Privilege is something overlooked by those who have it. If you don’t, though, you can be sure to know about it. We hear from Death of the Maiden, who spill about the ins and outs of the music scene when you’re queer, POC and not living in the Brighton bubble.
Describe Death of the Maiden’s sound
We describe our sound as ‘baroque pop’ as it’s quite difficult to fit ourselves into a particular genre, so we decided to make one up. But really, it’s best described as angry, emotionally volatile feel-good music. It’s cathartic; you might cry but you will also, hopefully, feel empowered and ready to deal with the general patriarchal bullshit of the day/week/infinity. To balance out the anger we also try to write with a lot of humour. We like a strong narrative with a few expletives or something the audience can get their teeth into and will make them laugh. We have a lot of fun at band practice and we let that come out in our songs/performance.
Who’s in the band and how did you all meet/start playing together?
Tamara is the lead singer and guitarist. Her therapist once told her that her haircut might be an aggressive statement towards men but in truth, she just got a buzz-cut because she is lazy (and doesn’t hate men).
Hannah is the lead guitarist and used to play cricket for Oxfordshire. She’s annoyingly good at scrabble (and most board sports) and her modesty when winning is a sight to behold.
Jenny is the bassist and a great knitter of garments. She is also an academic and recently wrote a book which none of us can understand because we are all total plebs in comparison. She and Hannah are also expert dead-lifters, don’t mess with them guns.
Emma is our drummer. She can fly an aeroplane illegally but she doesn’t know how to land one. So, if you’ve got unlimited fuel this isn’t a problem. She’s also the most talkative member of the band and sometimes it’s hard to get a word in edgeways.
We met when Tamara decided that an all-female band would be really fun and a nice change in her life. She asked Emma to drum and already knew Hannah who is a prominent singer/songwriter in the Oxford music scene. Luckily Emma and Hannah were already great friends so there was some good chemistry from the start. We all saw Jenny playing in her band, Lucy Leave, and were a bit star-struck. ‘I’ve always wanted to be in a girl-band’ exclaimed Jenny when we asked her to join and thus our paths were set.
What are you doing to empower women and pave the way for other musicians like yourselves?
The band is very mixed. We are 4 women, some of us are queer, people of colour (albeit white-passing) and part of the reason we formed the band is to provide role-models to young women. Oxford is full of very white, middle-class, all-male bands. We are not the norm here, but we want to be and we want to give our audience something they can identify with. We played Common People earlier this year and a number of young women approached us after the gig saying that our performance had encouraged and inspired them to start their own band. This is great and exactly the sort of feedback we love.
We are also very vocal about our experiences in the music industry, especially about the discrimination we have received due to who we are, the way we look and what we represent. We are all feminists and each of us in our personal lives is interested in feminism and educating ourselves about different groups of women and their experiences in the world. We support other female artists and when we play gigs we ensure the bill is diverse and a safe-space for our audiences.
Outside of the band, Hannah works for a charity in Oxford that specifically works to include groups that often get excluded from music. These include women, trans & non-binary, LGB and disabled young people. Tamara runs All Tamara’s Parties, a monthly music night that is designed to be a platform to showcase more female and non-binary talent and pay all artists for their work from the ticket sales. Jenny is an academic and is often a very important female voice in a heavily male environment. She was recently asked to be part of the panel for the Young Women’s Music Project’s ‘Changing Herstory’ event. Emma has also worked with Young Women’s Music Project as the leader of ‘team drum’. In fact, all of us have worked with Young Women’s Music Project in some way and we often play their fundraising charity events.
What struggles have you come up against while forging your path in the music industry?
Where do we start? The most entertaining, if you can call it that, was when Tamara introduced the audience to a ‘real-life sexist’. This man and his mates were slagging off our band within our ear-shot as we tuned up for the gig. He told his mates that we couldn’t possibly play our instruments or be any good because we were women. After Tamara’s introduction the audience booed this man and, finally, he decided to leave. The only exit route was to the walk past the stage as we were mid-song. As he walked by, the audience booed and hissed him; it was a bit like a fucked-up but awesome panto. So many people approached the stage after that gig saying they loved how we called out that man’s behaviour. We proved him wrong and took back the power, and the audience was galvanised because of it. Hopefully it gave everyone more confidence in calling out sexism when it happens as it’s not an easy, or sometimes safe, thing to do.
Recently we got removed from a bill for calling out the sexist imagery that was being used to promote the event. The artwork belonged to the headlining band and when we tried to discuss it with them in a mature and adult way, they basically told us we had no sense of humour and needed to be less serious about life. The classic excuses really: just why didn’t we find sexism as funny as they did? When we called out the imagery the venue immediately removed it and apologised to us. They handled it so well and made us feel safe and valued. Sadly, the band insisted that the promoter remove us from the bill and the promoter complied. We got silenced twice for calling out sexism in our local scene. We received hurtful and immature emails from this band and it took up so much emotional energy to deal with their behaviour. It went on for weeks too so was pretty horrendous and upsetting for us all to deal with.
After we played Common People festival a woman called Debbie left a message on our Facebook page calling us ‘man-hating lesbos’. With a little questioning, she revealed that she had walked into the music tent during our sound-check. We were using ‘Nameless, Faceless’ by Courtney Barnett to sound-check with and she clearly didn’t like the lyrics. She decided to tell us her opinion publicly adding all sorts of abuse such as ‘your lyrics are shit and hateful’ and ‘you are sick lesbians’ but luckily our followers grouped together and reported her and she was removed. We managed to at least have something resembling a discussion before she told us ‘why would I want to troll you man-haters, grow up’.
There are many more. Some of it is the usual everyday sort of stuff, some of it is bigger and harder to deal with. But whenever something happens, our friends, fellow musos and fans gather round and support us. That’s why we share our experiences; so we feel less alone and to help others who have similar experiences feel less alone too.
What events can we catch you at?
We are going to be playing the following gigs including a date in Brighton with ARXX in 2019:
9 March: supporting ARXX in Brighton (venue tba)
29 March: Album launch at The Jericho Tavern, Oxford
30 March: LaDIY Fest, Bristol
12 April: Get in Her Ears, London
13 April: IssuePunkZine, Basingstoke
What’s the best thing about Brighton for you as individuals and as a band?
We all love how easy it is to be yourself in Brighton. It’s a uniquely tolerant place where no one cares what you look like, how you dress and who you love. Brighton is a very queer open space where people really can just be themselves. The first trans-pride was held in Brighton and it is a city full of progressive ideas. The scenery is also great and who doesn’t remember, with fondness, those pebbly beach trips as a child. We are also big fans of the amount of great veggie cuisine on offer. We are playing our first ever Brighton gig in March with ARXX and we can’t wait. Oh and Tamara did go to the weirdest hen-do of her life in Brighton, but we can’t really blame Brighton for that!
Tamara, tell us about your events?
I started All Tamara’s Parties 7 years ago when I got sick of playing gigs where I was often the only female artist on the bill. With ATP I attempt to redress the balance by creating a more diverse bill; it is a platform to showcase more female and non-binary talent and an example to the rest of the scene which states “see, it’s not that hard”. If only people put a little bit more thought behind their events: Is the bill diverse? Who are my audience? Is it accessible? Will the audience feel safe? ATP has steadily grown and I now put on a monthly noise night at the Jericho Tavern called Zero Tolerance. I also put on more acoustic occasions around the city and am busy planning a day long festival on 8th June. I like to play the events myself too as it’s hard not to want to play the best event in your own city.