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Bratmobile - An Interview with Molly Neumann


In the early 90's, fewer bands were more influential in bringing about the rise of stronly feminine fueled music than the Olympia, WA and Washington D.C. band Bratmobile. Bratmobile along with other bands like Bikini Kill and Heavens to Betsy were the trailblazers in the genre that would become known as the "riot grrl" scene.

Supposedly, Bratmobile's Allison Wolfe (vocals) and Molly Neumann (drums) helped coin the phrase riot grrl in their zine Girl Germs. The media depicted this new wave of aggressive women rockers as men-hating, hard-core, femininist radicals. Bratmobile however set themselves apart from the rest of the pack by managing to be both witty, intelligent and fun. While a band like Biniki Kill was a beautiful assult, Bratmobile was more of a clever taunt at the male dominated music scene.

Bratmobile started out when Wolfe and Neumann became friends in college. Erin Smith (guitar) was in Maryland, writing her own fanzine Teenage Gang Debs. They met and started playing shows around Olympia and where an instant hit. During the years that followed, they released Pottymouth (1992) and The Real Janelle (1993) on the Kill Rock Stars label. By 1994 however the stress of living in different cities, and the emotions of constant touring became too much and Bratmobile called it quits at NYC's Threadwax Space. The break up seemed permanent at the time.

Allison and Erin went on to form the Cold Cold Hearts. Allison also worked with her band Deep Lust. Molly joined up with the PeeChees and the Frumpies (all of which are exellent bands). But thankfully this would not be the end of Bratmobile's long ride. The three played an improvised set at Oakland CA's Stork Club in Feb. 1999. They decided that the hiatus had gone on long enough and it was time once again for Bratmobile to rock.

Bratmobile signed with Berkley CA's Lookout! Records in April 2000. With the move to their new label they went straight to work recording their latest album entitled Ladies, Women, and Girls. The album was released on October 23. To support the new record they went on tour with the Donnas, The Make-Up, and Sleater-Kinney. Bratmobile brought their new sound and old charm to the Globe East on Oct. 31st. After the show, The Leader was able to talk to Molly Neumann.

When asked what is the biggest difference between then and now, Molly Neumann replied,

"(Laughs) We get that one a lot. I'd say that we're smarter now. You learn things and it gives you the ability to be more creative. We were all kids when we first started out, so of course we've come a long way both personally and musically. We have a better idea of what we want to do and how to have fun doing it."

Fun is definitely part of the Bratmobile experience. Allison Wolfe moves about the stage, someplace between cheerleader and burlesque queen. A trio of girls up front are wearing "I Heart Allison" t-shirts. Erin Smith get shocked from her equipment but brushes it off in true girl form. Wolfe asks if anyone has some Halloween candy, and is immediately greeted with a barrage of suckers and bubblegum. Wolfe also introduces the plastic dinosaur they picked up at a gas station. "Isn't he cute?" she asks between songs. The set is a good mix of new and old songs. On the band's last song "Kiss and Ride" they hold a dance contest with members of the audience. The crowd, mostly girls, cheers for their favorite dancer. Bratmobile played a lot of songs off the new album, Ladies, Women and Girls.

Leader: Whey did you choose to go to Lookout! Records this time around?

MN: I co-own Lookout with my husband. That made the choice really easy. I'm very proud of both the label and the band. I wanted to put my faith in both things together as a collective of sorts.

Leader: What does it mean to be a "riot grrl" nearly ten years from when that whole scene started?

MN: We are really supportive of all girls who consider themselves to be riot grrls. We're amazed at the kind of impact we've had on so many young women. There is such a profound differnce from when we started to now. When we visit places like the South where things can be a little more restrictive, and visit with girls there, we can really see a change, and that's great. As far as the band goes, we try to avoid that didactic that men equals bad. We just try to be supportive of girls and women, and be humourous and sophisticated, without coming across as catty.

Leader: What's been the best thing about being in Bratmobile?

MN: Mainly just being able to play with our friends like the Donnas and Sleater-Kinney. Also getting to meet all sorts of great people along the way. The three of us love what we do and we are grateful we get to do it. Hopefully we'll keep on doing it.

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