Oakland’s Stillsuit mix experimental noise rock with punk politics, creating a feminist soundtrack to the confusion of sex and violence in a gendered world. Loud treble guitars in weird tunings duel while drums pound away in another time signature. Their live show lays waste to squares who cover their ears, clear the room and even pull the plug.
Stillsuit is the best band in America, and their legitimacy is not predicated on outside approval. Like all great underground groups, they make up their own rules. Listen and learn.
On noise vs. punk:
Marissa Magic: Sometimes I describe us as noise-rock, but I also kind of hate that [term].
Vanessa Harris: [Noise] is where a lot of my personal history lies, but it can be limiting. My conception of a punk band means that you care about things. I want to be explicitly feminist and care about the ways in which we do things. We are a punk band in that sense, but maybe we don’t totally sound like one.
On moving beyond the “man/woman” show and intersectional feminism in 2013:
Jaime Clark: The feminist scene in the Bay Area isn’t just about women or cisgendered women, it’s about gender-non-conforming people and people of color. It also considers class dynamics and so many aspects of people’s backgrounds that are not necessarily directly related to gender.
Harris: There’s also a lot of non-feminist punk stuff that’s going on too and that can be a bummer — some of those “man/woman” shows that happen —
Clark: — as in, “men” and “women” are at the show, and that’s it —
Harris: And they are very much acting out roles that are traditional. Being in consideration of all those things is what good feminism is. What inspires me about feminism is that it can encompass anything. It should be asking questions about race, class, gender, queer — I don’t know, everything.
Magic: Sometimes we get asked to play bigger noise shows and we are the only women on the bill — or it will be, like, very man/woman situations — I think it’s important to play those shows but it can be challenging.
On what they dislike most in popular music:
Magic: I don’t like music that sounds like it’s made by hippies on cocaine. Like ELO, Steely Dan — I just hate groovy-talented-guys doing groovy-talented-things in really expensive studios and everything sounds slick. Also a thing that bums me out is that a lot of the music I really like sonically is either lyrically or aesthetically really fucked up.
Clark: Generally I dislike Bruce Springsteen and I dislike “Don’t Stop Believing” — things that are sort of like “songs for every guy out there.” Also, drums or percussion really make or break a band for me. I don’t like music where it feels like whatever percussion has no life. I like a lot of music that has drum machines or pre-recorded beats, as long as it seems like life got put into creating it.
Harris: I hate ’80s synths. I hate the new ’80s noise dudes doing ’80s synth-music thing. It’s so unappealing to me. I love Steely Dan. I don’t like Journey, but I like Boston. But I would pay money if I never had to hear that song “You Spin Me Right Round” again.
Magic: The other day she said “I would pay $5 to never hear that song again.”
Harris: Yeah, I don’t care that much. But I could do without it.