Thursday, February 22

All-female band comments on gender politics through songs, music videos


Alumna Libby Hsieh plays bass in the all-female band Girl Friday. She said the band's songs feature inherently political messages under a more lighthearted pop sound on their latest EP, “Tiny Hats.” (Isa Saalabi/Daily Bruin)

Alumna Libby Hsieh plays bass in the all-female band Girl Friday. She said the band's songs feature inherently political messages under a more lighthearted pop sound on their latest EP, “Tiny Hats.” (Isa Saalabi/Daily Bruin)


Alumna Libby Hsieh dons a suit and mustache in her band’s latest music video.

In the music video for the band Girl Friday’s song “12 Hour Turnaround,” Hsieh, the band’s bassist, depicts a man, while a fellow female band member dresses as a 1950s housewife. The getups are meant to be a commentary on stereotypical gender roles in society, Hsieh said.

The music video is just one example of the band’s attempts to fuse gender politics with music. The band members took the typically disparaging phrase “girl Friday” – a patronizing term that was made popular in the 1940s to refer to female assistants – and claimed it as their title, Hsieh said.

“The idea was this woman who was a powerhouse but not getting any acknowledgement for it, which happens a lot still,” Vera Ellen, the group’s guitarist, said. “It’s taking that and reversing it because we’re all onstage and we are all women.”

 

The all-female band originally began playing together in November 2016 with three UCLA students: Natalie Morace, Hsieh and Ellen – an exchange student from New Zealand. In the past two months the band also incorporated members Sierra Scott and Virginia Pettis, and released its first six-song extended play, “Tiny Hats,” on Thursday.

In their EP, the band members said they worked to imbue their own personal feminist beliefs into the pop- and punk-influenced music. Ellen said the group discusses political topics based on their own personal experiences as women in the music industry, choosing to avoid exploring cliche topics like love.

“The industry is really male-dominated,” Morace, a fourth-year global studies student, said. “Obviously, we are going to sing from our own perspective, and that’s going to be a different one by nature of the game.”

Morace met Hsieh at a UCLA noise concert – a show where people create sounds as they go – in 2016. Most of the musicians there were males, Morace said. The two bonded over being among the few women at the show and shared a desire to play music in a less male-dominated environment, Morace said.

Ellen, who also plays with men in a band called Sweater, said making music with all women is a completely different experience. When playing music in groups with men, Morace said Girl Friday’s members sometimes feel the need to exaggerate their musical skills to establish credibility as artists. On the other hand, Morace said communicating Girl Friday’s political message takes priority over showcasing the skill sets of its members.

Some of the band’s songs in “Tiny Hats” include commentaries on the unhealthy dynamics in relationships between men and women using a lighthearted, pop-inspired sound, said Ellen.

“(The EP is) very political with a slice of sweetness,” Hsieh said. “It’s like biting into a cake and realizing there’s a huge pepper in the middle of it.”

“12 Hour Turnaround” depicts an emotionally attached man in a relationship with a woman who doesn’t care about him, and only uses him for sex. The song is meant to overturn the trope of women as clingy or dependent on men.

Ellen said the band will continue to make music about political topics in its music as it battles to prove its musical credibility in a male-dominated music world. In the future, the group will also explore topics such as depression and privilege from a female perspective, she said.

“We’re living in a turbulent time, but as artists and musicians have done for decades, the way you reflect what’s going on is by talking about your own personal experiences,” said Ellen.

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