VOLUME THREE AVAILABLE NOW

FEATURE: We talk to some amazing BIGSOUND talent about diversity in the Australian music industry

Writing by Molly McKew

The annual BIGSOUND conference in Brisbane is a gathering of musicians, producers, media and music lovers over four days and four nights, featuring gigs, talks, panels and networking opps. It is a space where music aficionados – whether appreciators or professionals – can check out some amazing live music, but just as importantly, discuss the big issues facing the Australian music industry. One of them – and one dear to Ramona’s heart – is the equal representation and celebration of women and LGBTQIA+ artists in the music industry. This was subject to much discussion recently when the Byron Bay Blues and Roots festival released its extensive 2019 line-up – which featured only four acts with female members. This created somewhat of a social media furore, with much-needed talk about why this is happening when there are so many incredible female musicians in Australia, and worldwide.

We thought BIGSOUND would be a great opportunity to pick some incredible brains about the hard stuff – what is it like being a LGBTQIA+, non-binary, or female singer, instrumentalist or producer in the music biz, and what needs to change? Helping us out is Paige Court of MANE, incredible vocalist/multi-instrumentalist/producer Beatrice, the gorgeous Northern Territory based Stevie Jean, the amazing Ruby Gilbert and “Newcastle’s favourite boyband”, Rachel Maria Cox.

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BEATRICE

 

First up! Chat about equal representation in the music industry has been circulating for years – and yet it’s still happening (this years’ Blues Fest line-up comes to mind!) – Why is equal representation in music STILL something we have to fight for?

Unfortunately the music industry is just one part of a much bigger machine and that machine has been run by older white dudes for a very long time. I feel that the music industry, as a strong cultural force is one of the main expediters of social change and I have personally been witnessing some big shifts which have been led by very influential artists from a variety of backgrounds. For me, seeing and hearing these artists is so important, I will never forget the first time I saw a female DJ, it was DJ Storm at the Hi-Fi Bar, and she was wearing high heels and playing the most hectic drum and bass. I waited for her after the show and carried her record bag to the taxi and asked her how she did it.

What kind of experiences have you had in the music industry – do you think things are improving for female and LGBTQIA+ artists?

I need to be honest and say I have had a really good run. I know that I’ve worked hard to be where I am but I am also aware that it has not been this easy for a lot of others, and that a lot of my “luck” has been based on my position of privilege. I am a middle class white women and I have had many opportunities that others have not.

What is something that other musicians can do to make the scene a positive space for female or LGBTQIA+ musos?

I have had so many chances, I’ve gotten onto festival line ups when I wasn’t quite ready, I’ve DJ’d for MC’s when I when I didn’t know how to DJ. I now want to be able to offer these chances to other people, taking tiny risks so we all come up together. The other thing I feel artists can do is use social media and the internet to share the limelight and also to shed light on circumstances that are negative or threatening. I remember listening to Patti Smith talk about the internet being “the great equaliser” giving the power back to the people, this made me realise how the internet can hold people accountable. I remember when the Blues Fest organiser responded on social media in a very aggressive way and his comments were deleted but someone had taken a screen shot of what he said and circulated it – that stuff is important. Hold people accountable to the greater community and share the shit out of people’s work that you admire!

And can you tell us some amazing female and LGBTQIA+ artists we should be listening to this year?

Coucou Chloe, Jlin, All the peeps at DiscWomen, Ibeyi, Sophie, Cardi B, cool chick from the Monkey Town roster called Catnapp, Emika, Sampa the Great, Tkay Maidza, Kira Peru, Mookhi, Mojo Juju – So, so, so many. As soon as this article is posted I will think of a million more!!

Finally, let’s talk about you! If your sound was a pasta dish, what would it be? 

Garlic Parmesan Zucchini noodle pasta. And the operative word in that sentence is parmesan. My music is just really good cheese.

 

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CAITLIN HENRY (EAT YOUR HEART OUT)

 

First up! Chat about equal representation in the music industry has been circulating for years – and yet it’s still happening (this years’ Blues Fest line-up comes to mind!) – Why is equal representation in music STILL something we have to fight for?

I feel like it’s as simple as the fact that non-males still aren’t equally represented in the music industry, and that’s why we still need to be fighting for it. I hear people say “there just aren’t as many women in good bands” or “women just aren’t as interested in being in heavy bands” but they’re ignoring the fact that it’s a cycle. If young girls and non-binary people see someone they can identify with up there on stage, they feel like that’s something they could do. I know if I hadn’t seen females up on stage rocking out, it wouldn’t have occurred to me that was something I could do.

 

What kind of experiences have you had in the music industry – do you think things are improving for female and LGBTQIA+ artists? 

I’ve been really lucky and had mostly positive experiences, and I credit that to a lot of the people around me, in our team and in bands we’ve toured with. I’ve still had times where I’ve been mistaken for just a girlfriend of one of the guys in the band, or had a condescending sound guy, but overall I feel very lucky so far. I think things are definitely improving, and I think a big part of that is the fact that things don’t really get swept under the rug anymore. If you do something that’s not cool, you’ll get called out on it.

 

What is something that other musicians can do to make the scene a positive space for female or LGBTQIA+ musos?

Don’t be a creep.. that’s probably a good place to start. Be equally as encouraging to your fellow female and LGBTQIA+ music mates, as you are to your male friends. If you see someone doing or saying something towards a female/LGBTQIA+ muso that’s not cool, call them out on it, and don’t continue to support abusers.

 

And can you tell us some amazing female and LGBTQIA+ artists we should be listening to this year?

Stand Atlantic, WAAX, Sleepwell, Just About Done, Moaning Lisa, Fritz, Stateside, Madura Green

Finally, let’s talk about you! If your sound was a pasta dish, what would it be? 

Lentil Bolognese: No reasoning, it’s just yum.

 

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RACHEL MARIA COX (Non-Binary)

 

First up! Chat about equal representation in the music industry has been circulating for years – and yet it’s still happening (this years’ Blues Fest line-up comes to mind!) – Why is equal representation in music STILL something we have to fight for?
I don’t think it’s so much about equal representation as it is about diverse representation? Music is a great way of expressing so many of the wonderful parts of human life – and we’re not homogenous! I think for a long time the music industry has reflected every other area of society – it’s been dominated and controlled by white, cisgender men. So for a lot of non-binary people growing up, we haven’t seen ourselves represented in music. It’s only now that we’re starting to see representation at all, that we’re starting to get a push for less homogeneity on festival line ups. I think it’s a slow process. It’s frustrating that it’s slow but if you think of these social movements as having 4 stages: emergence, coalescence, bureaucratization, and decline, then it’s it’s exciting because we’re really only in that coalescence stage right now, which means that the best is really yet to come.

What kind of experiences have you had in the music industry – do you think things are improving for non-binary artists? I think as a whole, more people are becoming aware that we exist, so that’s a good thing. I still get mis-gendered a lot. Like, SO MUCH. I literally feel like I plaster my pronouns and gender all over everything about my music, and it still happens. It’s hard, because it’s not what I want people to focus on but right now if I don’t do that, then no one knows about it and I just get mis-gendered. It sucks, because it means I’m constantly on edge. But I mean, there are people who know about it now so that’s cool I guess. It’s nice to not be the only non-binary person on the BIGSOUND line up as well – or on any line up, but this particularly makes me excited because it means that we’re a bigger part of the future of music in this country, and that’s really cool. It’s just nice to have people you have stuff in common with on the line up with you. Being the only non-binary person on almost every line up I’m on ever (except those I curate myself for Sad Grrrls Club), it’s a really isolating experience. I’m glad that’s not the case here.

What is something that other musicians can do to make the scene a positive space for non-binary & gender non-conforming musicians?

ASK. PEOPLE’S. PRONOUNS. Introduce your pronouns when you introduce yourself so that people know they can do the same. The reason it’s hard for non-binary people to correct pronouns or introduce themselves with their pronouns is it’s hard to gauge how people will respond to that. By cis people asking and introducing their pronouns, what you’re really doing is saying “This is a space where it’s okay for you to be yourself”. Like, that would honestly make the world of difference. And Gender neutral toilets. It’s ridiculous how many shows I’ve had to play at venues that didn’t have a toilet I could use. Generally as well, if you know someone uses particular pronouns and you hear someone else talking about them and using the wrong pronouns, please correct them.

And can you tell us some amazing non binary & gender non-conforming artists we should be listening to this year?

At BIGSOUND, you should definitely catch – Geryon, Cry Club & Imbi the Girl. Also I would be listening to Huntly, Hexdebt, Rory Storm (Fka Jo Neugebauer) & Habits.

Finally, let’s talk about you! If your sound was a pasta dish, what would it be? 

A lasagne made with vegan mince – on the outside it looks like one thing but it’s full of surprising layers..

 

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PAIGE COURT (MANE)

 

First up! Chat about equal representation in the music industry has been circulating for years – and yet it’s still happening (this years’ Blues Fest line-up comes to mind!) – Why is equal representation in music STILL something we have to fight for?

Unfortunately, there is still a lack of equal representation in the music industry and in many others. It’s an ongoing battle that I wish I saw more males fighting with us. Slowly but surely, women have been scaling down the heights that were ridiculously once considered to be only worthy of men. It’s great to see so many rallying behind us, but it’s still exhausting and extremely disappointing to see festival announcements come out that are so blatantly lacking equality. – There is no excuse for that.

What kind of experiences have you had in the music industry – do you think things are improving for female and LGBTQIA+ artists? I’ve had some very wonderful fulfilling experiences in the industry that instil in me hope for the future, which I am super grateful for. However, a big one for me that I’m constantly having discussions about with other female musicians is how we are treated in sound checks. I play with two very wonderful sessional players who happen to be male – I am responsible for my live set and I’m very aware of the technicalities of it, but more often than not, the sound guys rarely approach or listen to me unless one of my male sessionals repeat what I’ve said. Despite it being completely my project, I’m treated as if I’m just the front woman who rocks up to sing in a band. It’s really disheartening to feel as though you aren’t taken seriously or assumed to have no knowledge of it.

What is something that other musicians can do to make the scene a positive space for female or LGBTQIA+ musos?Listen to what women and the LGBTQIA community are saying, educate yourself, look at the statistics, call people out on their behaviour. It’s frustrating as women, trying to explain why something is a problem, especially when who you are discussing it with is someone who has likely not experienced or felt it. It’s nice to be heard and understood.

And can you tell us some amazing female and LGBTQIA+ artists we should be listening to this year?

Keep an ear out for Asha Jefferies and King princess. Really digging their stuff!

Finally, let’s talk about you! If your sound was a pasta dish, what would it be? 

Hmm I’d like to think it’s a homemade, really rich red wine based bolognaise that Nan cooked up. Brb just going to Nan’s now…

 

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RUBY GILBERT

 

First up! Chat about equal representation in the music industry has been circulating for years – and yet it’s still happening (this years’ Blues Fest line-up comes to mind!) – Why is equal representation in music STILL something we have to fight for?

It’s definitely something that needs to be brought to the forefront for female and LGBTQIA+ artists. I’ve definitely noticed that there are some festivals that have a predominantly male line-up whilst other festivals seem to have a gender/LGBTQIA+  balance.

What kind of experiences have you had in the music industry – do you think things are improving for female and LGBTQIA+ artists? From personal experiences and observations, I’ve found people have definitely become more accepting of female and LGBTQIA artists. I personally haven’t had any negative experiences due to being female. From a young  age I’ve been given some amazing opportunities and don’t feel like I’ve personally been discriminated against due to gender.

What is something that other musicians can do to make the scene a positive space for female or LGBTQIA+ musos?

Someone once told me “There’s room for everyone in the industry”. It’s a simple piece of advice that’s stuck. Why is there any need to push anyone down regardless of their gender or orientation? I’m also really passionate about females supporting other female artists.

And can you tell us some amazing female and LGBTQIA+ artists we should be listening to this year?I’m really digging bluesy sister duo, Larkin Poe at the moment. They also happen to be killer instrumentalists and have just been on tour with Keith Urban as part of his band.

 

Finally, let’s talk about you! If your sound was a pasta dish, what would it be? 

Something rich, saucy and a little bit indulgent.

 

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STEVIE JEAN

 

First up! Chat about equal representation in the music industry has been circulating for years – and yet it’s still happening (this years’ Blues Fest line-up comes to mind!) – Why is equal representation in music STILL something we have to fight for?It seems ridiculous that festivals are booking based on gender. Honestly, I don’t think it’s always a conscious thing, subconsciously; people harbour sexist ideals and that is what we are seeing. They must be held accountable to their actions, no matter how politically correct their speaking is.

What kind of experiences have you had in the music industry – do you think things are improving for female and LGBTQIA+ artists? I have had mostly positive experiences in the music industry. I have never been bullied from other industry reps or musicians, however, I have received some public backlash from gay women complaining that I am not ‘gay enough.’ It’s a pretty standard fear hate thing that bisexual identifying people receive from both the straight and LGBTQIA+ communities. I’ve grown a thick skin but it’d be great if people just let love be love and quit trying to box me into something they can stomach.

What is something that other musicians can do to make the scene a positive space for female or LGBTQIA+ musos?Treat us with respect, get to know us and be aware of sexist and homophobic actions or speech when they arise, however subtle. It is exhausting having to constantly battle just to be taken seriously and, I can’t speak for everyone, but for me it means the world when someone other than the victim notices and calls out the aggressor.

And can you tell us some amazing female and LGBTQIA+ artists we should be listening to this year?Jesswar is super gangsta, as well as Mitski, Tired Lion, WAAX, Anya Marina, Blonde Redhead, Jorja Smith, Angie McMahon, Ecca Vanda,  Widowspeak and, of course, Caiti Baker and Stella Donnelly. I could go on forever, I love so many female acts.

Finally, let’s talk about you! If your music was a pasta dish, what would it be?

Not a MASSIVE pasta fan, but according to my friends it would be some kind of ‘chilli cashew and almond mix ‘cause it’s a little bit sweet with a crunchy texture.’

 

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Molly Mckew

Molly Mckew is a Music Editor of Ramona Magazine for Girls. She enjoys writing and music and as a teenager devoured any life advice she could find. She hopes Ramona will help to fill the void for any young people currently in the same boat.

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