The first time I saw Whore Paint, a self proclaimed-feminist, Riff Rock/No Wave/Crooner Shred hybrid band out of Providence, RI , I was immediately 16 again and at my first Sleater-Kinney show in my busted Docs, baby barrette firmly lodged against the side of my head with a newfound hope that there’s an entire league of cool ladies who I could aspire to be like. Tulsa-raised Providence resident and woman about town, Reba Mitchell (of Made in Mexico and Assembly of Light Choir fame) commands the stage as a seasoned front woman. With expert skill, she screams, purrs, and seizes the crowd. She and the band, composed of Hilary Jones, (formerly of Arcing and Sweetthieves) on guitar and Meredith Stern of Teenage Waistband on drums, clad in their uniform of black silk slips (“we challenge the idea that sexuality and blatant femininity necessarily preclude power”) dominate and devastate the audience, leaving mouths agape, eardrums split and ideologies flexed. 

Whore Paint’s name is an allusion to makeup, “an epithet used to slander women who adhere to our cultural standards of beauty. Whore Paint is what we wear in to battle,” they declare. “Whore Paint is who we are as a band.”

 It’s kind of hard not to want to hang with (read: want to be like) these ladies.

The band formed in January 2010 when Mitchell and Stern were working at as220, a non-profit community arts center in Providence, RI. Stern approached Mitchell about a musical project that she and Jones were working on. ‘That’s the sickest dream team I heard of in my life,’ Mitchell told as220 in an interview.

Thus spawned Whore Paint, whose core consists of collaboration and feminism, says Stern, who also works with Just Seeds Artists’ cooperative. “Feminism—which for me is the grassroots movement of people working together for justice and equality—is the blood flowing through it. I’m very happy to be working with people who understand that various systems of oppression are linked and can’t be addressed independently.” 

Jones, who holds a Ph.D. in Behavioral Science Psychology with a focus in Gender and Multiculturalism is the Executive Director of "Girls Rock! RI", where Mitchell also teaches and serves on the board. Working with young girls and music, and previously as a sexual violence prevention educator, Jones found a need for alternative examples for young women. “The media is so hyper-sexualized. It is important to us that girls’, women’s and trans-folks’ bodies and sexuality are their own and they are powerful. By portraying power in our music and performance, we are hoping to provide an alternative example to the current script that girls are experiencing in the rest of culture.”

 The band’s first LP, Swallow My Bones, which was recorded at Machines with Magnets in Pawtucket, was released this September under Load Records. Their first official music video for “This Body,” the first song on the LP, was released last week. Directed by Peter Glantz, it’s full of what Whore Paint embodies: raw, unapologetic, unbridled power. 

Swallow My Bones is a complex eight song journey that can be likened to a ship ride in the middle of the night on the open sea; you’re never really sure where it’s going to take you (and that’s a good thing). It’s dark, beautiful, and haunting—sometimes placid, sometimes tumultuous. Sometimes you see glimpses of the moon, and sometimes the tide aggressively pulls you under. The expert technical finesse of Jones’ guitar, the strong tom-heavy pulse of Stern’s Drums and Mitchell’s command, presence, and bravery as a vocalist breed one confidence-inspiring, feminist ideology-possessing, bloody lyrics-loving Captain.

“I’d Eat My Bones” pierces and haunts with grim lyrics. “Her skin hangs on brittle walls… I lost my eyes looking for you/I lost my legs/running for it/ I lost my hands clawing my way in. Now, I’d swallow my bones. I’d eat them whole ‘til new ones grew up from my womb,” Mitchell croons, then gutturally pleads. The guitar riffs are pressing: sometimes heavy, sometimes experimental, and always Providence. The drums pulse like a grounding heartbeat. It’ll deposit you awestruck and devastated, lying on the floor of your teenage bedroom staring at the ceiling like the first time you heard PJ Harvey’s 4-Track Demos

When asked about influences, the band has a long list, including the likes of Nick Cave, Lydia Lunch, Danzig, the Golden Girls, Girls Rock! students, Providence, Dolly Parton (“Anybody that thinks they have to swear and act like a dick on stage to get noticed needs to just meditate on Dolly for a few hours,” Mitchell notes), and each other.

“We find ourselves aligned in many ways: ideologically, aesthetically, politically, and musically. Being women is one of many things we have in common. It basically rules.”

As veterans of the music world, each woman has experienced sexism in the industry first-hand. After shows, Stern’s been told by dudes that she “really hits the drums,” and one year for a review of a Made in Mexico show at CMJ, Mitchell was simply described as the girl dressed in “Malibu pants,” with no details about her performance.

“Our culture seems to think we are post-everything,” Jones notes. “Post-racism, post-sexism…The issues simply become more covert and complicated and harder to identify...and ultimately, harder to change.” The band seems well on their way to being a part of that change.

In their website’s FAQ section Whore Paint responds to a question posed at them:

“Do you want to date me?”

“You seem like a nice person,” they quip, “but we’re seeing someone…and their name is Rock ‘n’ Roll.”

Stay posted on Whore Paint’s ventures, as they plan to tour next year.  

 

 

Tagged in: whore paint, Teenage Waistband, sleater-kinney, riff rock, Reba Mitchell, Punk, providence, no wave, Meredith Stern, feminist rock   

The opinions expressed on the BUST blog are those of the authors themselves and do not necessarily reflect the position of BUST Magazine or its staff.




blog comments powered by Disqus