British Rock Didn't Know How Much It Needed a Frontwoman Until Now
If Becca McIntyre of Marmozets keeps refusing to give a shit, she might finally end the big old cock fest.
I go to a show for the same reasons people go for a run, fap, or meditate. For that period of time I can be alone in the dark, breathe out and feel the day’s collective dust scatter. I can think of nothing and everything. It’s two hours of perfect clarity. That’s a good show.
On the rare occasion I find myself at a great show – a really phenomenal one - the adrenaline makes me feel sick. My stomach rises like a warm orb, and I'm lit up like a Christmas tree. I could cry or kiss someone. I leave freshly convinced that live music has the power to produce one of the most nourishing and PG highs a human being can experience.
The problem is, I hadn’t felt like this in a while, and the majority of my live music experiences this year have fallen into a chasm of inspiration dearth. Seeing this year's buzz band Marmozets play live changed all that, and made me realise, with my stomach about to take off, that 21-year-old frontwoman Becca McIntyre is someone quite special. She could be instrumental in a big change for British rock, and probably already has been.
Onstage, Becca is a wild thing. She wails like a banshee and growls with guttural rage. With long unstyled hair and wide-eyed movements, she’s some kind of crazy Brit rock Kate Bush/Suzi Quatro mash up. She’s a bit weird; she doesn’t seem to give a shit; she’s the frontwoman that every female rock fan has watched perform and wanted to be.
If you haven’t heard of Marmozets, here’s the short version. They’re a bunch of talented kids from Bingley (that’s West Yorkshire), and they play math-rock. Such was the expectancy surrounding their debut album The Weird And Wonderful Marmozets that fear mongering began almost instantly. After they signed to major label imprint Roadrunner Records, pessimists predicted that the band would water down their honest sound, and wax seal their slow decay in the graveyard of buzz bands that have been crushed under the weight of their own hype. None of that happened, and their quirky, mathy, 5K-rated debut is so genuinely excellent that the first time I listened to it, I just started laughing out loud.
Part of what makes Marmozets different, of course, is that they have a female presence onstage. They are a heavy band, and women are still almost non-existent in heavy or hardcore music. It’s as simple as that. In a Guardian piece last week, Good Throb singer, Ashley Holland, said: “I think in the UK scene, women are allowed to be in these twee indie bands but the second a woman is angry it’s a fucking joke and completely off the radar for a lot of the men in our scene, who switch off.” She raises a good point. If women are present in a heavy band, it will be assumed they are either: a gimmick, a riot grrrl spin off/screaming about gender and/or LGBT issues (therefore probably causing a lot of people to switch off), or both of them. Marmozets' Becca McIntyre is visible proof that a woman on stage can be none of those things.
Unfortunately, this issue is so much bigger than hardcore. Rock is still, as ever, a big old cock fest. In terms of British rock: when was the last time you saw a really great female frontwoman perform? When was the last time you saw one at all? I’d struggle to name a dozen. I see press releases dropping into my inbox, and they’ll state “female fronted” as if we're meant to clap or exclaim. The embarrassing translation is that they are still a rare enough breed for this to be a unique selling point. At a time when female artists are absolutely smashing it in pop, hip-hop, and even rap, rock continues to drag it's knuckles. Sure, it’s not great overseas either, but for whatever reason, here in the UK, we just haven’t been great at cultivating anything other than white male bands.
That is why Becca represents something special. She’s not just giving British heavy music a female face; she’s giving British rock a female face. And by doing what she’s doing, she’s actively encouraging the scene’s evolution on two fronts. Firstly, if British girls can see someone like Becca doing her thing, in all its weird glory, the possibility presents itself. It seems more obvious, more tangible.
I asked her what she feels about being one of the only female frontwomen in British rock, and she replied: “I think this is the start of something. It only takes one person or a couple of people to make a bit of a change.” You can only be what you see, and there is no doubt that Becca - already signed to Roadrunner, the holy grail for metal bands, taking part in Radio 1 Live Lounge, headlining shows at London’s Scala - will be increasingly visible in 2015.
Secondly, by bringing in some women and shaking up the formula, music will be pushed, changed and expanded. We can see the results of this already in Marmozets. It’s heavy, catchy, weird, and both critics and fans struggle to compare their music to anything or anyone. Therefore, it’s great. Yet it's still accessible enough to find itself gradually invading the mainstream, with the potential to influence a much wider audience.
This isn't purely about gender though; Becca is challenging British rock and setting a high bar for other bands because she’s just an amazing fronthuman. Watching her onstage, whipping her hair harder than Willow Smith in force 9 wind, you can tell nothing is premeditated. She is free. “I just lose my shit. I have to,” she shrugs, “because it’s an emotional thing, isn’t it? It’s like; I’m in my moment. That’s my zone, that’s Becca’s zone, no one can touch that zone, do you know what I mean?”
I guess I do know what she means. Watching her makes you wonder what the fuck everyone else you’ve seen play recently has been doing. Standing still? Going through the motions? With more and more bands managing that elusive mainstream crossover this year, it feels like a lot of anger, passion and grit have been lost in the process. But not for a bunch of kids in their element. “Me and the boys - we’re not going to jump together or clap our hands together to get the crowd going,” she says. “That’s bullshit. You can cut that right out.”
What’s pretty interesting, and telling, is that she says she isn’t inspired by any other British frontmen or women. “I can say so many other artists are amazing at what they do and stuff like that. But no, I don’t really have anyone I look up to. I feel like I could have picked up stuff from people, but I could never mention a name or anything like that.” She just is, and her presence can hopefully break that self-perpetuating cycle of 21st century women in rock being so starved of idols.
It's the missing ingredient British rock has needed for years; the thing that you didn’t really realise was absent until it bounced onstage and started doing a Suzi Quatro impression. Becca has the brilliance and visibility, thanks to the Radio 1 airtime, to inspire a generation of girls to finally pick up a guitar and go jam with their acne-ridden brothers. Her performances this year have shown bands that being weird and wonderful is what they’re up against now. Watch them support Taking Back Sunday in December to see that change is in the air. And if you get the glowing orb stomach, no need to thank me.
Follow Hannah on Twitter: @hannahrosewens