Is this is your first appearance at a Ladyfest event? Can you tell us why you got involved and who you are looking forward to seeing the most?
Yes. I was invited by Ruth Barnes who presents ‘The Other Woman’ on Resonance FM, amongst other things. Ruth is a really enthusiastic supporter of great music being made by women, so I was really chuffed to be one of her picks for Ladyfest. Catherine A.D. and I are Twitter chums but we’ve never met, so I’ll be watching her, and I’d like to see Madam too. All the acts look interesting. I’m sure I’ll be surprised by a few.
When did you first become aware of the Ladyfest movement? What does it mean to you?
I’ve been aware of it for years. A few people have said I should try to get on the bill, so it was very nice indeed to be invited. I’m happy to see such a diverse range of female artists playing.
What would you say to someone who argued that Ladyfest is irrelevant these days?
I don’t know. I suppose you have to have experience of that particular prejudice to see why it’s still worth talking about. I’ve had many people assume I didn’t write my own music because I’m a girl, or try to manipulate me into a particular style. That sort of thing gets really boring. I think the more that women are encouraged to be involved in DIY type things, especially in music, the richer and more varied the music scene will be. I personally think it’s good to be a bit stubborn if you have a creative vision. You’ve got to follow it through rather than watering it down to someone else’s taste.
There has been a clear re-emergence of a lot of obviously riot grrl-influenced music over the past couple of years. What do you think are the reasons behind this, and who do you think is doing it well?
To be honest, as someone who has her ears stuck mostly in ’60s music, that has sort of passed me by a bit!
How much has riot grrrl influenced your own music? In terms of style, aesthetics and/or principles?
Hmm. I’d say not very much. I draw heavily on the more distant past for influences and style. Principles? I don’t know. I think I really like the camaraderie and the DIY approach. I run a label with a few friends and we approach everything from a co-op ethic. I think the riot grrrl movement came from a time where there was more of an indie/underground community, and much less emphasis on status, or perceived coolness. Bands seemed to have a bit more of a “we’re all in this together” approach, and helped each other out. I like that. We need each other’s help now more than ever.
Ladyfest isn’t just about music but about celebrating all forms of female creativity. Do you have any other creative talents?
I’m pretty arty, I design and hand-print a lot of my stuff. Apart from that I can do pretty good animal impersonations.
If you could curate your dream Ladyfest lineup, who would you include?
In no particular order: Judy Henske and Jerry Yester, playing the whole of Farewell Aldebaran; Evie Sands and Lesley Gore, playing whatever the hell they like. Both of them were amazing in the ’60s, but continue to be credible creative women; The Shangri-las – the first female singers I ever really loved and, I think, a huge influence musically on the ’90s riot grrl sound, via people like Nation of Ulysses; and Jayne County. I hope she counts! I saw her at ATP and she was a real inspiration. So warm and funny and cool.
Do you have any general thoughts or issues regarding feminism in 2010? What do you think are the most pressing feminist issues at the moment?
Equal pay for women has to be quite high up. That just seems such a stupidly obvious thing to fix. Other than that I’d say maybe, culturally, the number of young girls who are just into designer clothes, fake tan, fake tits etc. is a bit frightening. I can’t imagine growing up aspiring to be like Jordan or Jodie Marsh, but loads of pre-teens now see that as a career to reach towards. What’s left when you no longer look like Barbie? Young girls need some really fierce new women to be inspired by. That said, I spoke to someone who runs a rock school near to me, and it’s 50/50 girls and boys, so at least there are more and more female musicians and band members coming along. My cousin’s daughter Jenna had learned bass and guitar by the time she was twelve. That’s so impressive to me; I didn’t even own a guitar until I was twenty-three.
What does 2011 have in store for you?
Releasing my debut album, and touring. I’m confident that it will be a good year; 2010 was tough for all sorts of reasons, so I’m happy to see it leave!
Mary plays the Sunday at Ladyfest, an all-day feast of music kicking off at 3pm at The Relentless Garage. The Sunday lineup also includes: Trash Kit, Wetdog, Viv Albertine, Tender Trap, Peepholes, La La Vasquez, Madam, Jane Weaver, Catherine A.D. and Marianne Lee.
A Sunday ticket will set you back a very reasonable £15, or you can get a full weekend music pass for a mere £10 extra. All tickets available here.