Saturday, November 17, 2007

Memphis: ALICJA

Alicja is singer and guitarist for an array of Memphis-based bands, including the Lost Sounds and the River City Tanlines. We meet her at the HiTone, an eclectic retro-styled rock club where she is tending door. On a break between sets, she pulls us into the back room for a chat, before shooing us back to see the bands for a special discount. She is clearly a fixture in the scene here, as every few moments the interview is interrupted by a hello or congratulations on her recent baby. Alicja (left, backstage at the HiTone) tells us she started playing music with girls in high school, but always related more to males in rock music. She found that guys would approach her and say they don’t often relate to music written by girls, but they liked hers.

Has she experienced any discrimination being a woman in the heavily male-dominated garage and punk scenes? She looks bored with the question, but lets us know “men always soundcheck you last, look embarrassed for you, and always try to give advice to you if you are in an all-girl band.” I ask her about how she relates to the tradition of ostentatious rocker front-women: “I’m a jeans and t-shirt kinda girl--I let my pride and vanity go out the door. I want to be able to play with the boys.” She admits though that she “stands out. But I use it to my advantage, without dressing slutty when I play.” The last time I saw Alicja play in Chicago, she was six months pregnant and rocking out in a flowing red dress, riling the crowd with her punk pregnancy performance. She tells us that she hopes that her newborn daughter will be impressed with her mom one day, that she’ll see her with a “flying v-guitar” and think “mom is a bad-ass.”

Does she relate to feminism? “I secretly get satisfaction from the feminist movement, but I have felt repelled by the term, and by women who can’t stand up for themselves without relating to the term. I know I am a great guitarist already.” Alicja’s attitude is typical of many woman musicians, who have felt singled out for their gender, and have traded irreverence and confidence for being pigeonholed. “I can’t live down the stereotype of always being a woman in rock. I don’t understand, women are not a race. We are not like the Aztecs or Eskimos. We are 50% of the world, why do we keep being defined as separate from it?”


Discussion Questions:
Question 1


mattster said...

I think Alicja speaks an interesting and valid counterpoint to the ROCKRGRL and Ladyfest people from earlier. As she has said in a different interview:

"When you see a girl play who is really into the music, she might not seem as sexy or hot as someone more image conscious, maybe you even forget she’s a girl for a moment and you just watch her and her band play.
I hate preachy people in general, sexism is mammalian reality and I don’t see it as my job to save the world for women, it’s just my job to create. It’s hard to overcome preconceived notions, but it’s rock’n’roll, so you can just say 'fuck you!' "

The first part of this quote is something I whole heartedly agree with. Moreover, the same thing can be said about some music that is perhaps too overtly feminist -- feminst imagery/identity becomes more important than the music the band is making.

Which leads to the second part of the quote -- Alicja rejects those who try to overtly politicize her art. She seeks to create her art, not function as some mouthpiece for a political agenda/movement with which she doesn't identify. This is a viewpoint which appears over and over with many of the young women you have interviewed and yet very few of the comments on this blog seem to support it. I do support it.

Furthermore, I think at least one reason this "anti-political" viewpoint keeps popping up is the pressure our generation feels from the Boomers. Overt political messages in popular music, especially rock music, were in some ways a halmark of the music of that generation. Now our generation definitely feels pressure from the Boomers to make "meaningful" music (i.e. music with an overt political message). This pressure is exerted particularily strongly upon women musicians/artists by those who subscribe to the ideas of Boomer feminism. Even the seemingly innocuous question "how does being a woman effect your music/art?" has become so loaded you can't answer it without being pressured. I really respect what I perceive to be Alicja's answer to this question and I think it is an answer more of our generation should give.

"Fuck You."

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