The Power of Female Voice in Vancouver’s Punk & Metal Scene

Keeleigh Julien, the vocalist for Black Pills. Photo by Jessie Hannah. 

By Jessie Hannah
@jess_e_hannah

Feminism has come a long way, yet watching the election makes it clear that women are still talked-over, interrupted and held to a different standard of communication.

Does that make you want to scream?

Perhaps it should. Could it be that women need more opportunities to express themselves powerfully, intensely and loudly, in creative ways?

Metal and punk music genres are particularly hard to ignore. In the Vancouver scene, women are making noise. Literally.

 Loose Lips spoke with Vancouver-based musician Keeleigh Julien, the screamer (vocalist) for Black Pills, a harsh noise, hardcore band. We also spoke with Anne Emberline, bassist for Craters, an instrumental band that blends doom metal with a post-rock influence.

If you aren’t familiar with this kind of music, Emberline, who released a solo folk pop album before joining this all-male band, defined Craters’ music as “doom metal down tuned” with heavy instrumental riffs.

Julien described harsh noise as having a lot of feedback and beat-downs, with vocals that are noise and hardcore. Loose Lips watched Black Pills perform at the Astoria. The music is fast, ear-plug-required-loud and passionate. Julien, with her three male band mates, each exerting pure intensity into their music, scream into the microphone in a way that is fluid and powerful.

“I really enjoy being fully emerged in the chaos and feeling … all the music just rush through my body. It’s also just a really good outlet for me as far as my writing goes. I put a lot of personal experience and a lot of myself into it. I like that it’s really angry and it’s very in your face,” Julien explains.

“‘A Letter to Myself [is] about dealing with sexual assault, dealing with abuse, and there’s a line in it: ‘It wasn’t your fault, you didn’t deserve it and I hope you know that you were worth it.’ To me that is really powerful because that’s something I have really had to tell myself,” Julien shared when asked for an example of lyrics that express something powerful.

How does it feel to scream about topics that are often silenced?

“It makes me feel free because I’m acknowledging it [personal experiences such as sexual assault],” said Julien. She hopes her music will allow others to feel supported speaking out about their own assaults.

Though in the past she felt some pushback in a prominently male music scene, she now feels respected as a musician in Vancouver. Her band is very supportive.

“They stand behind me and the lyrics I write. They believe in women’s issues and women’s rights,” commented Julien.

“Being a woman who plays metal feels empowering to me,” Emerline agreed.

“This is such abrasive, terrible sounding music. Why do we gather in small dark rooms and shove each other around while having people scream in our faces?” she pondered. “I think there is an emotionality to it that is really visceral.”

“I think there is a sense that people who like metal like the toughness of it,” she added, “It’s kind of hard and can make you feel powerful … while still being a sensitive and emotional person.”

Emberline also explained that a lot of the music she likes is anguished and that provides a release.

“It’s like letting something out,” she said.

Julien seemed to agree. “I think screaming in general, whether it’s in a band or not, is a great outlet. Have you ever just like stood in a room and just felt so frustrated that you screamed at the top if your lungs as loud as you could?”

“Every woman that wants to [make music] should just get the hell up there and do it,” she added

Let’s begin with a scream, shall we?

Craters’ next show is November 17 at the Cobalt thecobalt.ca. Feel free to pick up their digital album at cratersdoom.bandcamp.com.

Black Pills performs November 19 at The Black Lab. Check out their music at blackpillsnoise.bandcamp.com/releases

 

jessieJessie is an east coaster attempting to infiltrate west coast culture. Her plethora of disconnected thoughts is expressed most frequently in barely decipherable handwritten letters in which she writes of her fondness for olives, a quality old-fashioned, and B.C. wilderness.