Saturday, 29 September 2012

The Fnords

The Fnords are a 3-piece who play no-fi, grrrl, surf-punk with fluctuating levels of loathing and paranoia..

Have you or anyone else in the band experienced much sexism (from sound techs, recording engineers, record labels as well as drunk idiots at gigs!)?
Sarah (guitar/vox) : When I started out in playing in The Fnords I expected to encounter some form of sexism, assuming that it would be from drunk guys heckling us at gigs. I've been surprised that we have never really experienced any of that. We've played at nights when the crowd has been pretty lairy to bands before us on a bill, or really rowdy slamdancing has broken out before we go on, and I've felt wary/apprehensive, but there have never been any audible heckles, and it's always gone really well for us in that environment (although we tend to turn up the speed/screaming)... We've always recorded with male friends, these have always been positive experiences. Some sound engineers do approach Derek (drummer) first with questions about equipment, I don't know if I'd always attribute that to sexism - I think that sometimes men find it socially awkward to approach females, even in a professional capacity, there may be elements of this sometimes. That sort of situation doesn't really bother me anyway - neither Caz nor myself are technically minded in terms of musical equipment, whilst Derek is....However, despite the fact that I don't feel discriminated against in terms of gender amongst the Scottish garage scene, there are forms of sexism within that which I consider objectionable. Some other bands/club nights use semi-pornographic imagery in their artwork that I find uncomfortable; we've also played on bills with strippers/burlesque dancers and I've personally find that unsettling. One of my principal interests is social control vs. personal agency; and I find the normalisation of misogynistic attitudes amongst both men and women in everyday society worrying. I don't think that the exploitation of the female form as entertainment to be socially or sexually liberating. As a female musician, when you're placed on a bill like that, it makes you feel that you're there as some form of eye candy rather than being taken seriously as a band.

You play lead guitar - do guys ever give you any hassle about that? (being patronising etc)
I've only had compliments from guys who play guitar. I know many who play guitar technically much better than me, but I'm from a DIY background and don't rate technical proficiency - in fact I think that it often neuters passion and self-expression. One of my seminal influences was Brix Smith playing lead guitar in The Fall; it was the first time I'd seen a woman playing lead guitar whilst a man played rhythm, and I found it somewhat aspirational.

Do you feel like The Fnords gets compared to other female bands too much?

I think we compare ourselves to female bands when writing press releases etc, probably because lots of our influences are female bands. But then again, we probably name an equal (if not greater) number of male bands as influences. Reviewers are often fairly limited in their knowledge of female garage and surf bands, and therefore find it difficult to compare us in that way. I think that lumping female bands together as a genre tends to occur more in the mainstream music press, and (thankfully?) we're not part of that!

As you have a male drummer - do you feel like its easier for men to be accepted as competent musicians?
Both Caz and myself have a background in classical music (she plays cello, I used to play classical guitar) which means that theoretically we should know about technical elements of music; in practice we don't really rate that kind of 'in the key of C' mentality. Which means that we go about things in a different way, cutting out the bullshit - making music is as easy as you want it to be, and the mystification that surrounds it is nonsense. Technically Derek, our drummer, is a more competent musician than Caz or myself, but we have greater competencies in other areas - eg. I write most of the songs, and take care of mixing/mastering our recordings, and producing the artwork. Angela McRobbie conducted several sociological investigations into male and female subcultural responses to music, finding that teenage boys who are interested in being in a band tend to share information and skills together in their social circle, which excluded girls. I think that's changed a lot. My experience has been within a mixed gender peer group, and as such I've found support and information from both male and female friends. I think that's more how it is nowadays. There are many more female musicians in bands now than when I was in my teens; not just as singers. Few females that I meet in this area have fallen for the lie of professional musicianship, and instead just concentrate on being generally amazing creators/performers.

Have you had to put up with much sexism when you were playing in previous bands (or solo gigs, open mic nights, whatever)
I've played various other gigs doing 'experimental' music/'noise', and I've experienced no sexist feedback at all. In these environments I have been asked about gender issues, as there are relatively few women within these musical areas, but I was brought up with the notion that I could do anything that I wanted, and gender absolutely should NOT be an issue; therefore I've followed that through into my musical life. If there's not a particular space for women, it shouldn't matter, you create a space for yourself as an individual regardless of socially constructed barriers.

Do you think being part of a DIY scene might be the reason that you haven't experienced much sexist behavour at gigs?

Totally - if we played on different circuits then we'd no doubt have to deal with much more sexist bullshit than we have had to.  I think there's definitely so much support and mutual fandom amongst the various DIY scenes in Scotland, and that's a really healthy thing.  When I was younger I went out a lot on (what was then) the 'alternative' scene, and I heard a ton of sexist crap off various guys there, and a lot of backbiting and lack of solidarity amongst the young women there... it was pretty depressing, and, despite the fact that I liked a lot of the music, I got out of that pretty quickly.

The Seafield Foxes told me that when they were on a mixed bill (e.g. with other bands who would probably be predominantly male) they found that they were always on first.  Have you found this to be the case with The Fnords?

 We play mixed bills most of the time, but when we play depends on the promoter/organiser.  Sometimes the 'headline' band wants to go home early, and we've played top of the bill (recently with Viv Albertine), sometimes the nights have been based around someone wanting to put The Fnords on, and asking us to headline.  As we're split between Edinburgh and Glasgow, odds are there is at least one of us wanting to catch the last bus/train, and we sometimes just want to get it over and done with.  Sometimes we've felt a bit overlooked when we've been placed first on a bill, but we've usually then played a storming "follow that then!" kind of set and generally felt good about our performance.  I'd say that Seafield Foxes have a fair gripe there though, as I've been to nights where female bands are treated like a novelty opening act, and written off somewhat.

Do you feel pressured to dress a certain way when you're on stage?
Being completely honest here, I feel pressured to look/dress a certain way in public generally, not just on stage. Most of the things I've worn on stage I wear in my day to day life. When I've dressed down onstage wearing shorts or jeans, I've disliked my appearance in the photos of those gigs, which is really depressing as theoretically it shouldn't really make any difference to me... I've never managed to transcend the negative messages that are put out by media to make women feel bad about their appearance, and that holds true across all activities that I undertake.

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