Sonntag, 13. November 2016


(Interview von Yannig im Frühjahr 2016)

Petrol Girls kannte ich seit einiger Zeit vom Hörensagen, genau genommen seit ich Sängerin Ren in Hamburg bei einem Konzert kennengelernt hatte. Damals sang sie noch Background-Chöre beim Acoustic Punk-Songwriter Mike Scott, der wie sie selbst ‘based in London’ ist. Von der Idee, eine Hardcore-Band mit feministischem Schwerpunkt zu gründen, erzählte sie mir schon damals. Als ich Petrol Girls dann das erste Mal in Hamburg beim La*DIY-Fest 2014 im Centro Sociale sah, war ich trotz hoher Erwartungen äußerst Beeindruckt von der Power, dem fettem Sound und ausgetüfteltem Songwriting der Band, die die Qualität der ersten EP (die ja schon alles andere als schlecht war) noch bei weitem übertraf. Auf dem Bananenterz-Festival in der Flora 2015 haben sie diesen Eindruck in meinen Augen (oder besser gesagt Ohren) sogar noch übertroffen. Inzwischen haben sie auf mehreren Touren in UK und auf dem europäischen Festland schon ordentlich von sich Reden gemacht. Da ich weiß, daß die Bandmember einiges zu sagen haben, und die Band mit dem selbst gewählten label “Feminist Hardcore” ja auch offensiv mit einer politischen Haltung nach außen geht, habe ich der Band einige Fragen zu Musik und Feminismus, DIY in London und Europa sowie der politischen Situation in England gestellt. Aus dem Vorhaben, kollektive Antworten abzuliefern, ist leider nichts geworden, daher stammen alle Antworten von Sängerin Ren. Für Frühjahr 2016 ist eine zweite EP angekündigt.

1. The obligatory first question is of course the introduction. So if you like, tell the readers of No Spirit fanzine about Petrol Girls: who are you? Where are you from? Why are you in a band? When did you start? Etc etc.

Petrol Girls started in 2013 as a 3 piece for a house show celebrating International Women’s Day. Joe joined Liepa and me not long after, then we played with loads of different drummers and have stuck with Zock who also plays in Astpai. We’re from all over the place - Lithuania, Austria and the UK - but are loosely based in London at the moment. I’d been playing acoustic for ages and was desperate to do something heavier, then was just incredibly lucky that these three incredible musicians wanted to join forces.

2. You describe yourselves as a feminist Hardcore band. Now, feminism is a very broad term with very diverse, sometimes conflicting opinions. Would you like to explain more precisely what feminism means to you? What issues are you addressing in your lyrics/speeches, what is your outlook for feminist struggles in the early 21st century?

I think about feminism as a plural thing, as loads of kinds of feminisms. Even within the band we probably all have slightly different takes on it. For me, feminism is something I need, to understand why I am and have been treated in certain ways both inside and outside the punk rock community and to empower me to fight that shit. I’ve been involved in punk rock for ten years now, going to shows, running shows, playing in different projects, touring, giving bands somewhere to stay, feeding people and alongside all the awesome experiences that keep me involved: I’ve been sexually assaulted more times than I can count; I’ve been endlessly told to pipe down/ shut up, told that I don’t understand my own experiences; my involvement and input gets erased from things all the time - my ideas and input into so many different things are not credited (where a man’s input would be); some men have tried to bully me because I won’t blindly do what they tell me to; I’ve been sexualised, silenced, harassed and intimidated in a scene that constantly pats itself on the back for its ‘right on’ politics. So that’s why for me it was important to make an explicitly feminist band because there’s nothing like getting on stage in front of a crowd that contains the people that have assaulted you or tried to silence you and rage at them for 30 minutes. And even better, to meet and identify with people who’ve had similar experiences, share an understanding of why, and support each other. And that’s just how feminism relates for me, specifically to being in a band. Feminism informs the way I look at most things and is something I still have so much to learn about. My feminism has become more intersectional over the past couple of years as I’ve learnt more about how race, sexuality, class, and so many other factors relate to it, but there is so much more to learn.

3. Also, looking at your lyrics, it is clear that you are not a one-topic band and not all songs address straightforwardly feminist issues. Have you ever felt that this label might be limiting at all (not meant as a criticism, I think it’s very appropriate to make this kind of distinction within this very male-oriented scene/society)? Do you feel like you’re being booked into certain kinds of events or get certain foreseeable reactions because of this label? Is „feminist HC/Punk“ a scene of its own now with several new bands emerging in the past few years, and the older ones getting back together?

To me, describing ourselves as feminist is a starting point. Feminism is just one kind of politicisation from which others naturally happen. It colours my entire world-view.

It certainly means we end up being put on specifically feminist shows, and sure there’s some kind of feminist HC/ punk scene but its not one thing, it exists in little pockets everywhere, so I guess its more a genre than a scene in that sense. But we play in many different kinds of spaces, and something interesting I noticed is how I alter the way I express my feminism according to those spaces. I love playing feminist shows because we can assume a certain level of knowledge and chat about more specific feminist parts of the songs on stage and have really great in depth conversations with people about feminism at the show. But then personally, I totally get a kick out of playing in really macho environments as well, especially now we have this song Phallocentric and I get to tell them all how bored I am of penis-centric sex, art and music.. mwahahahaha.

But yes, for sure we have songs that are about other ideas. When we started Petrol Girls, most of my activism was around specifically feminist issues, then I had a shit time with mental health and was pretty inactive, and now I’m more focussed on the current border crisis - and this totally has an impact on the kinds of lyrics I write. And it doesn’t mean we as a band think feminism is “less important” or that we’ve “moved on” - feminism informs our approach to most situations.

4.Musicwise, what are your influences? Hardcore, like feminism, is a very broad term. I hear a lot of early 90’s post-HC influence, but there’s definitely more to your sound. But what is it?

We all listen to quite different stuff. Liepa and Joe for example are into proper mathrock stuff with mad time signatures like Delta Sleep, TTNG, Edit Your home Town.. I guess I can say that collectively as a band we’re influenced by bands like Refused, War on Women, Propagandhi, G.L.O.S.S., Priests, Rainmaker, Paint It Black, Bikini Kill, At The Drive In - there’s loads!  Also, FLEETWOOD MAC.

5. So totally NOT early post-90s HC… hehe. How do you go about writing tunes? Are they fully written by one person and you just arrange them together, or is it a collective process?

This has developed over time and I think this is where Liepa and Joe deserve full riff machine credit. We have two main processes, one starts with lyrics and grows from there, the other starts with a riff and builds from that. The second way is much more challenging for me but its interesting how the words for the lyrics come out as sounds and rhythms first then take on meaning, whereas the other way starts with a way more concrete idea of what the songs about. The lyrics that begin as sounds and rhythms first tend to be more open, maybe about a kind of feeling like alienation, whereas the songs that begin as lyrics tend to be about a specific issue or idea - we just wrote a songs around “Its my body and my choice” for example. I think both are valid creatively and politically.

6. One last feminism and music related question: I think you’re deliberately referring to Hardcore as a scene, as opposed to Riot Grrrl (I believe Ren told me this once). What do you think of Riot Grrrls legacy in retrospective, now that it’s getting caught by the 90s-retro-craze and academic books are written about it? Is your preference to be labelled Hardcore just because of personal taste, or is that a more far-reaching decision?

Petrol Girls is not a Riot Grrrl band. Riot Grrrl is just one of many many things that we draw influence from, I think it’s incredibly limiting that feminist bands tend to be described as Riot Grrrl, it’s insulting both ways: it washes out Riot Grrrl which has a lot more specific features than just feminism and punk, and it boxes women in punk into one category.

I think it was when I watched “From The Back of the Room” that I saw this perspective - until then I thought Riot Grrrl was all I had; all I could identify with. And I guess this says a lot about the way documentaries and books decide what the history of a scene is, especially in terms of more marginalised groups. As part of that group it can have an impact on what you perceive as possible. I remember reading Typical Girls - the Slits Biography and it having a massive impact on the way I thought about making music.

I guess we defined ourselves as hardcore, or now probably post-hardcore, to emphasise the heavier and politicised nature of our music.

7. Coming from London, the proclaimed mother town of the Punk movement, can you tell your opinion about what the scene is like there in 2015? Are there still many bands and venues, and how many people are attending gigs? Any exclusive insider tips we should have heard of?

I always feel like in London there are many different scenes that interlink. There’s so much going on that it can be really overwhelming! DIY Space For London opened a few months ago, and is 5 minutes cycle from where we’re based in London, which is awesome. They had about 2,000 people sign up as members in the first couple of months so there’s definitely loads of people interested in shows. Personally I feel like I got stuck in a part of the London scene that I wasn’t really that into musically just because of my friendship circle, then stumbled across this whole other bigger and way more diverse part of the community where the music is way more interesting to me and I feel loads more comfortable. I feel like that can only happen in a city as big and busy as London. 

8. You all live in one house that serves as a social space for gigs and other things as well. While it is quite common for this to happen in bigger towns in Germany, it doesn’t seem to be the case in the UK. Would you like to tell us more about your space, how it came about and what you do there? Also, if you know or like, can you tell us some things about collective/cooperative housing in the UK in general? Is there a lot of it and how easy or difficult is it to make it happen?

Yeah the other 3 now all technically live in the rented house in London where we’ve run shows for the past 4 and a half years, I just turn up and demand feeding and cuddles from time to time. Its a rented house and still hosts house shows when everyone living there feels like it. Its just a lucky situation - cheap rent for the area, an oblivious landlord and a massive kitchen. If you’ve got any kind of space you can make some kind of show work. I used to run acoustic gigs in the kitchen of my university halls - there’s always a way. The bigger battle there was a feminist one. Now you’d never see an all male line up there and feminist issues can be openly and comfortably discussed. Thank fuck. There are lots of other houses that put on shows, I guess the one we’re based at has been going for a while and has a bigger space so earnt a bit of a reputation. I just always say to anyone who’s interested to just have a go and ask your mates to help you.

9. The UK is currently facing major austerity measures and restrictions of human liberties. This has lead to several protests and riots, with big student’s protests in 2010 and the well-covered Tottenham riots in 2011. How is the social climate now that the Tories got re-elected? Is there grass roots organizing to counteract the austerity measures or any notable political movements you’d like to tell us about?

A few days after the Tories got re-elected, this time without the Liberal Democrat coalition, over 1,000 people gathered at very short notice in a lecture theatre in central London in direct response to the result, and took part in the first Radical Left Assembly. This was an acknowledgement of the unrepresentative and undemocratic nature of the current UK political system, and that with the Tories in charge things are set to get pretty bleak. And yeah things are pretty spectacularly bleak. And it doesn’t just affect UK citizens. Fuck I don’t even know where to start. Bombing, fracking, cutting, privatising, detaining, deporting.. and some people are resisting, collectively and as individuals. But we’re not organised enough and there aren’t enough of us.. yet. And so many people, especially our generation, are suffering mental health problems, and can’t even scrape a decent living, and are always in a state of work or ready for work, marketing every aspect of our lives. I feel like real, face to face, rewarding, collective, supportive, inclusive organising is the only way we can even begin dragging ourselves out of this bullshit.

10. Other things you are involved in that you want to spread the word about?

I’m not sure how best to speak about it at the moment, but I see the current border crisis as a key historical moment, and feel like the way we are responding to it will define the nature of our society for years to come. This is a good update on what is happening in Calais, but of course this is only a small part of the picture that is physically close to where I’m based.

and it’s weird that I’m taking up so little space in this interview with this issue when it’s so fucking huge.

11. You have toured both the UK and Europe several times by now. How were the reactions in general? Everybody’s always asking for the fun parts, but which were the shittiest gigs you had to play so far? Tell us about the dark side of touring!

No honestly it is actually always awesome. Its an incredible privilege to be able to do this. To have this freedom of movement - fuck!  For me personally, because of the privilege I experience of being on stage, being asked my opinion, getting to perform and release my aggression and anger, men don’t fuck with me so much.. so my experiences of obvious sexism are pretty minimal these days. I think other women, and certainly I as a younger and less visible woman, have a different experience. 

12. When can we expect a full Petrol Girls album?

Within the next year!!! We’re going to Graz to record for two weeks in March. OHOOOOOOOO I’m excited.

13. Any last words?