Booking agents, record labels and tour managers have all been a part of what drives the ‘industry’ around music and performing arts for years. In Australia, while we watch the gradual demise of a mainstream model that refuses to change, dedicated individuals and passionate artists are stepping in to fill gaps.
Meet Rachel, the head human behind Sad Grrrls Club. Based in Newcastle (NSW) this label/agency/community is a hive of creative output and they’re doing it all themselves.
MIA: Sad Grrrls is a booking agency..a label..a fest..a collective? So many elements under this banner!! Tells us all about this multi layered operation!
RMC: Sad Grrrls Club is a true testament to my ability to overcommit myself to many things! It’s a D.I.Y record label – so I find non-male people/inclusive bands who make music that I like and I go “hey let me put out your music” and they sometimes say yes. We’re a D.I.Y booking agency – I book some small shows/tours every now and then that all have balanced line ups & safer spaces invitations. The main project of the year is Sad Grrrls Fest, which is Australia’s largest ‘female fronted’ music festival (every act/band has at least one non-male member). Then I work with other non-male musicians, journos, photographers, mixers, you name it, and am looking to build a network or ‘collective’ of people all working to combat gender inequality in the music industry.
(check the Melbourne lineup below!)
MIA: How has this all come to be so much in such a short time? (Do you not sleep? Are you in possession of a time travel device?)
RMC: I am at least 80% caffeine. Also it started real small but then people seemed to like it and I couldn’t stop and now it has snowballed.
MIA: Id love you to share a bit about the philosophy behind what you’re doing with SGC. Why is the gender-diverse and non-male component of what you’re building with SGC so important to you?
RMC: So Hack on Triple J released a bunch of updated stats on gender disparity in Australian music earlier this year – you can suss em out here – but basically in almost every area of the music industry in Australia, men are the dominant gender. Mostly by a long way too. It’s also really important to note that ALL of these statistics are founded on the false gender binary – the idea that male and female are the only two genders – and no statistics are readily available to show transgender and non-binary representation in the music industry. Personally, I believe that sexism is so deeply ingrained in the music industry, which is what causes this massive gender gap, and that’s something I want to work at changing.
The idea behind SGC is that we work on 3 core principles – diversity, inclusivity and safety. DIVERSITY in line ups in terms of gender, but I’m also trying to be more conscious of other kinds of diversity like cultural or racial diversity, which Australian music also has a real issue with. INCLUSIVITY in terms of making shows as accessible to as many people as possible, as this is one of the ways you make music more diverse. SAFETY in making sure that events are places free of racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, and all forms of bigotry that people live in fear of. There is way too much inappropriate behaviour that people let slide at gigs and I won’t have any of it at SGC.
MIA: The latest release from the Sad Grrrls camp is your EP ‘I Just Have A Lot Of Feelings’. It feels like a very personal piece of work, there’s a kind of narrative/story telling vibe with your song writing. How did this EP come about?
RMC: Mainly due to me having a lot of feelings. It basically chronicles the story of my mental health in the last year and a half, nearly 2 years. I have Borderline Personality Disorder, which basically means among other things that I feel emotions really strongly and they swing very frequently, and I’m also really worried that people will leave me/start hating me at any given moment. I also have ‘unstable interpersonal relationships’ so A Phone I Can’t Use is about that – a new phone and a new relationship and navigating those when you don’t really know how to use either. Seagulls is about how I got sober about a year and 9 months ago and upon getting sober, had to run into a bunch of people around Newcastle who knew me when I was an alcoholic. It’s about finding people who don’t want to save you, but will support you while you help yourself get better. Last year I also had a severe relapse into Anorexia Nervosa (Binge-purge type), which lead to me being hospitalised for six weeks in October/November last year. I wrote Weighty while I was in hospital getting treatment for that. I had been seeing someone at the time who just dropped all contact with me after I was admitted, and what I’m trying to get across with that is that Eating Disorders aren’t all about Weight in the literal sense, but the heaviness of emotions. Then, when I got out of hospital, a few months later I was full blown Bulimic. Zips, Netflix & Dinner For Six is about that. That one is I think the most raw emotional song I’ve ever written.
There’s a bonus track on the band camp download too, called Breaking Up. At the start of this year there was an event called The Bands Are Breaking Up Acoustic Mini-Fest and it was an incredible day, but for my friend, it was such a rough day, because he had a heap of other stuff going on. I added it on because it ties a lot of things together – hopefulness, friendship, break ups and relationship deterioration, and I guess it was the first time in almost a year that I’d tried to look outside my own bubble of introspection and connect myself to other people in my songs.
MIA: And….your playing the next Sad Grrrls Fest alongside Camp Cope, Alex Lahey and bunch of other ridiculously talented humans! How did you pull all of that together??
RMC: idk probably witchcraft.
I am so excited honestly, I have been working on this since January and it’ll be really great to see it all come to fruition. We’ve also got a Sydney edition which should be equally as fun. I’ve got a helluva lot of work cut out for me between now and then, but I have got some people helping me out this year, which is something I definitely learned from last year’s festival – I have to ask for help, as much as I would like to I can’t always do everything all the time.
I taught myself a lot of stuff last year. I’m studying a diploma of music business this year too, but tbh I have been so slack with my studies just trying to get this off the ground. It’s taught me some useful things though. I honestly can’t stress self-education enough. My google search history is probably like 80% “how to…..” (the other 20% is googling mid-2000s pop stars to find out whatever happened to them).
MIA: So now for some fun Q’s..
Last album you bought?
RMC: Physical: Miss Destiny – Self Titled LP
Digital: Brightness – Teething https://brightnessband.bandcamp.com/album/teething-lp
MIA: Favourite album this year?
RMC: Big Call, but if we’re going only off full length albums it’s probably HANNAHBAND’s Quitting Will Improve Your Health
MIA: Artist you want to work with next?
If Operator Please could do a reunion that would be great thanks.
MIA: And any parting word or recommendations for us??
RMC: Pls buy tickets to Sad Grrrls Fest (sadgrrrlsclub.com) so I don’t have to file for bankruptcy. Contact me if you want to get involved with anything because I am so desperately lonely. DIY or DIE.
Go check out the new EP from Rachel Maria Cox ‘I Just Have A Lot Of Feelings’ here:
And the other rad releases here: