OUT OF EARSHOT: INTERVIEW #6 – SOF FROM DOXX

As part of the media coverage for Out of Earshot’s inaugural festival on the weekend of August 23-25, 2018, not your boys club will be showcasing some of the truly wonderful people organizing, playing, and performing at the festival in the weeks leading up to it.

For the final interview in this series, I spoke with Sof (she/her) who does vocals for the hardcore band DOXX. She’s a student, bartender, and musician born in Irkutsk, Russia and based out of Ottawa, ON.

sof doxx.jpg

Photo by Aidan Thatcher

How long has DOXX been making music music and how did everyone meet each other?

DOXX has been making music for about 2.5 years now. I met Britt (guitar) early 2014 when she was a TA in one of my first year gender studies classes at the University of Ottawa and we would see each other at shows in Ottawa here and there. Kieran (drums) and Britt are partners and they formed what was supposed to be a one-off show hardcore band with Jeff (bass) for a show Jeff was booking in I believe March 2016. Originally Britt was gonna be doing guitar and vocals but then it was like, no, this music is too fast to do both – who should we ask to front this band? Britt reached out to me because i would go off in the front row of the audience at every show but had never been in a band. We didn’t know each other super well at that point but I’m so glad they did because now Britt is my #1 ride or die. And I guess it was just too fun to let it go after one show. The rest of my bandmates are pretty much born and raised in Ottawa and so have known each other for much longer than they’ve known me. But we’re tight. I’m the baby of the band.

Were the issues that you sing about (capitalism, white supremacy, heteronormativity, etc.) what inspired the formation of this band?

I would say a heavy love of hardcore punk is what inspired the formation of DOXX, but these issues you mention are important to me/us generally, so naturally that’s what I end up writing lyrics about. I think it’s sick both if someone starts into doxx because they like our sound and then later get something from the lyrics, or vice versa if they’re really into our “”message”” initially and maybe later get more into hardcore and punk because it’s like, oh i actually really like this style of music and it’s not just all angry violent men yelling about “brotherhood” – maybe this music can be for me? The conversation about representation and politicization is interesting and definitely complicated. I put “”message”” in those quotes above because I don’t really think there’s one distinct message I’m aiming to convey with my lyrics…much like, you know, humans in general, there’s a lot going on in my brain and heart…some of it is contradictory, some of it is political, some of it is about my relationships, some of it is sarcastic, some of it is real serious and affecting, but for sure it is still very personal. Sometimes I feel my lyrics are over-analyzed, almost scrutinized, because of how my identity is perceived. It has made me more hesitant to define myself or our music in explicit ways. We’ve been criticized in the past for not being “queer enough” to call ourselves queer punk(s)…I don’t really know what to say to that. Ask my girlfriend. Actually, don’t. I don’t owe nobody shit, leave us alone (lol). Ultimately, I have some shit to say but also ya girl just loves a breakdown, you know? A decent amount of my favourite punk and hardcore bands maybe weren’t intended to resonate with me and my particular experience of life as a young woman…but somehow they do…but maybe if I went to see one of those bands live I wouldn’t feel totally welcome in the space. Like I said, it’s complicated. I guess the best thing about being in doxx is that i’m able to just say fuck it and take that space for myself and others like me, and I think that was definitely at the heart of the formation of the band.

Do you feel like there is a shift in which bands/individuals are given space in the Ottawa music community?

Yes absolutely! I like to think of this kind of growth as a tension between “being given” space and “taking” space – a mix of personal agency and community support that facilitates the status quo being challenged and shifted. There are many older and more established community members in Ottawa (even some cis white men, lol) who are unfailingly encouraging and helpful and recognize that making active efforts for the inclusion of marginalized folks not only makes our community more vibrant and fun but is just like…the right thing to do. For example, my bandmates, who reached out to me to front DOXX even though I had never been in a band before. There are also hella young/queer/trans/POC folks pushing more established community members to complicate how they understand the world and the scene. Both groups are valuable and sick as fuck and strengthen community. At the same time, there will always be those shitheads who are more about their own egos than community building and helping others learn – that’s fine. It’s obvious to me that that kind of attitude comes from a place of bitterness and insecurity and they will eventually become irrelevant and for damn sure aren’t having as much fun as we are.

Empowering femme and non-binary people to participate and take up space in their respective music communities is really important to not your boys club and so I was thrilled to read in an interview that you put out a zine with Britt for femme and queer youth on how to start a band. What would you say was the most important (or the overarching) message you were trying to communicate?

Most important message: starting a band is probably easier than you think! Just do it! If you have questions about resources reach out to us!

Are there any femme and queer folx in your community making music that you would like to give a shout out to?

Yessssss:

TORPOR

TIGHTLIP

SAILOR JUPITER

Sailor jupiter sadly doesn’t exist anymore but are probably my favourite Ottawa band ever.

OMERTA

BONNIE DOON

OUT OF EARSHOT: INTERVIEW #5 – MEG HARNUM

As part of the media coverage for Out of Earshot’s inaugural festival on the weekend of August 23-25, 2018, not your boys club will be showcasing some of the truly wonderful people organizing, playing, and performing at the festival in the weeks leading up to it.

For the fifth installment in this interview series, I spoke with Meg Harnum (she/her), a musician/artist from St. John’s, NL. Meg has been playing drums in bands for over ten years (The Mudflowers, Punch Table, Hard Ticket, Thelma and Louise to name a few) and has been a drum instructor and band coach at Girls Rock NL for the past three years. In July, Meg was invited to Ojai, California where she was a drum instructor and band coach at Girls Rock Santa Barbara. Meg along with her partner and her two cats, Nanny and Poppy, will be temporarily relocating to Montreal for school at the end of August.

meghan harnum.jpeg
Photo by Shabnam Ferdowsi

Hard Ticket recently put out Same Pal – an EP about friends with shared lived experiences that can relate and offer support during personal hardship and struggle. As it’s an album about friendship, I first want to ask you about when you met Nicole and Mopey, and how the members of Hard Ticket offer each other the kind of support and friendship that this album is about.

I don’t remember exactly when or where I met Nicole and Mopey; St. John’s is a very small city and often living here you know of people long before you really ~know~ them but I am so eternally grateful that I did (meet them). Hard Ticket is like a family, we all offer each other a ton of support and love one another unconditionally and without judgement.

The year or so leading up to the time that Hard Ticket was formed, I was in a bit of a musical slump, full of self-doubt and unsure of my place in the music community. Then along came my Tickies, so upbeat, so posi, so full of love and light and encouragement and it made me feel so much better about everything. It lifted my spirits in a way that only they could.

In April, you put out a two-song EP under your solo project scrambled meggz. One of these songs, 2 little lazy eyes, is a song about friendship with Pepa Chan (of Lo Siento and Ribbon Tied). You sing about how she inspires you – I’m wondering if you can share a little bit more about this and more broadly how other women/non-binary people in the St. John’s music community inspire, support, and empower you.

Pepa Chan is one of my favorite people on earth. She is so unbelievably kind and talented. And strange. A true freak. In the best possible way. She is bursting with creativity. Everything she does is just so distinctly ~Pepa~. She is strong and resilient and a wonderful friend. I love Pepa.

St. John’s is full of amazing women & non binary folx doing incredible things, making beautiful music/art and just, like, making shit happen. All of the board members at Girls Rock NL, SWIM, The Out of Earshot committee. I feel inspired all the time by the initiative taken by all of these rad folx to create such an inclusive community for us all to exist in. I am so thankful to be given so many opportunities to play, teach and contribute. Everyone is so supportive of everyone else’s endeavors, it is a beautiful thing.

During your time working for Girls Rock Santa Barbara and Girls Rock NL, did you experience and build similarly supportive friendships, and furthermore, did you witness these friendships being built among the girls attending the camp?

Holy heck, yes, absolutely. Teaching and band coaching at Girls Rock NL/Santa Barbara has been, at the risk of sounding totally cliche, life changing. It really has. The level of support and understanding  that each and every person I have worked with at camp provides is unbelievable, to the campers and to each other. Watching the kids at camp get to know each other and encourage each other is so absolutely heartwarming and inspiring.

On a final note, I was wondering if you would be comfortable sharing what friendships with womxn and people with other marginalized gender identities means to you.

I have been so lucky in my life to always find myself surrounded by the most bad-ass, powerful, talented women/non-binary friends and I think there is something very special about that. The constant encouragement and love from my bandmates and friends and girls rock family has made me a much stronger and more confident person. I am truly very blessed.


STAFF CONTRIBUTION: Nikki A Basset

OUT OF EARSHOT: INTERVIEW #2 – RENEE SHARPE

As part of the media coverage for Out of Earshot’s inaugural festival on the weekend of August 23-25, 2018, not your boys club will be showcasing some of the truly wonderful people organizing, playing, and performing at the festival in the weeks leading up to it.

For the second interview in this series, I spoke with Renee Sharpe (she/her), a long-time feminist punker living in St. John’s and singing in Worst Lay. Her active role in the community starts from a place of creating what she needs and inviting other marginalized people into the space who may need it too.

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Worst Lay

I want to start this interview by asking about your introduction to playing music and participating in the music community, specifically the punk scene.

I’ve been in playing in punk bands since I was a kid, and I’m 36 now. It’s been my favourite way to hang out with my friends and write lyrics that are true to the specific community building I’m interested in at that moment. As a long-time feminist punker, it’s always been my focus to create spaces that are kind of like “yo, you are welcome here if you are into anti-oppression frameworks” from within in the punk scene. My favourite way to do that has been to play in bands and invite people to play in bands with me; I take whatever is upsetting me in the moment and I get real loud about it. I’m a loud kind of woman, and I’m usually the one with the mic. Punk is one of the ways that I can have the mic in the community, and give the mic to others who are pretty under-represented. Punk is definitely not my defining point in life, and it holds less and less importance to me. It is a youth subculture that gets on my nerves, but I do find myself sticking around chasing that feeling that only a ripping band with friends can give you.

Can you share a little bit about the formation and origins of Worst Lay?

Worst Lay came from feeling pretty isolated and is one of a series of things I’m doing for myself to not feel so alone in a predominately cis male scene. So, it started as one of those things where me and my real good friend Mara were just talking about what bums us out, the darkness that we have in our gut, and just not having access to things like counselling. From this I just felt like we needed to start a punk band, but Mara has never been in a punk band, like, she’s in Hey Rosetta!, so even though she’s the biggest punker I know, she has just never been invited to be in a punk band. I told Mara that we should just make some dark noise and talk about what bums us out; it could be our healing process. We then invited our friends Pepa and Jono to start the band with us. Like anything I do, it just ended up being your typical in-your-face, short, fast, and loud punk band which is my favourite thing in the world.

I ended up singing, and I’m 36 now, but one of the lyrics is like, “I’m 35 years old / I piss in my pants / all these men / why am I still here”. I literally piss in my pants now that I’m 36 and yelling in a punk band (haha), like why am I still here, in punk? It’s still predominantly men in the scene, but for me, it’s punk therapy. That’s what the lyrics are about. It’s my favourite place, punk, it’s the easiest place for me to work from as kind of a springboard for what I care about: justice. So even though, since I was like 18, I ask myself why I am in a scene that usually disappoints me, it still gives me the freedom to do whatever I want and create the community I feel like I need at the time to heal and work against the patriarchy collectively. So, that’s been my work in punk since I was like 16. It doesn’t work and it usually disappoints, but we build community where we can get it. My community work extends far beyond punk, and I’m working more on healing and being soft these days – but I’m still here.

Where did the name Worst Lay come from?

The name Worst Lay comes from one of our songs, Candy, which acknowledges patterns in relationships that I’ve had with men where when I don’t want to fuck, they say that they would be depressed, sad, or bummed out if we don’t have sex. So then I would have sex with them to save our relationship. That’s the worst lay. It’s about consent. It’s the worst lay to have sex with someone when you don’t want to.

As an active member of the music community in St. John’s, could you describe to me ways in which the St. John’s music scene is inclusive and safe, and ways in which it, like any other city, could improve?

I lived in Montreal before I moved back home a few years ago. In Montreal, we had a very hot and inclusive scene. We were just very queer, very anarchist, very “on it”. We definitely still had lots to work on with our lack of representation, but it was the most inclusive, diverse, and supportive scene I have been apart of. We put on this thing called “Band-Off” where we would invite people from the community who wouldn’t always necessarily feel invited out to shows. People would come, we would put our names in a hat, and then that was your random band. We did that a few times and it significantly increased the amount of women, trans folx, and (ideally) other underrepresented people that would come out to our shows, pick up instruments, and play in their own bands. So I brought that home to Newfoundland. When I arrived I was looking for the women and queer folx, but with no surprise, it was my usual disappointment with the scene. I wanted to see the kind of bands that I like, and hang out with people that I can relate to, so I did a “Band-Off”. It worked. I did it a few more times, and since then, there have been so many women, queers, and politically charged freakers and ragers playing in bands and making music. It wasn’t just me, obviously, there were other groups like St John’s Womxn in Music (SWIM), Girls Rock, and now Out of Earshot. There’s still work to do – it’s still real white. There’s a lot that can be done for diversity and being inclusive without tokenizing people. It’s always about sending out that invitation, and making sure everyone feels like they are welcome if they want to come.

Finally, I wanted to ask you more broadly about the ways in which you promote a safer and more inclusive community outside of the music scene.

Totally, yeah. So, I’ve been taking Wen-Do Women’s Self Defence since 2002. My first experience with it was fucking revolutionary, and I’ve now been teaching it since 2011. From a feminist anti-oppression framework, it basically looks at the way women experience gendered violence and it starts with an acknowledgement that women can, and know how, to defend themselves. When we – by we, i mean, cis women, trans women, and gender non-conforming folx – fight back, we actually get away effectively. We are stronger and smarter than the world tells us. We talk about how to protect ourselves and support others in the community that have been targeted by bullying and harassment, have experienced sexual assault, and are in abusive relationships. Then we move forward with physical defense strategies that are made for our bodies (just as they are) that can be used against someone that wants to hurt you. This person is probably someone you know, or is someone in your community with power. We aren’t looking for that racist trope – that tall, dark, stranger in the bushes – we know that it is usually someone we know and trust who we need to defend ourselves against. It is crucial to understand the realities of our experience and name them, so we can give ourselves permission to act and get to safety. Wen-Do is an acknowledgement of this, and it’s an empowerment piece. It’s quite incredible. It’s what I do.

I also host the Renee Sharpe Show, which is my favourite thing. I invite people on – who are definitely not punk (haha) – and I celebrate them. I like celebrating people and making them feel good about themselves; I like giving them a spotlight. We just shoot the shit. It’s cool. It’s my thing.

I guess finally, I’m always trying to create what I need. I’m hosting something called Hold Space, an active-listening workshop that acknowledges how a lot of us are feeling isolated from a lack of community. Hold Space is a thing that I think can help us all figure out how to hold space for each other. I will give a short introduction on what it looks like to actually active listen and how that can feel for a lot of us that need that. The other part of it is working through how you can actually ask people to hold space for you. If you feel like no one hears you, or you (like myself) are the person in the community that everyone goes to, it can be difficult to learn how to ask for that support. It’s kind of like an exercise in community building 101 and how to better support each other. Another part of it is kind of like speed dating. We have chairs set up, we move every 5 minutes maybe, and after asking for permission to hold space, we practice active listening and accepting that support. You don’t spend that time thinking about what you are going to say to fix their problems; you just be that person for them that listens. I think it’s going to be really cool and I’m excited to try it out.


STAFF CONTRIBUTION: Nikki A Basset

ALBUM REVIEW: “OBEY XI” BY CUTIE

Has anyone ever asked you “why are you so angry?” and you don’t know why or how, but you just are. That’s how I feel about Cutie’s latest EP OBEY XI—they’re angry and I don’t know why, but I can feel it.

Halifax’s Cutie did a physical release of this EP for Obey Convention XI in May with a limited run of only 10 tapes. I honestly don’t know if it gets any more punk than that. I took a calculator and added up the total minutes of the EP: a ripping 4 minutes and 40 seconds. Maybe that’s a weird thing to do, but I was trying to process how something so short could be so powerful. An important thing to note is the cover art for the EP, a photo of president Xi Jinping, which guitarist B claimed they used because “socialism is good and cool”.

The EP starts fuzzed-out with “intro”: an instrumental and almost dance-like track with a wailing guitar riff trickled on top. The next song “might” is pure fire the whole way through. Vocalist Jess yells along to veering guitar breaks into a breakdown that sounds like something you’d want to listen to while navigating through crowds of filth; see: businessmen. “Brother” builds fast and mean with a quick guitar solo at the end of the track that leaves you wanting more. Cutie doesn’t seem to be about lengthy solos (which I love). The ending track “control” is where the EP ties itself together; starting slow then accelerating into a raged filled passage just to be slowed down again into another breakdown that made me dance in my office chair.

The next time you’re feeling dissonant about your stupid job, throw this EP on for a short, socialist, rage-filled escape.

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Cutie at Halifax Public Libraries
Photo by OBEY Convention.

You can check Cutie out for yourself at these upcoming shows:

Saturday July 7 @ NO Funswick  FEST 4, Moncton, New Brunswick

Saturday August 11 @ Renegade Records, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

Wednesday August 29 @ Radstorm, Halifax, Nova Scotia


STAFF CONTRIBUTION: Stephanie Muise