A Q&A with Lois Righteous
Garage punk trio channels riot grrrl spirit with 'Rude' EP
In the summer of 2016, Lois Righteous began as a drum taped to a trash can and an inside joke. Since then, vocalist and drummer Beth Cunningham, bass player Whitney Hansen, and singer/guitar player Lisa Highfill have garnered national attention, following a February appearance on WABE's "City Lights,' hosted by namesake, Lois Reitzes.
In just over a year's time, the trio has fostered a fast-paced, lo-fi garage-punk charge forged of noise and political agitation: Lois Righteous has the patriarchy in its crosshairs. With their most recent single, "Kill Your Masters," the group's members take a stand against the systemic oppression of women and other marginalized people in America a message that defines the group's very existence.
On Fri., Nov. 3, Lois Righteous' debut cassette tape, titled the Rude EP, arrives with a release party at 529. Before the show, Cunningham, Hanson, and Highfil took a few minutes for a candid conversation about all things righteous.
Who is Lois Righteous?
Beth Cunningham: Lois Righteous is someone who says what you want to say when you are nervous to say it. Lois relates to all people and shows it's okay to speak up.
Lisa Highfill: Lois Righteous is your friend who tells every creep to fuck all the way off. At the end of the day, we want to inspire girls/women to start bands and share their experiences.
Whitney Hansen: Lois Righteous is here to participate in the bomb-as-fuck growing movement of dismantling systemic oppression.
What motivated you to start a band? Were you nervous when you started?
BC: Honestly, we just wanted a reason to hang out more.
LH: We didn't have any anxieties starting up, because it was just the three of us and didn't have plans to play shows. Then Lois Reitzes (our Spirit Mom) invited us to play on NPR, so we figured we had to give it a shot. We still bring Pepto-Bismol to every show.
Why do you think women begin their music endeavors later in life compared to men?
LH: I think it comes down to not seeing enough women doing the damn thing. There still aren't nearly as many female-identifying bands in Atlanta as there are male. When you see that as a young woman, it sends a pretty clear signal.
WH: Our goal is to be an example for female-identifying and marginalized individuals who want to create and play music.
BC: I didn't feel comfortable playing in front of people for a long time, and in a way still feel that. However, I know it's important to get out and ruffle some feathers to get a point across.
Do you identify with the riot grrrls in the '90s? Do you think that ethos is relevant today?
WH: Our general vibe aligns with the energy of the riot grrrl movement, but our sound has evolved from that. We draw inspiration from folks that showed us we could find our power through uniting, supporting each other, creating music together.
LH: Women are being silenced, discounted, sexualized, controlled. It's in our faces more because we're immersed in social media and the news anxiety-inducing and extremely illuminating. There are so many shared experiences of harassment, not being paid fairly, not feeling safe walking alone. You can't talk about the riot grrrl movement without calling out that it failed a lot of people who needed it. But there's a resurgence of a sisterhood that feels really tight; it's that revolutionary soul force. It's powerful, and it's going to get us where we need to be.
How will we ever dismantle the patriarchy?
WH: We can't have a national conversation without addressing all forms of systemic and societal oppression. The conversation has to be intersectional. For Atlanta specifically, this is an important time to be vigilant and aware of the possibilities of what we can do with the right people supporting our city. Support and advocate a platform for candidates who need to be heard now.
LH: It's simple, really. Just kidding, it's not. I think starting a band and singing about clits and stuff is a step in the right direction. But we know taking down the patriarchy isn't just about women reclaiming and using their power. If we fight for one but not the other, the outcome is just another form of oppression. We need to vote for people we know are going to fight for more marginalized voices to be heard.