POSSO on Confronting Industry Sexism: 'It Happens to All of Us'

Isaac Zoller


You can’t see the wind, but you know it’s there by its effects. The same rings true of sexism within the electronic dance music arena. Though there aren’t artists donning “I am sexist!” signage, the ill effects of the marginalization can be felt across multiple facets of the industry, and the lack of female DJ representation at music festivals or imprints is case in point. However, women DJ-producers are indeed paving the way for a future where the focus is decidedly redirected: to solid records produced sans stereotypes.

Marked by a fearless approach to both production and politics, California-based DJ/producer/designer/activist duo POSSO, comprised of Marylouise Pels and Vanessa Giovacchini, stand their ground among the powerful players electronic dance music culture demands (see their newest single "Bad Bitch"). When it comes to making moves in both music and activism, Pels and Giovacchini prove that anything’s POSSO-able -- most recently, with their #WeAreHumanAfterAll Collection, of which a portion of the proceeds will go directly to Planned Parenthood, and newest music video for "Run the World."

When did your label, Get Shook Music, launch, and what do you look for in signing an artist?

Marylouise Pels: We started our label last August because we had a really weird, misogynistic experience at a record label that was going to sign our track. We had a meeting with the head of the label and the entire company, and he asked us about our remix plan for the track. We said we have some ideas and asked why? He replied, “Well, you’re girls, so, ya know, it should be easy for you” … and winked at us. The whole boardroom got so uncomfortable. It was bizarre.

Vanessa Giovacchini: We had discussed building a tour around the release date and they had sent us completed artwork for the single. After our lawyer sent edits on the contract, the label manager just stopped replying to our lawyers and all of our emails. We kept following up. In frustration we were like, “Let’s start our own label,” because we don’t want to be jerked around by these labels that give us the whole spiel that they’re going to support us, then basically stalled our track for two months when we could have released it and moved on to the next.

Pels: We’ve been speaking with a lot of our DJ/producer friends who are women, and it was crazy because a lot of the exact same things have happened to them. They’d go meet with a label and the label says they wanna sign them, but then just jerks them around and nothing happens. We believe this is a big reason why there are a quote “lack of women in the industry” or why women don’t play festivals. They’re not supported by a label that’s putting out their music to build up their fanbase. We actually signed that same song “Tidal Wave” that the label didn’t respond about to a big video game and got to keep all of the licensing money ourselves… joke's on them. What was the next part of the question? What do we look for in an artist?


Giovacchini: For us, we’ve been DJ-ing for almost 10 years, so we have a big network of DJs and producers in cities all over that we’ve been friends with for a long time. So we want to give opportunities to people we know are dope that might not have the resources or connections.

Pels: It’s not just female artists we’re signing, but we do want a focus on women that are having trouble getting heard, you know?

Absolutely! Touching on what you mentioned about starting the label and the basis for it, I saw a recent Facebook post of yours. It was disturbing.

Pels: Oh, so you read it?

Yeah. I read it and thought it was absolutely atrocious what you both have been through. So what helps you to keep positive and not jaded about being in the dance music industry?

Pels: I mean honestly, I’m f---ing jaded. [Laughs] It’s hard enough to have a career as an independent artist, let alone pushing back on all this bullshit. So, we want these women who are coming up to live in world where it’s not so hard to build a career. That’s what’s important to us. Also, watching 13 Reasons Why -- I don’t know if you watch that…

I’m familiar.

Pels: That recently has made me think about how we keep the secrets of these trespasses made by men, yet intrinsically as women we make it our fault… Largely because we don’t have a network of support. We take on that shame and that needs to stop, you know? It’s not helping anyone get ahead in their career. You think in the moment that, “Oh, I’m gonna keep my head down and just go forward,” but it’s actually not helping women as a whole move forward.

Giovacchini: If we don’t share these stories, then when other people experience a misogynistic situation they’re like, “Oh, why is this happening to me and it hasn’t happened to anyone else?” It’s like no, it happens to all of us and we need to start holding people accountable. There’s a time and a place to call someone out.

Pels: But I think a lot of women don’t have the tools because no one talks about it. You don’t go into a meeting like, “No, I expected to be treated like x-y-z.” You don’t feel it at the time because you’re just trying to get in. So, it’s confusing. It stings after the fact. You’re like, “That was completely inappropriate and really annoying. Why does someone have to speak to me that way?”

Wow. As an artist, do you feel you have the responsibility to be vocal?

Giovacchini: Let me put it this way—we look up to artists that see the importance of their art, but I don’t think you can hold the same standard to every artist. Like for me, I’m really interested in Bob Dylan, Lady Gaga, and Madonna; people that have paved their own path and are hated just as much as they are revered.

Pels: They do it in a fuck you way and do their own thing. Then history goes, “Oh, they were great,” but at the time, they had a hard time kind of, right? Because they were pushing boundaries and testing the waters and a lot of people have a negative response to what they do. When Bob Dylan went electric he was booed at every show on his European tour. People weren’t ready for the change but he didn’t care. So, it’s just like, what kind of artist do you want to be? In the EDM space, it’s cool to be a one-dimensional kind of party boy. I think it’s a new industry and I think people are just trying to fit in. We’ve never done that. We’re just not interested in that. We know why we’re here and what we wanna say with our music.

Well, that’s something I definitely admire about you two. You have such strong confidence and that’s necessary in order to get your perspective across and not be held to a certain stereotype within the industry. Kudos to you both!

Giovacchini: Thank you! I think also the reason why we’re confident is because there have been times when we weren’t. We want other artists to know that you can fight to become who you are. No one is born with everything figured out.

Right! The term “feminist” is thrown around so loosely nowadays. From your viewpoint, what does it mean to be a feminist in 2017?

Giovacchini: That’s a great question. I’d like to think that we’re humanists – that women should be treated as humans. There’s a lot of inequality across the board and people are finally starting to hold people accountable.

Pels: Female rights are human rights. You can’t talk about feminism unless you understand the overarching problem, which is white male privilege. For example, if you look at black people getting shot by police or Muslim people being profiled as terrorists—all of these things are part of the “other” problem – it’s not just women. Let’s really start to hold accountable these white men who are in positions of power – Donald Trump is an exact example of someone who is a white man who thinks he can do and say and act however he wants because he can.

Giovacchini: When we first started talking more publicly about feminism, we were like “feminism” is like a bad word almost where you’re like, “Oh God. Angry women.” We’ve been vocal about feminism on social media for years, and post Women’s March it’s actually become trendy to be vocal about being a feminist. Finally.

Pels: Still, our collective silence on things is just creating more of a problem. We need to start holding people and situations accountable when things are wrong.

You both are explaining this very thoroughly. As I mentioned, that term is thrown around so loosely now that what it means has gotten a bit lost in translation.

Pels: Right! We consider ourselves to be intersectional feminists; meaning that you need to have a grasp on what is going on as far as race and class because it’s very much the popular thing for a white woman to be like, “Ya I’m a feminist!” Often times those women are just supporting people from their experience, not trying to lift up everyone. We have our #WeAreHumanAfterAll collection of hats and clothing where a portion of the proceeds go to Planned Parenthood. A big part of women supporting women and women having equality is women should have access to health care and control over their bodies. If we don’t have control over our bodies, we’re not equal. Hands down, that’s the problem.

On a lighter note, I saw what you both were wearing to Samantha Bee’s NOT The White House Correspondents Dinner and I loved it! Did you actually design those outfits? Tell me about your designing background.

Giovacchini: We designed it with our stylist, Samantha Burkhart – she also styles Ke$ha and Sia and is super talented.

Nice! I love, love, love the cape!

Giovacchini: The back of the cape with the Human/Woman graphic is from our #WeareHumanAfterAll collection. The cape I wore to Samantha Bee was the razzle dazzle version of our collection. [Laughs]

I know! I was like, “I’m not going to find that anywhere!” You both looked great. Pertaining to the industry, what’s most exciting about being in dance music right now?

Giovacchini: The music industry right now as a whole is constantly changing so it’s kind of a continual Wild West—which I think is equally frustrating and exciting.

Pels: You can be a 16-year-old kid in your bedroom, download all the software and put up your tracks online. That’s why it’s progressing and changing so fast. There’s so many different things that can happen so quickly. I think platforms like TuneCore are really exciting because for the first time in history you can put your music out on Spotify and iTunes without a label.

Yeah, that’s definitely something that’s a new age thing. Years ago, you had to be signed to a label to actually get heard. So, now it’s different. So, what’s next for you both by way of shows and releases?

Giovacchini: We just released our next track “Bad Bitch” as a Spotify exclusive. We are expanding our clothing line -- our full #WeAreHumanAfterAll collection will be for sale on in August, we will be releasing more music videos and are currently working on some exciting tour dates with someone in the political world that we can’t fully announce yet.

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