"It's a way of trying to send the message, not just to the mainstream music industry, but to female musicians and to all musicians."
It may seem remarkable but the Sad Grrrls Club collective only coalesced this year, with Newcastle-based alt-pop artist Rachel Maria Cox as founder. "It started off as a couple of friends of mine and a little sort of running joke that we were all these sad female musicians — and we've just done our own little 'sad grrrls' club," Cox says.
'Sad Grrrls Club' sounds like a kinda Lana Del Rey meta-emo pop song one might play when reading Sylvia Plath's subversive feminist novel The Bell Jar — and that's not far off the mark, says Cox, who's majored in composition at the University Of Newcastle's Conservatorium. The fold takes its name from a cultural project initiated by Los Angeles visual artist Audrey Wollen, who theorises that female melancholia is a manifestation of patriarchal resistance. Notably, Wollen has praised Del Rey. "Everything's very beautiful and very tragic and very dramatic," Cox suggests. "It's all over the top. There is a value to that, but part of it as well is accepting that sadness and anger and these emotions that a lot of the time we don't even allow women to have culturally are not always gonna be glamorous and theatrical — but they are very real. And they are something that we should allow women to express."
"These emotions that a lot of the time we don't even allow women to have culturally are not always gonna be glamorous and theatrical..."
Cox will front the 12-date Sad Grrrls Club tour alongside Sydney freak-folkie Ess-Em, the pair joined by different acts in each city. Significantly, the run will culminate in Sydney with October's two-day DIY Sad Grrrls Fest, featuring an expanded curated roster. The first day, '90s-referencing punk-popsters Stellar Addiction will headline, the second indie combo Missing Children. "I just thought it'd be good to do something that brings everyone together," Cox explains. Imagine an even more gender-diverse, yet intimate, Lilith Fair.
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Cox, who self-applies non-binary (or genderqueer) pronouns like 'they' over 'she', admits that Sad Grrrls Club is responding to disquiet about Australian festivals' male-dominated programming. "There's a new festival in the States called Burger A-Go-Go — that's another all-female festival. You read the comments on that [online] and it's just a bunch of dudes having a bit of a whine about why are we putting together these all-female festivals — that's just as bad as an all-male festival and stuff like that. Everyone's complaining and talking about this ideal world where we have an equal representation on line-ups — [but] if no one's doing anything about it, then everything just stays the same. I guess, if [Sad Grrrls Club] works on some level — it doesn't have to be a huge success or make it to the same level as those big festivals with the international acts, it's a way of trying to send the message, not just to the mainstream music industry, but to female musicians and to all musicians, really, that you're not shooting yourself in the foot to give women a go."
After lately airing the Home EP, the singer-songwriter will perform Sad Grrrls-themed songs on the road. "A lot of my new material is a bit more involved in this kind of gender and sadness [milieu], and that 'Sad Grrrls' vibe, because I've been working so much on this that it's informed my music."