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Artist Spotlight - Petrol Girls

(Photography by Isha Shah Photography)

We had the opportunity to interview London based group Petrol Girls! Petrol Girls are a feminist post-hardcore punk band that bring the heat with their music. Their ideology and their music are intertwined which is so cool to see, (in our view artists could do more to be engaged ideologically and politically today). Their new album The Future is Dark was just released in September. Check out what they had to say below!

1. How did you come to pursue music and how long have you been at it?

I fronted a metal band when I was a teenager but when that fizzled out I didn't really imagine that I'd end up doing anything like it again, and just did bits of backing vocals for various projects and started touring acoustically. I've never really thought of doing music as a career or anything, I just had a lot of stuff I really wanted to shout about! Liepa and I started Petrol Girls for a house show I was running five and a half years ago, and Joe joined us not long after. I guess its in the last few years that we've started to take it a lot more seriously. Zock, our drummer, has been doing music pretty seriously for more than half his life - his other band Astpai is coming up 16 years old.

2. Could you walk us through your process of writing music?

I think there are two main ways this happens. One way is that I'll have a slogan or basic lyric as a starting point, then Joe will build up the guitar parts around that, and we fill the song out from there. But I think more often these days we start with a guitar riff, written by Joe or Liepa, that Zock will write drum parts to, then Liepa writes bass to stitch these parts together, and I then write the vocals on top of that. I've been living in a different country for the past year so everything we've written for the new record so far has been done this way. I used to find it really tough but now I love this way of writing vocals because you're lead by the rhythm and it feels like it pulls the words out of me, and like they're coming from a more subconscious or deep place that I can make sense of afterwards and keep finding new meaning in.

3. What artists have inspired you in your career?

For me, seeing other women on stage has always been hugely important for being able to imagine myself up there too. Marcia from The Skints, Laila from Sonic Boom Six and Reb from Dirty Revolution were big inspirations to me as a teenager. Then I learnt about bands like the Slits and Bikini Kill, which encouraged me to start making music with other women. At the moment bands like Downtown Boys, War on Women, Dream Nails and Screaming Toenail inspire me musically, but also politically to keep fighting.

4. Do you have any favorite music gear (guitars, amps, effects pedals, keyboards, etc.) that you love

to use? If so, what’s the story on them?

Joe: A lot of our songs make use the Digitech Whammy pedal on the guitar. Its great for moving organically between different harmonies or to expand the range of pitch and it helps creating a full sound without needing another guitarist.

Zock: Drum wise, I don't really use anything out of the ordinary that's worth mentioning. I love my Wail City snare drum because as most snares are made of several plies, mines made out of two solid wood components (sapele/ash) which gives it more punch and seemingly more volume.

5. Can you describe the vibe at your live shows? Also, what do you enjoy most about a venue when

you do a show?

It can vary so much depending on the place but mostly I'd say its pretty respectful. Because we play heavy music, men sometimes think this gives them license to shove other people around but I'm not having it and I stop the set if this happens. It just blows my mind sometimes that after I've spoken explicitly about sexual violence, which is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men towards women and non binary people, men then still think its cool for them to physically push everyone else to the sides. I love it when we have a crowd of women and non binary people at the front because I can have really intense eye contact with, and pass the mic to, people who share in a lot of the experiences that I'm singing about.

I love venues that are also community spaces and activist hubs. I'd like to do more to make sure we play these kinds of spaces because I think they're so important. I feel like live music has this inherent political potential in that it brings us together physically as a community in a space, which already challenges how alienating society can be on one level. Activist spaces then build on this, and make it possible for us to get organised.

FMI on the Petrol Girls visit their bandcamp site.

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