After the ongoing support Girls Against has received from punk duo Slaves, we thought it was time for a chat with Isaac and Laurie, who have helped us to gain such immense recognition over the past two months.
The boys played in London (14th Jan) at The Forum in Kentish Town and I (Bea) went down to the venue before their gig to be greeted by tour manager Neil. I was taken into their dressing room which, when I stated my approval of “wow this is fancy”, Isaac replied “Isn’t it just, best one yet!” The boys were friendly and chatty and showed a heart-warming level of concern towards the safety of their fans, and a huge level of support for the campaign itself. We sat down on a comfy leather sofa and, after being offered drinks, I asked the boys some questions.
How aware were you of groping at gigs before the campaign was launched?
Both Isaac and Laurie said they were “not aware at all” and expressed their shock at the fact that these events were even happening. “It’s not one of those things you think would happen you know” Isaac states. The boys also spoke of their surprise at the “sheer amount of fans who spoke out after one person”, acknowledging the confidence that one victim speaking out can give to those also suffering. Laurie also had a story. “I remember on a trip to Paris” he begins, “an old man harassing a young girl. It was horrific, she couldn’t move”.
What do you think your role is, as a band, in tackling the issue?
Although the band recognised that when on stage, they are limited in the effect that they can have on stopping these issues, they both agreed that “bringing awareness and speaking out is the best thing we can do”. We later got talking about some of the backlash we’ve received as a campaign, including that regarding our name being ‘Girls Against’ creating the deception that we’re only interested in the female gender. The band felt strongly about this, arguing that “you’ll never keep everyone happy” and that they were “shocked people would even question this. Men should be acknowledging that women are getting groped, not saying that men don’t but, there should be more tolerance towards females you know”.
How do you think venues, security companies and the music industry generally, can help end this?
“We have a procedure” Isaac begins. “We made a policy with our tour manager. Before shows there’s always gotta be a security briefing, to let them know how the show works and stuff.” The boys then go on to explain, “we always aim to have one female security member at our shows”, something that we, as Girls Against, are really targeting at the moment, as we feel this is a sure way to allow victims to feel more comfortable when speaking out. I mention this, and Laurie suggests “yeah we have heard of male members shrugging it off”. But he also addresses “you need to be nice to security as well though, they’re not gonna take you seriously if you’re swearing at them and shit, it’s not cool. That’s maybe why they shrug stuff off sometimes”.
What would you say to victims of sexual harassment/assault at gigs?
“It’s not their fault” Laurie states. However, an interesting discussion arose surrounding the intake of alcohol at shows. “Just don’t get drunk” Isaac suggests. “What’s the point in coming to our shows completely smashed off your face, it’s just putting you in a vulnerable position”. I mentioned that alcohol also acts as an excuse for perpetrators to grope, as it makes people aggressive and rowdy. I also mention that as a teenage girl of 5 ft 1, a Slaves gig seems particularly scary – to this Laurie jokes, “yeah it does look very intense.” I also comment on the fact that they were seen to call out a member of the crowd for groping at one of their shows earlier this week. “It’s more difficult for me, but Laurie’s always looking out into the crowd” Isaac explains, “we’ve stopped a gig almost every night on this tour so far I think, for fights and stuff, we’ll always call it out”. Laurie also remembers his experience at a Slipknot gig “you’d get pissed on and kicked and stuff there. I can’t believe it when people say our pits are as bad as that.” Isaac agrees, humorously, “yeah I’d definitely be scared to enter a (Slaves) pit”.
What would you say to perpetrators of sexual harassment/assault at gigs?
“Don’t come” they both state simultaneously. There’s a pause before Isaac asks, “do you think men actually come to our gigs with the intention to grope, like they don’t actually like the music and stuff.” Sadly, I have to admit that, although rare, yes, some do. They both seem concerned by this, expressed by Laurie sighing, and Isaac rubbing his forehead.
“We just wish we could do more” the boys finish by saying. We talk about the issues in Japan and the same sex train carriages due to the big sexual harassment issues there (read more on this here). Laurie seems engaged with the topic stating “it must be so bad if they have to take that extreme.” But Isaac considers “once you do that it’s sort of separating females init, women deserve more respect”.
After the questions I thank them for their ongoing support. We hope to keep in touch and arrange to hopefully meet again next time they’re in Scotland. We take pictures with badges and hug goodbye, before leaving them to their busy duty and preparation for their gig in a few hours. As I leave I consider their affection towards me, and the campaign, and hope that their support and consideration for Girls Against can lead to great progress in the future.
Interview by Bea Bennister