Talking Zines With Bleached
“Ask me what it’s like to be a girl in a band,” Paramore’s Hayley Williams writes in Bleached’s Can You Deal? zine. “Give me a minute to quiet all the triggered, defensive thoughts I might have and when I finally open my mouth, I’ll tell you: I’m thankful.”
“What’s it like to be a woman in a band?”
It’s a question that’s launched a thousand “Women in Rock” pieces (and one snarky “Men Who Rock!” article by Tacocat’s Emily Nokes). And it’s also a question that a lot of those titular “women in rock” are pretty sick of answering. Enter: Bleached’s zine and new EP by the same name (released March 3 on Dead Oceans).
The LA pop punk band brought together a cadre of female-identifying artists to interrogate what that query means to them and what it’s like to be reduced to a “girl band”; contributors include the likes of Liz Phair, JD Samson, Bratmobile’s Allison Wolfe, Tegan Quin of Tegan and Sara, Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast and many more.
“Last year we released a deeply personal full-length album titled Welcome the Worms,” the band’s Jennifer Clavin wrote in a release that became the intro to the zine. “It was a record about being in an emotionally abusive relationship. It was a record about getting spun out on drugs and alcohol. It was a record about totally losing myself in order to find myself. It was also our most ambitious body of work yet, with guitar work and guitar sounds and production we had only dreamed of until then. And yet to this day I am still fielding interview questions that have more to do with my gender than with the art I am creating.”
The stories in the zine echo Clavin’s in many ways, delving into issues with weight and image (Ali Koehler of Upset and Kate Nash), dudes who are surprised that you know how to use your gear (Julien Baker) and unnecessarily gender and sexual descriptors (Tegan Quin). It’s a funny, relatable and sometimes hard-to-take read, but definitely essential for anyone who’s sick of having to talk about what’s in their pants instead of what’s in their music.
We spoke to the band’s Jennifer Clavin about the zine and how it came together, and, as a special bonus, she put together an accompanying playlist of tracks from Can You Deal?‘s contributors.
What were some of your favorite zines growing up?
There was this DIY venue in San Diego called Che Cafe that had a rack of zines. I would always end up sitting on the couch reading the majority of the them. My favorite was called Wives Tales. It was a zine of the most DIY women’s self care tricks. It taught me how important it was to get to know my body and not leave it up to my doctor to know everything about my vagina.
What bands were you introduced to via zines?
I didn’t really find out about bands via zines, for that, when I was real young, I would go to the record store and pick out a record based on how cool the album cover was. Zines were more a place for me to read about things that weren’t talked openly about like politics, sexism, feminism, corporate America and so many extreme subjects I never had thought of before.
Did you ever make zines growing up?
I was actually more of a collector of zines and very heavily inspired by the style and art and ways of making them. The style of making a zine and putting it together is the way I would make our bands album art and inserts or flyers for shows. No computer necessary: just me and a copy machine creating whatever I could that looked cool.
How did you pick the zine’s contributors?
It started with emailing female identifying artists we all knew or were friends of friends and asking them if they wanted to be a part of this project. I had no expectations of how people would respond, if people would be down or not. I was amazed by the support and excitement coming back at me. Eventually people were asking if they could contribute to the zine.
Why do you think zines are having such a resurgence?
It’s a way to speak your mind and an affordable way to be heard by a number of people. I feel like everyone is drowning themselves in social media and it’s refreshing to read a zine and hold in your hands.
What are some of your favorite new zines?
I went to the zine fair with my friend and she bought a zine about bird watching and I would say that one’s a pretty good one!
(Photo credit: Nicole Anne Robbins)
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