A topic that isn't really broached in the music scene is the representation of women and non-binary individual performers in the music scene. SLC itself has become its own kind of melting pot for genres and performers, and while different aspects of the culture seem to be represented, it's far from a perfect blend as the majority of musicians are men. So imagine the aspect ration when you get outside of our county and find it's almost entirely male dominated. That kind of environment can quickly become exclusive and toxic, leaving many to wonder if they have a place at all. In Provo, a movement has been started to not only inform but change the course of how women and non-binary people are treated in the scene, going under the name The Medusa Collective. Today we briefly chat with several individuals involved with the group about its formation and what they hope to achieve. (All pictures courtesy of the Collective.
The Medusa Collective
Gavin: Hey everyone, first thing, please introduce yourselves and tell us a little about each of you.
I started writing music a few years ago, but only started performing and sharing it in the last year and a half. I've been really influenced by badass female singer-songwriters, and once I started being involved in music in Provo, I noticed that there were far more male musicians than non-male musicians. In general, the Provo music scene has been very inviting, and I've become good friends with many musicians with similar feminist beliefs. I write music and play in a band called Violettas
with Stephen Cope, Jacob Hall, and Stuart Wheeler, and also play bass in Officer Jenny.
I started writing shitty songs in high school and ended up fucking up and studying music in college. I worked at Muse for a few years running sound for shows and I ran the studio for a few months, and that’s where I got involved with the Provo music community. That’s where I started performing as Officer Jenny, too, my shitty pop project. I’m really into Elliott Smith and Of Montreal, so it just sounds like a mix of those bands but worse. I started Studio Studio
Dada for musicians who want to produce their own records but don’t have the technical skills or gear to do so, sort of a DIY space and I guess I convinced people that I know what I’m doing, which was a good prank.
One of my biggest dreams as a kid was to play guitar and be part of a cool band. I learned to play at 13 and discovered my voice at 15. I never did much outside my room until a friend introduced me to the Provo music scene and I immediately fell into place. I started a solo project Bravo, just me and my guitar but got sick of it. Along the way I met the most talented and beautiful people in Provo, we became great friends, and I was encouraged to learn to play bass guitar and am now currently the bassist for Batty Blue! My next step is to create an all femme (women and/or non-binary) loud, badass punk band in Provo and encourage others to also show themselves off, in the same way!!! Provo punk is undead!
I’m the front person of Batty Blue and just recently came out as non-binary. I started writing lyrics when I was about 13 after taking a poetry class and decided that songwriting was something I really connected with and wanted to do. My accordionist, Jess Perry, and I started playing together shortly after. A lot of people in the Provo music scene have been warm and inviting. But I definitely noticed there wasn’t a lot of space given to female musicians, and even less space is given to non-binary and trans people, in general.
Gavin: What became the initial driving force to make the group a reality, and who did you first ask to join it when you were putting it together?
Elizabeth and I had discussed a feminist collective casually a while back, and Stephen wanted to start free audio classes for women and non-binary people interested in music production, and we all sort of just banded together over crepes one night and decided that things needed to change and that we could really make things better. We’re all in bands together, and we started by inviting people we know, other female and non-binary friends involved in anti-oppression activism. We have so many talented friends who are artists, musicians, designers, writers, photographers, and filmmakers, and we’re really excited to get more people involved!
Gavin: For those who may not be aware, what is the current representation of women and LGBT musicians in the Provo music scene?
Considering that a lot of queer people in Provo are closeted because of the generally queer-antagonistic Mormon culture, representation of queer folks in the music scene is sort of hard to gauge. As for women and non-binary folks, we went through the 2014 calendar of a prominent local music venue and found that there was about a 4:1 ratio of male-fronted to female-fronted acts represented. As for non-binary folks, Officer Jenny was the only non-binary-fronted act to perform there in 2014 that we’re aware of. Since starting this collective, other non-binary musicians have approached us and expressed that they've wanted to be involved in the music scene but haven’t felt comfortable with the largely cis male-dominated scene.
Gavin: What kind of an impact have you had on the scene so far?
I think the biggest thing that’s happened so far is getting people to talk about gender representation, now it’s on the table. But I also think a lot of people have gotten excited about it, and it’s created this community in which women and non-binary people can safely interact, where we won’t get talked over or dismissed. Because of that there’s a lot of space for people to create, and I think it’s really important to have that kind of space.
Gavin: What kind of changes are you hoping to enact within the music community, both in Provo and Utah County as a whole?
We want to create an environment in which female and non-binary musicians, producers, engineers, managers, venue owners, etc. can exist and produce music independent of patriarchal capitalism. That means women/nb folks making bands together, recording and producing each others’ albums, booking shows at women/nb-owned venues, managing each others’ bands. At this point, any music created has to pass through men’s hands, and we want to subvert that. We also want to create a safe space for all marginalized and oppressed people by building a community that doesn't tolerate racism, ableism, misogyny, rape, trans-antagonism, queer-antagonism, or any other form of oppression.
Gavin: For those who want to take part, what do they need to do?
Spread the word, make art and share it with us, demand a space in your artistic community. Talk to us or contact us! We want to have a safe and welcoming environment, so if you have any questions or input please let us know. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
, and find us on Facebook
Gavin: What can we expect from the group over the rest of the year?
We hope to start a zine, book concerts, promote female and non-binary musicians, and we'll be holding free audio workshops every Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Studio Studio Dada. Overall we hope to create a safe space where marginalized people can come together and create music and art.