Gender, sexuality and equality seem to be talked about in the heavy music scene now more than ever. But despite yearly calls for more mixed-bill festival line-ups and more heavy bands speaking out about inequality and injustice, it feels like we’ve still got a way to go before we arrive at the fully inclusive heavy metal utopia we’re destined for – even though some of the most exciting alternative music being made right now is being made by women.
Bitch Falcon from Dublin have the infectious gliding vocals of Cocteau Twins and the rawness of early 90s grunge. Their debut album Staring At Clocks came out at the end of last year via Small Pond Records and it’s a powerful, spirited and beautifully alternative rock record. Brighton’s CLT DRP, meanwhile, have got the smirking antagonism of Peaches and the distorted electro-punk of bands like Death From Above 1979. Their debut album Without The Eyes – which came out in August 2020, also via Small Pond – is hyperactive and unique, mixing moments of delicate introspection with glitchy and fuzzed-out electronica.
The two bands are fans of each other’s work – having even remixed each other’s songs. They both sing about rejecting the male gaze and owning their sexuality in their music, among other important topics.
Here we talk to both frontwomen – Lizzie Fitzpatrick from Bitch Falcon and Annie Dorrett from CLT DRP – about their music, empowerment, sexism, change and their awesome new albums.
When you were getting into heavy music, did you see a lot of women in bands?
Lizzie: No, not one. I went to an all-girl school; I was very Catholic. But in college there was a lot of likeminded people around. I started going out with a girl when I was 18, she was from Wicklow, the county up from me. That was a great scene with loads of girls in bands, so I guess I was a bit unlucky where I was.
Annie: I grew up in Toronto, Canada. It was a city so there was a lot going on. I went to a lot of gigs, my brother was really into hip hop, so I was into that side of things. I used to go to school for musical theatre, and I used to play folky stuff. So my background is totally different to CLT DRP [laughs]. I was lucky to grow up in a city.
I once read Serena Cherry from Svalbard say in an interview that “Real inspiration is simply not that shallow. Someone doesn't need to be the same gender as another person to inspire them.” Do you think it’s important to see people that look like you in heavy music?
Lizzie: I think hugely. It is daunting to go into something that you’re a minority in, so maybe you feel like you have to prove yourself a bit more? I have been inspired by loads of women in different areas that were male-dominated. It’s so important, especially in sport. Recently they’ve been showing a lot more women’s sports, I would’ve loved that when I was younger. When you see it, of course you get inspired. Young girls will always feel inspired by other women.
Annie: I agree. I think you have to have representation. I predominantly listen to a lot of women, but I think there was an era where if you were a woman in music you had to be amazing or wild or a certain kind of woman. There was a lot of competitiveness against each other, but now it’s more like you can just do it if you want to do it. Like it’s normal for women to be in heavy music, I never thought I could do heavy music because I never saw myself in any of those bands. It got to the point where I just thought why the fuck not, you know? But yeah, it’s extremely important.
Annie, your lyrics can be seen as quite sexual. What does it mean to “own” your sexuality?
Annie: For a lot of women, and a lot of people that aren’t represented or are in minorities or LGBT people, I think it’s a really big thing to talk about your sexuality in regards to what you like, how you want to be seen, who you want to be seen with, the rules that go along with sex, your body, body positivity and all those things.
I think there are a lot of stereotypes and pressures forced onto women, especially to act certain ways. To be very submissive, to be very giving, to take care of people – especially men – and take care of their other halves. For me it’s about owning what you actually like and not being afraid to talk about it. Not being afraid of saying, I am trans or I am gay or I am dominant, I like it this way or that way. It’s about turning it on its head because there has been a lot of aggression in music from men over the years, in every genre. I think it’s quite nice to give it back a bit, take up a space, and own that. Not being ashamed of it is the biggest thing for me.
Lizzie: There’s a lot of work being done for women not to be sexualised but there needs to be a balance. You shouldn’t not be able to talk about it, you know? That’s control in a different way. Maybe people are using that against women too. You have to be careful with what you’re saying sometimes because you don’t want to discount the work that people have done…
So part of it is about being in control of how sexualised you are, instead of it being projecting onto you or decided by other people?
Lizzie: Yeah. Like I will talk to my male friends about sex and I don’t worry that they’ll think I’m a slut. I would maybe have a bit of fear that if I’m writing about sex in a song that it’ll be taken that I’m trying to… be sexy to sell music?
Annie: I totally understand that fear. I think what’s hard about right now is that it’s been used so much against us that, well, if you’re going to talk about it anyway then I’m going to give it to you! I’m tired of being sexualised, or it going the other way where you’re not respected because somebody isn’t into you. I’m at a point now where I just don’t care anymore! You get it from both angles because if you try and own it people tell you you’re too forward, too out-there or too slutty. Or you don’t own it and people say, “I thought you were empowered?”
In your song Speak To My, Annie, you talk about internalised misogyny. What is it and how can people battle it?
Annie: Internalised misogyny is the idea of hating women yourself. Just because you’re a woman doesn’t mean you can’t hate women. You internalise the competitiveness, or the pressure and the judgement that has been put on you. There is so much judgement and pressure on women already that we can get really catty with other women because there are so many things you’re put up against in the first place.
I struggled with that in high school. I felt like I wasn’t like the other girls, I think we’ve all been there. I thought I was cool because I was hanging out with the boys, I wanted to be part of the boy group. Femininity was seen as something weak and I didn’t want to be associated with it. I wanted to be a tough character, but in reality that isn’t down to masculine or feminine. There are lots of amazing women and we should be supporting each other, not putting each other down. I think I’m really learning it. I’m getting there. It’s kind of in you. It’s scary because you don’t want it to be there. Just acknowledging that it’s there, working at it, and learning to appreciate the women around you is a massive thing, and it’s helped me a lot in life.
Lizzie: It’s absolutely there. Society breeds it into you when you’re younger. I completely agree that not wanting to be one of the other girls is kind of an image that is pushed on you. You can go either way. But then it’s so empowering when you meet a woman that you really love. If I meet a woman I really love I get a big buzz off it. That has helped me get through the jealousy and competitiveness with other women. I was such a tomboy growing up. I used to want to be a boy because I loved Action Man. I rejected femininity. I’m 29 now and when I grew up through up my twenties I really found such power through femininity and really enjoyed seeing the other side to it.
What are the scenes that your bands are in now like for representation?
Lizzie: There’s a lot of arseholes out there with opinions. As for representation in the bigger festivals in Ireland, I think it’s just pure ignorance. I can’t believe it to be a malicious thing, it’s just the way it’s been for so long.
Annie: I think it’s laziness. We’re at the point now where if you look for it you can find it. It’s not hard to find more diverse groups. I know in the heavier scenes there aren’t as many women, it’s literally mostly white dudes. It’s hard to believe it sometimes, because they are out there. It’s just lack of looking. Just find them, it’s really not that hard! There are so many amazing bands out there and options.
This probably undermines our whole conversation [laughs], but I feel I have to ask it before we go. Do you ever feel tokenised when journalists just ask you questions about gender and sexuality?
Lizzie: It’s two-sided. It’s absolutely ironic that we have to still do this. Some good conversation could come out of it, so I never refuse it. But there is always going to be that side of it. When you have women in music you always have to ask about, “What’s it like being a woman in a band?”, I’m like, “I don’t have any other point of reference!" [laughs]. Sometimes it’s good to talk about it. I’ve enjoyed this conversation; I think it’ll lead to good.
Annie: I honestly get so tired sometimes. I can’t explain the definition of feminism to you again! [laughs]. Just because the representation might not be authentic or real, or it’s from a place where it’s getting capitalised off of, it’s still really important and we need to keep talking about it. Because if more women are going to see it then that’s good. I think we suffer from similar things, sexism and micro-aggressions, but we also have a lot of privileges. There’s a lot of feminism that needs to be talked about. The more we talk about it the bigger the conversation gets, you know. I think that’s important and we need to talk about it more. This has been really nice. The questions have been genuine and interesting questions. There is just really lazy journalism sometimes.
Have you got any questions for each other?
Annie: I find it really hard working in the studio because I don’t have a lot of knowledge about it all. I find it hard to speak up and be in a room with people and talk the way my colleagues, especially my male colleagues, speak sometimes. I just want to know, when you did the remix or when you were in the studio making your album, did you have a lot of knowledge behind it?
Lizzie: On our first thing I hadn’t a clue. I felt really out of my depth. Recording, studio, production is very male-dominated. It’s really daunting and scary. I find that way more terrifying than getting on stage.
Annie: I feel it really difficult when we talk about our sound, you know. I feel sometimes when I’m in there that what I do is really cathartic and in-the-moment. I’m very emotional. As far as recording goes, I don’t know what a wet… compressed… vocal sounds like. [laughs]
Lizzie: You can read up on it but don’t get bogged down in jargon. There are so many people in studios that just speak jargon but they’re shit. I’ve worked with engineers and the majority have been good, there have been a couple of chauvinistic guys. They’re fine but, it’s just a bit of a mansplaining thing. But you just have to get on with it. Sometimes you find an engineer and you can just talk to them and they don’t speak jargon. That opened up the possibility of me doing it myself, because he spoke to me like a human being.