Music is a safe haven. Hardcore, we believe, doubly so. Guitarist and vocalist Sharon Malfesi of New York melodic hardcore band Hollow Bones reinforces this sentiment for us when she talks about her band’s upcoming record, Lionheart, as well as her road to self-realization within the LGBT and hardcore music communities.
My absolute favorite object is called a palimpsest. I had never heard that word until about two years ago when I was sitting in a modern poetry class, tuning in and out of an ongoing discussion. The word sounded strange so it caught my attention. A palimpsest, as it would soon be explained to me, is an object or a manuscript on which the old writing has gone or been erased in order to make room for new writing. However, little traces or ghosts of past markings remain so you can see pieces of the old text beneath the present one. Picture writing a note, and even after erasing a misspelled word, still being able to see the faded letters in the paper. When Fine Fine Titans vocalist Jennifer Bartlett begins telling me the story behind the song “A Fire Retraced (Fahrenheit Diaries II)” off their upcoming album, Renaissance, all I can think about is a palimpsest and what it means.
She sighs when I pry into the song and why it’s so dear to her. Her voice changes from the vibrant, energetic tone it carried when I first picked up the phone and becomes heavier, a little unsteady. “Back in 2008, I had an apartment fire,” she finally says, “and I lost everything except for a box of my journals. I’ve been journaling since I was maybe nine, and I had that box of journals except for one journal. And the one journal that I lost in the fire signified a really important part of my growing process. And so losing that journal, and losing the memories that were written in that journal…it felt like I lost a part of myself as well.”
The Michigan post-hardcore band had recorded a song entitled “Fahrenheit Diaries” for their previous EP, Omega, about the fire and Bartlett’s personal loss. “This revisited it in a way to get deeper into that subject,” she explains of Part II, “which I don’t expect anyone to understand or even pick up on that, but it was really therapeutic for me to write about that specific incident.” This new song is her palimpsest; proof that an old story can be re-examined, a new one written, but the etchings of the past will always color the paper—or in this case, an album. Even lost words from a lost journal can bring bits of history to the future.
The thing about fire, too, is it purifies at the same time that it destroys. Renaissance is about a similar kind of rebirth. Once on the verge of collapse due to a changing lineup and artistic focus, the band now feels as though they’ve risen from the ashes.
“Vulnerability is not weakness.”
“Really in the last few years of the band it’s been kind of a whirlwind,” she says. “A lot of change in members and direction and I think for this new album we felt like it was really a new birth for us. We actually almost fell apart a few years ago, and instead of letting it go we kind of picked ourselves up from the bootstraps and decided we were going to move forward no matter what. In order to do that we kind of had to reinvent ourselves and the music.”
I have to ask if the Renaissance is actually her favorite period in history. She laughs it off, a little caught off guard, and despite admitting to an admiration for the costuming of the 1500s, says, “I try to maybe focus on the future a bit more.” Not a bad idea for a band that is currently picking up steam. Fine Fine Titans recently had their music video for new single “Mistress” debut on Revolver, and their following single “I Just Saw A Ghost” feat. TJ Miller of Still Remains premiered just the other day over at AllMusic. However, the vocalist’s favorite tracks from Renaissance still have yet to be shared.
As you might expect, “A Fire Retraced (Fahrenheit Diaries II)” is one of them. “Molasses Tongue” is the other, and for good reason. The enticing guitar riff that introduces the track carries throughout the song, and the music itself takes defibrillators to the post-hardcore genre, but “Molasses Tongue” also seriously showcases Bartlett’s vocal chops. Her dark, husky melodies are alluring enough, but this chick has some aggressive screams. Ironically, she insists aggression isn’t where her emotion comes from.
“It’s like being scared and frightened and emotionally distraught [and it’s] like this is the only way I know how to get this out right now.”
Getting a little philosophical, she persists, “Vulnerability is not weakness. It’s a stronghold and it’s the start of all emotions. And I think that we kind of confuse that for weakness and when we do, we let it eat at us. And it’s easy for other people to stomp on us and our dreams and the good will we have.”
“Especially when it comes to the music industry and being a woman in the music industry,” she adds, coming to the inevitable question of gender in the entertainment business. “I feel like [with] rock specifically, women feel like they have to be strong in order to be heard. And maybe that is true, in some instances, but I think as long as you’re honest that’ll take you further than being aggressive.”
What is clear from my conversation with her, no matter where it comes from, is Jennifer Bartlett’s strength—strength of conviction, of voice, of self. And it’s something she wants anyone who listens to Fine Fine Titans to take to heart.
“Hopefully [the record] inspires someone else to follow their dream, whether it’s in the creative field or in a political way or anything at all. I hope it inspires someone to have the courage and strength [to] realize that vulnerability is an asset.”
People need to stop telling me that punk is dead. Like for (super) cereal, guys. Why? Because when you listen to up and coming bands like the Philadelphia-based Legendary Divorce there is no denying that punk, grunge, hardcore and all sorts of underground music genres are still thriving in their own scenes.
Here at HXC, we got a chance to chat with Legendary Divorce vocalist and guitarist Itarya Leo, one bad ass female killing it in the east coast music world. As part of our ongoing Women of Hardcore series, we got to learn all about Leo’s love of Nirvana, Legendary Divorce’s latest EP Make Me, and, of course, Leo’s thoughts on the current state of the scene.
What was the mindset going into writing and recording this EP?
We wrote these songs over about six months, then decided to record with a friend. They are the first songs we wrote as a band and we were just excited to record them!
You began as a Nirvana cover band back in 2012. Clearly Cobain must have been a big influence on you guys. What about Nirvana inspired you to form this band?
The Nirvana cover set was for a Halloween show. I think we wanted an excuse to get together and play Nirvana songs. [Laughs.] They are some of our favorite songs. Nirvana, for all of us, was our first introduction to punk. I know, personally, I was not aware music could sound like that–Nevermind completely blew me away. There is such sense of purity and carelessness and frustration. It’s noisy, real, and SUPER fucking catchy, like dissatisfied pop music on drugs.
What have been some other major musical influences you guys have had?
I am really obsessed with the Wipers. Especially their albums Over the Edge and Is This Real? But, we all have a pretty diverse taste in music, digging everything from soul to grindcore to pop. Tim and I can kill entire mornings listening to Deicide or watching L7 videos. We are all serious lovers of music.
You guys recently released a music video for the song “Easy.” What made you want to do a video for that track?
It is the first song we wrote as a band! I believe that is the reason. It’s about a deteriorating friendship. Throwing stones at glass houses.
Do you have a favorite track on the EP?
Probably “Satisfaction” because it’s a total blast to play.
A lot of media has been saying there aren’t enough girls in the hardcore or punk scene. How do you feel about that notion?
I am not sure if the issue is that there aren’t enough girls in the hardcore or punk scene (though there could never be enough). I know A LOT of super talented girls playing great music within both of those genres, and all genres. I don’t think female musicians are celebrated in the same way male musicians are in most circles. Though, we’ll progress! I believe music is a great uniter. Lots of girls go to shows, too. Some of the most avid show goers I know are female.
What first inspired you to pick up a guitar or microphone?
I’ve been singing from a very young age. I performed in musical theater throughout my childhood. I’ve always loved music and performing. I kind of took a breather for about 10 years and then, when we decided to do the Nirvana show, I had to learn how to play guitar! Now it’s my favorite thing. Also, screaming into a microphone and playing loud, rowdy music is the most amazing therapy. It makes me a better person.
We’re currently running a series on the women of hardcore and the punk scene. Several of our interviewees have unfortunately had experiences in which many people have mistaken them for groupies or roadies. Do you think gender should have any weight on the output of music nowadays?
I have never been referred to as a “groupie” in my own band, but have been called that when seeing my husband’s other band, Ladder Devils, play. It’s such a ridiculous term/concept to me. Everyone is there for a wonderful reason: they love the music and/or love the environment that the music thrives in; provides. We all want to hang out with and be liked by people we think are cool and respect. We all want to participate in music. I don’t think gender should have any weight on the output of music today. I do think that it is important to be able to express yourself however you want to. Sometimes gender, or lack thereof, has a big part in that, but shouldn’t be judged solely on that.
What’s a Legendary Divorce live show like?
It varies, but usually we get to play with great bands who end up being the loveliest people, so we’ve lucked out in that way so far. Audiences have been super kind and seem into it. Our best friends come out. We play very loudly.
What’s your favorite track to play live?
“Satisfaction!” Though, I am REALLY excited to start playing new songs out.
Are there any upcoming events from Legendary Divorce we should be on the lookout for?
We hope to have a full length finished by the end of the year which will be released on Reptilian Records. We don’t have another show scheduled until August, with The Cloth, but who knows what will come up!
New Years Day is not typically in the realm of hardcore, but their newest releases have been far more on the heavier side than anything they’ve previously shown the world. Also, if you ever get a chance to catch them live (which you can all summer long on Warped Tour), you are guaranteed to be pleasantly surprised by how hard-hitting their shows can be. So check out their latest video for “Kill or Be Killed,” a single off of their upcoming album, Malevolence. There’s gore, shock rock, and a catchy chorus that gives us super high hopes for the upcoming record. Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments below!
There has been increasing talk of the lack of women in the hardcore scene lately. Yet for all the talk, there doesn’t seem to be adequate exploration of why this is so or of what’s truly going on here. Relative to other rock genres like metal and alternative, hardcore seems to be the most homogenous and male-dominated of all. The reasons for this phenomenon may be far and wide, but I’d like to point to one particular issue that I’ve noticed in my years of listening to post-hardcore–the lyrics.
YouTuber Jared Dines hilariously sums it up in one of his satirical videos of the scene, “10 Styles of Metal.” A few seconds into the video, when the genre title “POST HARDCORE” holds above his head, Dines elucidates in unclean vocals: “My girlfriend broke up with me/ I’m really upset about it/ It’s really my own fault/ But I’m gonna blame her.” While saying that all post-hardcore bands sport the same lyrical content is an overgeneralization, any fan can laugh at how common and, for the most part, accurate Dines’ criticism actually is. Women tend to be given a certain symbolic status of vixen or betrayer or, like in a recent Ice Nine Kills music video, succubus.
Personally, I love the music metalcore band Ice Nine Kills make, but I’ve got to admit that the video for “The Fastest Way To A Girl’s Heart Is Through Her Ribcage” is troubling. It’s become so commonplace now that we no longer realize it, or if we do, we let it pass by us as mere fact–the idea that woman is the downfall of man. In this particular case, a (sexually) voracious female demon that we watch vocalist Spencer Charnas brutally kill is the subject matter. Coupled with lyrics like “You’d be just as sexy bleeding,” this visual takes the trope to a more obvious extreme. While some of you out there may argue “it’s just a music video” or “you’re taking this too seriously,” I’d like to suggest that sometimes the effects outweigh the intent. Do most guys approach their actions or the art they make with the explicit idea that they’re going to villainize women? I’d like to guess not. But the unconscious ideas are there and they keep getting nonchalantly perpetuated, and in this instance, as an INK fan, become alienating to me.
Perhaps the very icon for this kind of behavior is British powerhouse Asking Alexandria; or, to get right down to it, ex-frontman Danny Worsnop. The cover art for the band’s latest album From Death To Destiny is a prime example of the female figure being reduced to a purely sexual and symbolic role for the male frontman. In the image (above), the woman is placed naked in a vending machine at the male rock star’s disposal should he have a few bucks on him to spare. She is a resource of pleasure for him, an object. In short, she is dehumanized. Take virtually any strand of lyrics from Asking Alexandria over the years and you’ll find something similar. Again, AA is a band I’ve enjoyed listening to musically for a while, but lyrically it’s hard to escape “I knew when I first saw you/You’d fuck like a whore” (“Not The American Average“).
On the more pop-oriented side of the post-hardcore spectrum, Falling In Reverse‘s music video for “Good Girls Bad Guys” gives us yet another example. In the video, a car pulls up and lets attractive women out of the trunk, parading them around on a kind of catwalk for the men on the set. Their only value in the space of the video is as beautiful objects; commodities that give the men their successful, masculine status. These women are only here for the purpose of reflecting the male ego back on itself in a positive light.
This editorial isn’t here to call out anyone specifically, or even to call out men in general. “Men = bad, women = good” isn’t the idea here, and hardcore/post-hardcore/metalcore aren’t the only genres that have issues with representation of women. Rather, the purpose of this article is to call out a prevailing attitude that I think needs some reevaluation; the attitude that, to quote Laura Mulvey, “Women are bearers of meaning, not makers of meaning.”
For me, this is the link to creating a “Women of Hardcore” serial. There needs to be a shift in perspective. By collecting interviews with various female talents in the scene, we want to emphasize these people as active contributors to music and music culture, and hopefully, show other fans of hardcore–female and male–that there is a place for them, too. So let’s go make some meaning, regardless of your sexy parts.