“Feminism and the riot grrrl movement have set the stage and created a context for women playing music today, but these labels are redundant and have lost their potency in a modern context,” said Hannah Lew of Grass Widow.
Except for M’Lady’s Records, that is. The Brooklyn-based label takes an ambitious approach to call attention to an exclusive group that includes a mix of well-known and under-the-radar female musicians, providing music to “discerning harlequins the world over.”
Started in 2007, the distributor of punk, healing and easy listening, beep ‘n’ wave, and “real talk” genres lets the artists decide, well, everything. It’s a concept foreign to many labels. The signing away of creativity and voice enables M’Lady to wail to the heaviest of punk enthusiasts.
The artists on M’Lady’s Records often are signed to larger separate labels, namely Juliana Barwick, who is officially signed to Asthmatic Kitty, yet recently recorded with M’Lady. Overlapping interests bleed into what could be the single greatest source for female punk enthusiasts looking for a little scream—take, for example, the M’Lady’s Records-signed band Talk Normal—to remedy the mundane on a typical day.
Talk Normal live at Upset the Rhythm
Labelmates Brute Heart, which has touches of world music (Middle Eastern and Indian music influence abound), is deeply imaginative and thoroughly pure and coasting, with lithesome lyrics that swoon nearly any jaded heart and contribute to the polarity that somehow has cohesion.
Also included in M’Lady’s Records line up is Coasting, the lo-fi duo with appassionato and gusto. Composed of guitarist Madison Farmer and drummer Fiona Campbell, the New Zealand-based pair incorporate both the pep of a glockenspiel with a fuzzed overtone of a classic atmospheric guitar riff that has a Built to Spill feel to it.
Opposite are the descant sounds of additional labelmate Grass Widow’s vocals. With impulsivity, intuition and heavy influences from The Kinks and Neo Boys, Lew and Raven Mahon (former members of Shitstorm) joined Lillian Maring and to create the band. With vocals piling on each other, each line suggesting a new context for the song, the wildly talented San Francisco-based trio brings to the punk scene these perplexing and disjointed guitar patterns and delayed harmonies that rise and fall like tonal tidal waves hitting a furious shore.
“We have a pretty wide range of influence as a band. For our song-writing, we’re generally influenced and inspired by each other, but, we listen to everything from classical to Rank Xerox on tour,” Mahon said.
The band’s sound rises between listeners’ ears and before listeners’ eyes, plucking at their heart strings. Grass Widow is devoted to M’Lady Records, even playing an unofficial and impromptu M’Lady’s debut show at this year’s CMJ Festival.
“Advice” by Grass Widow
All of the artists’ acute details make a profound sound and a sense of purpose, especially on the several split albums between the bands that collide sounds with wicked fervor and reckless abandon. This is often mistaken in simple terms as “angry chick music,” but Lew sees it as one of the many forms of feminist expression.
“I don’t think there is a limit to the ways that femininity can be expressed, and I would hope that we could be part of a system that enabled other women to be confident with their individuality, [to] have the balls to display strength and integrity,” Lew said. “Forging new ground and creating ways to include women in the audience is an ongoing challenge, so I guess we just have to maintain a modern outlook and be ready for the future.”
Take a cue from the ladies that put down the tambourine to prove fervor and angst can call attention to even the most pretentious screamers on the scene.