“Girls invented punk rock, not England,” reads one of Sonic Youth co-leader Kim Gordon’s famous feminist shirts. While Gordon wasn’t in an all-female act herself, she knew the importance of them: bands made up entirely of women may feel like a rarity now, but more pop up every day and others are still going after all these years.
Because Girl Group Week is by no means limited to pop groups, here are 20 all-female bands that you need to know right now:
The worst thing that can happen to a band is for the members to fail to find a rhythm, losing the race before leaving the gate. Girlpool are the polar opposite of this: the Philly-via-Los Angeles duo is made up of two best friends, bassist Harmony Tividad and guitarist Cleo Tucker. Together, they craft heartbreakingly honest tunes that recall the candidness of early Liz Phair.
Another dream duo! Honeyblood is a Scottish indiepop-punk hybrid steered by guitarist Stina Tweeddale and drummer Shona McVicar. Their distorted sound carries like a Best Coast jam without the sweet, California sentiment. In the single “Super Rat,” Tweeddale sings, “I will hate you forever / Scumbag sleaze / Slime-bag beast / You really do disgust me,” about a unnamed partner who wronged a friend. These girls are out for blood.
Ex Hex is the brainchild of frontwoman Mary Timony, of Helium and Wild Flag fame; the latter can be considered a supergroup, and a lot of their power is driven by Timony. In Ex Hex, she’s in control, powering through complicated solos that would silence even the most adamant misogynist.
There’s something in the water in Philadelphia: Amanda X are leaders in their scene, writing songs that marry a certain post-punk thrash with power pop harmonies. The ladies of the trio are fresh off the road with the legendary Scottish band the Vaselines and navigating an upward trajectory.
Brighton, England cassette label Tuff Enuff Records is dedicated to releasing material by queer, riot grrrl and DIY acts, making their tapes diverse and progressive — which is what punk is all about, right? Frau, a vicious group from London, are one of their stars. There’s a pretty powerful political element to all of what they do, and also a certain massiveness; if you’re a Bikini Kill fan, dive into this group ASAP.
Sleater-Kinney existed from 1994 to 2006 and reuniting last year at a time when their decisive feminism is necessary. Not only are they one of the most important all-female bands of the last two decades, they are one of the most important rock bands of all time, validating ideas that the personal is political is power.
The glory days of massive tom thwacks and talkative garage riffs are back, and have been embraced by Atlanta trio the Coathangers. These ladies don’t rely on their harmonies as much as they contort them into heavy rock spaces, in songs with titles like “Adderall” and “Shut the Fuck Up.”
When’s the last time one of your favorite bands went to prison in the name of their country? Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot have since located to the United States, releasing tracks applicable to the current American political situation. Last month, it was in the form of “I Can’t Breathe,” dedicated to Eric Garner.
Every once in a while an actor will try their hand at music; tt’s not always the best result, but actress/model Rachel Trachtenburg has proven herself worthy as the drummer of Prettiots. Tracks like “Boys (I Dated In Highschool)” are witty and fun, an adorable blend of music made for girls by girls.
Sharkmuffin are one of the more popular garage punk bands in the Brooklyn music scene, and essential listening for fans of Screaming Females. There’s a certain ’90s feel to the music they make, driven by demanding but never desperate hollers.
Like Sharkmuffin, Advaeta is another all-female act making the rounds in New York City; unlike Sharkmuffin, their sound is distorted and romantic, noisy riffage that manages to weave itself into blanket sounds. They also play with harmony in a way that feels girl group-y in a very rock and roll way, the final result being a relaxing shoegaze soundscape.
Skinny Girl Diet
London’s Skinny Girl Diet knew what they were doing when they chose a moniker that, on the surface, could be read as sexist: they were taking it back. By naming themselves after impossible beauty standards forced on women everyday, they’re commenting on it. Their music does the same thing. It’s not sweet. They snarl. They’re a better band because of it.
Cayetana are another power-punk band from Philly, one that leans head first into abrasive punk-pop territory. For fans of the Warped Tour and college radio rock, their unique brand of indie lives in many genres by assigns itself to none.
The band name isn’t the only bizarre thing about this Japanese duo — this list is pretty punk heavy, they’re all about electronics. Trippple Nippples sound like Shonen Knife filtered through a video game as dictated by Gwen Stefani in her “B-A-N-A-N-A-S” daze.
Dum Dum Girls
Take what could be read as ephemeral bubblegum pop and give it a backbone, a leather jacket and a knife. So goes the legacy of Dum Dum Girls, a Sub Pop signee and one of New York’s most successful all-female acts of the 2010’s.
There are many secrets to writing a good surf pop-rock song, and one of them is possessing a percussion section you can rely on. The Wharves (whose members are Ireland, England and France) might not have the waves, but they have the drummer, as well as music that’s uncomplicated and deeply memorable.
Slum of Legs are also on Brighton’s Tuff Enuff Records, and one of their most fun tracks is titled “Sasha Fierce” (yes, after that Sasha Fierce). While it’s super distorted it’s still fun — rawness can be attractive, too!
Childbirth caught the Internet’s attention with their delightful “I Only Fucked You As a Joke” single early last year. It objectifies men as it mocks them in a pseudo-misandrist manner, singer Julia Shapiro screaming, “I hope I’m not pregnant!” It’s a must-hear.
Childbirth’s Julia Shapiro is also a member of Chastity Belt (see a theme here?), and her ability to play with, mock and celebrate sexuality is her power. “James Dean” is especially noteworthy and goes a bit deeper than Taylor Swift’s “Style”: “Oh boy, when I fuck you, you make me feel like a prostitute/ yeah, when you fuck me, I make you feel just like James Dean.”
Fronted by Ali Koehler of Vivian Girls and Best Coast fame and joined by drummer Patty Schemel previously of Hole, Upset takes punk-pop to new, dizzying levels. Their songs sound like Koehler’s previous bands with a power-pop edge: they’re sweet tunes, and catchy as hell.