As Dave Grohl helps launch the career of his daughter, Violet, and drum-battles Nandi Bushell, he keeps indicating young women are the future of rock’n’roll – and he’s right. Women already dominate in pop, country, and (especially in recent years) rap. At last, rock is catching up.
As Brandi Carlile sets her heart on becoming Soundgarden’s permanent singer, as Violet Grohl gears up for a solo career, as Frances Bean Cobain leaks the occasional barebones ballad, let’s look at the top 10 female artists and female-led bands shaping rock’s tomorrow.
If you like these 10, also check out Jinjer, Bones UK, Spiritbox, Thundermother, The Hot Damn!, The Velveteers, Svalbard, Deap Vally, SATE, Saint Agnes, Kills Birds, Smoking Martha, Bastette, Jail Job Eve, The Bloody Nerve, Samantha Fish, Lovehoney and Grace McKagan for more artists – to name but a few – who prove “the future is female” isn’t just political sloganeering.
In one breath Emily Armstrong screams, “Hey! Wait!” with an urgency that would indeed stop you cold; in the next she makes “meat-eating orchids” sound calligraphed on linen stationery. The Ann Wilson-like nuance of her voice combined with Siouxsie Medley’s elastic guitar playing are front and centre on the LA-based Dead Sara’s cover of Nirvana's Heart-Shaped Box, their celebrated Weatherman, Lemon Scent, and plenty of other songs.
Armstrong is a favourite modern singer of both Courtney Love and Grace Slick, and Dave Grohl has claimed Dead Sara “should be the next biggest rock band in the world.”
Perhaps best known for their stripped toe-tapper cover of Black Betty, Georgia-born, Nashville-based sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell named themselves for their four-greats grandfather, whose cousin was Edgar Allan Poe. And while Poe’s sense of macabre may not show up in the Lovell sisters’ music, his storytelling mastery does, as on the fan favourite Holy Ghost Fire.
Rebecca’s scratchy, layered vocals and Megan’s hard-hitting guitar add some real rock’n’roll to the southern blues base of Larkin Poe’s sound. Their most recent record, Self Made Man, represented their second trip to the top of the Billboard blues album chart.
The most established band on our list but still gaining steam, Wolf Alice have opened for Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, and Liam Gallagher. Fronted by Ellie Rowsell, the band have picked up NME Awards, a Mercury Prize, and a UK Festival Award.
They were also nominated for a Grammy (Best Rock Performance) for Moaning Lisa Smile, which shows Wolf Alice crafting an enormous rock hook against their patented indie aesthetic. The band is currently touring, and their third album, Blue Weekend is a critical and fan favourite thanks to Rowsell’s bold but intimate vocals and the record’s sweeping, surrealistic atmosphere.
The Dead Deads
With giant Xs painted over their eyes, the Nashville, TN-based rockers The Dead Deads have attracted praise from members of Kiss, Halestorm, Cheap Trick, Slipknot and Seether. McQueen, Daisy, and Meta pair sweet vocals and nursey-rhyme lyrics with gnarled rhythms and metal screams, as on the popular Ghosts. Their third album, including the female-empowerment thrasher Hey Girlfriend, was released in September to exuberant praise.
Another band of siblings, the Marmozets are the Macintyres (Rebecca, vocals; Sam, guitar; Josh, drums) and the Bottomleys (Jack, guitar; Will, bass). While they allude to the fact that most of their fans are still male at this point, Rebecca as frontwoman is inspiring young women to start their own bands. And for good reason.
After a strong start that included critical acclaim for their first EP and LP and touring with Muse, Rebecca had to overcome hypermobility syndrome before the band could complete their second album. She did and they did, and the result was the in-your-face, absurdly dancey Knowing What You Know Now in 2018. We haven't heard from them since, but apparently they're just living "living our own lives" for a while.
After migrating to Sumerian Records, a label known for encouraging artists to go as extreme as they please, the singer formerly known as Juliet Simms became Lilith Czar. And her body of work became one extended war cry set to chugging beats and sawing guitars.
She chose her new first name because Lilith is supposed to have been created as Adam was created – in her words, from “dirt and filth” – not from him. Her much-touted song King is a confrontational feminist anthem, declaring again and again, “If it’s a man’s world, I wanna be king.”
“The best band you’ve never heard of,” according to Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, Nova Twins have opened for Wolf Alice and Black Honey. With Georgia South’s assaultive bass and Amy Love’s slug-you-in-the-teeth vocals, Nova Twins’ sound is pure punk reinvention. Offensive, reckless, and grimy to the core, their music doesn’t return to the 90s; it’s punk for the 2020s – raw noise that bruisingly counters modern-day horseshit.
After reinventing themselves – changing their name from The Hype Theory and veering away from a pop-punk sound – Tigress’s first show was the Vans Warped Tour kick-off party. They performed with Green Day at British Summer Time in London's Hyde Park. And they opened for Bring Me the Horizon – all before signing with Humble Angel Records.
With shining reviews for their 2021 album Pure Vida, we can expect plenty more of Tigress’s racing rhythms, epic orchestration, and Katy Jackson’s smoky vocals.
Hands Off Gretel
Frequently digging into female-specific themes, Hands Off Gretel include Lauren Tate (vocals and guitar) and Becky Baldwin (bass). Tate’s vocals swap effortlessly between hard rock and punk, peppering in earsplitting squeaks and Iron Maiden screams.
No matter what tone they’re shooting for, their intense rhythms and breathless pace create carnival rides from mosher after mosher. Their latest album, I Want The World, somehow balances witchy seduction with elegantly crude scare tactics with vulnerable confession.
Another artist to sign to Sumerian and then go through something of a reinvention is Poppy, the one-time tongue-in-cheek bubblegum pop star YouTuber, musician, and singer Poppy (real name Moriah Rose Pereira) started moving from pop to nu metal on her second album, but it was on her third, with Sumerian, that she really let her metal and industrial rock flags fly. This year, her claustrophobic, come-to-Jesus hit Bloodmoney was nominated for the Grammy for Best Metal Performance.