Loud Women Festival Review: The Feminist Fest – with an interview from Dolls

Round the corner from Bruce Grove over-ground station is pub and music venue ‘T-Chances’, where on the first Saturday of the month at 12pm, determined organisers in florescent yellow jackets were already busy making sure the day ran smoothly. The event, hosting female talent from London and beyond, was the first Loud Women Festival. The event was organised by Loud Women, a DIY collective creating space for women, with the aim of showcasing female talent and providing a fun, friendly and safe environment for everybody to enjoy.

Two rooms decorated with shiny tinsel strands made up the setting for the staging of twenty-five female musicians, all in the space of one delightful day. You’d never miss an act thanks to the no-clashes set up which guaranteed that not only were you never bored, but that the celebration and discovery of fresh female talent was never on hold. And if things got a little too loud, there was plenty of space for down-time away from the crowd and the noise in the ‘Quiet Room’, a fantastic provision for kids at this family-friendly event, as well as for those of us who can get a little overwhelmed at times. Cheap vegan food was also available, making for a perfect cure for mid-afternoon grumpiness.

Comic acoustic act Rantipoles were the first order of the day. It might have only been half past noon but they certainly not letting the rainy blues of the daytime restrict any ounce of their festive vibes. With a name like Rantipoles, you could expect exactly that – wild and unrestricted cheeriness. Shakers were handed to the crowd, and we all joined in with the howling band. It was impossible not to come out of that first room with a smile.

In the next room, getting ready for their performance on the mainstage were all-female pop choir LIPS Choir. Bursting with diversity and sporting a 1980s neon aesthetic, they bestowed the crowd with popular mash-ups and had us all singing along to Blondie’s 1980 single Call Me.

By the afternoon craft and zine stools were up and running and so I treated myself to some original art prints from the lovely queer feminist DIY artist The Oyster Knife; selling patches, pants, postcards and more.

To move us into evening with their fantastic sarcastic humour came London-based four piece The Wimmins’ Institute, whose genre was described by The Morning Star as ‘post-post-riot grrrl, post-feminist, post-Marxist, post-punk rock new wave’, which is probably the closest you can get trying to put this band in a box.

Following them was perhaps the boldest acts of the day, attracting one of the biggest crowds of the evening – the raw and unapologetic Petrol Girls. After a kinetic performance from Petrol Girls, we wound down with the chill political sounds of Welsh singer-songwriter Nia Wyn, another act to keep an eye out for.

Many artists tackled important feminist issues in their music, including rape (Petrol Girls), objectification (The Wimmins’ Institute), mental health (Dream Nails) and racism (Fight Rosa Fight), and some were simply there to play their tunes. One of these bands was London garage two-piece Dolls, creating bluesy mature sounds, for fans of The Kills, Sleater-Kinney, and Alvvays. I caught up with the charismatic and hilarious Jade and Belinda from Dolls to talk Loud Women, music, sexism and what’s next for their band. You can read the interview below.

Loud Women is one of the exciting DIY collectives around London, providing a platform for female artists in the area and beyond. With hard working and musical organisers, it is no doubt THE PLACE for new and diverse punk/pop discoveries and excellent vibes. Give them a like on Facebook to keep up with all their upcoming shows and events.


An Interview with Dolls

What do you guys think of the festival so far? Do you have any favourites?
In Unison: Soo good.
Belinda: I really love the Argonauts
Jade: Yes, we love the Argonauts! We haven’t had a chance to see lots of bands because we’ve been talking to people, that sort of thing. But yes, the Argonauts are great.

This is your second time with Loud Women?
Belinda: We first played with them at Finsbury’s Silver Bullet.
Jade: [and although it was a smaller show] even then it still had a great vibe and everybody was really supportive.

So what do you think of female-only talent events like these? Have you done any others apart from Loud Women?
Bel: I think we have yeah, or at least working with promoters that push female bands.
Jade: We played a gig a few weeks before this with We Can Do It Promotions, and she mainly promotes female bands. We think it’s a good thing… There are so many line-ups with all male bands, maybe one female musician the whole night and it’s just….It’s always more of a weird vibe when we’re played on those. Y’know, you get a lot of the guys look at you funny, and say this weird shit to you that makes you feel almost undermined.

Here, the conversation moved to inane comments non-male musicians are all too familiar with hearing.
Bel: We played a gig at the Finsbury I remember quite well, where the line-up was all male bands, and we were headlining. We were talking to these guys in the green room, and they said to us ‘oh so, you’re just two girls in a band?’….’Yeah’. They assumed we were opening for them and that we played acoustic chill. Later we were putting on our make-up, which is when they started at us with ‘Oh you’re putting red on your lips? Why don’t you kiss my ass.’ It’s kind of like, really? Sometimes we just let our performance talk for us and end up having them ask to please play with us again. I think sometimes guys get carried away when they’re around other guys; they build themselves up and think it’s okay to say shit like that, but then regret it after seeing we’re actually good at what we do and you can’t take the piss out of us.
Jade: Exactly.

It’s a shame you still have to prove yourselves to them first before being taken seriously. The statement was met with an erratic storm of yeses from the band.
Bel: If we were guys they would have never said anything. I think it’s maybe because they feel…almost insecure.
Jade: I think there’s definitely an element of that.
Bel: [laughing] Now we’re friends with some of these guys aren’t we!
Jade: We are? I don’t know if I’d be friends with somebody who said that to me!
Bel: Yeah we’ve played a couple of festivals with them.
What do you think of the current DIY scene? Do you think we have a revival going on?
Jade: I think we’re at a point where we’re getting frustrated about constantly have to prove ourselves and not being taken seriously as musicians. I don’t know about other cities, but London has been very supportive of these kind of independent girls-to-the-front nights. With zines as well, it’s nice because people are talking about all these issues that people don’t feel comfortable talking about. Then you read it in a zine and realise ‘this has happened to me or I know someone that it has happened to’. So they’re opening up a conversation and making people feel like they’re not alone.

We then moved to the obvious question of influences. Belinda’s influences are mainly orientated around punk rock, while Jade’s are changing on a weekly basis.
Bel jokes about her bandmate ‘I’m SO into DIY…DIY is SO last week’, which Jade confirms as an accurate description and tells us she’s has finally dived into Sonic Youth. She also names Kathleen Hannah, Nick Cave and Tom Waits as big influences.

Dolls are currently in the process of mixing their new EP, working with Jim Sclavunos of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. ‘I’m so grateful to have somebody like that to work with. You notice the difference working with somebody who’s done it for so long and who has worked with so many amazing people. There’s a standard there. They don’t let things go, they push you but in the way that makes you feel that you can do this’, says Jade to which Bel adds ‘Makes you feel like crying sometimes but the results are so good!’

Recently, Dolls have had several offers to play in Europe, including Damsels in Destress festival in Poland and Girls go BOOM in Belgium, as well as smaller headline shows. Many, they tell me, were well received on the day, proving that Loud Women isn’t only a great place for audiences to enjoy but, most importantly, it is where new artists can begin getting the recognition they deserve.

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