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Get out of my dreams, get into my Bratmobile, December, 2d 2000, interview made by Val for Babes in Boyland and Ovary Action

Dernière mise à jour : 26 mars

The day was dec 2nd, 2000, the place: Sit and Spin, which is a bar-venue-laundrette (hence the name) in Seattle. The sign on the launderette room is clear: "you have to wear your clothes in the bar". I always found this mark on the wall amusing since I noticed more people wearing less (or no) clothes in bars than I ever did in launderettes-except on tv commercials. Maybe they should remind this on every bar door, it would prevent us from some sad sights. And I am not talking about strip bars here. Anyway, that said, the Sit and Spin is where we meet Bratmobile, fully dressed. The riot grrlz had just reunited after some years apart, each playing in other bands, producing other people or working in record labels (Look Out! rec). Together again at last, for the greatest delight of all of those who had missed "Kiss and Ride", "Girl Germs" and other riot punk candies live in the early 90s. It was a grey Saturday afternoon (all-ages show) in Seattle and it was good to get a sun-gold beer and a nice talk with Allison, also sunny-shiny in her Rolling Stones tongue patterned dress. We did the interview right after the show, this burst of energy, wit and laughter. I will add to and for the story that Bratmobile was supported by the then still obscure duo dressed in red, the White Stripes (no interview from them, though, he was sleeping on a table and she went shopping...) sometimes I could eat my mini-disc!

BiB/Oa: Did you go back into musi because you thought riot grrlz needed to be rejuvenated?Allison: Yes, I think that was part of it. I feel like in the early 90s there was a great riot grrls scene, many grrlz band and a lot of really good music from the northwest and basically all over the place. But it feels like once all that stuff kind of blew over, when it got really digested by the mainstream and turned into this kind of commodity, whether it would be grunge, or gilr power, or whatever, then there was this flood of awful bands that were just trying to imitate each other or something. There was not much that was speaking to me anymore, and I felt, especially in mainstream music, but also in what was considered to be alternative, a lot of mysogyny. Mysogyny on stage, in the media, rapes and violence against women in concerts... I mean remember this Woodstock anniversary festival not long ago, it is just groas. I felt it was just really disgusting. So instead of just complaining about it, I felt like I had to do something about it and the first thing we could do was making mus ic again that speaks to us. I think people are responsible for their own entertainment and their own culture. I did not want to sit back and try to make somebody else responsible for that. I guess that was the main reason, besides the fact that I think it is important for everybody to see girls being political (not that Bratmobile is really political, it is a lot of joking around), on stage, making their own music and stuff, rather than "look how sexy I am" and that kind of stuff.

BiB/Oa: What do you think about these girls bands who refuse to be called feminist then, who even appear to be scared of it. Some of them pretend there is no use for feminism anymore, that rock is an open, equal world, free of sexism, a society…Allison: I do not believe in post-feminist stuff. I know there are a lot of articles getting written about music that call them "post-feminist band" or "post-riot grrl", and I am like "post", why? You know, things do not really change that much, I mean we still live in a very aggressive society. It is also still very sexist, women get put down, harassed, raped, murdered... No much has changed. I am a bit unwary of people who shy away from the term of feminism, or who shy away from being labelled as a gir band, or who shy away from riot grrls terminology. I understand that Riot grrlz is associated to an era, in the beginning of the 90s but still, I feel like when people are ashamed of saying that they are feminist, they are afraid of hurting someone by saying so, that they are going to offend someone's poor little boyfriend, or something. I thinking there is a lot to be said about male validation, because people really want to be validated, for whatever reason, but yo u is powerful and I think it is hard to struggle against that.

BiB/Oa: Let us go back to the band, more specifically... You are on your first tour after reunion right now...Allison: yes, this is the end of our first US tour following this new album (Ladies, Women and Girls). We have had a lot of fun, touring on the east coast, and the midwest with this band from Olympia called Jean Dot com, they have a single out on LookOut! and an album on K, they were great. Then on the west coast, we have been playing with the Aislers Set. We have had a lot of fun, and pretty good response

BiB/Oa: Did not you play with Sleater-Kinney on this tour? Allison: no, not on this tour, but we played with them like half a year ago, and it is always fun to play with them, you know.

Bib/Oa: A lot of articles I have read about you say that you are making music more political...Allison: I do not know, never really set out to try to do any one thing. I just do whatever I feel strongly about at the moment and I try to relate it to society in a more general view. You know, a lot of people think that my songs are very specific about specific people, bitching about so and so whom I do not like. It always has some elements of that, it comes from an argument, maybe that I have with someone, or a conversation, things that hurt me. But I am also trying to talk about behaviours, like how do we treat each other, and I think the personal is political, and the way that we treat each other personally and in private comes from our socialized, you know, fucked-upness, or something. So, I try to point that out, and to me all of this is kind of broader as well. So, in that way, Bratmobile is political, but I do not start a song by a political speech.

BiB/OA: Do you write all the lyrics? Allison: yes, and each person (Molly on drums and Erin on guitar) writes their own part. We all contribute a little bit to the organization of the songs. That is how we have been working a lot, especially since we do not all live the same town.

BiB/Oa: And come you switched label from Kill Rock Stars to Look Out! records?

Allison: Well, we were not an Olympia band anymore. None of us lived in Olympia and we do not go there that often, but we wanted to be on a local label. I think it is important to stay original with your music. Molly is the manager of Look OUt! records, she has been working there for quite a while now, and Erin works there too. We felt that if we were on our own label, we would have more say and control over our material. Also both Erin and Molly live in California now so we wanted to be on a label where you can visit and see what is happening to your album and to your band.

BiB/Oa: What do you do when you do not play music?

Allison: Well, I live in Washington DC and I work part time at the Washington Post newspaper, I am a secretary, basically, in the style section... (she laughs at looks at her dress) I am bringing a little style to the style section. And I also work at Sculpture magazine, which is a smaller magazine, and I do basically the same thing: administrative assistant work. It is good, it is part time, I can take time off to do other things, like go on tour...

BiB/Oa: There seems to be a quite active Riot Grrlz scene in DC....

Allison: It is fine, it is a very nice city, although it is a bit conservative, socially speaking, which bothers me sometimes. I am a west coast person at heart.

Bib/Oa: Is the sense of community as strong as in Olympia, for example?

Allison: In some ways, yeah. It is a pretty small punk community there, but it is strong. It is more boys oriented and boys dominated than Olympia. I think Olympia is great because it is more creative and original there, and it is more queer and female fronted, and DC is much more of a boys town, but it is also fun.

Bib/OA: Can you say something about your Bratmobile style, staying really hum, Bratmobile amateur style... I mean, if you compare with music that Kathleen Hannah is doing now, it is very different from what she did with Bikini Kill. Is it important for you to keep this direct punk approach?

Allison: well, i just kind of believe in punk. I just think that what is really unfortunate about the end of the 90s and the new millenium is that are not any punk bands anymore. Maybe it is sounds old-fashion, but I just want more bands that are real punk one and I really want to play in one. But I guess it is also because I do not know how to play instruments and things like that, and I am not interested enough to learn. Plus, I like lead-singerness, you know, bands with a lead singers that jump around and do their thing. I am more into the performance aspect of being in a band that anything else to tell you the truth. We are going to try something different, though, on our next tour we are going to bring a keyboard player along with us. She is also going to sing back-up. It is the girl Audrey, who was in Mocket. I think that would make the sound a little bit different. But then it makes me a bit angry when people start to talk about your sound being this and this, and why not t hat... You know, when ar e you gonna coopting, what are you gonna give in to what people say what is modern, or what is cool, I just do not want to be trendy, just do what everybody else is doing. It is just not my thing, I do not want to be like that, I just want to be in a punk band. (laughs)

Bib/OA: You did you listen to when you were a kid? Did you dream about being in a band?

Allison: No, I was in a kind of singing group, called the music kid, when I was little. I listened to whatever my mum had around, like you know Fleetwood Mac, Romeo Bod, the Eagles... and later, it depended on the phases. I was this kind of New Waver, but I went to punk rock soon. But yes, I was into Duran Duran and blah blah blah, all that stuff. I did not start playing in a band before I was like 20. And even a month before I started playing, if you had told me I was gonna sing in a band, I would not have believed it I never liked the sound of my voice when I was little, and I still struggle with it. That is why I don not listen to what we have recorded right away. Since we do not live close to one another, we do not get to practice much, and sometimes, just to practice, I would listen to the CD, like the day before the show or something, but that is it, basically, and I only do it if no-one else is around... and you know, it is punk rock.

Bib/OA: Do you hav any problems with sound engineers when you record? Do you have problems imposing your views sometimes?

Allison: No, we usually work with people who know what we are doing, our sound and stuff. But the problem with me is that, as I say, I come from a New wave, teeny bopper style, so I really like things to sound kind of spacy, and I think I am kind of the only one who wants it that way... We usually record with people who do not understand that, and there are never enough effects on my vocals... I need to get some special equipment on stage (laughs)

Bib/OA: Do you have any story behind the songs on your last album?

Allison: Well, I spent the whole summer in the Bay area. There was this guy that I really liked but I think he never really catched on.... He was kind of lame, because he would never come and meet me. He was some kind of San Francisco snob, you know, they would never go to east bay to see anyone or go to shows, or anything. They never want to leave the city. I thought that was really stupid, cause I lived in the east bay whole summer...So I just got frustrated with that guy and wrote a song. Also because he started going out with this girl who was just really plain, and I do not understand why guys always go out with really plain girls. I mean, don t you want a crazy person like me instead? (laughs) I jut think guys are wimps, they only go out with someone that is easy, they want it to be easy... and I am not, that is for sure. 

BiB/Oa: That is not the guy whose picture is on the cover, is it?

Allison: No, that is one of the drivers, when we were on tour with the Donnas in Italy. We had a bunch of drivers to cross Sicily, and he was one of the drivers. I just think the picture is funny because ewe are supposed to be this feminist band and we have this big dude like grabbing us like we were dolls....

BiB/Oa: Any side projects?

Allison: yeah, I am in this band called Deep Lust and we are putting out an album on Kill Rock Stars, and that is my boy band, and it is actually even more punk. We just dress up and do some covers and dork songs. It is like my DC band. We get a lot more done with Bratmobile, though.

BiB/Oa: Any sexist experience on stage?

Allison: Well, yeah. On this tour we actually almost got into a huge fight. I was starting this butt shake contest on the last song, and everybody was like ready to go. And then this guy gets on stage. It was already a lot of people there so I asked him to go. He would not. So I was like ok, whatever, if you shake your butt, you are fine, so stay up here. The problem is that he went over to Molly and started pounding on her drums and then he would not leave. Everybody was dancing on stage and he was just like staring at the girls like a dirty old man. So I grabbed him by the collar and threw him off the stage because he would not leave when asked to. Then all his friends came over and they were like really aggressive. What was really scary though is that nobody moved. It was all these people just standing there, watching to see if we were going to have our asses kicked. And then later, they were like: fuck, thee guys almost kicked your ass... well, thanks for your help, guys. We just got a little taste o f when girls get raped, attacked, or kidnapped, and everybody else is just watching.


Allison's website : https://www.allisoncwolfe.comFor more info about Bratmobile, Deep Lust, Cold Cold Hearts, Peeches... go to and Enjoy the ride!


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