“Cut holes in all your knickers girls” is most definitely my defining quote of my time interviewing at Brisbane’s BIGSOUND and it’s all thanks to Cosima Jaala and Loretta Wilde. Two parts of the recently classified ‘weirdest band in Melbourne’ Mangelwurzel, as well as offshoot JAALA, Cosi and Loretta have been the subjects of songs and drawn vocal comparisons to Mike Patton, Gwen Stefani (for some reason) and “Iggy pop but crossed with a baby who smokes cigarettes”. But beyond the weirdness is a band that is incredibly serious, incredibly passionate about what they do, and incredibly easy to connect with both on a musical and personal level. We spent more than 10 minutes of our 25 minute interview sipping beer, idly chatting and trying to stay on track. It took a while to actually get into the interview and then, when we wrapped up the formalities, we went hunting together for the free fried chicken we’d been hearing about.
What do you guys find so rewarding about being musicians? What do you get out of performing?
Loretta: Therapy. It’s kind of about self fulfillment in a way, a lot of people regardless of their art form whether it’s visual or musical if they don’t do it they go crazy. If I’m not doing it I go crazy so it’s like regardless of wanting to make it or any of those sort of interests I just have to do it or I’ll feel really depressed.
Cosima: I totally agree with Loretta, I think something else that I’ve started to discover is that once you start to share it you realise that it’s not even about your therapy anymore, it becomes therapy for other people as well. They’re going to take good, positive things out of it. It’s really cool, it’s like a therapy circle where you’re trying to help yourself and others, or even just encouraging others to be more out there and expressive and creative.
So do you ever have any doubt in sharing that kind of stuff, because it’s a therapy for yourself?
Cosima: Oh fuck yeah.
Loretta: Definitely, it’s kind of hard especially because the whole review process as well sometimes can be incredibly brutal and I don’t know anybody who doesn’t trawl the internet for their own reviews no matter what status they are. Everybody is personally affected by somebody else saying their song is shit or their song has no meaning. You have to really harden up to not let it get you down and make you want to stop.
Cosima: Even performance reviews as well. I find performing solo, especially in the beginning, it felt like the most fucking unnatural, most horrific thing to do to yourself. To perform onstage you’re quite exposed and it takes a lot of guts but if you can just force yourself to keep at it, even if you feel uncomfortable, then you get stronger.
Kim Gordon says something about that actually in her book Girl In A Band “Unlike, say a writer or a painter, when you’re onstage you can’t hide from other people, or from yourself either.”
Loretta: That’s it and you become you own product and it’s a bit of an uncomfortable thing where all these people who are essentially introverted have to be their own product and spruik themselves and that’s uncomfortable to do. It’s a weird thing that makes you almost want to have an alter ego or persona that does that stuff or a doppelganger who just takes credit for everything.
Or you could be like Slipknot and wear the masks, then no one even knows if it’s you…
Cosima: Or just put your voice through enough reverb and Tame Impala vocoder that shit and no one even hears what you’re saying anyway.
Loretta: It goes both ways, it can be terrifying and shit if you’re having a bad night but if you’re having a good night, like sometimes I’ll look around and see little metal teenagers headbanging and that just makes my day.
You guys get a really different mix of people in your crowds because your music resonates with so many different genres…
Cosima: Well we’re also in a different band JAALA and were noticing even that gets a different kind of crowd and that’s interesting. It’s like it doesn’t matter what the music is doesn’t matter who comes, it’s just about having the experience that you have with those people.
Were you the ones that started JAALA?
Cosima: Yeah we started that project last year and it was basically that we were going through the same thing. We had just broken up from relationships and were both going inwards. Did a lot of lying in bed for a while but then I just started writing a whole bunch of songs that just weren’t Mangelwurzel, there was just something else to them and I thought well why not just make another band for these songs.
So because Banshee has a focus on gender in the music community I like to ask if people in the industry see if people are judged based on their gender? Is that something you think exists in the industry?
Loretta: Definitely, but there’s good people and there’s bad in any industry. There’s sexism in any industry. Some people are really shit and I’ve had some pretty awful comments before or just being totally disregarded by somebody on the basis of my gender but then at the same time there’s been some incredible men who just don’t care about that. It has to come from both sides, women have to be supportive of each other and sometimes women can be quite bad in that regard.
But I’m finding that it’s changing a lot and it is essentially up to everybody and part of it is representation. You look at any top 100 from Triple J or any of the majors and there might be one chick in there and that’s always been that way. It’s surprising that hasn’t changed and it just causes a thing where women don’t feel as comfortable with getting up and doing music because it’s not what they see.
Cosima: That was definitely a big thing for me because I just couldn’t get it into my head that I could even do it because I saw it as ‘that’s what the guys do’.
Loretta: Yeah I never thought I’d be doing this when I was younger. I thought it was something that guys did because I experienced a lot of sexism in the early days. Dickhead guys who wouldn’t let me play or they’d put my band before some other band that was totally shit and I’d be watching them and I would have this frustration and anger in me like ‘I’ve worked really hard and I’m a better player than you and nobody will let me play and if they do I’ll be first because I’m a woman and they don’t think anybody wants to see that’.
Cosima: I think the more women who do this the more other women will see that and will realise it’s cool to do it. There won’t be a problem, they’ll be able to just play music as they want.
It’s like the more women and queers get involved the more they will be seen and it will become acknowledged that this is just how the world works; we’ve got heaps of different voices who all should be heard and who all deserve to be here.
Loretta: Exactly, and female musicians don’t have to be eye candy or sexy – like there will be a woman onstage and the dialogue of the crowd will be ‘oh she’s not that hot for a musician’ and it’s like ‘what is wrong with you? Like leave her alone!’
Cosima: And everyone that’s in Mangelwurzel, when they tell people they’re in a band and get the response ‘oh you must be the singer’ like that’s all girls are in music.
Loretta: One time as a group of us girls with our male drummer, we were all carrying our stuff on the train in Perth back to the house we were staying at and these girls on the train asked if we were all groupies helping him carry his stuff.
Yeah, he plays all of these instruments!
Loretta: Yeah we though it was ridiculous, but they just assumed because that’s just what they see and they just assume that we couldn’t possibly be in a band.
It must be infuriating to hear that stuff but I guess you’ve got to recognise it’s almost like a lack of education.
Cosima: Just gotta be like ‘I’m a woman hear me roar!’ or we’ll cut holes in all your knickers girls.
Wes: It’s still difficult because I remember when I first saw Mangelwurzel, I remembered I thought you were amazing because of the music but there was still that voice that was like ‘wow and they’re all women’ and you have stop and go ‘no that doesn’t matter.’
Loretta: I think it’s changing, people are getting past that idea that an all women band is seen as gimmicky. Nowadays, if people can just see you for your talent rather than ‘she’s good for a girl’ that’s when you know something is changing. I’ve had that before as well the ‘you play good for a girl’ or ‘you play like a dude’ and I know they’re meaning to be polite, I know they’re not trying to insult me and it’s just what they think is a reasonable compliment so it’s tricky.
Mangelwurzel are launching their single ‘Fishy Fry’ this Friday at The Gasometer.