The Empty Page Talks Indie Rock Feminism
The Manchester hard rock trio, The Empty Page, is breaking every rule in the industry. Led by bassist and lead singer Kel, lead guitarist Giz, and drummer Jim, the band is bringing feminism to a scene notoriously crowded by men, and challenging authority in their upcoming debut album. The band’s recent music video, “Deeply Unloveable,” is a striking manifesto against sexism, classism, conformism, and sexual harassment, and the band itself is all about empowering women. The Empty Page spoke to the FBomb about their cultural influences, punk-rock titles, and being a feminist band.
Tell us about each of you and your music background, as well as your role in the band.
JIM: I'm Jim. I'm the morale booster and band pep-talker. I also play the drums and sing.
KEL: I’m Kel, I sing, play bass and kick ass.
GIZ: I’m Giz, I play guitar and shut the fuck up.
KEL: We’ve all been in bands before… me and Giz have been in bands together for years, and we met Jim when our bands kept being put on the same bill. It was inevitable we’d do some music together at some point.
Do you consider your work to be political? Artistic? Cultural?
JIM: First and foremost we play and write for ourselves.
GIZ: There’s no specific agenda, we just write about whatever we feel.
KEL: Yeah, sometimes the lyrics come from a place which could be considered political or polemical, but sometimes they’re just about a personal bit of disgruntlement, and other times they’re written as advice to a friend. They come from all over the place, but there is no design apart from to be as honest as possible.
Tell me about your music video “Deeply Unlovable.” Who are the “deeply unlovable” and what does “self-respect” mean to you?
KEL: I heard someone describe their younger self as feeling ‘deeply unlovable’ and I identified with this feeling and started to analyze it. While I was mulling that over, I experienced some nastiness from a fellow female musician who tried to make me feel bad about myself. I realized that not only does the media create feelings of self-loathing in women, but actually some women exacerbate that feeling by putting others down to make themselves feel better. It self-perpetuates and it’s a real shame.
When we made the video, I sent the lyrics to everyone who expressed an interest and felt overwhelmed by how much everyone related to it. The emotion on the day of filming was heavy. The women all supported each other as they took their turn to perform the song to camera, and some strong friendships were forged… it was really beautiful. Women supporting one another is essential, uplifting and empowering for everyone.
It’s not very common to see women celebrated in the punk scene. How can we improve upon this?
KEL: Actually I think the punk scene is one of the better scenes at supporting female musicians. But, in general there’s still room for improvement when major festivals are heavily skewed towards the sausage.
GIZ: We’ve been playing in bands for a while and we’ve seen an increase in women on stage and that’s a great thing.
KEL: Yes, it’s definitely improved over the years. I’m in two minds about ‘all female’ events. We play them sometimes, and in a way they are necessary to re-dress the balance, as at most other gigs we play I’m the only girl on stage all night. But I think we need to get to a point where no-one even notices whether the musicians are male or female. Just whether they’re any good or not. It irritates me to be treated as a novelty.
Do you think the gender disparity in the music industry is systemic? Why or why not?
GIZ: More and more people are picking up instruments no matter whether they’re male or female. The progress being made in society on that level obviously filters into the music world.
KEL: Well yeah, gender disparity in the music industry follows on from gender disparity in society, of course! However, more girls seem to be encouraged to pick up instruments like guitar and drums today than when I was growing up. I think society’s attitudes are changing for the better and that’s great. And although progress is being made, there is still a way to go.
You describe the band as “feminist.” What does feminism mean to you and the band?
JIM: For me, it means encouraging and supporting anyone to play to their strengths.
GIZ: I just think that anyone should be allowed to be in a band and play music; the important thing is not the creator, but the creation. And obviously, that goes for everything other than music too.
KEL: I think it’s extremely important for men to identify as feminist, not just women, so I’m proud to be in a band with two guys who do. It’s an issue for society, and we in the West have come a long way, but there are still things to get angry about when it comes to women being treated unfairly, so we still need feminism here.
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