GrrlBeat @ the Feminist eZine RiotGrrl Archive
Welcome to GrrlBeat!
"GrrlBeat" was a series of women's music articles written by Leslie Harpold for RiotGrrl.com during the 1996 - 2001 period. Sadly RiotGrrl.com is no more. We have archived some of the articles here for research purposes and also because they are an enjoyable read. This is not a complete archive of every GrrlBeat article ever written, but it is enough to provide a sense of what GrrlBeat was.
The articles include:
SPACE AGE BACHELOR PAD MUSIC
As a movement it's about over now, the lounge lizards will soon have to turn in their cocktail shakers and cigarette holders and try to find their way in a workaday world. To be sure, the jet setters they are emulating will be able to carry the aesthetic on, but the crucial difference between the hipsters and the real beautiful people is that the jet set - (and they still exist in places like Monte Carlo, Ibiza and Andorra, anywhere darling is pronounced dahhhhling without irony) - are that the people who are the genuine article aren't just executing some trend achieved step by step with an Optima Card and a couple of issues of Details, they have the cash to carry the look well into their futures, at least until their third time in rehab rehabilitation when "maman" cuts them off for good.
The music the lounge scene embraces and celebrates is not new, for the most part. Herb Alpert and his Tijuana Brass have been kicking out jazzy jams for well over 30 years. Sure, there's Esquivel, and he is very good at what he does, but I feel compelled to remind you that what he doesn't do is innovate. There's nothing new about this genre of music, except a few new records and a couple new names on the swingers roster. But the phenomenon has spread like wildfire in these post grunge times.
Grunge was a product of some smart people being underemployed, and a generation who waited until after college to rebel against their parents. These people made sure that their bills were paid, or that they at least had enough of higher learning before they got disenchanted and self absorbed, and the "slacker" was born. I know very few members of this elusive "generation x" who used that term self-referentially, it seems that handle was more a tag from the media for the underemployed, over educated, seemingly unmotivated post college kids who smoked pot and made it a point to listen to rock and roll while dressed in a very comfortable combo of lumberjack and fetish wear.
The media (predominantly boomer driven at the time) labeled this ilk of people - myself included - slackers. On closer examination though, it appeared that people were actually working, and quite hard, often pursuing more entrepreneurial endeavors, it was just that the forms of work that were chosen in no way resembled the middle management mill that was more familiar to generations previous. It didn't look productive, and granted, much of it wasn't.
Lately, though, things started to work out for this misunderstood generation, and when the money started flowing, one of the first things to go was the flannel. After listening to our parents urge us to be more like them, and us crying out that they were exactly what we didn't want to become, we finally had a couple of nickels to rub together and guess what we created? The Lounge Scene was born. Rebels? I think not. We became our parents.
Now before you write and tell me how much you love your "Velvet Lounge," "Velvet Room," and Velvet whatever your local lizard den is called, and how you groove on that slinky sophisticate persona you've carefully crafted, let me tell you this:
I remember my mom in a gold lamé pantsuit with the blue Tuesday Weld eye makeup and whitish pink lipstick floating through the house with a martini shaker in one hand and an Eve cigarette in the other checking to see if people's gimlets needed freshening. She had it way over the loungey hepcats of today in spades, simply because she was the real deal. Where it was at - when that place was a destination and not a memory. I have conscientiously avoided co-opting lounge like social mannerisms mostly because I have seen these things executed by a master, and don't want to fuck with perfection. I concede that I did buy a leopard print velvet smoking jacket for a friend, but that was merely me trying to recreate a little fantasy I will not recount for you here.
As for the music - some of it is good. The repackaging is graphically more appealing than the contents - and the great artistic tribute to the innovative graphic designers of the sixties is about the most interesting thing about this movement. The music that was good then and has been re-released is still good - but it is not new, and it was never really ours. Enoch Light and His Orchestra can still set a groovy mood worthy of a hundred lava lamps and Chinese lanterns, but acouterments do not a culture make.
The cocktail music reflects not the real emotional trappings of modern culture for the Xers, but a really nice fantasy, the conservative dress put on to visit mom and dad at the holidays. The root of all humor is truth, but some things are just too true to be funny. I think of lounge music as less a hallmark in a generation's development, and more akin to the "girlfriend" a gay guy, or "boy friend" a lesbian afraid to come out to their parents drags home for Thanksgiving dinner. It's about image and illusion, and like all things rooted in fantasy, reality is bound to take over quickly.
Sell your CDs while they still have resale value, and if you have a yard sale to dump the clothes and furniture, there's still time to be thought of as supercool to be getting rid of all your swinging stuff before the glow fades and everyone looks at your kidney shaped coffee table and says "that's so five minutes ago."
Wanna Be Famous?
Grrls, in preparation for the obligatory 'year in review' piece next month, I've been analyzing the trends of music over the last couple of years. In analyzing these changes I have noticed a few holes in the structure, places where there's room to do something that actually hasn't been done yet, and moreover, would fill a need.
I would like to announce a moratorium on all neo folk singing grrl musician singers who are working out their issues in their music. What we really need, is a good chick metal band. Metal and hard rock have experienced a resurgence in popularity largely due to the commercial success of Metallica's 'Load,' and the enthusiastic reception attendees of last years Lollapalooza gave the band. 'Modern Rock' stations have reintroduced bands like AC/DC and Danzig into their formats.
If you follow this simple plan, you can't help but be a huge success. There is a huge gaping hole in the chick metal genre, and I know that grrls are just as good as boys when it comes to letting it all fly and giving the listeners what for. So, get a pencil and start taking some notes.
1. It needs to be a four piece band. To get the lush sound that metal fans are accustomed to, a three piece won't cut it. Rhythm guitar is a necessity, and that will, as you approach a more advanced stage, will allow for the all important speed counter plays, that is, two different very fast melody lines.
2. Make sure you know how to play those guitars. Metal fans are wholly unforgiving. On at least one song you need to play as fast as you can to show them you've got the energy and drive to kick some ass. The guitar line is exactly what this is for. Heart was the closest to a credible metal grrl band we've ever seen, and they were known for their hard driving memorable riffs.
3. The look: Image is everything, especially if you're going to be a pioneer here. Don't get carried away. Big hair is not the answer if you're emerging now. My suggestion is to approach it with the goal of understated but still sexy. Think - ripped jeans, and tucked in tshirts with cowboy boots,, for the band, maybe put the lead singer in a Catholic school uniform worn without the added innuendo of making the skirt shorter or the blouse open all the way. I'm thinking the optimal look would be the little plaid skirt, untucked white blouse, and chin length hair, maybe worn with some black engineer style boots or other utilitarian stompers. Metal bands wouldn't wear platforms anymore, that's for the glam kids. Metal is about utility, but it's gotta be okay to be the grrl you are too. As long as that grrl doesn't have so much flash her presence overpowers what is most important to the metal fan, the music.
4. When composing your songs, keep the power ballads off the first two records. This will create a certain divisiveness amongst your fans and give you the time to build a core fan base. Remember - this worked for both Metallica, Ozzy, Danzig, all the people who point to album three and cry sell out when a ballad appeared, but the ballads get you more fans. While you have pop fandom though, it is your core fan base who will stand by you and continue to buy your records and go to your shows.
5. Lyrics - Tempting as it may be, avoid songs about gender specific topics and personal challenges. Lost loves are out too. Stick to the Holy Trinity of metal subjects - the Underworld, General angst, anger and frustration and of course, alienation from anything. Metal does not suffer ennui gladly, so leave your issues behind and just rock.
6. Here's the secret of true metal conduct: On stage, you're a wild uncontrollable angry rebel. Off stage you're quiet and kind to your fans without over indulging them. Be very nice to your roadies as well. Remain evasive and elusive, all true metal heroes are shrouded in a certain kind of mystery. Decline a lot of interviews, and if you must do one, when you are asked about being a female band, insist you love the music, it's not about being a girl band, it's about loving the music.
Don't do this if you don't love the music, either. Genuine passion for just plain rocking out is an absolute requirement. If this however, sounds like something you could stand up to, I say call a few friends and get to work in your garage. Once you pick a name which seems to be the first thing all bands do upon formation, get busy writing some good songs. Play locally as much as you can. When you're ready send your demo tape in to the man. Chances are you'll get snapped up with a quickness. Thank me in the liner notes.