Interviews: Petrol Girls Chat Feminism, Future Plans and a Whirlwind YearBy Dylan Shortridge | August 3, 2020
It’s been around a year since Petrol Girls’ sophomore album, Cut and Stitch. Resonate caught up with lead singer and frontwoman, Ren Aldridge, to chat about her powerful feminism, future plans and their whirlwind year as a band.
Ren explains how the band started four years ago when Ren had been living “in this madhouse down in London. It was me and my best friend Martha and like six guys. We ran all these house shows, but it was mostly men, and I used to crash them by climbing on the fridge and playing awful acoustic songs on my guitar.” She was setting the scene for the loud, in your face, take no shit, feminist band that Petrol Girls are today. “I started running shows for International Women’s Day and those really developed over the years to reflect the way my feminism was becoming a lot more intersectional. I just really wanted to be involved, not just by putting it on, but to play. So we started Petrol Girls.”
As a band that has a primary aim to give voice to women and the marginalised, she states, “I think it’s really important for women, non-binary people, trans people, people of colour and any marginalised group to see yourself. I know that from being a young girl that was really into punk, I had to see myself in people like Layla from Sonic Boom Six and Marcia from The Skints. Seeing those women on stage changed a lot for me.” Petrol Girls follow in the long lineage of strong women in punk. “I didn’t get any access to that history until I was in my twenties. I didn’t know who The Slits were, I didn’t know anything about Riot Grrrl. Obviously, it is different now because of the internet. I watched that Documentary about Kathleen Hannah (Riot Grrrl), and it blew my fucking mind.”
As with many of the bands in this lineage, Petrol Girls do not shy away from activism. We asked Ren what she thought was the most pressing issues are in 2020. “It’s so hard now because of the pandemic and how that’s shifted the focus on everything. Not to sound … No, I don’t actually think it’s idealistic, the most practical thing we can call for is an end to capitalism.” She continues, “If you look at most things in the world that are fucked, capitalism is at the root of that. Look at the climate crisis, if there wasn’t this constant drive for profit and growth. I think it’s fundamentally fucked.”
Unfortunately, this refusal to be silent has put Ren and Petrol Girls into legal trouble, finding themselves defendants in a defamation case alongside the women that make up Solidarity Not Silence for speaking out about specific allegations of abuse in the music industry. “It pisses me off on so many levels when I see things that people are allowed to say and get away with that can be really awful, violent and threatening. Yet when I write a Tumblr post about my experiences, in support of women that I know had awful experiences, I face legal action. I’ve watched quietly, well maybe not so quietly, but for years I’ve watched women slowly fade out of the music industry. I fucking guarantee sexual violence is a huge reason.”
The legal battle is a continuing struggle for Ren and the band as she explains. ”It’s so fucked. I used to have so much energy, and I wanted to create stuff all the time. It’s really fucked touring for me because I spend most drives on my laptop waiting for emails from the lawyers like how are we going to get the money together soon. Then I think about the survivors, and I’m like, how the fuck are you holding this together, it’s amazing. If they can do it, then I should be able to”.
On happier notes, a year on from unapologetic, amazing album Cut and Stitch Ren says, “we’re starting to write new stuff, so I’m really stoked about moving forward, and I think we have a better record in us.” Don’t be expecting anything soon as “it’s in very early stages, at the moment as it’s just me and Joe Whatsapping nonsense to each other, which is my favourite part of songwriting.” Comparatively, the record is going to be written in a different way to the previous one, as Ren has since moved to Austria where the rest of the band live. She explains, “With Cut and Stitch, I was living in Scotland most of the time, so it was a lot of me putting vocals on top of riffs, I think that’s really interesting and challenging, but it’s definitely been fun to go back to doing stuff with a lyric or chorus and then building it up around that. I don’t know how to define it, but the end result is really different.”
Nothing compares to seeing Petrol Girls thrive in the live arena. We asked Ren, how she is coping without live music? “I think physically getting together in one place, I don’t know how to describe it, but I get a lot from that. I miss being with people and their smells and the whole of them.” Echoing the feelings of all music fans in lockdown, she goes on to reminisce about life pre-pandemic. “A good memory I have back from February is when we toured around Europe. At our Berlin show, we packed out this venue that was pretty big for us and people really respected the request for women and marginalised genders to be at the front. At the end, I got to jump into the crowd, and I was just surrounded by all these women and non-binary people, I just really like being down in the pit, I was really in the middle of it so stuff like that.”
Creating pits that are safe and accessible to all marginalised people and the way the band speak up for others that may feel lost in an unbalanced and unfair world, is exactly what Petrol Girls are all about. We can’t wait to join them in the pit soon and witness the chaotic riffs and their raw punk, feminist energy. Want to hear more from Petrol girls or keep updated with what’s next, follow their socials.
If you wish to support the Solidarity Not Silence women and read more about their case and how you can help visit their website.