Since Yesterday explores the legacy of all-female bands in Scottish pop music
- Kirstyn Smith
- 16 August 2018
Makers of new documentary exploring forgotten female trailblazers of Scottish pop on their Edinburgh International Festival event celebrating the music of those bands and the new generation of women musicians
If you close your eyes and picture an image of a band, you'll probably think of four or five white men in the shape of the Beatles or the Rolling Stones, according to Carla J Easton and Blair Young. Despite the fact that, in Scotland in particular, all-female bands have been a mainstay of the music scene for decades, their legacies are often lost to a more male-focused history. Musician Easton (from all-women band Teencanteen), and Young, a filmmaker, have teamed up to produce a documentary – Since Yesterday: The Unsung Women Pioneers of Scottish Pop – that aims to bring the female side of Scottish music history to light.
'I'd had this idea for a good ten years,' says Easton. 'and Blair mentioned he'd been looking for a music documentary to work on. We started talking about how girl groups and girl bands have been represented in music videos and went down that route.'
In their spare time, the pair started contacting people, meeting up to interview them and hear their stories, and unearthing old photos and tracks. Young admits that some of the women they spoke to were confused, if happy, as to why the duo were embarking on their project.
'There's a key quote in the documentary where someone says: "I just wanted to see more women in bands", and I think there's a feeling that it never really happened,' he says. 'I get a sense of frustration from some people we interviewed from previous generations. They were like: "How has it not changed?"'
Of course, women making music together isn't a new phenomenon, which is something the documentary explores, but why, then, do we not know about so many of these bands, some of whom, Easton says, have done more Peel Sessions than their male counterparts. 'They did albums and long tours and had top ten singles,' she says. 'So why has it not carried on from the time when they were active until now?'
The documentary has inspired the International Festival event of the same name, a night of live music, clips from the documentary and guest performances celebrating all-female bands from the 60s until the present day who have been doing their bit to redress the gender imbalance. Sacred Paws, Bossy Love and the Van T's will perform, as well as a house band headed by Easton, who'll be covering some of the tracks discovered while researching the documentary.
'It's cool to have today's bands involved in it, so it's not just a nostalgia night,' says Easton. 'But I am conscious that the main band of the night is basically going to be playing songs people have not heard. It's the greatest hits of songs that no-one knows.'
To round the night off with a bang, a number of the women who wrote and performed the songs originally will take to the stage, some of them for the first time in 40 years. 'I'm quite nervous about it,' admits Easton. 'We're obviously going to do the songs respectfully, and it's an honour to have these incredible people joining us on stage to perform them.'
Among those guest appearances are Rose McDowall (Strawberry Switchblade), Patricia 'Trash' Brown and Anne Morrison (Ettes), Jane McKeown (Lungleg), Jeanette McKinley (the McKinleys), Rachel and Gaye Bell (the Twinsets) and Louise Rutkowski (Sunset Gun). There's also support from Adele Bethel of Sons and Daughters and Emma Pollock of the Delgados playing the music of cult favourites Sophisticated Boom Boom and His Latest Flame.
One aspect Young is concerned with is audiences coming away from the event thinking about – and knowing about – a different genre of female-fronted music. 'Obviously there's loads of women involved in music,' he says. 'The biggest solo artists in the world are female: Beyonce, Rihanna, Lady Gaga. It's always just felt like women are only allowed to make music and be signed in a certain shape, either as a solo artist or a pop group. It's a really defined shape that record companies know they can sell a female act in.'
This, along with the differences in confidence that vary from male bands to female bands, is what Easton wants people to get from the event. 'Younger people are encouraged in different ways and we haven't learned that it's something we need to do a lot of work on, in terms of behavioural issues that get started in youth,' adds Blair. On top of that, there's the simpler notion of championing women for what they've achieved over the years. Both Easton and Young stress the importance of remembering that, for women picking up instruments and performing back in the 60s and 70s, it was dangerous to just be in the audience, let alone to get on stage and subject yourself to the spotlight.
'There's a certain amount of bravery. Let's celebrate it,' says Easton. 'Some of the stories we've heard, without going into detail, are a bit uncomfortable to listen to, but we're not trying to victimise women at all. We're trying to celebrate everything that they've achieved and all the fun times. They've paved the way to make it easier for us to do what they did.'
Since Yesterday, Leith Theatre, 24 Aug, 7pm, £20.