While women should (obviously) be celebrated all year round, March provides us with an entire month during which we have an excuse to scream about our many successes from the rooftops. At Punktastic, we love taking this excuse and running with it at 100mph, so for International Women’s Day 2021, the PT team have taken the time to write a little something about their current favourite women and non-binary folk in music. These women inspire us, make us cry, make us laugh and make us dance, and we’re so lucky that they continue to put themselves out there despite any and every obstacle, to improve our lives in a thousand different ways.
Ah — Hayley Williams. The woman every “female-fronted” (not a genre) band has been compared to since the early 2000s, and yet who is, frankly, incomparable in every way. Williams has faced unparalleled pressure in the years she’s been active as a musician and a songwriter, and her pain has been boldly expressed through her music over the years. Unafraid of being vulnerable (see latest solo release ‘Flowers for Vases’ as cutting proof of this), Williams was one of the first women in music to tell us that it’s okay to express your feelings, and it’s totally cool if those feelings aren’t always positive. Williams validates our anger, our grief, our love — however crazy it may seem — and our bitterness, and who knows what this industry would be today without her. [YASMIN BROWN]
If you’ve ventured into the world of “metal Twitter” at any point then you have almost definitely come across one of Debbie Gough’s guitar videos — and with good reason, she’s super fucking talented. If she’s not getting her shredding shared by bands like Knocked Loose and Code Orange, she’s rubbing shoulders with Lamb Of God or doing videos for Marshall Amplification. Her band Heriot have also been making waves, with recent singles ‘Cleansed Existence’ and ‘Recreant’ garnering attention from Kerrang!, Knotfest, and other high-profile outlets. It will be interesting to see if Heriot can keep this momentum going but for the time being, these two girthy slabs of groove-laden metal are well worth your time. [LIAM KNOWLES]
With some bands, a few singles are all it takes to know they’re going to kick the shit out of the universe, and make a huge impact as they do it. Pinkshift are one of those bands. A bit grungey, a bit punk rocky, a bit pop punky, Pinkshift are a lot of things all rolled into one, not least of which is being seriously addictive; vocalist Ashrita Kumar revels in angst, spitting out her words with snarling, glorious sharpness that begs to be played at earsplitting volumes. The lyrics, too, are equally biting, the perfect therapeutic soundtrack for those days when the world needs to get in the bin – and honestly, if the song title ‘i’m gonna tell my therapist on you’ isn’t enough to sell you on this band, we really can’t help you here. Mark our words, 2021 is the year of Pinkshift, and we can’t wait. [GEM ROGERS]
Laura Jane Grace
Laura Jane Grace is a fucking badass. Whether on latest solo offering ‘Stay Alive’, side project The Devouring Mothers, or as front woman of Against Me!, Grace’s music demands attention with astute social commentary and brutally honest storytelling. Her songwriting recounts narratives that scream with raw emotion or leave their mark through a poetic vulnerability – and then there are the live shows. A sweaty and euphoric trip delivered at breakneck speed with intimate moments of stripped-back beauty… all delivered with Grace’s trademark smile. An icon and inspiration to many, Grace’s anarchic punk roots and personal journey continue to start conversations, provoke thought, and challenge preconceptions. Her ability to hold a mirror to the punk scene and society at large is deserving of both recognition and celebration. [RYAN CRAIG]
It’s hard enough being a straight, white woman in metal, so add being a person of colour and a member of the LGBTQ+ community into the mix and you’re almost definitely going to face some backlash if your band is in the public eye. Luckily, Ithaca vocalist Djamila Azzouz is hard as fuck and will not put up with any bullshit thrown her way. You only have to glance at the band’s social media to see that Ithaca are a deeply political band, with strong stances on social justice, mental health, human rights, and cultural representation. With Djamila acting as the band’s mouthpiece, they are utterly unapologetic about standing up for what they believe in. Lots of bands won’t speak about certain things because they’re worried about alienating fans or pissing off the wrong people, but Ithaca are not that band. Their debut album, 2019’s stunning ‘The Language of Injury’ is 31 minutes of incandescent rage, harking back to the glory days of white-belt metalcore bands like Poison The Well and Misery Signals. So if you want to have a mosh but also feel empowered to make the world a better place, then Ithaca are the band for you. [LIAM KNOWLES]
Fronted by the coolest emo, Heather Baron-Gracie, Pale Waves have easily moved themselves away from their association with The 1975 since their inception in 2014, and proven themselves to be massive in their own right. Their latest record ‘Who Am I?’ debuted at number 3 in the UK charts in the week of its release, proving that you don’t have to follow anyone’s lead in order to be a successful woman in 2021.
Their last UK tour was in support of Halsey last March (remember live music? Those were the days…), but despite the lack of their usually extensive festival schedule last summer, Pale Waves have still gone from strength to strength, growing their fanbase monumentally. It won’t be long before these guys are headlining arenas, and you’ll absolutely want to be a part of the fun when that dream becomes a reality. [YASMIN BROWN]
It wouldn’t feel right to celebrate IWD without also shouting about the women who are about to make a huge new impact on the music scene we love – and Redhook’s Emmy Mack is surely among that number. The Aussie group have been around for a few years, but have really found their feet over the last 18 months with a tantalising blend of rap, rock, metal, and a hefty dose of “fuck you” attitude; if you listen to this music and say it doesn’t immediately make you feel like you could take down a ten storey building with your bare hands, we simply don’t believe you (although it also probably isn’t recommended to try). Mack and RedHook have something truly unique and utterly empowering, and there can be no doubt they’re about to change the game for everyone – ignore them at your peril. [GEM ROGERS]
Men I Trust
Founded in 2014 by multi-instrumentalists Jessy Caron and Dragos Chiriac in Montreal, Quebec, Men I Trust started their career by laying down dreamy instrumentals and collaborating with a variety of different vocalists. However, it wasn’t until singer and guitarist Emmanuelle Proulx became a permanent fixture in 2016 that Men I Trust’s sound was truly completed. Proulx’s delicate, almost whispered, vocal stylings stamp an identity on the band’s dynamic that makes for an extraordinarily pleasant and refreshing listening experience. A unique fusion between indie pop-rock, jazz, and R&B, 2019’s ‘Oncle Jazz’ perfectly showcases what Men I Trust are capable of. The album features reworked versions of eight singles that were released since Proulx’s full-time inclusion in 2016 as well as a multitude of fresh genre-transcending pieces that make the record irresistible to return to time and time again. [AARON JACKSON]
Once touted by rock royalty Tom Morello as “the best band you’ve never heard of”, London duo Nova Twins have moved from strength to strength since forming in 2014. Driven by fierce riffs and delivered with a ruthless punk attitude, Nova Twins pack a punch that is even better experienced live. Amy Love’s vocals relentlessly traverse from rapped verses dripping with grime to shouted choruses that rival any hardcore punk band at the top of their game. Equally, Georgia South’s proficiency on bass is crucial to Nova Twins’ brilliance. An instrument that is too often overlooked, South stretches her bass guitar to its limits with effects pedal wizardry and expert technique to ensure that her contributions simply can’t be missed. 2020’s debut LP ‘Who Are The Girls?’ (released via 333 Wreckords Crew) is the essential gateway into the fast-emerging Nova Twins movement. Get involved. [AARON JACKSON]
They may only currently have two singles to their name, but those two tracks easily show that Nashville’s Tramp Stamps are going to take the world by storm in no time at all. Their latest single, ‘1-800-miss-ur-guts’, released earlier this month, takes the bubblegum pop punk of ‘Sex With Me’ and strips it back, allowing for a more emotional element to their otherwise unapologetic attitude. Made up of singer Marisa Maino, guitarist Caroline Baker, and drummer Paige Blue (Baker and Blue also working together as co-producers), this is a band that screams female empowerment, but there’s a lot of fun in their approach to songwriting — a breath of fresh air in an industry that can feel so damn serious sometimes. With their debut EP set for release mid-year, we’re super excited to see what’s coming next from Tramp Stamps. [YASMIN BROWN]
“Metal is the most inclusive, tolerant, and welcoming community there is.” That’s something you’ll see quite a lot in the comments section of almost any major music publication. If that’s the case, why do so many people (usually men) go ham-pink with rage every time Svalbard guitarist and vocalist Serena Cherry dares to speak on her experiences as a woman navigating the scene? It’s almost as if metal isn’t actually a utopia of tolerance after all. The simple fact of the matter is that whilst progress has undeniably been made in recent years, your beloved metal scene is still rife with sexism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, racism, and pretty much every other form of prejudice you could think of. That’s why we need bands like Svalbard making it clear as day — in both their lyrical content and their public interview statements — that we cannot turn a blind eye to it anymore. It helps that their blistering blend of black metal, hardcore punk, and shoegaze is utterly fantastic, but their steadfast, unflinching message is what makes Svalbard a truly special band. [LIAM KNOWLES]
Meet Me @ The Altar
They’ve been around for a little while but it’s only recently that Meet Me @ The Altar have been picked up by Fueled By Ramen and, subsequently, made a huge name for themselves. The band is made up of Edith Johnson, Téa Campbell, and Ada Juarez, three young adults who met online, bonding over bands such as twenty one pilots and Paramore — both of whom are now their label mates. This band is a perfect example of dreaming big and achieving every. Single. Goal.
As well as making super-catchy pop-punk tunes, though — and they are catchy and fun as hell— MM@TA have a mission with their music, and that is to contribute to wider representation in the industry.
“We want to be the representation we didn’t have growing up. We hope to encourage young girls, especially black and brown girls like us. We definitely have a different perspective than the average pop-punk white dude crying about his girlfriend. Even as a band, we experience the music world in our own way. It gives us an interesting viewpoint that we put into the songs.”
Fierce can-do attitude combined with unstoppable success, Meet Me @ the Altar are set to be an inspiration to young artists — particularly women and non-binary — worldwide. [YASMIN BROWN]
From debut EP ‘Blush’ to The Mercury Prize-winning ‘Visions of a Life’, Ellie Roswell and co. have danced from album to album and through genres upon genres with careless abandon. Are they folk? Pop? Indie? Grunge? They’re none and all of them, styles borrowed and sampled like they’re strangers’ hats on a night out. It’s this ethereal mysticism that has grown the group’s reputation as one of rock’s most exciting groups, and with acts like Siouxsie and the Banshees, Elastica, and Courtney Love touted as inspirations, they’ve rather gracefully inherited the legacy of a long line of female powerhouses of the industry. With a third album looming on the horizon, and new experiments by this fae coven of a band already teased, it’s hard not to be utterly enraptured by this almost asymmetrical style of rock, and be excited as to where they may take it next. [FIACHRA JOHNSTON]
It was only three short years ago that selling out a modest-sized venue in their hometown of Dublin was what Pillow Queens would class as overwhelming success. Flash forward to the present day, and they’re being beamed into the homes of hundreds of millions of Americans while performing on The Late Late Show with James Corden. From their early scrappy EPs to their long-awaited, and beautiful debut album ‘In Waiting’, the all-girl group of Sarah Corcoran, Rachel Lyons, Cathy McGuinness, and Pamela Connolly have been penning heartfelt and powerful songs. Their signature four-part harmonies and wicked sense of humour make every show — whether it be in a sketchy practice space next to a garage or the grand halls of Whelan’s in Dublin — a celebration. And in their success, they provide inspiration for female and LGBTQ+ musicians wanting to find their voice. If you haven’t seen them before, make it your absolute priority — they are going to be huge. [TOM WALSH]
“We’re not finished, we never fucking will be,” Petrol Girls’ Ren Aldridge calmly states at the end of their seminal 2019 record ‘Cut + Stitch’. Those eight words encapsulate what their mantra is all about. This is much more than just a band; it’s a movement, led by the fearless and outspoken Aldridge. It’s an assault on the toxic masculinity and the glass ceilings that women have to face each day and Petrol Girls are here to hold the mirror up to society. Their sound is raw, mighty, and explosive, their lyrics poignant, vulnerable, and with a razor-sharp edge. The post-hardcore scene is generating more and more female voices, thanks to the empowerment that Aldridge and Petrol Girls demonstrate with every record. A truly wonderful band with a powerful message that will never be quietened. [TOM WALSH]
Bloxx are one of those bands that spent 2018 and 2019 getting on every festival bill that suited their sound until there was no way regular festival-goers could possibly emerge from the summer without knowing who they are. And they are a band that deserves to be known. Fronted by Fee Booth, Bloxx’s unapologetically indie/pop/rock sound is the exact encouragement you need to crank up your crackly bluetooth speaker and pour a beer into a red plastic cup while you lounge (or dance) in the garden with your best mates. They are, undeniably, the sound of sunshine and laughter — even if sometimes their music is more likely to make you cry. While their support slot with Twin Atlantic was cut short last year, there’s still so much more to come from this band, and once we’re all back crammed together in sweaty clubs or feeling liberated in our bras in muddy fields, Bloxx are undoubtedly going to be a part of that experience for many people. [YASMIN BROWN]
It’s hard to believe only three years have passed since Dream State released their sophomore EP ‘Recovery’, catapulting them to the forefront of the upcoming alternative music scene in the UK. The impact of their songs is not one that can be understated, and it’s something driven by vocalist CJ Gilpin; through ‘Recovery’ and 2019 debut album ‘Primrose Path’, Gilpin has shown us that vulnerability and strength go hand in hand, revealing her own struggles to provide comfort and hope for others. It’s a message that extends beyond their music, and is central to everything Dream State do – it only takes one live show to see the spirit, passion and energy that flows from Gilpin in particular, and it’s not only an uplifting experience, but a life changing one. Latest single ‘Monsters’ proves Dream State still have plenty more to say and more hope to share, and we should consider ourselves incredibly lucky to have them. [GEM ROGERS]
There has been undeniable hype around Pupil Slicer in the last few months. Their debut album ‘Mirrors’, is being touted by those who have already heard it as a potential Album Of The Year contender, and if the singles they have released so far are anything to go by, those people may well be correct. The London-based trio have been compared to seminal bands like Botch and The Dillinger Escape Plan, thanks in no small part to Kate Davies’ incalculable vocal performance. Their sound is as belligerent and chaotic as their name is eye-watering, so if that sounds like your cup of razorblades and broken glass then keep an eye out for Pupil Slicer. No pun intended. [LIAM KNOWLES]
Somewhere in between outright heaviness and ua pop is a magical land where the two combine, that unexpected power couple who walk into the room and immediately grab everyone’s attention. With minor keys aplenty and a thundering darkness that underpins some heavy lyrical content – mental health, addiction, and the challenges of growing up all make appearances here – LA band Rivals also bring plenty of light in the form of towering, gorgeous melodies, brought to life by vocalist Kalie Wolfe. There’s a depth and emotion in her voice that adds so much more to every song, whether it’s softer, hope filled tracks like 2018’s ‘To Leila’, or all out ragers in the form of recent single ‘Fake Rich’; Wolfe is, without question, a musical force to be reckoned with. With their second album coming in just a few weeks, expect Rivals to be popping up on more radars very soon – and it’s attention they definitely deserve.
One thing is abundantly clear from Cultdreams’ discography: the duo of Lucinda Livingstone and Conor Dawson are resolve incarnate. The pair’s debut, ‘Seafoam’, delivered their mission statement with force and gusto, from the raucous ‘Berlin’ to the airy ‘I Don’t Want to Be Sad Forever’. Even before the pandemic, the duo made a career out of long distance production, working on their sophomore album between Leeds, London and Berlin. The result, ‘Things That Hurt’, spared no expense in drawing from trauma to tell a stark tale of disenfranchisement with the system. Bleak but hopeful, sharp but comforting, Cultdreams’ shoegaze-infused baring of the soul makes grand use of tension and release, and Lucinda continues to stand as one of the most unique punk vocalists in the UK. [FIACHRA JOHNSTON]