So far, 2019 has delivered some great protest albums. In order to filter through the music a bit here’s a short list of some brilliant feminist, riot grrrl, powerful albums that dropped just in time for some summer fun and protest!
Post Modern Siren by Peach Club
“Never thought of my feelings
Only ever of your own
You know it’s not quite appealing
Living in your own little world
Pain was all you had to offer
Your sad little life I had to suffer
You made me yours and I don’t want that
I just want my fucking life back
So don’t tell me what to do
‘Cause I don’t belong to you
And you don’t have my trust
And you don’t have my love
I’m not your girl
I’m not your world
I’m not your anything
I am a person
I’ve got more worth than you
I just want to forget every fucking word you said”
– from Not Ur Girl
she/her/they/them by Evan Greer
For her first album in a decade Evan Greer teams up with veteran protest musician as producer and comes out guns a blazing although in a very, soft, acoustic caring kind of way. A beautiful album you shouldn’t miss.
How Am I Not Myself? by French Vanilla
A fantastic sophomore album from the funky band. They are on their way to create their own sound which is as welcomed as it is hard. Keep your eyes on this band.
Cut & Stitch by Petrol Girls
“The majority of the lyrics were written in the studio. I was having a difficult time, unsure about where to live after we finished the record, and burnt out from a tough year of personal and legal challenges. Something that I’ve reluctantly allowed feminism to teach me is that we have to tend to our own wounds, and that sometimes being vulnerable is just as radical as being angry – it certainly scares me a lot more. Rage on its own isn’t sustainable. We hope this is a more honest and human record. “
– from the introduction ben Ren Aldridge on the band’s Bandcamp page.
Swearing Is Caring by Misbehavin’ Maidens
“Nerd folk comedy band comprised of four women from the Washington, DC / Baltimore area with a love of sex-positive music, parodies, drinking & fandom references for 18+ geeks. 3rd album, “Swearing is Caring,” now available!”
“1 out of every 6 women in America has been a victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.”
This is the quote that starts Drea’s new music video.
The visuals follow Drea, with blackest of backgrounds, as she sings her way through a terrifyingly personal song. The piece is Drea’s way of using her voice in solidarity with other survivors of sexual assault.
I contacted Drea online and asked her about her new single, her work with WiMN (Women’s International Music Network), as well as a handful of other projects she has either started or is part of, and learned where she finds the time to dance, teach, create and sing.
First off, can you tell me a little bit about your background and how and when you started making music?
Music has been a part of my life since I was small. I grew up in a musical family, but was never encouraged to pursue music as a career. I started writing music and performing when I was 7, and continued through high school and college. After I graduated, I decided to try my hand at a full-fledged music career, and one thing led to another until I was making the big move to Los Angeles.
You just released “Monster”, a new single and your part of the #MeToo conversation. Can you tell us about that song and what drove you to create it?
This is a song that has been with me for many years now. I think I’ve always been waiting for the right moment, the right production team, the right time for me personally to release it. I really took my time on this one, because this is the song I wrote about my terrifying experience with rape. I know that I may never have legal justice for what I’ve experienced, so I wanted to be sure to give the song the artistic justice it deserves. I also wanted to release it specifically during Sexual Assault Awareness Month (which lasts all of April) in order to stand in solidarity with other survivors and to hopefully continue the #MeToo conversations that are still so important to be having in our society.
Has your music always been political, made in protest or socially conscious?
You know, it hasn’t. I think I’ve always tried to have a deeper meaning to my music, but with some of my earlier songs, I was really grasping to find a socially conscious explanation that fit. However, in the last year or so, I have been much more intentional about what I’ve been putting out, partially because I’ve had complete creative control over these last several singles. My last two songs in particular center around my experience with rape and the PTSD that followed that trauma, and I’ve been fortunate to be able to release them and therefore create a platform to discuss the importance of consent, mental health awareness, and healing after trauma.
I read you have worked with WiMN (Women’s International Music Network), can you tell us about that connection and cooperation?
I first connected with the Women’s International Music Network when I won the “She Rocks So I Can Walk” contest, where contestants were asked to describe a woman or women who inspire them in order to win a chance to walk on the red carpet for the She Rocks Awards in Anaheim, CA. At the award show, I connected with many of the operators of the WiMN, and since then I have partnered with the organization for several of my music premieres, and have also been a guest writer for their blog.
Besides the music you are part of different projects, some of which you have created, such as Reclaim Movement and the For Her Concert Series. Can you tell us a bit about these projects and also, I must ask, where do you find the time to make music?
Reclaim Movement is an open level dance class for women who have survived sexual assault and trauma. I run the class out of North Hollywood, a suburb of Los Angeles, every other Wednesday. I created this class because dance had been such an important part of my healing after my experience with rape. Dance and positive, uplifting music by female artists helped me to reconnect with my body after this traumatic event. I knew I was far from the only woman who had experienced this disconnect with her body, and that many women from all walks of life would be able to benefit from a safe dance environment and supportive community of women.
I started the For Her Concert Series after seeing so many songwriter nights in Los Angeles being run by, and therefore heavily featuring, men. I wanted to create an event that not only featured all female performers, but that also had a female crew, which is incredibly rare. I hosted the event at a female-owned business, and ran the concert to raise money for homeless women in Los Angeles. The event is “women supporting women” to the core, and that’s what I love about it.
Over the years, I’ve cultivated many skills that have allowed me to produce these kinds of projects on my own fairly quickly. I also have a flexible job that allows me to pay the bills but also devote time to music. Organization and a lot of early mornings have been huge contributing factors to my being able to accomplish all the projects I have brewing in my head. Also, taking things one step at a time. It’s about conserving the mental energy to devote oneself to the present project, and then move on to the next thing only when it’s time.
…I am actually heading to graduate school to study public policy in the fall… After that I will be focused on working in my community to make the world a more safe and equal place for women and other marginalized groups.
Finally, are you working on a new album?
I am not. First of all, we are moving out of an album-selling industry. Singles are more the name of the game for new artists, especially independent artists. Even record labels are doing EP deals now for newly signed artists instead of album deals. The market just doesn’t care as much about albums in our streaming society; artists typically put them out because they are either under a major label contract to do so, or they want to achieve the milestone for themselves.
That being said, I am actually heading to graduate school to study public policy in the fall, so I will be moving out of Los Angeles at the end of the summer. I plan to continue music for the rest of my life, and can do so from anywhere, but my focus will primarily be on my studies for the next few years. After that I will be focused on working in my community to make the world a more safe and equal place for women and other marginalized groups.
9 albums released since 2007 is quite the feat, let alone for only one person. That is what Emilia Cataldo has done (among other things – such as bringing life into this world).
Nowadays Emilia performs with a couple of musicians as a trio and as such can be heard on Bandcamp through her latest release, Escaping Zion, a wonderfully crafted political pop album that touches upon a wide variety of societal aspects such as gun violence and the lack of empathy for migrating people.
First of all, for those not too familiar with your work, who is or are Nehedar?
Hi, thank you for this interview! I’m Emilia Cataldo, and I’ve been performing as Nehedar since roughly 2003 in NYC. Live I play acoustic guitar and sing. Currently Nehedar performs as a trio, (Elyse Maister on Cello, Brad Reiss Drums) I recorded all my albums with Craig Levy (Little Pioneer) plus guest musicians. My most recent one Escaping Zion features Elyse on all songs. Brad hadn’t joined the band yet.
How important is it to you to use your music for good, change or activism?
I do like the idea that the music could be used for good. I would love if a gun control organization wanted to use my song “Thoughts and Prayers“or if Bernie Sanders or another good progressive wanted to use “Best in Show” which I wrote before the US 2016 Democratic primary. I’d donate my song “Safe” to a refugee aid organization. There’s an aspect of my music that’s devotional, and I’d be more than happy to donate it to worthy causes.
Do you consider yourselves protest musicians?
Just speaking for myself, I am not strictly a protest musician, but I make protest music. Some songs will be 100% protest songs, while others may be less so or not even at all.
I’ve written many songs that directly criticize aspects of society (such as On Killing, Debtor’s Lament, Thoughts and Prayers, Subway Ratt, Biblical Bulletproof, Dino, Is It Annoying) and a number of other songs that cryptically and sarcastically lampoon capitalism, cynicism, mind control and greed (Sign, The Story, Self Fulfilling Prophecy, Catacomb, A Dollar’s Fine, Dissent, etc) Really so many songs could be included in that second category.
You have been steadily releasing albums since 2007, 9 of them as a matter of fact. Has your music always been politically driven or has it changed in that sense since your first album?
My first album, Pick Your Battles was openly political. Never Let You Go contains the lyric “I turned to the left, the left was lacking, I turned to the right, the right was wrong, I looked to my shoes, they held no answers but onward they point the path I choose.” That lyric is infinitely more meaningful to me now than it was at the time. Even the album cover and name Pick Your Battles were politically charged to me. Not every song was political, but quite a few were. My live set was also very political in the early days (post 9/11 NYC) when I primarily performed as a duo with guitarist David Keesey.
At this time in your life, what do you care most about and try to communicate with your music?
I believe I’m witnessing cults transform into fascism in front of my eyes. I have a new song only on Soundcloud called “Bad Faith” which explains ideological thinking that doesn’t stand up to reason. I’m sort of studying this phenomenon online. I have a new unrecorded song, called Song For Sale which deals with clickbait journalism and the commercializing of art, the commercializing of everything in the US including health care. I’m primarily interested in the concept of mental colonization versus mental independence and the way people in the US and beyond are dividing themselves into opposing teams as if to prepare for a fight. I’d like to frustrate that effort if I can, I am a pacifist.
Are you following or listening to any contemporary protest musicians or socially conscious artists that you’d like to give a shout out to?
I’d like to give a shout out to my soul sister Aliza Hava.
What is your experience with protest music in New York? Do you feel the acceptance of politically driven music has increased in the past years or has it always been the same?
I think NYC appreciates protest music, but I also think New York has become a place where most artists in general can’t afford to live. Protest music is usually anti-capitalist, and NYC is so saturated in the capitalist agenda, I think it’s a mismatch. Everyone in NYC has to hustle so much if they’re not independently wealthy.
What about outside the music, do you partake in activism or any projects that you would like to share with us?
I donate money when I can, and hold and perform at benefit concerts when I can, but practically, at this time, I mainly pour it into my songwriting.
Are we living in a simulation and/or is this the end?
I don’t know but even if we totally screwed up and ruined the planet for humans, life would continue. The work we made, and the data we stored might even endure and be found. I think at the very least we exist as energy, and energy never dies.
As a mom, I really want a healthy world and I’m very worried.
If you could form a new trio with 2 people – living or dead – musicians or not, who’d you choose?
I’m gonna have to give it up for Elyse Maister and Brad Reiss for being the best. I’d love to share a bill with other people, or add to the band, but as a core trio to showcase and perform my songs, they are the ideal!
Thank you very much for participating and for the music you make! Anything else you’d like to shout from the rooftops?
Thank you so very much for the work you are doing and for this generous opportunity!