The alternative music scene has so much more to offer than just white men
In the wake of increased media attention around the Black Lives Matter movement following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the police, there has been a sudden outpour of media outlets showing newfound support for Black and Brown creatives in the industries. The same outlets feigning ignorance when questioned on why it took a movement to start spotlighting the talent of People of Colour (PoC) in creative fields in the first place.
The alternative music scene has its roots in rock and roll, and if Elvis is accredited as “the father of rock and roll”, then tell me why it predates him? Starting with Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a black woman, in the late 1930s. The genre has shifted and warped to become predominantly associated with white men, but the problem never has and never will be a lack of PoC nor women in the genre – that’s an excuse. The issue lies in the unequal weighting and merit given to these artists and musicians vs their white and male counterparts.
I wrestled back and forth with the idea of creating an article dedicated entirely to Women of Colour (WoC) in alternative music, because I know first-hand the frustrations of being tokenised for your skin colour. However, representation is pivotal. And it is now more important than ever to amplify the voices of WoC until the playing field is level. It’s a fine line to cross if you’re giving attention to certain bands or artists purely because the colour of their skin feels relevant to the current climate, and so I want to make it very clear from the start that this isn’t a list of bands you should check out just for now, give a few streams to, and then forget about when you feel like you’ve capped an adequate amount of support. This list is to highlight that there is more out there, and give exposure to a wider variety of bands to support not just now, or when it feels ‘relevant’, but because if you’re a fan of good alternative music, then why not always?
It has to be said that there are still many more bands out there, but here is a list of just a few extremely talented hardcore, metal, punk, and grunge bands with front women / non-binary people of colour who deserve your attention; don’t ever let them tell you we don’t exist in the scene again.
Sonic Boom Six
Kicking this off with one of the bands that hits closest to home for me. I remember turning on Kerrang! TV as a kid and being shocked to see Laila Khan, a brown woman, on stage, with an alternative band, that she was not only part of but was lead vocals for! Sonic Boom Six are an eclectic five-piece from Manchester culminating elements of ska, pop, punk, and grime to make for a unique hybrid sound. The punk lyricism adds an activist punch to their upbeat melodies.
If there’s one band I’m excited to see more of this year, it’s Nova Twins. After the release of their hard-hitting debut album ‘Who Are The Girls?’ back in February this year, the South-London duo continues on their journey to world domination having recently signed to 333 Wreckords, headed up by the Jason Aalon Butler of rap punk band Fever 333. Nova Twins are an exceptional blend of punk and grime, intertwined with an intense distorted bass giving their music a distinctive sound, and making their live performances something to behold.
Self-described ‘dark and noisy art-punk’ band, The Tissues take inspiration from the likes of Siouxsie and the Banshees and The Stooges with their DIY aesthetic and grunge underpinnings. The vocal style is seductive whilst rebellious, the bass is slinky yet thumping. The Tissues are the perfect concoction of ‘old meets new’.
Any hardcore band with a front woman has an automatic fan in me. Hailing from Portal, Oregon, Hostilities feature a lot of chugging and pit-ready riffs, bringing unmatched raw energy and ferocity to the metal and hardcore scene.
If you look up the definition of ‘powerhouse’ in the dictionary, you’ll find an image of Pleasure Venom. An experimental punk piece from Austin, Texas, lead singer Audrey Campbell is energetic and captivating. It’d be hard to confine the band to just one genre, with their discography jumping between punk rock to garage rock to grungier tones, with the theme of their lyrics mirroring this diversity from racism to sexism.
Meet Me @ The Altar
I’ve mentioned this girl power trio in another recent article, but I’m convinced they’ll become one of the biggest names in the pop punk scene in the near future. They encapsulate the very best of the genre with bouncy energetic melodies and an upbeat attitude – a refreshing break-through in the scene.
Skinny Girl Diet
Skinny Girl Diet chose the name as a direct challenge of societal beauty standards expected of women, and a critique of the dieting industry. Consisting of sisters Delilah and Ursula Holliday, the band is a feminist indie punk band from London with a huge dose of riot grrrl attitude.
SATE is a Toronto-based vocalist integrating soul-shaking vocals with gritty blues rock. I can’t imagine it’s easy to match the intense room-spinning guitar riffs of her band using just her voice, but she does it like a walk in the park.
If Grimes and Turnover had a baby and that baby was given steroids to enhance every aspect of its being, the result would be Yuragi. Shoegaze from Japan, the band is fronted by Mirai Akita with her angelic tones accompanying a cloud of dreamy guitar distortion, resulting in an enchanting whirlwind of airy melodies.
Big Joanie are a feminist indie-punk trio out of London personifying black womanhood, with the name of the band as an ode to lead singer Steph Phillips’ mum and her Jamaican roots. As well consolidating the message of sisterhood and solidarity through their music, the members are involved in communitarian activities outside of the band to help amplify Black and Brown voices in music, such as running ‘Decolonise Fest’ – a festival for punks of colour.
The Anxiety are a collaborative project formed of Willow Smith and Tyler Cole, who recently promoted the release of their debut self-titled album with a performance art stunt in a Los Angeles museum earlier in the year, where they acted out the emotional spectrum of the human mind from within the confines of a glass box. Their music is a sonic embodiment of this, ranging from paranoia to angst with strong punk roots.
White Moms are an Indianapolis-based indie Afro-punk band with elements of dreamy show gaze. Truly genre-bending, their music is both riotous and calming, with the male and female vocals harmoniously playing off each other as if in conversation.
Formed in 2017 as a blues punk outfit, The 1865 derive their name from the era they portray. The band writes their music from the perspective of a newly-emancipated slave in 1865 America, which makes for bitterly truthful lyrics on topics such as lynchings and dehumanisation, juxtaposed with catchy melodies. Their music serves as a necessary constant reminder of the past in contemporary times.
I’m a big fan of the unapologetically feminist indie-punk trio that is The Tuts, who aren’t afraid to draw on the unique combination of their Caribbean, Indian/Pakistani, and English origins to create political and infectious music that pulls on the very essence of DIY. Whilst your favourite band might be afraid of directly calling out politicians, The Tuts aren’t. Wittily singing about sexism and feminism over high-energy drums and poppy guitar melodies, these girls put on one hell of a live show.
Foxtails are a self-described ‘math influenced screamo trio’ from Conneticut, with Latinx Megan Cadena-Fernandez fronting the three-piece. Their music borders remnants of emo with melodic math rock, featuring stand out fretboard work on the guitars and a combination of harmonious breathy vocals and screams.
The Txlips Band
The indie grunge rock collective is a dynamic group of diverse Black women whose mission it is to challenge the boundaries set for women in the music industry, as well as to inspire girls and women worldwide to be an unstoppable force.
With the band’s name meaning ‘ugly’ in Spanish, they immediately reclaim the standards women are held to, turning a negative into a positive. The San Antonio-based Latinx feminist punk group embodies unapologetic punk freedom and playful ferocity, acting as trailblazers in maintaining the riot grrrl spirit in the current age.
The Muslims are an all-queer Black and Brown punk band taking inspiration from classic punk with afropunk roots, using music as a means of challenging white supremacy. Their latest release, ‘Gentrified Chicken’ is a confrontational testament to this, with purposeful lyrics designed to make you think about racial injustices, regardless of how uncomfortable that is. As the band themselves claims of their music: this is not a safe space.
The hard-hitting British quartet, headed by frontwoman Skin, are a dominant force in the metal scene. Born radical and remaining that way, they describe themselves as fusing heavy metal and Black feminist rage with politically-charged narratives over attention-grabbing guitar riffs.
Straight Line Stitch
Straight Line Stitch are a heavy metal band from Tennessee with lead singer Alexis Brown front and centre. Their sound is undeniably hard rock tinged with metal, packing a punch with aggressive chords and punishing screams. Brown also showcases the diversity of her range with assertive clean vocals throughout.
Behind the curtain of one-woman band Oceanator is Elise Okusami, channeling her introspective lyricism into grunge post-rock melodies with the occasional danceable synth accompaniments. Oceanator’s music is sleek and highlights the stylistic range of her talent.
KULA are a progressive soul-grunge band with Liz Jeanette on the vocals. Their music is a rare mixture of indie afro-punk psychedelia that seems to perfectly capture the feel-good nostalgia of a warm summer’s evening as the sun starts to set.
Pioneers and front-runners of the girl-band-meets-metal genre, Babymetal have taken the world by storm from inception with their choreographed live performances, overlaying heavy metal instrumentals with seemingly paradoxical kawaii dance moves. The Japanese duo consists of Su-metal on vocals and Moa Kikuchi on screams.
Voice of Baceprot
It wouldn’t be right to end this list without a special shout out to this three-piece Indonesian metal band, formed in 2014 as school girls and continuously breaking every glass ceiling ever by creating neck-snapping metal whilst simultaneously challenging traditional stereotypes around women and religion in heavier music by doing all of this in Hijabs. The band brings a breath of fresh air to metal with political lyrics encased in heavy drums.
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