GHUM shone a light on various institutions that aid women in areas of DIY music, as well as their experience as female musicians within today’s music industry.
Friday March 8th celebrated International Women’s Day. On the day In question, we thought about how we can shape a more gender balanced world. Whether women’s achievements were celebrated as much as men’s, and how we can continue to raise awareness about gender bias.
I thought it was time to reach out to a band I hadn’t spoken to in a while, London’s GHUM. They shone a light on various institutions that have been set up to aid women in various areas of DIY music. Organisations that they themselves as women, and as a band, have found extremely helpful whilst being involved in music.
It’s IWD today, how far do you feel we’ve come in the last few years in terms of raising awareness against gender bias?
“In many ways things have improved massively. Compared to when we were younger, there are far more women in bands and in the music industry. And, on the London based indie/ DIY scene things are much much better than they were in the past, largely thanks to the efforts of promoters like Loud Women who have really carved out a supportive scene for female fronted bands…
It’s difficult to comment on the more mainstream music industry as it’s something we haven’t experienced. We’ve been really lucky to play at shows where promoters and sound engineers have been really supportive. We know that in other scenes there are big problems and obviously we hear horror stories from other women we know in bands who have been on bigger labels (and to be honest, also on the DIY/ indie scene). Of course, when you look at the lineups of the really big festivals, like Reading, and the mainstream music press, things are still pretty dire…
It’s also worth adding that there are still massive problems with racism, transphobia and ableism across the music scene – including in the DIY scene. This needs to be strongly and urgently tackled.”
In your own experience, what is it like to be a woman in today’s society in London?
“Things are really encouraging in the London music scene right now. It’s great to see promoters like Loud Women really rise to prominence, they’re giving female artists so many great opportunities that just weren’t there before. Events like First Timers at DIY Space for London are also really positive.
I (Vicki) started playing in bands when I was 15 years old, and being a female drummer was pretty rare back then, especially when playing gigs out in Essex and the London suburbs. I distinctly remember playing a show with my first band, Witches of Oz, and people in the crowd were literally shouting ‘get back in the kitchen’ at us. At soundcheck a guy from one of the other bands said I was too weak to set up my drums because I was a girl. These were pretty common experiences for me back then – I’d say that thankfully I haven’t experienced anything as bad in the later bands I’ve played in.”
What action needs to be taken in the music world to right now?
“The music industry decision-makers are still your old school cis-men who carry unconscious bias, which most can’t admit to have, but the only way to make a change is to support each other in the DIY scene and make ourselves heard louder than the rest. It’s about changing the way people are wired by assuming a female musician doesn’t know the difference between reverb and delay or how to tune a drum skin. And simply, don’t be a dick.”
Is GHUM somewhat of a vehicle to express yourselves as women in 2019?
“We formed in February 2016 in London after responding to an online ad Marina posted looking for members to join an all-female band. I think partly, a few of us had our fair share of experiences of being in bands with bruised male ego musicians and liked the idea of making music with other women.
We played our debut show later that year, and we’ve been really lucky to go on to play some awesome shows with great bands like Dream Wife, L.A. Witch, Abjects, ARXX, Dream Nails and loads more. We’ve also had the chance of working with some great promoters like Loud Women, Get In Her Ears and Bitchcraft in Brighton.
At our headline shows some people might have noticed already but we will always ask all female bands or bands with at least one female musician to support the show, and will strive to continue this for any future shows or tours we plan. Making those decisions really matter to us and we’re really excited about our 4th April show at Bermondsey Social Club and our 2019 plans will be unveiled soon…”
By Karl Johnson