In an industry traditionally dominated by men, it has always seemed that women, who have always been in the minority, were destined to remain somewhat on the back-foot.
In 2016 however, all the indications are that the this may not be the case for much longer. The tide is beginning to turn, certainly across the Northern European scene, where a new generation of intelligent, driven, articulate and uber-talented young women are beginning to take their place at the helm. In a very assured and controlled manner, they are leading a new and courageously outspoken charge through an industry that for all intents and purposes has hitherto been yet another male-only private members club.
Glass-ceiling? Twenty, thirty years ago, the perception was that only a pneumatic drill would break through; never something that a quick flick of a finely turned stiletto could crack, recently it has somehow managed to become more fragile in its consistency, as hairline cracks begin to show on its testosterone coated surface.
And yes, back in the 80’s Smith, Harry, Hynde, Bush, all strong, outspoken women not only carved out hugely successful careers for themselves in the music business, they achieved iconic status for having done so. But, more importantly, they did the groundwork, laid the foundations for empowerment from which a new group of emerging female artists can now build upon and flourish.
Furthermore, in those intervening years, a slow but sure shift in mindset has also occurred, so that today, one of the advantages that many female artists have, certainly those in Scandinavian countries, is that their male peers no longer just talk the talk. Significantly, 2015/16 has seen the rise of the male feminist and that in itself has been a key game-changer. That is not to say, that the rise of so many women to forefront of the industry has been down to some form of male acquiescence, far from it, but this shift in mentality has certainly played an integral part in this change in dynamics.
So just who are these young women standing front and centre of today’s pack of emerging musical talent? Who are these silk voiced lasses with steely backbones and radars more perceptive than a sonar submarine? It’s not quite jackboots all round, some of these gals being of a very ‘ethereal’ ilk. But, what all of these young women have in common, is a determination ranging from the quietly understated to vigorously riotous, not only to succeed, but to have their voice however, soft or loud, clearly heard!
In this two-part special feature, we introduce you to twelve young women who are currently making an indelible mark on the emerging music scene across Northern Europe of 2016.
Who: Australian avant-garde provocateur, who honed her lyrical craft in LA, then put the Kate into Swedish outré synthpop outfit Kateboy.
Vocalist Akhurst also carries out joint writing, instrumental and production duties alongside Markus Dextegen, formerly of Swedish music collective Rocket Boy from whence the ‘Boy’ element of their moniker came. The consummate “performance artist”, Kate incorporates several non-musical elements to recordings, visuals and live performances, including dance, art and high tech graphics & special effects.
Creator of magnetic hooks enhanced by her stunning vocal theatricality, Kate Akhurst is the lyrical engine behind such gloriously gleaming pop anthems as ‘Midnight Sun’ and ‘Northern Lights’. Kateboy released their debut album, ‘One’ last November and are currently on tour having just played Barcelona, with an upcoming gig in Prague next week. Expect bolder, bigger, better from the next round of Akhurst fuelled creations. This livewire has well & truly marked the music world’s card with brand Kateboy.
“It’s really important to me that someone doesn’t come in and make me a star.” – ARY
Who: Baby faced, doe-eyed, twenty-one year old Norwegian Ariadne Loinsworh, aka ARY.
Of Jamaican extraction, this raven haired beauty is as perceptive as she is delightful, and wittier than she is both. With her quirky style, tireless enthusiasm and uncanny knack for delivering the most perfectly nuanced vocal, ARY is surely one of THE upcoming forces to be reckoned with in the Norwegian music industry. Creating intoxicating cold electronica gently warmed by her mellow voice and sunny disposition, ARY has, in the past 6 months, become the darling of the pop scene, with music media tripping over themselves to view, review and interview this shining star. Collaborating with Olefonken on the ‘Quaaludes’ project has given ARY’s “cool cred” an enormous boost, surprising more than a few in the process. Don’t be fooled by the cotton wool softness of that voice, there’s a lot more to ARY than at first meets the eye, or indeed the ear! Watch this space!
*Read the unedited version of my interview with ARY which was first published by The 405 in February, here.
Who: New kid on the solo block, Brixton based electric guitar cognoscente Sarah Howells.
Operating under the nom de plume Bryde, this fresh-faced English singer musician totally kills it in the atmospheric stakes and, kicks HUGE ass with her gutsy performances, so to read that she takes inspiration from the likes of PJ Harvey comes as no surprise.
Featured by BBC6 Music’s Fresh on the Net, not once but twice, Bryde crafts songs with the punch of Debbie Harry and the electricity of Pat Benatar, with whom she also shares the same pure-diamond vocal. Lyrically terse, emotionally tense and vocally theatrical, this talented Brit has concocted the perfect recipe for her ferociously honest compositions. Self-deprecating, sometimes self-condemning but with more than a touch of f**k you, Bryde’s songs, which tend to throttle rather than hold tightly onto past mistakes, come out of that new wave of female lyricism that sees them continuously shed skin and evolve by looking forwards,
Gigging with gusto since the start of the year, this Summer sees Bryde tour the length and breadth of the UK, which will culminate in a festival slot in June, details on her website, here. As I’ve said before, “Bryde is to singing what Caitlin Moran is to wording: ballsy.” Bryrde’s debut EP is out on 13th May, and you’d be a fool not to invest.
“I realised I had a bigger dream, and wanted to do this for myself, to prove myself.” – GRIS-DE-LIN
Self-taught percussionist and creator of songs which she describes as “Subtle electric honesty”, this smoky-voiced lyrical emancipator has pro-actively media managed Temples of Youth since its inception just over a year ago. In the space of a year, ToY has evolved quite significantly both creatively and sonically, honing their live performance to such a sharp extent that they are already lined up for not one but two slots at Blissfields. ‘Faved’ by BBC 6 Music’s Fresh on the Net whose Tom Robinson was suitably wowed by “the epic chillwave” of this enigmatic Cancerian’s Sade-esque delivery on their track ‘AM’, Temples have also been featured in live sesh by BBC Introducing,
An articulate advocate of feminism and active promoter of positive mental health, we asked Jo to explain what it was that was most important for her to achieve both as an artist and a woman. “As an artist I do what I do because it helps my mental and physical wellbeing. Writing gives me something to pour myself into and it makes me feel like being different is okay because something good is coming out of it. It makes me feel accepted. In terms of being a woman, I want younger women to see that gender isn’t defining and that music is open to everyone. There are so many horror stories in the media, Kesha and Grimes are just two examples. I think that intimidates young girls. It’s just awful that, that kind of thing happens so it’s important to raise awareness. But what about all the women out there who are having the best time and growing through music. Let’s not forget to tell the kids about those people too.”
Carson is the creative brains behind Temples of Youth’s new website, where you’ll find details of their latest music news and upcoming gigs, including the aforementioned Blissfields. Fast gaining traction beyond the pale of their neatly trimmed Hampshire borders, this is a band and a feminist, of whom you’ll be hearing a lot more in the future.
Who: Anna Lena Bruland, guitar playing solo artist who hails from a fishing port on the outskirts of Oslo.
Her grungey guitar sound and emotionally stripped down lyrics have brought her to the attention of top level hacks and DJs alike, including the illustrious 2FM jock and Irish John Peel, Dan Hegarty, he of the biggest alternative radio show in Ireland, no less.
Originally the face of Anna Lena and the Orchids, the Norwegian singer/songwriter now performs under the moniker EERA, something which automatically gives her both an air of distance and aura of intrigue. Some five years back, EERA upped sticks and moved to London, and it was in the magnified miscellany of that metropolis that she finally felt able to mine deep enough to unearth her true lyrical expression. Having tested the waters with some well received low key dates, EERA stepped out into the headlights of the world stage earlier this year when, with a flurry of promo and a whirlwind of live dates, she launched her debut single, ‘Drive with Fear’, which was quickly followed by her eponymous EP.
While her songs cut deep emotionally, the gritty, earthy power behind their visceral landscape roughs them up around the edges, turning them into dirty diamonds sparkling in a sonic twilight. EERA’s voice is as capable of gravel strewn husky as it is of mountain stream clarity, and the singer fully utilises the far reaching range of her incredible instrument, in a subtle and nuanced fashion. Emotionally potent themes held in check by no-nonsense grunge set EERA apart from many of her female solo peers. Having just received wow reviews for her performance at Danish SPOT festival, EERA hits The Great Escape in two weeks time where she’ll play to her largest audience to-date, something which undoubtedly, this understated young artist will coolly take in her confident Nordic stride.
Who: Other-worldly, tractor hugging, sparkly boots wearing free spirit from Bridport, whose debut EP, ‘The Kick’ hit the musicverse just two weeks ago.
Gris-de-Lin is a one woman philharmonic orchestra without the phil, whose instrumental spectrum includes drums, guitar, keys and saxophone, amongst others.
Walking away one year ago, from the comfort of playing within a group, Gris rented out a nearby nursery school, and with the help of some close friends including regular jammer and collaborator, Matt Clyma Gooderson, the music of Gris-de-Lin was born. Speaking of the move to solo-dom Gris explained, “It got to the point where I just wanted control, wanted it to be personal, wanted to prove myself. I wanted to experiment, and for the music to reflect that experimentation. I wanted it to feel organic, to flow freely. I realised I had a bigger dream, and wanted to do this for myself, to prove myself.
In terms of originality, Gris is probably at the top of the otherworldly pile and while the most wondrous melodies flow through the soul of her songs, there hangs over them, the most unique and spiritual aura, not akin to anything we’ve previously come across. An adept musician and pan-cultural aesthete, Gris has a flair for devising ingenious lyrical and musical creative approaches, which seeps into her outputs.
Since those Summer jams in a Bridport nursery, Gris single handedly (no PR/Manager/Label) released a double A sided single (YourGhost/Birthday) complete with hand-painted artwork for the groovy yellow vinyls and two visual accompaniments, organised a launch party at London’s Servant Jazz Quarters (complete with Gris-tailored cocktails), toured with Joe Gideon and gigged with Jim Sclavunos, as well as playing a series of gigs in Dorset/London.
A BBC favourite she has played live sessions on both Marc Riley‘s BBC6 Music Radio Show and BBC Intro South, as well as being featured by both Tom Robinson on his 6-Music Show and BBC6 Fresh on the Net, where her tracks ‘Birthday’ and ‘The Kick’ were huge fan favourites. Gris has since signed to German indie label, BB Island, through whom she has just released her debut EP, The Kick, details here.
This Summer will see Gris release her debut album which was produced by Chris ‘Cee’ Hamilton, whose much revered services she enlisted after inveigling him with some fine single malt when they met at the gig of a mutual friend.
I think you’ll agree that Gris has achieved her objective, having most certainly proved herself, something which no doubt, she’ll continue to do. Keep up to speed with gig news and posts on the upcoming album release here on her website.
“I won’t be at the mercy of your ghost, cold hand knocking at my window pane, I wanna be dancing with my friends, so if you go, just be gone, no strands left hanging or dreams undone, my closet is already full, skeletons hanging, no space for you.” ‘Your Ghost’ – Gris-de-Lin
Part 2 of this special two-part series, will feature six more cutting edge ‘fab femmes’ whose names we think you should become familiar with.
It’s more than probable that at some point down the line, these female forces to be reckoned with will have very much established themselves both in their profession as artists, the music industry in general, and possibly beyond. Truth be told, some are already very much on their way … can’t you hear them?