BY NICK G-K
If you’ve ventured out in London recently chances are you’ve been to a night curated by the ubiquitous Georgia Hardy, who surpasses hyperbole in her commitment to underground music. I spoke with her about her work onstage and behind the scenes.
N: Hi. What is it you do?
G: I am a drummer, currently playing for the band Reptunes. I work for Bad Vibrations, and LNZRT who run The Shacklewell Arms, MOTH Club, The Waiting Room, The Lock Tavern and The Montague Arms. I look after The Lock Tavern diary and also run my own promotions company called Spilt Milk. I DJ when I’m not doing the other things.
N: What’s that like?
G: It’s tiring and hard work, but exciting. There’s always new obstacles to face and new bands to discover, which is what keeps you on your toes. Both playing in bands and working behind the scenes means I get the 360° experience and I don’t think I could do one without the other. When I’m putting on a show I want to be on stage and when I’m on stage I want to be running the show.
N: A few years ago someone quite famously removed all male-only acts from the Reading & Leeds poster, to leave just five or six acts. Smaller underground festivals – like the Spilt Milk/Bad Vibes Lock Tavern All-Dayer last month – seem more progressive, with better representation of female artists. Is this a conscious decision, or do you think purely reflective of an engrained problem with larger festivals?
G: It definitely wasn’t a conscious decision to book bands with female members. I’m pretty against that idea. I’m not sure how much I agree with things like ‘Femurary’ in music. While it’s great to celebrate the inclusion of females in music, and definitely important to look back and celebrate those females that were integral to music history, I think making a conscious decision to book female acts runs the risk of segregating us further. It makes it weird, like you’ve had to try really hard to get girls into music. We’ve always been here. It’s time to just treat us like we’re the norm, because we are.
In new bands coming up, it’s not hard at all to think of acts with women in. Sorry, Luxury Death, Nervous Conditions, Thyla, Hobby Club, etc etc… but the difference is I don’t think of them as ‘bands with girls in’. None of these acts sell that idea of “hey we have a female bassist”, and I think that that is the way in which women will be fully treated as equals in Indie music.
Reading & Leeds has always been a macho-phallic festival. Headliners that year were The Libertines and Metallica. Then you’ve got Bring Me The Horizon, Jamie T and Limp Bizkit playing. I mean, it’s hardly reflective of the times on any musical account, so I wouldn’t expect it to be reflective of the times on a socio-political account either. They churn out the same acts every year, so just let it die a slow death on its own accord. I would be interested to see what the representation of females at Glastonbury is. I imagine quite a bit higher, and then Green Man always feels like a really fresh and relevant festival to me, and is starting to become a go-to festival for a lot of people. Progression always comes from the underground and filters into the mainstream, so if females are getting a better rep in festivals like Green Man, Field Day and Visions then there is hope that it will reach the bigger, more established festivals soon.
N: Young people have borne the brunt of austerity politics and increased social inequality. Are problems of representation in music entwined with the bigger picture? Do you think things like Live Nation’s recently announced ReBalance programme will make any difference, or do the causes run deeper than a programme like that could ever reach?
G: Of course problems run deeper than that. The lack of gender equality obviously isn’t just a problem in music. It’s a wider problem of society, but as society as whole accepts women as equals, I have no doubt that music will too. The arts are always forward thinking, and it is great that we are making steps in the right direction. I think a lot of people are bored of seeing five white guys making guitar music – it’s been done since the 50s – but I don’t like the idea of putting female musicians on pedestals simply because they are women. The worst thing someone can say to me when I come off stage is “You’re a really good female drummer”. I’m only compared to other female musicians rather than musicians as a whole. If it’s done right and treated properly then it could be a cool thing, but I don’t want to see the idea of the female musician patronised or treated like a commodity.
N: Is the tide turning or does the underground music scene have a long way to go in equality of representation? Do economic and social conditions seem to drive underground music, or make it more inaccessible?
G: When I see all these brilliant new bands coming through I do feel like the tide is turning, yes, but then I suspect people thought that the tide was more than turning when the Riot Grrrl movement happened. Though I feel like thing are improving, I have and still do experience sexism in the music industry. More so when playing in bands than when behind the scenes, but most of all when DJing. In an ideal world everyone would just grow up and see females as musicians rather than as ‘female musicians’, but until then we will still be here, doing our thing, and waiting for the rest of the world to wake up to the reality that females have been, and will continue to be brilliant artists whether the industry choses to notice it or not.
Images courtesy of Neil McCarty