Heartbreaking Bravery

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2015: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Miranda Fisher)

Photograph by Ángel Delgado-Reyes

Miranda Fisher was instrumental in developing my taste in music and introducing me to what can be accomplished on a DIY level. She played in one of the first bands I can ever remember seeing, Nobody’s Housewife, and her parents’ garage was where I wound up playing my first show. In the 10+ years that have followed, she’s remained a constant voice of reason as she’s moved across the country, written and edited for several excellent zines, and played in a number of great bands. She’s currently spearheading the Casting Couch zine, playing bass in The Zoltars, and helps shape some of the younger minds in her community. It’s a very distinct privilege to have her both as a returning contributor to the A Year’s Worth of Memories series and as a part of my life. Here, she focuses on Casting Couch, implementing a more overtly feminist approach to her writing while maintaining its balance, and being moved by the efforts of a student who shares some of her interests. Read it below and remember to do what you can to ensure equal platforms.


2015 was the year I really took a long, hard look at what it means to be a feminist in relation to rock music. I don’t mean, of course, that it was the first time I’d considered this: women involved in music are constantly forced to confront the ways that their experiences are much different from those of men. And I have identified as a feminist for as long as I can remember, for reasons I hope don’t need explaining. So it’s not like I had a sudden epiphany that hey, it sucks to be a woman in music.

I get a reminder of that every time somebody reposts a review I’ve written in my zine, Casting Couch, along with a caption saying “this guy’s review…” even though my name is ALL OVER my zine. I get a reminder of that every time a blogger (a female blogger!) uses the needlessly gendered phrase “these boys” to talk about my band, even though I’m right there on the album cover with everybody else. And you can be goddamn sure I get a reminder of that every time I walk into a show and see the guy who sexually assaulted me a few years ago, who many people know sexually assaulted me, but not many people seem to care sexually assaulted me.

So yes, these are things that I have to think about pretty much constantly, and I’ve always been aware of them and tried to be conscious of how I can combat these things. But I guess this was the year that I started to think more about what I can do for other women.

Part 1 of what I’m trying to do is to stand as a visible example for other women. That feels HORRIBLY self-important to type out. I’m not trying to imply that anyone looks up to me at all; that seems absurd. I don’t even feel comfortable saying that other people listen to what I have to say. (That is a strange attitude to have for someone who regularly publishes a zine full of her opinions, but there it is.) Anyway, I eventually decided that visibility in itself is just really important.

Maybe some woman will read my zine and get mad and think “This is a piece of shit! If this lady can do it, then literally anyone can!” That’s a heartening thought, to me, so I’m trying to be a little louder about my womanhood — not interjecting it into the writing that I do where it wouldn’t be appropriate or relevant, but making it clear that the person who writes this zine is a woman, which was something I’d kind of actively tried to avoid before.

Part 2 is that I want to bring attention to more female musicians. To be clear, I don’t want to highlight women in music just because they’re women. I think most bands with women in them are not good. Because I think that most bands in general are not good. But I want to make more of an effort to talk about bands that I think are good that have women in them. Interviewing Frau, the fantastic all-female British hardcore band, was a big deal to me. The way that they talked about making a conscious effort to play music with other women was something I hadn’t really considered before.

That was still echoing in my mind when I interviewed Negative Scanner. The interview itself was a normal, fun interview, but afterwards, I had a more intense, I guess, conversation with Rebecca. I’ve known her for a fairly long time, but not well enough to have this type of conversation. Listening to her ideas about how to make sure that we’re not just promoting more and more white guys and ignoring the people who are constantly ignored was eye-opening in a sense, especially put into the context of the scene in Chicago, a place that was once my home.

Part 3 of my renewed efforts to be more conscious about the way I relate to other women in music is about the actual young women in my life. I work with teenagers. While they know I play music, and once a year or so someone looks up a Zoltars song and plays it for the class during a break, most teenagers just are not interested in rock music. But this year I had a student who’s trying to get a band together, and who works on a community radio show run by teenagers.

Talking to her (even briefly) about music (even though her taste differs wildly from mine) was really exciting for me. But that couldn’t compare to how great it was to play and be interviewed on the radio show she does with other teenagers. My former student kept telling me how excited and how nervous she was to have us on, and I could see her hands shaking as she asked us questions. That was, by far, the coolest thing I did this year. I want to continue to do as much as I can for other women in music on an individual level.

I don’t generally feel comfortable aligning myself with movements of any sort, but as an individual, as a woman, as a musician, as a feminist, and as a writer, these are things I can do, and I’m going to try my best to do them going forward.

-Miranda Fisher

2015: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Katie Bennett)

i tried to run away when i was 6

I first came across Katie Bennett a few years back thanks to her work as Free Cake for Every Creature. Since then, we’ve met in passing on a few different occasions at shows, usually stopping to make small talk. I’ve also been fortunate enough to see Bennett play in a separate project, i tried to run away when i was 6. Through everything I’ve seen, she’s displayed a quiet tenacity in the pursuit of simply making (and performing) music. An inspirational artist and an important voice in today’s musical landscape, Bennett turns her attention here to CE Schneider Topical’s “Dreams”, moving to Philadelphia, and more. Read the piece below and remember that there’s an untold level of value in the most common of struggles.


Dreamin’ With CE Schneider Topical

For two weeks in June, I got up early and walked a mile and a half to the University of Pennsylvania medical center, where I participated in a pretty embarrassing study related to me being vegan. The study, along with money I’d saved substitute teaching throughout the school year, would help me finance the recording of my band’s first record and a two-week west coast tour.

By 7:30 on those June mornings, it was already eighty degrees and so muggy I sometimes felt like I was gasping for air. My ears sweat beneath my big headphones, and the sweat dripped down my neck and back. My thighs rubbed together below my black jean shorts and burned slightly from the friction. I was usually rushing, stinking, hungry, and, yep, carrying a small cooler containing a fresh stool sample.

Some of those morning walks, I thought of my partner, who had done the study a few months earlier. I thought of us: what were we doing? Maybe I’d let out a quick laugh, or imagine we were the stars of some crappy indie rom-com: “20-somethings doing weird things for money but happy and in love anyway.” Most of the time though, I felt kind of stupid about the whole thing, like maybe I should have just sucked it up and gotten a job, let go of my DIY pop dreams, and penguin-dived into suit-and-tie adulthood.

Halfway through the study, I downloaded CE Schneider Topical’s Look Who Showed Up Out Here and popped it on my iPod for my morning trek. I didn’t know what to expect, but, in continuing with the my-life-as-a-movie idea, everything seemed to stop around me as I listened to the first track “Dreams”, and a sparkling ray of hope, in the form of Christina Schneider’s lovely voice saturated in tape hiss, reached down from the bandcamp heavens to fill my spirit. I’d hadn’t realized how much I needed the song until I heard it.

If nobody wants to hear about your dreams
Just make sure they hear about them
You’re a lot of things,
“Worthless” isn’t one of them

-CE Schneider Topical, “Dreams”

My dream: to play music. “Dreams” helped me realize I was more than my empty pockets and sweaty pits; my music dreams were real and important, and I wouldn’t back down from them. Walking home from the medical center that morning, I blasted the song, already singing along to every word. I looked around the city, my new city of Philadelphia, and I felt like a champion, my future shining and expansive before me. I punched and kicked the air a couple times, nominating myself as the Rocky of DIY pop music.

-Katie Bennett