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Home > Un-convention: Women Make Music

Un-convention: Women Make Music

Un-Convention is a global grassroots music and creative community – that meets physically and virtually to share ideas; discusses and debates cutting edge issues around music, technology and creativity; and facilitates members engagement with their peers.

The community is driven by a not-for-profit initiative that sees opportunity for the grassroots in changes to the way that music is being produced, consumed and sustained. Un-Convention understands that the most interesting stuff happens on the margins. We don’t mind the mainstream; we just don’t find it relevant. Un-Convention doesn’t believe in ‘do it yourself’. We believe in ‘do it together’.

Un-Conventional Women aims to inspire and support a new generation of women in music and the media: to celebrate the achievements and contribution women make, and address openly the inequalities they must overcome in doing so. Un-Conventional Women will challenge the difficulties faced by each new generation of musicians, broadcasters and creators, and have the conversations that are so often left unspoken. Yet Un-Conventional Women will be a positive experience: a mixture of panels, workshops, exhibitions, mentoring schemes and performances all curated by a majority female advisory Steering Group.

Artists who will participate in collaboration, recording, performance and individual gigs:

Mira Calix: Mira Calix, real name Chantal Passamonte, is an artist signed to Warp Records, specialising in mixing her intimate vocals with jittering beats and experimental electronic textures. The first Mira Calix release was the Humba single in 1996 on the Warp label, with her debut album, One on One, released in 2000. In 2003 another full length album, Skimskitta, appeared, and in that same year she collaborated with the London Sinfonietta, performing her piece Nunu at the Royal Festival Hall in London. Mira Calix’s earlier music is almost exclusively electronic. However, since 2003 she has incorporated orchestration and live classical instruments in her performances and recorded work. She has written new commissions for the London Sinfonietta; Rock Music/Rock Art and Ort-Oard, part of the Sinfonietta Shorts series to Celebrate their 40th birthday. Mira set Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130 to music for a project curated by composer Gavin Bryars for The Royal Shakespeare Company. In February 2009 she created the soundtrack to an installation of swinging light pendulums. Chorus was produced by United Visual Artists for the opening of the Howard Assembly Rooms, Opera North’s headquarters in Leeds. In December of 2009, Mira Calix won a British Composer Award, in the category of Community or Educational Project, for My Secret Heart. It was described by a judge as “transformational, capturing raw humanity and giving voice to the disenfranchised in a sound-world which is original, absorbing and unsettling”.

Gaggle: Never mind the cosy cardies and sensible footwear, Gaggle are choristers with attitude, a 20-piece alternative female choir who sing about fags and booze and love cheats. They don’t appear to comprise your typical shy, retiring attendees of your average Sunday Service. Far from it: these are bolshy boho types whose ages range between 21 and 39 and who hold down proper day jobs as teachers, doctors and research scientists, hence the use of pseudonyms, lest their employers hear their colourful, confrontational lyrics and sack them faster than you can say, “This is happening without your permission”.

Charli XCX:
If you don’t know Charli XCX yet, give it five minutes. The teenage prodigy’s about to explode into 2011, not so much making an entrance as kicking pop music’s door in and running rampage through its front room. Armed with a rampant imagination and a gym bag full of epic electro pop tunes, and backed by a growing army of top producers and worldwide fans, she’s got the current crop of stars in her sights and more than enough ammo to take them down. Now she’s here with two tracks set to blow the UK sidewards. ‘Stay Away’, co-written and produced by Ariel Rechtshaid (We Are Scientists, Diplo), is as knock-you-to-the-floor as first introductions come. It’s joined by ‘Jungle’, a faster rollick through electroclash’s undergrowth co-written and produced by NME hottest producer MNEK. Charli’s not just sought after for her music though; she’s been muse to both Rankin and David Bailey already. “Bailey was fucking cool but so scary” she remembers. “He said ‘you’ve got a lovely voice, but your trousers are fucking shit’. To be fair they were pretty bad trousers, full of, full of proper retro killer colours like a baby had thrown up on my leg.”

Bunty Looping: Bunty uses just her voice, looping, fx pedals and made up languages she whispers, bellows, beatboxes, claps, stamps and produces frenzied harmonies to create her music live from scratch. When possible she creates shows with VJ’s, dancers, theatrics and SPECIAL FX! Each show is different relying vastly on improvisation- flitting deftly from beautifully serene choral sounds and psyche-folk to stomping funkadelia and arabian hip-hop.

Viv Albertine (ex. Slits): Born Sydney, Australia. French/Corsican father, Swiss mother. Brought up in North London (Muswell Hill). Quite poor. Comprehensive school. Favourite subjects, buying records; clothes, boys, Art, English. Age 17 went to Art school. Dropped out and worked at Dingwalls, music venue Camden Town. Went to another Art school met Mick Jones, saw The Sex Pistols first show. Bought Horses, Patti Smith. Dropped out. Bought Les Paul Junior with £200 my grandmother left me. Formed a band with Sid Vicious, Sarah and Palmolive called The Flowers of Romance (named by John Lydon). Started to learn to play the guitar. Taught by Keith Levene who I have known since we were kids. He taught me that any sounds can go together; he really developed my ear and loads of other stuff. Johnny Thunders taught me how to do screamers (his name) and Joe Strummer, to tap my foot and play at the same time. I didn’t have sex with any of them. Saw The Slits play their first show, called them the next day. We got together. I back-combed their hair like The New York Dolls. We looked like a band. After The Slits I went to Film school. Didn’t drop out. Directed stuff for about ten years. Made some money not Art. Now making sculpture and writing / recording / performing my own songs.

Pettybone were drawn together through the individual struggles they had encountered in their lives and the desire to speak up about their experiences. Their music is “the sound of the revolt”, raw, angry and deeply emotional, taking you sonically on a journey of self-empowerment. Put more simply by the band “what once was powerless becomes powerful and the catalyst for this change is Pettybone”. Pettybone started out in the beginning of 2010 at a squat in North London and quickly became prominent in London’s alternative scene, creating a buzz around them that won them the attention of various fanzines and alternative radio. Maximum Rock’n’Roll recently included them in the New Band Spotlight with Thrash Hits, Subba Cultcha and Terrorizer also featuring the band. Daniel P. Carter and Mike Davies have given Pettybone airplay on Radio One and they were recently invited to the Maida Vale studios to record a live session that was aired in June. They have also have been tearing up the live scene as the main live support for Boston Hardcore legends Converge with a 5k Kerrang review. Pettybone’s amalgamation of diverse music influences from DC punk/hardcore, Portland crust, 90’s alternative rock/noise bands to original blues artists has created something fresh and unclassifiable, helping to break down the misconceptions people have placed on female artists.

Alice Russell:
One listen to Alice Russell’s voice will send shivers down your spine and leave goose bumps on your neck. Alice’s lavishly soulful voice is both timeless and up to the minute modern. Live or on record, she always performs with her trademark self assurance and sass. Although her style is predominantly bluesy and soul lament it also encompasses everything from funk to gospel to jazz and beyond. Today Alice has developed a burgeoning career as one of the hottest UK soul singers with growing audiences around the world. While comparisons have been made to other popular British vocalists like Joss Stone, Amy Winehouse, Duffy and Adele, one listen and look at Alice and you can immediately tell she’s in a class all by herself. She has performed alongside well respected company that includes Roy Ayres, The Roots, Lonnie Liston Smith, De La Soul, Quantic, and The Quantic Soul Orchestra to name a few. Alice’s first album, Under the Munka Moon was an amalgamation of various projects (singles, remixes, collaborations) and a great introduction to new listeners. Then came My Favourite Letters, her debut studio album created by Alice with co-writer, producer, guitarist and musical soul mate Alex Cowan (a.k.a. TM Juke). Her third release, Under the Munka Moon II compiled her most recent collaborations, remixes, and cover versions including her popular interpretation of White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army,” for another satisfying listen. Last year, when not busy turning heads with their dynamic stage performances, Alice and “her boys”—as she affectionately refers to her group—were busy in the studio, recording her brand new album, Pot of Gold.

Dana Jade: Growing up amongst the soca and reggae of tropical Trinidad, Dana spent her summers soaking up the fuzzed out sounds of riot grrrl and grunge in New York. Having relocated to London a few years back, this raven-haired femme fatale is now putting her sultry vocals – part purr part growl – firmly centre stage with a style born from frustration with the music currently filling our senses. “I get despondent when I watch music TV.”  Dana explains. “I just don’t see or hear anything I can connect to”. Channelling the raucous thrills of the 90’s is part of Dana’s power, but she’s equally forward thinking, as her first single Galang proves with the force of a freight train. Expect PJ Harvey style guts and a whole lotta distortion-styled riffing from this up and coming artist, who’s been earning her spurs with her Gaggle sistren on the stages of Reading and Leeds, and carving out growing acclaim for her solo material, supporting the inimitable John Parish in the summer of last year at London’s Monto Water Rats. She named one of her first song’s ‘Priestess’, a title she’s adopted for her in-progress DIY record label. ‘Priestess’ represented something of a spiritual emancipation for Dana, a growing sense of frustration at how women were made subservient, even vilified, in orthodox religion.

Caro Snatch:
It all started in 1998 with a damaged back, a double-decker bus as a home and a Korg Poly-800 synth. Forced to be still and horizontal, Caro started to explore synthesis and music theory, making 4-track improvisations and playing with words. And so emerged a category defying, intuitive sound that toys with musical conventions and blurs genre boundaries to express an authentic human. Being. Newcastle nurtured the musical rarities with regular live performance using an array of machines and effects. Then there was an Arts Council sponsored spell in Berlin before landing in Manchester to mistress sound engineering. Hence expanding as an artist of truly creative music (independent releases, performing live, collaborating, remixing, a feature film soundtrack and a found sound residency), and a passionate recording engineer/music producer (studio sculpting specialisation and performance coaching across the musical spectrum). For her second independent album, “Til You’re no longer blinkered”, Caro has stretched herself as an artist and an engineer/producer, expanding her musical palette beyond the electronic and voice. Some 15 talented guest musicians make this album all the more musical and massive, enriching each story with diverse instrumentations from a saw to a mezzo soprano via a string quartet, an ad hoc choir and a junk drum kit. It has led to Caro being described as a “Mancunian spoken word sonic enchantress” by Late Junction, BBC Radio 3.

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