Montaigne is only 23 years old but already she has achieved raising her mind to a level of becoming vegan and using her powerful voice responsibly to protest destructive corporations and multinational conglomerates. And as if that was not enough to ask of a young woman then she has also released a music album that reached nr. 4 on the Australian charts.
When interviewed at the 2018 ARIA Awards she said that she has become aware of her platform that she has through her music which she uses to talk about what matters to her and what she finds important that everyone gets more aware of.
For more information about the #StopAdani campaign check out their webpage and get involved if possible. While doing so, you could do worse than listening to this live version of Montaigne’s song I Am Not An End.
Since releasing her debut album ‘Fight For You’ (2017) Raye Zaragoza has been titled a protest singer, and she is fine with that. Injustice and inequality inspire her to write songs that can power protesters in their fights for nature and fellow people. But Raye is also more than just a protest singer as she explains in the interview below. She tackles anything that inspires her with an enormously soothing voice and vulnerable honesty. Raye was kind enough to take time while on tour to answer a few questions about her music and activism.
First off, for those not familiar with your work, who is Raye Zaragoza?
“Hi everyone! I’m an LA-based, New York City-born singer-songwriter. My latest album Fight For You is a collection of songs of social justice and finding your voice. I’m very passionate about writing about topics that are not talked about in mainstream music such as politics and indigenous rights.”
How and when did you get into making music?
“I started writing songs in my late teenage years, but I’ve been singing and playing guitar since I was 12. In middle school, I had a little band with my friends and we played Avril Lavigne and Vanessa Carlton songs at local restaurants in Hell’s Kitchen, New York (where I lived in my pre-teen years). I grew up doing musical theater, and always knew I wanted to be a performer, but it wasn’t until my late teenage years that I realized being a singer-songwriter is what I always wanted to be doing.”
When did you realise you could use your music to spread messages of protest or activism?
“Although I had written some social justice songs before this, I really started writing songs with an activist message during the Standing Rock movement. During that time I realized how much a song can comfort and inspire people who are fighting injustice. Speaking up can be a vulnerable and scary thing, and music can truly make you feel stronger and not alone. Many of my songs from Fight For You were written about Standing Rock and my journey there.”
How do you feel people are receiving your political music these days?
“With the exception of the expected occasional backlash, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s really been amazing to hear stories about how the songs have comforted people in tough times.”
How important is it for you to send out a specific message in your music? Are all your songs tackling a political subject?
“No — not all of my songs are tackling a political message. I write songs about all kinds of subjects — like nature, love, heartbreak, New York City, California, and anything else that inspires me! I’ve definitely been labeled as a protest songwriter after this album, and although I don’t have a problem with that, it’s definitely not all I do. I like to write songs with light-hearted messages too!”
Do you find it hard to balance between being political and poetic in your lyrics?
“I think that’s exactly my favorite part about it — when the poetry meets the politics. When a verse or a line can help make sense of the madness around us. I feel like social justice music is really what keeps the movement moving and the activists inspired — so for me, even if it’s a challenge at times, finding the balance is the most rewarding part.”
How do you see the current music scene, is there an abundance of socially conscious music today or a lack of people using their voice and talent for good?
“I think there are definitely more and more artists speaking up through their music. I think regardless of whether an artist writes social justice songs or not, it’s very important to be vocal on their platforms. People look to artists for guidance and inspiration — so it’s important we share a positive message.”
What are some of your inspirations or favourite protest musicians out there, active or not?
“I love Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. I also love my friends Calina Lawrence and Nahko Bear who are doing so much as activists and artists currently.”
Outside the music, do you partake in any other activism?
“Absolutely. Whenever I’m not on the road, I am very involved in my indigenous community in LA. Last year, I participated in the Run4Salmon, and March to Oak Flat — two indigenous rights causes very in need of support (everyone should look them up!). This year, I hope to return to both and continue to contribute to the protection of indigenous sites around the country.”
What is on the horizon for you?
“I am currently working on my next album that will be released in 2019. I am also touring around the US, Canada, and Europe for the rest of 2018!”
Thank you very much for participating and for the music you make. Anything else you’d like to shout from the rooftops?
“Thank you for having me! if you’re hearing of me for the first time, I hope to meet you at a live show soon!!!”
You can catch Raye currently on tour. Check out her webpage for further details.
Cars, tractors and other vehicles are important to the writing process for Adelaide’s feminist, punk rock quartet Stabbitha and the Knifey Wifeys as bassist and vocalist Eb tells me via email. Words apparently come storming to her while driving and even the band’s unique name came to her while driving a tractor (a Simpsons episode reference where Chief Wiggum calls Marge both ‘Stabbitha’ and ‘The Knifey Wifey’).
SATKW just released their first full length album, following the brilliant 2016 effort, Cats Against Cat Calls. Eb told me about the approach they took to the creative process on ‘Worriers’ and the differences to the previous album.
“I guess the main difference in the process of making ‘Worriers’ is when we booked in the recording we only had a couple of songs fully written. So it was a different process in that we were more, almost forced, to write songs rather than have a few up our sleeves that Eb had already written like on ‘Cats Against Cat Calls’. We also had a lot better idea of what we wanted the finished record to sound like and were able to communicate that a bit better to Uptoe (Alex Upton – the Hard Aches).
As far as the creative process goes, there were a lot of lyrics written while driving around in my car, a lot of music written on my couch while being harassed by 2 needy dogs and couple written in our actual rehearsal space. Sass and I (Eb) also consulted each other a fair bit more regarding the lyrics on the album as well and how they were going to fit into the actual songs. I have a tendency to write way too many lyrics for short songs haha.”
SATKW have a lot to say. Which is understandable and much appreciated here at Shouts. While they cover a vast political ground on ‘Worriers’ Eb explained there was the personal stuff that was the toughest to put out.
“There’s a whole lot of basically saying ‘we’ve had enough of your shit’. Whether that be sexism, racism, domestic violence, bigotry or double standards in general. The song ‘Worriers’ is the one that was the hardest to put out there though as I wrote it about how coming out to your parents is fucking terrifying!”
As Eb describes there seems to be quite a decent amount of bands working in Adelaide these days that use their voice responsibly. We at Shouts can agree that there is no lack of protest music coming out of Australia these days as we have recently interviewed two artists out of neighbouring Melbourne (Formidable Vegetable Sound System and Pataphysics). I asked Eb what they wanted to achieve with their music and besides the chance to tour internationally she told me how they want to inspire girls to use their voices.
“…we want help young people, particularly young women, queer/trans/nb kids see that their voices and experiences are important. We want to hear what you’ve got to say and hope our art inspires you to put yours out there too.”
When asked what is on the horizon for Stabbitha and the Knifey Wifeys, besides writing music and attending to extra curricular activism Eb told me that they spend a good amount of time to “convince our bosses to give us time off work so we can tour interstate more!”
Let’s just hope exactly that happens. Sponsor the band, let’s spread this protest music and check out their album ‘Worriers’ below.