An Interview With…The Spook School

The Spook School are a Glasgow-based four-piece who make candid and earnest music. Their upcoming album, Could It Be Different, is out on 26.01.18.

What inspired the song ‘Still Alive’?

Nye: I wrote the song kind of in response to a guy that sexually assaulted me years ago. It’s one of those situations where at the time, despite being very upset by the experience, I told myself that it couldn’t have been rape or any kind of sexual assault because ‘he was a nice guy’. For a long time I blamed myself for not protesting enough, or for somehow misleading him into
thinking there was consent. It’s only in recent years that I’ve realised that
it was him that I should have been blaming, not myself. So this song is an overdue ‘fuck you’ to that guy, and also an acknowledgement that – however much that experience might have messed me up – I’m still here and that’s something.

It feels quite different to the past stuff on Try To Be Hopeful et al – where do you think that comes from?

Nye: I think Try to Be Hopeful made sense as an album that you would write after quite recently figuring/affirming your identity – there’s a joy in that, and a desire to just kind of yell out ‘yeah, this is who we are’. I think also, especially as a trans person, because that can cause you so much unexplainable sadness/distress before you figure it out, you can fall into thinking that it’s the only part of your life that matters, and that being read as your gender/getting to physically transition and stuff like that will magically cure every problem
you’ve ever had. It definitely helps, but usually all the other life stuff is
waiting for you to pay attention to it again. And in many ways that’s kind of
what this album is about, it’s about living as a queer person – about regrets
and relationships and family and body image and just everything.

How would you describe the upcoming album?

Adam: It’s a lot more introspective that our previous work. More nuanced I think, and more personally honest. There’s a lot of looking backwards and looking forwards, wondering about the past and worrying about the future. At it’s heart though I see it as a celebration of the community we’ve found (in many ways through playing music) and the personal relationships we value in our lives.

Who in music inspires you right now?

Adam: Perfume Genius is making some really wonderful stuff right now. I’m also on a really big Jimmy Somerville kick at the moment. I think he’s one of the most underrated, radically political pop stars ever. Shopping, Sacred Paws, and basically everything Rachel Aggs touches is incredible.

Have you ever seen or been made aware of sexual harassment or assault at any of your shows?

Nye: I’ve never seen or been made aware of sexual harassment at any of our shows. I’d like to think that that was because the people that come to our shows are all wonderful people without exception, but in reality it’s more likely that it’s happened at least once and we’ve just not seen/heard about it.

Is it something you’ve experienced as performers?

Nye: I’ve experienced sexual assault, though not in the context of playing shows. At least part of that is probably due to the fact that we’re an overtly queer band. Some of it will also be down to sexism – as a masculine presenting person playing music I’m less likely to get comments yelled at me than women or more femme non-binary folks.

What would be your response if you saw it happening?

Nye: If one of us saw something when we were onstage I would like to think that we’d stop playing and try to get the assaulter/harasser kicked out of the show. Equally, if someone came to us earlier in the night, we’d listen to them and see what they’d like done to make them comfortable and then work with the promoter/venue to make that happen.

What would you like to say to the people who have that experience at a show?

Adam: This is not your fault, and there will be plenty of people who are willing to support you, including us. We’ll try our best to make sure our shows are as safe for everyone as possible. If there’s anything we can do to help please let us know (if you feel you can). We can be contacted online (emailFacebook, Twitter) or in person at shows. Reaching out to others for support can often be really helpful. This could be people close to you or organisations such as The Survivors Trust.

Girls Against are also here to listen to you and provide support, though please note that we are not trained counsellors.

What would your message be to the perpetrators of that behaviour?

Nye: If you can’t go to shows without harassing people, then don’t go to shows. Seek advice to change your behaviours and don’t put other people at risk of your unwanted advances/aggression. Doubly so if you are a performer/artist – you shouldn’t be putting yourself in a position where you have social capital that you could abuse.

Why do you think sexual harassment is such a big issue in rock/alternative music scenes?

Nye: A whole raft of things really. There’s still quite a lot of people with pretty misogynistic views of music scenes as a place where women/femme people don’t belong – despite all obvious evidence to the contrary (seriously, if you’re only listening to music written/performed by men how are you not bored by now?).

Also the association between gigs and alcohol probably isn’t something that helps, given how many people use being drunk/high as an excuse for acting in ways they wouldn’t allow themselves to sober. Especially for performers,
there’s this kind of archetype of the rockstar that’s always drunk and that
being a ‘rock ‘n roll’ thing. I remember going to gigs as a teenager and seeing
the lead singers of bands that I loved at that time drinking full bottles of
whisky on stage. I remember thinking that was just part of being a rockstar,
rather than something that’s going to have an impact on both you and the people around you.

Then also there’s the whole ‘groupie’ stereotype – the idea that femme people in music scenes can’t possibly be creative or performers or even people that appreciate music, but are instead a kind of object to be claimed by male band members or fans. It seems like an outdated idea but the number of women in bands that still get asked ‘oh are you drummer/guitarist/whatever male band member’s girlfriend’ by people doing sound/other bands/promoters suggests
that it’s very much still a stereotype that exists.

What do you think your responsibility is, as a band in combatting this issue?

Nye: It’s a hard thing to tell someone that you don’t know about sexual assault, so it’s up to us/other bands/promoters/people in general to make it as clear as possible that any kind of harassment or assault won’t be tolerated and that we’ll do everything we can to make sure that people coming to our shows are safe from that. Things like signposted ‘no tolerance’ policies at gigs, statements on stage, and kicking people out when necessary. We should be making sure that we don’t play on bills that are just bro-ey bands, or for promoters/venues that create a hostile environment to any people that might want to come along to one of our shows. Sometimes it can be hard to know that information, especially when you’re travelling to places that you’ve never been before – so we’ve also got to be prepared to listen when someone comes forward to tell us something, and try to act helpfully based on that information.

What do you think crowds should be doing?

Adam: Looking out for each other. Everyone’s come to the show to have a good time, so try to be aware of the people around you as much as you can. Dancing and jumping around is really fun, but it’s not an excuse to touch others without their consent. You wouldn’t do so in the street (I hope), so why would it be acceptable at a show? I’d hope people who come to our shows (or any show for that matter) would try to offer support if they witnessed harassment of any kind, or anyone looking uncomfortable or distressed.

Interview by Sophia Simon-Bashall

GA Newsletter: October 2017

Hey everyone, welcome to our October newsletter! This month, we’ve grown as a team, taking on a few reps to help us with socials and stuff you’ll definitely see a more active Girls Against online (not just behind the scenes). All our links, socials and reps contact info for any questions you may have will be at the end of this post!

The #metoo campaign took over social media this month and we 100% fully support it. It is so incredibly brave and inspirational of all these people, not just women, to come forward and share their stories. It helped to expose the shocking behaviour of Harvey Weinstein and further helped other people come forward following his allegations. Many well known women gave their experiences and helped the media and the public really understand this apparently hidden situation. Everyone who tweeted spoke with such courage and its very important to say that we are absolutely here for everyone, if they  want to confide in us to tell us their stories or look for help.

Our rep Sophia has been busy with interviews this month, bands featured include The Regrettes, Idle Frets and Beyond Recall. All can be found on our tumblr. They’re all really in depth and interesting so check those out!

From Sophia:

‘The Regrettes supported SWMRS’ on the Europe + UK leg of the Farewell Drive North Tour. I followed the tour around the UK and had a great week watching these bands every night. I spoke to The Regrettes ahead of the London show – the biggest show of the tour, and my last one! They were very warm and welcoming, and answered my questions thoughtfully – even though they were on a very tight schedule! They were reflective and nuanced, particularly when discussing how women in music are talked about. I felt like they really embodied what we’re about as a campaign – both during the interview and on stage every night. They truly interacted with the crowd, Lydia coming into the pit most nights and getting various people to sing a line. They treated me like a peer, and I saw them be the same with so many fans after the shows every night.’

We started our ‘Women Creating Waves’ Instagram theme (#wcw)! This takes inspirational women, not just in music, and showcases how amazing they all are! If you have any thoughts of women we should be including over the next few weeks, send us an Instagram DM!

International

Our international rep Andrew has been even busier this month! He was featured on a great podcast by ChunkyGlasses. It can be found here: http://www.chunkyglasses.com/content/episode-318-girls-against-how-to-combat-sexual-harassment/assault-in-the-music-industry-and-beyond

The podcast discusses what we do, our book club and giving a wider view of sexual harassment in the music scene.

Book Club

During October, the Girls Against Book Club has been reading ‘The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic’ by Jessica Hopper. It’s a set of essays about various issues in and surrounding the music industry and I chose to read this for the book club to learn more about and amplify the voice of a woman’s experience in a largely male-dominated industry. In the book club blog post I talk about some of my favourite essays, including  ‘Emo: Where the Girls Aren’t’ and ‘Deconstructing Lana Del Rey’, and the reasons why I didn’t like some of the other essays as much. For the month of November, the book club will be reading Carol Ann Duffy’s collection of poetry ‘Feminine Gospels’ which I’m really looking forward to as this is the first time our book club has ventured out into reading poetry and I’d love it if you joined us in reading the text! If you’re interested in reading more about my thoughts on Jessica Hopper’s set of music criticism, the fourth book club blog post is up now. Don’t forget to join our GoodReads group by following this link- https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/230714-girls-against-book-club

This piece was written by our rep Alice Porter; Alice writes and picks the book club books so please get involved with that and send her suggestions for the following months book to her email.

Music

So much good music has been released this month. Honestly, it’s been quite overwhelming. Especially as I’m still not over Architects’ ‘Doomsday’, which was my main pick from last month. My absolute favourite new song is ‘Temple’ by Tonight Alive – which was dropped with less than 24 hours warning. It’s safe to say that day I was…annoying. It’s a triumphant return, one which sees the band return to edgier, punkier sounds than their last album, Limitless. Thematically, it remains spiritual, but explores darker ideas than they dared approach previously. It’s a song that came at the right time, and one which hit hard – the upcoming album, Underworld, is undoubtedly going to be astounding. I already know it’s going to be honest to an uncomfortable degree, and that’s going to be the most freeing thing of all – for band and fans.

My next favourite is ‘Still Alive’ by The Spook School. A friend recently introduced me to this band, and as soon as I heard a couple of songs, I was hooked. This is their most recent release, and I love to play it on repeat. The standout line in the chorus – “fuck you I’m still alive” – is perfect to shout loud, over and over. Bad moods cannot persist when playing this song – that’s a fact.

There’s been so much this month though! We finally have a new Sleater Kinney song – mother Carrie answered my prayers! – and all proceeds
go to Planned Parenthood! Idle Frets – an interview with whom is up now – released a new single which is a smasher! Marmozets dropped another
banger! We have been very fortunate this month. Listen to all the best tunes in
this month’s playlist:

https://open.spotify.com/user/girlsagainst/playlist/0QBhIV7RP6YWzSYxLH7sv8

This Spotify playlist and piece was written by our rep Sophia Simon-Bashall.

 

Thank you so much for paying attention to us and following our campaign! Aforementioned, there will be a lot more action on our socials and we have SO many exciting things planned (that we can’t yet give away, even more reason to stay tuned).

Our tumblr submissions are open for your thoughts but also for pieces you would like to write for us! These include anything creative, writing, poetry or anything that you think might be relevant or that we’d like to hear! We always welcome constructive criticism and are always looking to improve. We recently opened up the search for new reps which we will be announcing week commencing the 13th so keep your eyes peeled if you’ve applied and hopefully you’ve been successful. Finally, thank you so much to everyone that did apply to rep for us. We really appreciate all the messages and all the reasons why you were interested in becoming a rep were so insightful.

 

The Girls Against team xxx

Contributers for September:

Alice @aliceporterX        Book Club

Sophia @hurricane_phi  Music

Ellen @iimmortals            Editor and Coordinator

Andrew @andrewjwkoh   International

Our socials:

twitter: @girlsagainst

facebook: https://www.facebook.com/girlsagainstgroping/

instagram @girls.against

email: girlsagainstgiggroping@gmail.com

If you need to contact any of us individually (reps), our twitters are @iimmortals (Ellen), @aliceporterX (Alice), @hurricane_phi (Sophia), @monica_gems (Georgia), @wardeeey (Isabella) and @azzannedale (Azzanne).

GA Book Club #4: ‘The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic’ by Jessica Hopper

Welcome back to the Girls Against Book Club! For the month of October, we’ve been reading ‘The First Collection of Criticism By A Living
Female Rock Critic’
by Jessica Hopper, a title that, on the first page, she
states is not entirely accurate. The title of this collection of essays is what drew to me to it though. The lack of music criticism written by women perhaps reflects the disproportionately lacking amount of women in the music industry generally, or perhaps the amount of women who are given opportunities rather.

Sexual assault at gigs, from my experience, affects women at a much larger rate than it does men and perhaps the domination of men in the music industry is the reason why the issue was largely ignored before campaigns like Girls Against. I chose to read this book as part of our book club in order to learn more about the experiences of a woman in a male-dominated industry and to amplify the voice of a talented female music critic.

I thought parts of this book were great but others, I didn’t enjoy so much. This is in no way a criticism of Hopper’s writing style, which is engaging, humorous and honest; it’s purely because some of the artists she writes about I’ve never heard of and some of the essays were originally written when I was 6 years old, making it difficult to understand some her points of reference. Obviously, this book is not handmade for each and every reader, ready to go with artists they like and cultural references they can understand and so I really don’t feel justified in criticising the text for this reason. But personally for me it made it a little bit less of an enjoyable read and someone who is perhaps a little older than me with a better general knowledge of music would have enjoyed it much more I’m sure. I do think the text would have benefited from a structural change in terms of grouping the essays by date rather than category as the essays at times were loosely grouped by category anyway and it was a little disorienting reading essays one after another that jumped from 2003 to 2013 to 2007 etc.

Anyway, with my little moan out of the way, I’ll move on to some of the essays I enjoyed.  The first essay I liked is titled ‘Emo: Where The Girls Aren’t’. It explores the distorted portrayal of woman in emo music, in which Hopper states woman are ‘denied the dignity of humanization through both the language and narratives, we are omnipresent yet chimerical, only of consequence in romantic settings.’ I don’t listen to much emo music and so can’t comment on whether this has changed since when the essay was first published in 2003 but this representation of women is present in many music genres that I do listen to and I think Hopper explains it nicely here. A line from this essay that really resonated with me is ‘men writing songs about women is practically the definition of rock ‘n’ roll’ as it seemed to explain to me why I unconsciously shifted to listening to so many more female fronted bands. A lot of the male-fronted bands I used to listen to, and admittedly still listen to now at times, do often just write songs about romanticized versions of women and I’m as bored of this in 2017 as Hopper was when writing this essay in 2003.

Another essay that I enjoyed, one of Hopper’s artist-specific essays, was ‘Deconstructing Lana Del Rey’. Lana Del Rey has been one of my favourite artists since ‘Born to Die’ and Hopper’s commentary on, what she describes as, the ‘Authenticity Debate’ surrounding Lana was really interesting to me. Hopper indirectly mocks those who ‘don’t understand’ Lana Del Rey and are determined to get to the bottom of ‘what she is’ and outlines the debate surrounding this. In response to this she simply states, ‘Being sexy and serious about your art needn’t be mutually exclusive, even when your art involves being a pop package.’ A simple statement like this portrays how unfounded the questions surrounding Del Rey’s image are and for me, this ‘debate’ just goes to show that society is still a little bit afraid of women who do not perfectly fit into it’s mould of what a woman is and should be.

Hopper’s essay on Courtney Love and Hole was definitely one of my favourites to read. ‘Live Through This’ is such a great album (that you should go and listen to right now if you haven’t already) and her conversation with the band is really interesting. The essay is titled ‘You Will Ache Like I Ache: The Oral History of Hole’s Live Through This’ and Hopper describes ‘Love’s surety of her band’s rightful place in the hierarchy’ as a sort of rite of passage for ‘every girl with a guitar’, describing the album as ‘the portrait of a woman claiming her power’. Listening to this album feels incredibly empowering and I couldn’t have summarised it better than Hopper does here. There were so many lines like this one in the collection where Hopper put my long and confused thoughts into a well-written and simple line and I always think that having the ability to do this makes someone a really great writer.

It is clear in all of these essays how truly passionate Hopper is about music and this along with her vast and extensive knowledge of the music industry makes her the ideal music critic. She put together this collection of criticism to, in her own words, ‘help mark the path’ of music criticism written by woman, dedicating the book to ‘those that came before, those that should have been first, and all the ones that will come after.’ This set of essays was my first real look into music criticism written by anyone of any gender and I can vouch for the fact that it sets an amazing example not only for women but for everyone and I sincerely hope that more women are given the opportunities to become music critics. I only wish that my knowledge of music was more extensive generally so I could fully appreciate every essay in this collection and essays to come- I will work on that!

For the penultimate book of 2017, we will be reading Carol Ann Duffy’s collection of poetry ‘Feminine Gospels’. I really wanted to incorporate some poetry into the book club before the year was over and who better to begin with than the first female and LGBT British Poet Laureate? She’s even Scottish which is where our campaign’s roots lie with two of the three current founders being Scots too! In this poetry collection Duffy focuses on the theme of female identity and explores it historically, archetypically and in various other ways.

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in then please join us in reading it during November! If you have already read ‘Feminine Gospels’ or are planning to then be sure to join our GoodReads group here so you can keep up to date with the book club and contribute your views on the text. Alternatively, if you’d rather contribute your views anonymously or privately you can email us at
girlsagainstbookclub@gmail.com
with your thoughts. The next book club post will go up on Sunday 3rd
December so be sure to tell us what you think of the text by then for a chance
to have your views included in the post.

Written by Alice Porter (@aliceporterx on Twitter).