Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl

A certain kind of exhaustion sets in from having to constantly explain and justify one’s existence or participation in an artistic or creative realm. What a privilege it must be to never have to answer the question "How does it feel to be a woman playing music?" or "Why did you choose to be in an all-female band?" The people who get there early have to work the hardest.

As a woman I was taught to always be hungry...We could eat just about anything / We might even eat your hate up like love."
To me, that perfectly summed up being a young girl. It was the first time someone put into words my sense of alienation, the feeling that all these institutions and stories we'd been taught to hold as sacred often had very little to do with my own lived experiences.

Entitlement is a precarious place from which to create or perform—it projects the idea that you have nothing to prove, nothing to claim, nothing to show but self-satisfaction, a smug boredom. It breeds ambivalence. It’s as if instead of having to prove they are something, these musicians prove they aren’t anything. It’s an inverted dynamic, one that sets performers up to fail, but also gives them a false sense of having already arrived. I don’t understand how someone would not push, challenge, or at least be present, how anyone could get onstage and not give everything.

Eventually, I started to cringe at the elitism that was often paired with punk and the like. A movement that professed inclusiveness seemed to actually be highly exclusive, as alienating and ungraspable as many of the clubs and institutions that drove us to the fringes in the first place. One set of rules had simply been replaced by new ones, and they were just as difficult to follow.

How else could we identify another weirdo or outlier? These symbols intimated a belief system, a way of thinking not just about music but about school and friends and politics and society. It was also a way to separate yourself, to feel bold or try on boldness without yet possessing it. A little inkling of the nonconformist person you could be—you wanted to be—but weren’t quite ready to commit to. I papered my walls with band posters and what little I could find in mainstream magazines about alternative and punk, maybe a picture of Babes in Toyland from Spin or Fugazi from Option. The iconoclast images and iconography covered my room, a jarring contrast to the preppy blue-and-white-striped wallpaper I’d insisted on in elementary school. I resented the parts of myself that were late to adopt coolness, late to learn—I wanted to have always possessed a savviness and sophistication, even though I clearly had neither.

If we measured our affection toward others by how many nicknames we bestow upon them, our pets would be the most loved. Here's the etymological journey for the nicknames I have for Tobey: Tobito, Toblerone. T-Bone. T-bonics. Ta-T. Ta-Tobes. Tubby, for when he's gotten into the trash and gorged himself. Nicknames with origins based on appearance: Bearded Yum Yum, Handsome McHandsome, Fuzzy Face. Then this strange progression: Pooch. Poochers. Poocharoo. Poochacho. Pachune. Then, somehow, Pooch turned into Mooch, and so there had to be Moocharo. Muchacho. Manu, and most recently Man-nu-nu. All these monikers I say in voices more commonly echoed from the confines of straightjackets and padded walls. Anyone we truly love should come with their own dictionary.

I never want to contribute to the corrosiveness of wanting someone to stay hidden.

In these cases, fandom is contextual and experiential: it’s not that it happened, it’s that you were there.

I still see music as an act of defiance as much as it is an act of celebration.

I thought, These people are so cool and so not funny. I knew not to kid around or make some crass, sarcastic comment because, well, these people will fuck you up. Heavens to Betsy came across as the most serious of their peers. You stood up, you listened, and you were quiet. They were like really loud librarians. And as the audience, you better shut the hell up because you’re in the library of rock right now.

It’s easy to feel sated when all you’re asking for in life is food, water, and some gentle petting.

It’s hard to express how profound it is to have your experience broadcast back to you for the first time, how shocking it feels to be acknowledged, as if your own sense of realness had only existed before as a concept.

It's important to undermine yourself and create a level of difficulty so the work doesn't come too easily. The more comfortable you get, the more money you earn, the more successful you are, the harder it is to create situations where you have to prove yourself and make yourself not just want it, but need it. The stakes should always feel high.

It was about knowing you were going to be underestimated by everyone and then punishing them for those very thoughts.

It was not about strength in numbers nor in size. It had nothing to do with volume. It was about surprise. It was about knowing you were going to be underestimated by everyone and then punishing them for those very thoughts.

I was a sprinter—there were no long-term goals,

Musicians, especially those who are women, are often dogged by the assumption that they are singing from a personal perspective. Perhaps it is a carelessness on the audience’s part, or an entrenched cultural assumption that the female experience can merely encompass the known, the domestic, the ordinary. When a woman sings a nonpersonal narrative, listeners and watchers must acknowledge that she’s not performing as herself, and if she’s not performing as herself, then it’s not her who is wooing us, loving us. We don’t get to have her because we don’t know exactly who she is. An audience doesn’t want female distance, they want female openness and accessibility, familiarity that validates femaleness. Persona for a man is equated with power; persona for a woman makes her less of a woman, more distant and unknowable, and thus threatening. When men sing personal songs, they seem sensitive and evolved; when women sing personal songs, they are inviting and vulnerable, or worse, catty and tiresome. Whether Corin was singing from her own perspective or from someone else’s, I never had to ask if she was okay. Her voice was torrential, a force as much as it was human.

my best friend tell me that to her the concert wasn’t about the band—it was about us, it was about the fact that we were there together, that the music itself was secondary to our world, merely something that colored it, spoke to it. That’s why all those records from high school sound so good. It’s not that the songs were better—it’s that we were listening to them with our friends, drunk for the first time on liqueurs, touching sweaty palms, staring for hours at a poster on the wall, not grossed out by carpet or dirt or crumpled, oily bedsheets. These songs and albums were the best ones because of how huge adolescence felt then, and how nostalgia recasts it now.

My favorite kind of musical experience is to feel afterward that your heart is filled up and transformed, like it is pumping a whole new kind of blood into your veins.

My favorite kind of musical experience is to feel afterward that your heart is filled up and transformed, like it is pumping a whole new kind of blood into your veins. This is what it is to be a fan: curious, open, desiring for connection, to feel like art has chosen you, claimed you as its witness.

Nostalgia is recall without the criticism of the present day, all the good parts, memory without the pain.

Nostalgia is recall without the criticism of the present day, all the good parts, memory without the pain. Finally, nostalgia asks so little of us, just to be noticed and revisited;

She’s high,” my dad said to my mother, laughing. And I was. It was a moment I’ll never forget, a total elation that momentarily erased any outline of darkness. There was light everywhere I looked.

That’s why all those records from high school sound so good. It’s not that the songs were better—it’s that we were listening to them with our friends, drunk for the first time on liqueurs, touching sweaty palms, staring for hours at a poster on the wall, not grossed out by carpet or dirt or crumpled, oily bedsheets. These songs and albums were the best ones because of how huge adolescence felt then, and how nostalgia recasts it now.

There is something freeing in seeing yourself in a new context. People have no preconceived notion of who you are, and there is relief in knowing that you can re-create yourself.

To become a fan of something, to open and change, is a move of deliberate optimism, curiosity, and enthusiasm.

To this day, because I know no other way of being or feeling, I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman in a band—I have nothing else to compare it to. But I will say that I doubt in the history of rock journalism and writing any man has been asked, “Why are you in an all-male band?” —

We want our parents to be the norm from which we deviate.

We were never trying to deny our femaleness. Instead, we wanted to expand the notion of what it means to be female. The notion of “female” should be so sprawling and complex that it becomes divorced from gender itself. We were considered a female band before we became merely a band; I was a female guitarist and Janet was a female drummer for years before we were simply considered a guitarist and a drummer. I think Sleater-Kinney wanted the privilege of starting from neutral ground, not from a perceived deficit or a linguistic limitation. Anything that isn’t traditional for women apparently requires that we remind people what an anomaly it is, even when it becomes less and less of an anomaly.

Yet I felt it was unfair to be labeled when I had yet to find a label for myself, and when binary, fixed identities held no meaning or safety for me.