Thank you, New York Magazine, for this lede.
If you want to piss off the members of Wild Flag, ask them about being in an all-girl band. “What do you mean, Does it matter that we’re all women?” snipes Janet Weiss, formerly of revered Portland, Oregon, trio Sleater-Kinney. “It matters only insofar as it’s the four of us and we’re women. It’s funny to say, but if one of us were a man, she would still be in this band. This band is about these four people.”
It’s probably one of the most refreshing and most necessary things that could be said about women making music today. Over the past week, the music writing world has been inundated with Wild Flag reviews and interviews, and taking a premature look at the reception of a rock band that happens to be made up of four women, a happy feeling associated with this question warms my bones: Have we entered an age where the simple fact of people of a sex and/or gender different from the heterosexual male making music is no longer cause for celebration? Is it no longer cause for reaction?
Slate: In an interview with Venus Zine a few years back, you said: “With Helium, I was strongly thinking about women’s empowerment and a lot of the song lyrics had to do with that.” Wild Flag is an all female band, but the new album’s lyrics are more abstract—are you still thinking about women’s empowerment?
Mary Timony: I guess the answer is I’m not really thinking about it. I don’t know if it’s because we’re older—I mean, we’re kind of thinking about it, but this band seems to have a vibe that’s more just about enjoying music and having fun, and not really thinking about political stuff.
Slate: Do you think it’s any better for young women musicians now?
Timony: I actually really do think it’s a little different. There are a lot more women doing music and it’s not quite as much of a statement as it was in the early ’90s.
It’s an interesting and revelatory twist that today it’s by not making an overt social statement that Wild Flag could be doing more for female empowerment than any other current, conscious effort to do so. And as we watch Mary Timony, Janet Weiss, Carrie Brownstein and Rebecca Cole, all veterans of the music industry, field interview questions about their “roles,” what comes across is possibly unexpected, but at the same time totally obvious.
Salon: Do you feel like role models?
Timony: No, I don’t feel like a role model.
Janet Weiss: A little bit, musically especially. “Role model” is a heavy term but I’ve sort of stuck at something all these years and made my own decisions and charted my own path and worked real hard at being good at something and being useful. I think that’s a good example for anyone, especially girls. A lot of women choose to have families, and music is not a priority for them so much after that happens, and that’s not my path. I could be an example for people who maybe feel like they don’t want to have a family and want to focus on another endeavor that would give them a sense of belonging.
And yes, all this could go by without comment—now, as I write this, I wonder if by drawing attention to what I consider an epiphany for music journalism I will somehow undermine the good cause. But one more observation: Of the Wild Flag interviews and reviews from New York Magazine, Slate and Salon, all interviewers also happened to be female. Hey, it turns out we’re people too.