Tag Archives: women

Spotlight on: Cassandra Bitterwolf

From Caribbean lands and waters comes a young, conscious singer-songwriter named Cassandra Bitterwolf. She recently released her first EP which can be streamed below and so she reached out to Shouts to share her music with the world.

Check out her positive message and feel good music below as well as her social media links such as Facebook and Instagram.

A Protest Music Interview: Drea

“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.

Check out Drea’s music and movement at dreaxmusic.com.

And if you need to call someone there are many ready to listen or help:

800.656.HOPE (4673)

www.rainn.org


A protest music interview: Pleasure Venom

It might sound tricky to be a band in one of the most musically active cities in the US but socially conscious dance-y punk group Pleasure Venom seem to be enjoying the ride.

I caught up with singer Audrey Campbell and asked her a few questions about the band, the music and how 360°music videos are the future.

First off, for those not already familiar with your music, who are Pleasure Venom?  

I like to call Pleasure Venom a 5 piece  experimental punk project based in Austin, TX. I’m Audrey Campbell, I sing and write the lyrics. Current lineup has Fern Rojas on bass. Thomas Valles on Drums. Brendan Morris and Scott Riegel both on guitar. A collaboration, collective and solo project focused on myself collaborating with other musicians. It’s all about the collaboration and we play with a revolving door even though I wish every lineup will last forever. PV is like a train that just keeps on jugging. The collaboration with this lineup is just so great. I get really excited to play and write with them for sure.

How is it to be a working band in as a vibrant of a music community as Austin, Texas, (sometimes referred to as the Live Music Capital of The World)?   

Everyone you meet is basically in a band or has played music before so that’s probably different than most cities. There’s so many great bands making very interesting music that it really pushes and inspires us to work as hard as they do or harder. It can be competitive but we stand out and not just because “oh we have a black front woman” but because I can’t think of a band in town that sounds like us.

Sometimes it feels we are too loud for the garage rock scene then too dance-y for the heavier noise punk rock hardcore scene so I’ve felt a bit isolated in the past. It just became really important to stick to my vision of the band because I felt some woman or little black girl, I don’t know, somewhere would be into it. Now I’m here talking with you, a music blog in Iceland. Like this is really wild for me and the band. 

How do you feel musicians and artists are using their voices responsibly today?   

I think it’s really important to be honest. So if politics is generally not an interest of yours it’ll feel contrived if you force it trying to be a “woke” person. Just be honest. I really try not to overthink when I write. I have my notebooks on notebooks of poems and lyrics but I also try to just be avail to what kind of a day I’m having, or news, events etc.

The music industry doesn’t seem to want to address much. All the popular artist particularly in popular music feel like they are just rich kids that are disconnected. I question why half of them got a deal because it seems so bad. The who you know thing just irks me because that’s probably the only excuse for it not talent. If you’re rich and talented dope but it doesn’t feel that way per the radio.

I basically just don’t listen to alot of it. There’s really good pop and hip hop and rock music, etc you just have to hunt for it unfortunately. None of its dead. But yes, I wish there were more artist that are more vocal because I do feel it’s a responsibility. We are late for another Beyonce “Formation” global moment I think. For me it’s like word vomit, like I can’t help myself but that just me. I can only speak for myself. 

Has your music been political since day one?

Definitely not. I just write about my experience. That’s all I can do. It’s been interesting venturing into music videos because I don’t think anyone thought we were doing anything political until there were visuals. Music videos like “Seize” or “Deth” are undeniably our takes on black or poc, queer lives and how there’s definitely room for progress.

It’s unfortunate we have the alt right and white supremacists in the US up to the white house that feel the killing of black life, queer life, female reproductive rights etc is a non issue. It’s really important for me to say it is thru the music. Or someway thru my filmmaking address the things I find hard to say or problematic. Sometimes it doesn’t even have to be as direct as even saying it like you as a person living your life the way you do as you see fit can be a form of protest. That’s incredibly inspiring to me. 

How do you feel people are receiving your more political music these days?   

So far it’s fine. No death threats yet! I don’t scare easily though. Overall I think because the songs are dancey, hopefully there’s a more even if it’s a tough issue we are addressing, hopefully there’s a “let’s dance about it” vibe. Or so I hope. Our shows have been these mosh-y lovefest lately where folks aren’t afraid to dance which is great. It’s pretty cathartic especially when the news on TV or the internet can be so bleak and divisive. It’s the reason I need to do this. To exercise these feelings so when I look out into a crowd doing the same, it’s great! 

What do you hope to achieve with your music?  

To keep experimenting. To be honest even if it scares me. That’s really important to me. Folks, myself included, can smell bullshit a mile away. 

Photo by Allie Mouret

Do you follow other conscious bands or musicians active today? Any protest musicians out there you want to shout out to?  

Blxptn is an ATX based band and are really great and very vocal about issues I care about or feel like aren’t spoken about enough. Overall I just listen to music I like not like oh this is politically conscious so I like it or vice versa. I honestly am into a lot of classical but from punk to hip hop it’s literally about the way it moves me. 

The music video for These Days, off of the last EP, is brilliant. Can you tell us a bit about it?

Thank you!! Well I directed this one (as well as “Seize” and current single Deth””) and got the opportunity to shoot in 360 as well. When I wrote the song I was coming out of some really dark shit but I was also falling in love and I think I kinda wanted to translate that into visuals. I really like how multilayered the song is so I wanted to kind of play that up. The traditional cut I really wanted to focus on the visuals. We towed a car to the outskirts of Leander which is quite a bit out of Austin. It was May last year and so hot even at night and I’m dancing on this car and trying to look calm in the heaviest fur coat and the band in suits. It was an experience for sure. Plus having to hop off the car to direct. It was grueling and we shot into my birthday til 4 am.

For the 360 shoot, I really wanted to focus on the band and loved the idea of being able to watch whichever member you like the most, however long you wanted to. You can look up at the sky or look at the ground that’s covered with a bed of roses. It’s up to you. 360 is definitely the future of music videos. It’s incredibly immersive as experiencing music should be. It’s the natural next step as far music and film.  

You’re new EP dropped on the 24th of November 2018. Can you tell us a bit about the creative process this time around? What has changed since the last EP? 

The revolving door. We have new members on this EP. It’s the first time writing and going in the studio with Scott Medmier, Fern Rojas and Brendan Morris. They are all so talented. Fern has a background in classical music and can play the cello so that’s featured on this EP.  Scott plays some piano. There was a time when that kind of stuff scared me but I’ve been leaning into like if it makes me nervous it’s probably right or at least interesting or new.

We are just way more open now I think. I’m not as afraid to take more chances. Thomas Valles, drummer, is the only other original member and it’s been like 4 or 5 years playing with him and I’m just blown away by how good he’s  gotten over the years from when we first played together. So overall being the OGs of the band, we feel tighter and more practiced than ever and the new members are so inspiring, great songwriters too that I really want to bring them quality interesting lyrics and vocals to match the music they bring.

A song like “Untitled” I’m really pushing my vocals and I had to learn how to sing that chorus line: “Lying to your face” that way. So it’s learning and just a true collaboration. We are writing more this month so hopefully a new EP isn’t too far away because it’s just so fun to write with this lineup. I love you dudes!!!   

What are some of the issues you confront on the new album?

Can only speak for myself.  Probably the most devastating thing I kind of came out and survived a hell of a year that I wasn’t sure how things were going to end up or if I was going to be ok. It’s a quasi celebration or middle finger in the air to all the bs that may have tried to get me or us down. I just really wanted this record to sound like it was going to explode if that makes sense. I think we all wanted it to.

It’s easily the biggest and loudest we’ve ever sounded. My “give a shit” meter is at its lowest ever I think. I jus wanted to own what I’ve learned the years of playing live and recording so this is where we are at now. I’m ok…I think.  

What about activities outside the music? Do you partake in any activism in your free time?  

Music takes up pretty much all my time outside of the day job. But for that reason, I try to stay active by doing benefits or turning shows into benefits. We did one recently and it was really great. At the moment I try to focus locally and make sure whatever benefit or non profit I work with proceeds are going directly to folks that need it. Not like being sat on or a percentage of bs. That’s like really important to me.

I’m also in a Stereolab cover band called The Groop that’s awesome and challenging in its own right because it couldn’t be more polar opposite of what I do in Pleasure Venom. From pushing my vocals literally against the wall to trying to sing soft and low and channel my best french girl. It’s honestly so much fun to be honest. But it’s a really left brain/ right brain thing being in both of these projects.

We all have other projects as well. Our bassist Fern is in a band called Sheverb. Thomas Valles also plays in Caleb De Casper.  Scott Riegal has a new band called Friday Boys and Brendan new project is Boom Gang. So we all are pretty busy music wise between Pleasure Venom and our various projects.

What else is on the horizon for the band?   

Tour, tour, tour and I can’t wait. There’s some fun announcements happening that I’m not even allowed to talk about but want to very badly so I’m jus going to skip to next question. We also want to write a new EP soon as well. I’ll be directing another music video in March. So more singles from new EP to come soon.   

Thank you very much for participating and for the music! Anything else you’d like to shout from the rooftops?  

Hmm at the moment we are looking for a label or vinyl pressing company that may be interested in helping us reissue the latest Pleasure Venom EP to vinyl. The album art by Dawn Okoro alone just screams this should be made into vinyl.

Can’t wait to get on the road and if you’d like to follow, subscribe we are Pleasure Venom on all platforms(YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc) Merch and album sales help us to tour at pleasurevenom.bandcamp.com   

Thanks so much for chatting with me Shouts! -Audrey Campbell  

Cover photo by Allie Mouret.