulation of the melody, ranging from soft, spoken words to raw, high-pitched screams – all of which are delivered with emotions stretching across “fed up with this shit” to “unapologetically aggressive”. Yet it lacks arrogance, because it’s perfectly playful and oozes fun and excitement.
The balance between heavy punk, such as the distorted, explicit ‘F.U.U’ and sweetly taunting ‘Let’s Make Out’ engage listeners’ emotions at a deep level. However the lyrics are truly at the heart of these. For example, “I am not my body, I am somebody” acts as a slogan for the band’s belief that females aren’t objects: they are human beings, they are artistic, they are powerful.