DIY collective LOUD WOMEN announced the nominees for their first ever ‘Her’cury Music Prize last week. We caught up with Cassie Fox to talk about the prize and the nominees and she’s put together a playlist of the artists vying for the award.
The biggest barrier is the old boys club that runs the music industry, and insists on filling their radio playlists, prize shortlists, and festival line-ups with the same old boring bands full of the same old boring blokes. We’re just trying to chip away at it as best we can, helping to raise the profile of our fellow female artists.
The idea for the ‘Her’cury Music Award came partly because we’re a sucker for a daft pun, and if you can use one to make a feminist point even better, but like everything Loud Women do, the aim of the ‘Her’cury Award is to have fun while promoting women in DIY music and maybe helping to make a difference in other ways as well.
Do we have a particular problem with the Mercury awards? Well, yes and no depending on how seriously you want to get into it. In 25 years they’ve had, what, half a dozen female winners, and two of them were the same person! Any award that recognises PJ Harvey is doing something right, and the Mercury has made other good choices too, but you can argue there’s a problem of representation there. Also it presents itself as a serious alternative to the Brits because it’s decided by (mostly-male) ‘experts’ rather than units shifted, but the former just favours an elitist muso sort of worldview while the latter mainly reflects the mechanics of distribution: who gets their CDs into Asda or Tesco. In both cases it’s all about the Industry.
Even though the Mercury – which is now the Hyundai Mercury, named after two corporate sponsors! – likes to present itself as a bit more hip ‘n’ edgy than the Brits, it ends up promoting a kind of sanitised, coffee-table version of popular culture with all the rough edges removed, as happened with jungle and garage and now with grime. They ignore whole genres like metal and punk and have distribution criteria which would disqualify loads of DIY bands even if the Mercury panel had somehow heard of them!
But it’s not just about the Mercury, and we might even call ours the ‘Clit Awards’ next year. Always go with the pun.
How did you come up with the shortlist? What are you looking for in the eventual winner?
The shortlist was picked from a longer list of albums by British-based all-female or female-driven artists and bands, on the basis of a straight vote by the members of the LOUD WOMEN Team. There was no panel discussion to try and force any kind of intellectual consensus and it’s hard to pin down a single set of criteria, but the Team already shares a certain perspective regarding the music scene. Firstly there’s an emphasis on DIY, which is a broad term in itself, but at the same time we’re not against pop music or wider success. Sacred Paws and Desperate Journalist, for example, are doing just fine without our attentions but their albums are there on merit. Secondly, we promote female expression in music because it’s been sidelined and repressed for so long and we’re not about to censor that expression ourselves: so if it’s raw, angry, confrontational or political so much the better. The Menstrual Cramps are all of those, for example. Lastly we do like a tune, which is something the more hardcore / underground bands sometimes forget to include, whereas the Honeyblood album, for example is just instantly impressive in terms of songcraft.
But most importantly, Loud Women promotes a different set of values to the Industry. We don’t care how an album is released: it could be on home-made CDr and sold only at gigs, but if we like it, it’s in. Music shouldn’t be for a chosen few with privileged access to the funding, creation and distribution of art; music’s for everyone. The LOUD WOMEN ‘Her’cury Award is a piece of old fashioned positive discrimination promoting women in music, while bypassing patriarchal hierarchies of economics and ‘taste’, organised by a not-for-profit promoter which splits its concert proceeds between the performing bands and Women’s Aid. We don’t share their aims and we don’t share their values. As Huggy Bear used to say: “this is happening without your permission.”
When will the winning act be announced? What will they win?
It’ll be announced lunchtime on 14 September – the winner will be presented with a postal order for a fiver, and offered the chance to be included on LOUD WOMEN Volume Two, our next compilation album.
What else has Loud Women got coming up?
Our annual Fest is coming up real soon now – 2 Sept at DIY Space for London! It’s going to be a brilliant all-dayer, packed with 20 of the brightest new stars of alternative music, who happen to be female. Tickets are just £12 in advance from www.loudwomen.org
Cassie has put together a playlist of all 12 nominated artists, check it out and read more about the nominees below:
Actual Crimes – Ceramic Cat Traces
Swansong album from Kirsty (Cat Apostrophe) Fife, Aaron Batley and Ruth Mair. Tense post-hardcore melodies in the music and subtle political undertones in the words, topped with the prolific perzine-ster’s borderline-breakdown vocals.
Desperate Journalist – Grow Up
Second album from the runaway success story of the London indie scene, pushing all your Britpop/postpunk/pop-goth/80s-indie buttons at once. Soaring vocals, chiming guitars, proper songs and all’s right/wrong with the world.
Honeyblood – Babes Never Die
Brilliant hook-laden grunge pop from this Glasgow duo, with every song a winner; proving that the ‘difficult second album’ is just a problem for other people.
The Menstrual Cramps – We’re Not Ovaryacting
The Menstruals (well, we can’t really nickname them ‘The Cramps’) hit the ground running earlier this year with this impressive digital debut and a ridiculously-confident live debut on International Womens’ Day for Who Runs the World/LOUD WOMEN.
Nolay – This Woman
Latest album from the Unorthodox Daughter, and impossible to number because so many of Nolay’s releases have been mixtapes straight from the underground. No pop-grime crossover, no compromise, and no holds barred. Nolay’s definitive feminist statement.
Oh! Gunquit – Lightning Likes Me
Second album from criminally-underrated, slightly-uncategorisable (although we’re about to have a go), new-wave surf-garage trash-punks!
Pet Crow – A Simple Guide to Small and Medium Pond Life
Impressively-tuneful debut album from Derby male/female 4-piece, released on vinyl by LIINES’ label Reckless Yes. Dancey, surfy, garagey indie punk fronted by Danielle Cotterill’s powerful vocals.
Petrol Girls – Talk of Violence
Debut full-length release from probably the most powerful feminist band in the UK, known to leave audiences genuinely shocked-and-awed with a combination of rock hooks, hardcore assault and uncompromising lyrics. One of two shortlisted bands with a track on the LOUD WOMEN Volume One compilation album.
Sacred Paws – Strike a Match
Definitive musical statement from Rachel Aggs (Trash Kit, Golden Grrrls, Covergirl, Shopping) – possibly the UK’s greatest guitarist – combining what used to be called ‘world music’ with Postcard Records-esque post-punk funk. Scottish Album of the Year, and now LOUD WOMEN ‘Her’cury shortlist!
The Tuts – Update Your Brain
Widely-acclaimed and long-awaited debut from one of the hardest-working DIY bands in the business, released a decade after they first formed at school. Standout newer tracks ‘Con Man’ and ‘1982’ bring the best punk-pop hooks and ‘Give Us Something Worth Voting For’ delivers the clearest message.
The Wharves – Electa
Second album from this all-female melodic post-everything powerhouse follows 2014’s ‘At Bay’, showcasing more of their tightly rhythmic and skilfully harmonic repertoire.
¡Ay Carmela! – Working Weeks
Bamboo – Live at Café Oto
Deerful – Peach
Ex People – Bird
The Franklys – Are You Listening?
Feature – Banishing Ritual
Hands Off Gretel – Burn the Beauty Queen
Kamikaze Girls – Seafoam
Little Simz – Stillness in Wonderland
Grace Petrie – Heart First Aid Kit
Porridge Radio – Rice, Pasta and Other Fillers
Rattle – Rattle
Ravioli Me Away – Living is a Myth
Skinny Girl Diet – Heavyflow
Slowcoaches – Nothing Gives
Teen Canteen – Say It All With a Kiss
Kate Tempest – Let Them Eat Chaos
Young Romance – Another’s Blood
Interview by Paul Maps
For more information about LOUD WOMEN, visit loudwomen.org