Joan Jett may love rock and roll, but thirty years after the hit single’s debut, her female compatriots are still eerily absent within the punk genre. When people think punk, they think of The Ramones and The Sex Pistols – or Green Day, if their iPods don’t predate 1995. But they don’t often think of anyone without a Y chromosome.
Seattle’s The Juliettes aim to change that, however. Their debut album, “Clutch the Pearls,” released May 1, 2012, contains tracks like “Hooray, You’re Gay” and “BOB,” which stands for Battery Operated Boyfriend. Taylor Swift they are not. Here, lead singer Julie Mains tells us how they balance rock star revelry with professional life and how you can punk-ify your work wardrobe.
How would you describe the band’s sound?
We sound like a combination of Green Day, The Go-Gos, Joan Jett, Brian Setzer. We’ve even been called the female Foo Fighters, which is pretty much the highest compliment we could get.
What’s the most fun thing about being in an all-female band?
There are so many things. The most fun thing about being in THIS all-female band is that we have a lot of love and respect for each other. I have yet to be in a band with men where at least one of them didn’t think we was the boss of me, musically or otherwise. In this band, nobody is the boss of anybody. We are very careful of each other’s feelings and are even sometimes too cautious.
We write about things that are relevant to women. We dress up and put on a great show because we are all about having fun and giving our audience an experience. We take our music seriously, but not ourselves. We like to rock out with our frock out.
What is it like to be a female band in such a male-dominated genre?
Both inspiring and depressing. People are often surprised at our level of professionalism, sadly. Then, after they see us perform, we get asked why we aren’t famous or out opening for some huge act on a regular basis. The compliments are nice, but we also face a lot of sexism or harassment. At our last gig, the sound guy called our drummer, “sweetheart” over and over and then told her her sound check was arousing him. Something ridiculous like that happens at every gig.
Still, it makes us work harder and fight harder. I don’t know why we are considered less relevant or less of a good investment financially than say another band of boys singing derivative sounding songs about some girl he has weepy feelings for. Women control 80% of the buying power in this country and should be well represented in this industry by strong voices reflecting the experiences our sisters are having. Oh wait, it might be because we don’t take our clothes off. If you look at magazine covers, the women are usually uncovered. We wear clothes when we rock. We find it helps people listen to the music.
What would you say to women who claim not to like punk? Do you have a “starter kit” of punk songs to introduce people to the genre?
I think women like punk a lot. Between Joan Jett and Blondie, the love affair between women and punk was secured in the 70s and 80s. If there*is* a reason, maybe it’s because the women championed in the music industry are singing auto-tuned dance music, soft hits, or country and that’s what the public is exposed to. We have about four or five songs on our new album that women will love that lean strongly to punk. Punk music has some of the most hilarious and sarcastic lyrics in it. Punk can be a truly enjoyable experience down to your bone marrow, but I do think some of women equate it to people jumping up and down in a mosh pit with people sweating on you. Our music is more like putting on your tiara and then flipping off the man.
How do you balance The Juliettes with your day job?
Each of us is in different stages of school, day job and non-day job. Two of us have kids. Honestly, the gender inequity rears it’s ugly head here the most. We’ve been conditioned to sit around and consider what our “work/life balance” is supposed to look like, what our kids are supposed to expect from us as women (to give our lives over to raising them without other interests), what our partners should expect from us (to give our lives over to caring for them with everything else second), what our jobs should expect (money is the most important thing you need because the cost of living is expensive).
The answer is this: there is no balance. We make time for this because we must. What kind of parent or partner are we if we suppress our dreams and passions? My job in life is to pursue that which makes me happy and model that for my children and my community.
Men are rarely, if ever, asked about their work/life balance. In this band, we are professional musicians. If there were any justice in this world, the band would our day job. I keep crossing my fingers and working my butt off in the expectation that one day, some savvy and well-connected badass will see the potential in this band and partner with us – then there will be no need of a day job at all.
What advice would you give women who are interested in starting bands of their own?
Do it. Be very, very careful about choosing bandmates. Being in a band – essentially an artistic business partnership – with the wrong people is a fiery hell. Speak from the heart. Serve yourself, your vision, your message. Work hard, be prepared and respectful. Don’t take no for an answer. Swing for the fences. Love freely and openly. Be safe with your person.
Can you give our readers some suggestions for incorporating rocker style into their work wardrobes?
Yes. First, get rid of everything in your wardrobe that makes you look (and therefore feel) dowdy or frumpy. If you own it, you will be tempted to wear it. Get rid of your safe haircut. Lean into eyeliner and brighter lips. Then, buy more boots. Don’t be afraid of red. The thing that will make you have more rocker style than anything in your wardrobe is to look people in the eye, walk with purpose, and not give a flying eff what anyone thinks of you.