Good Riddance interviews War On Women ahead of their shows together
Good Riddance and War On Women are about to play some shows together this month (War On Women will be doing acoustic sets), and ahead of those shows, Good Riddance singer Russ Rankin interviewed War On Women singer Shawna Potter. They spoke about musical and political influences, feminism in punk/hardcore, the #MeToo movement, the Trump era, and more, and you can read their chat exclusively below.
Their shows together include NYC's Brooklyn Bazaar on Thursday, November 8 and that show also has Counterpunch and All Torn Up on the bill (tickets).
Good Riddance made a comeback in 2015 with Peace In Our Time, and they've been going strong again ever since. War On Women released their excellent sophomore album Capture The Flag this year and they're releasing an acoustic 7" this Friday (11/9). Listen to music by both bands, see both bands' lists of tour dates, and read that interview below...
Russ Rankin: Did you form the band with a set, socio-political agenda? Or did one arise organically as a combination of the world views of the individual members?
Shawna Potter: This band was intentionally started as an overtly feminist band. Brooks and I had been in another band together, which just sort of naturally fizzled out, and after that we were looking to do something heavier musically and thematically.
Russ: Given that women, and women’s issues, have been historically underrepresented in rock and roll culture, do you believe there exists a legacy of feminism in the punk/hardcore scene?
Shawna: I believe there is a legacy of women doing the work, whether they are given credit for it or not, in every facet of life - not just music. Scenes are built on the back of women, and we are never given a fair shake or enough credit for what we do, and that is especially true for women of color and LGBTQIA folks. Whether we are talking about rock n roll or punk, we have a long way to go. But I do think there is a little more space given to "freaks" or "others" in punk, and since nothing is more normalized than a straight, cisgender, white man, that translates to more space being given to women, POC, queer and non-binary folks.
Russ: Who are some groups or artists who initially inspired you to get into music?
Shawna: If I'm honest, whenever I saw Michael Jackson growing up I knew I wanted to perform. But as soon as I saw Hole on MTV, I knew I wanted to play. I started playing guitar when I was 12 because I saw another woman playing, and that's how I knew I could do it, too. But I always loved the big 80s pop stars, was constantly dancing and singing in my room, and really just had a strong connection to music from the start.
Russ: Is it important to be recognized as a feminist band, a political band, or neither?
Shawna: For me, I'd like to help normalize feminism for people that might just come for the music, so to speak, but I also want to communicate that how we treat women is political and it matters, so I suppose both.
Russ: After the 2016 general election, and the prescience of the #MeToo movement, do you see any substantive changes as a result in U.S. culture? Are you hopeful?
Shawna: I'm always hopeful... and even when I'm not, I try to keep doing the work anyway. I don't think I'd be ok with ever giving up completely, but the last two years I have felt more need for breaks and self-care than the years before. I say that, but then as a band we've still been pretty active and I wrote a book, so who knows? I will say that I've gotten more interest in my safer space workshops in the last couple years, and I'm positive it is because the general public is more willing to acknowledge not only the need for them, but their own need to "do something." People actually have a lot of power when it comes to making their communities feel more welcoming and safe for everyone, and taking charge of your little space is empowering, especially in the face of a government who is constantly chipping away at our rights and sense of safety.
Russ: Have punk/hardcore audiences, which traditionally are largely male, been welcoming to your band's aesthetic?
Shawna: So far! At least at shows. Let the trolls stay online, I don't read that shit anymore.
Russ: Do you feel obligated to confront sexism, ignorance, etc. if they appear during your set? How have these situations typically been resolved?
Shawnwa: I do, I often think "what would the lead singer of a feminist punk band do?" and then I do that. Lots of little comments are easy to ignore, especially because we are fucking loud so we're gonna drown you out anyway. But I've had to tell men not to touch me, or just quipped something back at them, but the most draining thing has been the few times I've had to break up a pit because some jerk was literally just there to punch people. I'm not a #nevermosh person necessarily, but I do think that men (and people who benefit from male privilege) need to start de-centering themselves in public situations. That just means look around and read the room! If there are a bunch of people that don't look like you, then they are probably used to being subject to violence from people that do look like you - so just dance! And give them space to dance, too. No need for full contact fight club shit.
Russ: Speaking as a man, I know that the #MeToo movement, the 2016 election, and the disillusionment and fallout from the Kavanaugh confirmation, have even progressive men examining their own history and attitudes towards gender and privilege. What are some ways you believe men can be allies to women in this new paradigm?
Shawna: First, let me say, welcome. Second, shut the fuck up and listen to us. That includes doing your own research, because basically every question you have has been answered - for a long time - most likely with research to back it up! For anyone feeling a little lazy right now, the most immediate thing you can do is call out sexist/racist/transphobic/ableist language every time you hear it/see it. Stand up to your friends, family, and coworkers. Yeah, at first you might take on some of the shit normally reserved for the rest of us, but it usually passes, and it's nothing compared to actually living with the constant threat of violence and harassment. If you want to do more, check out my pocket guide "Making Spaces Safer" out on AK Press - it gives actionable tips for how to make whatever space you inhabit more welcoming (and fun) for everyone.
Russ: Your favorite band or artist of all time is...?
Russ: What is the band, artist, album, book, film, etc. which initially politicized you?
Shawna: Bitch Magazine. I read an article about George W. Bush wanting to restrict abortion rights and I just thought "Oh hell no." I was always primed to be tolerant and promote equity growing up, but when I read that article it became super clear that decisions about my own body and life were going to be made without me if I let them. So that is when I started educating myself on the issues, donating to some non-profits, attending protests, signing petitions, voting, raising awareness, and eventually starting my own chapter of Hollaback! the same year that War On Women started. So donate to Bitch Media and help them keep covering issues that don't always get the attention they deserve!
Good Riddance -- 2018 Tour Dates
11/07/18 Allston, MA at Great Scott w/ Counterpunch, Tied to a Bear, In the Meantime
11/08/18 Brooklyn, NY at Brooklyn Bazaar w/ War On Women (Acoustic), Counterpunch, All Torn Up
11/09/18 Philadelphia, PA at Voltage Lounge w/ Bigwig, War on Women (Acoustic Set), Counterpunch, Crossed Keys
11/10/18 Virginia Beach, VA at Peabody's w/ Bigwig, Ann Beretta, Counterpunch
11/11/18 Washington, DC at Rock & Roll Hotel w/ Bigwig, Counterpunch
War On Women -- 2018/2019 Tour Dates
11/08/18 Brooklyn, NY at Brooklyn Bazaar w/ Good Riddance, Counterpunch, All Torn Up
11/09/18 Philadelphia, PA at Voltage Lounge w/ Good Riddance, Bigwig, Counterpunch, Crossed Keys
12/21/18 Cambridge, MA at The Sinclair w/ The Slackers
12/22/18 New York, NY at Irving Plaza w/ The Slackers
12/23/18 Washington, DC at U Street Music Hall w/ The Slackers
03/09/19 Sydney, Australia at Download Festival
03/11/19 Melbourne, Australia at Download Festival