Happy Feminist Wednesday! This week we chatted with Jess from the band BARQ all about her feminist roots, being unapologetically herself and how channelling her anger is part of her self-care routine.
Introduce yourself, tell us who you are and what you do?
My name is Jess, I am from Dublin and I am the vocalist in a band called BARQ. I have been referred to as a "terrifying performer" or a "pissed-off Sade" or "too small to make those noises". The truth is somewhere amongst the three statements.
Tell us how you got started?
I started in a stage school as a teenager that allowed me to develop a strong vocal-stamina and a love for musicals and theatre. Also it allowed me to relinquish my fears for performing and letting go on stage from an early age. When I was in college, I got my first gig as a backing vocalist for a funk band. That was particularly interesting, as it allowed me to hone my skills in harmonies, considering the interesting voicings many funk and neo-soul songs have. We would have been huge fans of Jamiroquai and Incognito at that time, so I developed a love for textured and soulful music. I then have been working as a backing vocalist with bands like Hozier, Kodaline, Jape, Le Galaxie and The Waterboys over the last couple of years. Finally, I got the confidence to collaborate with musicians in a creative capacity and me, Tommy, Neil and Steve formed the band BARQ. We call our genre "Agrosoul".
Tell us why feminism is important to you and how it influences your work.
I was lucky to have a very strong mother and a brilliant primary school who instilled some great beliefs in me. From a young age I was encouraged to discuss and reflect on concepts of inequality and prejudice. I never believed I was weaker than my male peers or less intellectual. I did feel though that we were all questioning behaviours instilled in us as we began to grow-up. Some behaviours were easy to discuss with my male peers and others were more uncomfortable. That can be difficult when you tend to be the gender minority in most rooms, which is a constant in the music industry.
Growing up as a musician I saw the way women were treated differently. I saw that despite us being professionals in our late 20s and 30s, we were still called "the girls". I saw my female friends go to business meetings and realise halfway through that it was a date. I left a band due to sexual harassment and their careers continue on with their views unquestioned. There are injustices and inequalities in our industry that is allowed to continue due to the attitude that we should be lucky to be here. Whereas every musician I met who is doing well, is due to their resilience and talent, not just "luck". There are subtle changes of perspective we need to address in order for us all to feel more empowered and free, moving forward.
Writing really helps me process my views. Our new single "Sassy Mouth" looks at the perils of polarised views that are exacerbated by the internet, in particular it was influenced by Ireland's campaign to change our constitution to allow abortions rights for pregnant people. Many debates online turn into something darker, fuelled by the ability to be anonymous and therefore have zero repercussions on your words. I've been incredibly shocked at the way some have handled the debate on the eighth amendment. It can be so traumatic for people who have had abortions abroad and have been forced back to work on Monday in Ireland with zero recovery. Also the discussion of a potential rape/incest clause has been harrowing for some. The intention for the hook of "Sassy Mouth" is to be a motivation-refresher for when the debate seems too much. We need to remind ourselves to be apologetically us and to move forward with strength.
What do you do to avoid feminist burnout? Whats your favorite self care practice?
Currently it's channelling the anger into something productive. A particular incident in the Irish music industry made me feel furious and helpless recently. I reached out online to organise a fundraiser for the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre and I couldn't believe the amount of people who were willing to help.
Similarly, we have been blown away by the interest in our new releases, "Sassy Mouth" and "Earthquakes" being influenced by feminist movements in Ireland. When you know you are getting to people and helping them feel empowered, it makes you feel brill.
On days when even the beauty of solidarity won't shake the blues, I am a take-away and Netflix kinda gal! Or a whiskey and a rant with my pals!
Do you have any advice for anyone starting out in your field?
Everyone feels insecure at the beginning. Some brats will try and project that onto you. Bat that shit away and keep working towards being fantastic. When it feels like too much don't be afraid to reach out. Always listen to your gut when it tells you something's not right. Not anyone can do your job. You're there because you're fire.
How can our Betty's support and find you?
We release our double singles, "Earthquakes" and "Sassy Mouth" March 20th on all digital platforms.
Also follow us you lovely people!