One part of the fuzzy blues-rock two piece The Furrs, Gabriella Cohen is creating a stir with her enigmatic set of tracks under her own moniker. Backed by the equally accomplished Kate ‘Babyshakes’ and Bella ‘Lil Squid’, we settled into the morning haze of day two at Brisbane’s BIGSOUND; nursing our lukewarm coffees and talking women in music.
I thought it was a solo thing, you yourself putting all the music down.
Gabriella: I’ve got a band, but I wrote everything.
Is it just a live thing, the band?
Gabriella: Yeah the live thing with the band, but me and Kate recorded the album at her parents’ house for ten days. Kate’s the rock…
Kate: She’s the roll.
Gabriella: She’s my rock in the band, Bella plays drums. Bella’s also becoming a really solid rock.
Bella: It’s like an evolution though because we all live together, and we all moved in together in January and we were like “Oh my god. We’re all girls, we all play music, we jam together. Holy shit this is so cool.” Because Kate and Gabriella both have their side projects, or their main projects as their thing, it kind of evolved that we all just play in each other’s solo stuff. It just worked out that way.
So you’re in The Furrs, why did you decide to do something under your own name?
Gabriella: I’ve always been a solo artist, even before The Furrs, I’ve always had that ambition but it was only once I got my shit together and met Kate [that I] recorded an actual album. I’ll always be doing that. And there’s some songs that don’t actually work for The Furrs.
Kate: I think your solo catalogue of work just got so big it was sort of like you can’t not do this more professionally now.
What is it that attracts you to writing just for yourself rather than writing for The Furrs?
Gabriella: I think it’s more real. Now that The Furrs is, I feel, a brand, I don’t have to cater for it.
Kate: You still write ‘solo’ for The Furrs though, you just share it with The Furrs instead of ‘Gabriella Cohen.’
Gabriella: Yeah totally, but there’s more of an aesthetic with The Furrs that I don’t have to cater for.
You’re a bit more with the solo stuff. I was listening to some of your stuff, it’s quite personal. Why do you like sharing those personal stories?
Gabriella: Do you think it’s personal? That’s really interesting…
Well, I don’t know. I listen to your lyrics and I feel like I can apply them to myself. I feel they’re quite emotive.
Gabriella: I guess it just comes naturally. You only write about what you know.
Do you ever get scared about sharing that? Do you ever doubt whether you should be sharing that?
Gabriella: Sometimes, but then other times you have to be like “fuck it.”
So, Banshee is obviously about women in music. Do you guys see an imbalance in the music industry in regards to gender?
Gabriella: Erryday. Definitely. Yesterday, out of every act I watched I only saw two acts that were female. Mangelwurzel and Pearls. Especially when it comes to producers…
Bella: It’s everything! It’s so everywhere that people just overlook it because it’s so accepted. I almost feel awkward talking about it sometimes because I talk about it so much. It always comes up because it’s always there.
Do you think you get awkward talking about it because society is so ingrained with that patriarchal concept that women come off second?
Kate: I like to use it as a point of difference. It’s a good thing for us because, obviously we’ve lived as women our whole lives, so at least it’s to a point now where, I don’t want to sound brash, but at least it’s a selling point now as opposed to a disability. Because it is ‘vogue’ and it is ‘in’ and it’s getting pretty popular. And the question of “you’re a female in the band, how is it?” never used to be asked and now it is. So that’s at least something.
Bella: I guess it’s like a point where things become trendy that’s usually before they become normalised and and accepted so, there’s that. I guess.
So have you ever had an experience where you’ve felt you’ve been targeted or dismissed because you’re a woman?
Kate: We probably don’t know about it because we were dismissed. [laughs]
Gabriella: In recording, yeah for sure. I’m not going to give details, but.
Names! I want names!
Bella: I remember hanging out backstage and some guy came up and introduced himself to everyone and then turned to me and said “so whose girlfriend are you?” It happens a lot, it hasn’t just happened once. It’s kind of laughable now. I almost like it when the guys hear it because then I can be like “See? It’s real. It’s totally real.”
Kate: Because Gabriella’s album hasn’t been released yet, I haven’t really had an opportunity to talk about being a female producer but I’m sure that’s going to come up.
I personally can’t name any female producers, but I can name a handful of male producers.
Kate: Yeah. So it’s going to be cool I think to be talking about that stuff as well. I really want to focus on making sure that I talk about it as a female because it’s very easy to overcompensate with that stuff and just ‘talk the talk’ which is very much like “yeah yeah, whatever you know we just tracked some shit.”
Bella: There’s definitely a different style and different take…
Kate: Yeah, and I think you can hear it on the record the fact that Gabriella and I co-produced it together. There was no-one stepping in being like “do this.”
Gabriella: We faked it. We faked it ’til we made it.
Kate: Yeah and I think we made it really good. I remember this really liberating moment when Gabriella was tracking this epic guitar solo and she was standing in front of her amp, and it was midnight, and she was getting feedback and distortion and we were just like “fuck, this is amazing” and we just stopped and we were like “hey, that wasn’t so hard. We can make crazy guitar solos if we want to.” That was really cool actually, that was a highlight.
So you guys can obviously see the imbalance, what do you think the industry needs to do or should start doing to change that so that we see more women in music?
Gabriella: I think they already are.
Kate: I definitely feel like it’s happening.
Gabriella: Women are on the rise, people want to know.
Bella: You can see it, all women groups are more popular.
Kate: I guess one thing to do would be to actually be critical listeners and even if they are female that doesn’t mean they’re good. Because if we’re just promoting people because they’re girls then we’re absolutely not doing the right thing. We should be promoting good music and if they’re female that’s not a disadvantage. That’s my biggest fear is this popular female up rise would result in girls playing bad music just because they’re female…
Gabriella: and they look good.
Kate: Yeah. We need to actually be super critical about what we’re saying in our music and what we’re sounding like. Because I would hate the thought of some huge corporate body getting on board with it and then suddenly girls are just a commodity. That’d suck.
Yeah, it could just go straight back to what the original movement was fighting against, what all waves of feminism fight against which is women being objects. It’s like “We’re better than that.”
Kate: I think that is the scariest thing is that tipping point.
Wes: Not so much in the Australian industry, but do you think that already still exists in pop music in the American major label scene?
Gabriella: Yeah! Hilary Duff made a comeback, I saw a filmclip the other day. So bad.
Kate: I guess it’s just that with so many now, like, underground female artists it would be really cool to keep the authenticity there. And it’s up to the individual to stay a good musician.
Gabriella: To keep it real man…
Pop music was always female dominated and it was a huge part of the 2000s, do you think we’re going to shift and it’s going to be more independent artists in the charts?
Gabriella: Courtney Barnett…
Yeah, big example.
Kate: Yeah, huge.
Bella: I think the internet has been a real game changer. There’s no rules anymore. Even this Bigsound thing right now, you can network through people and that’s really important but you can network on the internet and you can get your name out there without the help of any kind of ‘big dogs’ really, you can.
From the comfort of your own bedroom.
Gabriella Cohen’s album ‘Full Closure And No Details’ is set to be released in October.