This is Part Two of our chat with DARTS. Check out Part One over at What Sound.
After discussing the joys of touring with Alpine, the possibility of expanding to a horns section and the exorcising of personal frustrations through music, my interview with DARTS swung into the topic of gender within the music industry. With all the current discussion of a gender imbalance within music, it’s important to hear from people actually working in that environment and who better than a band featuring both women and men.
Do you see an imbalance in how people are presented in music based on their gender?
Paige: Not all music journalists do this, but sometimes I read interviews or gig reviews and they’re always talking about what women are wearing on stage which sometimes bothers me. And it’s not like they’re reviewing Empire of the Sun or Lady Gaga with their crazy outfits, I think in that regard it is really justified because it’s interesting and adds to the story, but when they say stuff like ’they were wearing docs and skinny leg jeans’ or ’t-shirt and jeans’ or ‘a t-shirt dress’ I find that irrelevant and it wouldn’t be done with male musicians. But I think on the whole, not over the top.
Ally: I’d have to agree with that. There’s a lot more interest in the image, the physical image of women rather than men.
Angus: I also think if there’s a band of girls, they’re always referred to as a ‘girl band’ rather than just, you know, ‘a band.’ Just the way it’s talked about there’s a separation between female musicians and just being musicians.
Paige: Sometimes [soundies] will be like ‘Can the guitarist turn down?’ or ‘Can the guitarist do whatever?’ and then ‘Can the FEMALE guitarist do yada yada yada…’ Is that just me being maybe too negative or listening too much?
I don’t think so, I totally agree. I read it all the time in reviews and when I write I try and avoid it because it IS irrelevant.
Paige: If it’s interesting. Maybe if we were wearing meat dresses on stage. [laughs]
So have you ever personally experienced any prejudice that you feel was defined by your gender?
Ally: Nothing that comes to mind. We’ve been lucky enough to be treated pretty well. I have been asked that question ‘Do you wear anything crazy on stage?’ or ‘What’s your fashion sense?’ that sort of thing.
Angus: I never get asked what I’m wearing. But our band manager is also female and she might go tell a sound person something particular like someone might be a bit quieter on the mic or some mixing things and they won’t take that much notice. All of a sudden if I go up and say ‘do this’ it’s a different vibe. I think it’s subtle but I see it now and then.
Jessie: There’s an assumption that you’re not in the band until you’re actually on stage with all your gear and they’re like ‘Oh, she wasn’t just the girlfriend.’
Andrew: We’ve had that a lot.
Paige: Or even other bands that assume we’re all like +1’s. I think it’s not coming from a place of discrimination, it’s just ignorance.
I think it’s evidence of a wider societal problem. What do you think the music industry needs to do to create a positive change, firstly in the industry and also in wider society? And do you feel men have a role in helping to incite this change?
Paige: I think we were talking about this the other day in the car.
Paige: Me and Andrew were driving back from practice and we were talking about this and Andrew was saying how it’s definitely something that needs to start now with young kids, and it would be really hard to change the opinions of really sexist 30 year olds for instance and maybe we should be educating children who are growing up now. That’s what you said.
Paige: I do feel like there’s a lot more visibility around female musicians recently though.
Well, there’s Banshee and Listen and a few other places that are pushing towards that positive change, trying to be part of the solution. And as you pointed out, journalists are a lot of the problem.
Angus: Even our record label, Rice Is Nice, they champion female artists as well. And not the typical, I guess, safe options, bands like Angie have got a grungey thing going on that she puts under the spotlight maybe more so than others. I think things like that definitely help, just giving it visibility.