Feels release new single,
‘They Need Us (feat. Stella Donnelly)’
“Did you make that beat yourself?”
Women of the music industry confirm that they did in fact, make the beat themselves.
Feels discuss their latest single featuring Stella Donnelly and call upon their colleagues to share their own experiences as women in a male dominated industry.
Words by: Elise Reitze
Image by: Zal Kanga-Parabia
It often feels hard to ‘say something’ with electronic production and instrumental music — although Rosie and I are passionate about equal gender representation within our industry, we have only been able to show this with our actions, not our music. ‘They Need Us’ is the first time we have been able to speak to our audience on a personal level and Stella is the perfect voice to address the mechanical bull(shit) that is directed
to women in this industry every day.
Stella came over to our studio on a warm Monday afternoon in February to record the vocals for a new track. Rosie and I hadn’t discussed the meaning of the vocal hook Stella had already written, “we’ll find our place in this world, they need us”, but it felt like we both knew the theme of the song and where it was going. We sat down in the studio with Stella and excitedly discussed ideas for the track.
Stella warned us that writing about the topic of treatment of women in the industry would create not only loyal fans but enemies. How sad. She recalled of comments and DMs she had received on social media and how awful some individuals had been. Rosie and I also started recalling of patronising things men in the industry have said to us and observations we have made at gigs,
This whole conversation started to form the lyrics of this song, Stella wrote lines on her phone and we took turns in recalling different comments that had been directed to us by men in the industry. Rosie and I have had zero lyric writing experience, but Stella seemed to effortlessly spin the quotes into eloquently phrased verses. In no time she was in the booth (a corner of our studio) recording the song.
I was stoked at how quickly this song came together but remembered thinking how sad it was that we could think of so many examples of this type of behaviour and treatment towards us. We are 3 women in a massive industry, what else were other women dealing with that we hadn’t covered? It is so hard to capture the feeling in a 3-minute song — the feeling of working 10 times harder than your male counterparts just to be treated ‘normally’ or with respect. The feeling of knowing exactly what you are talking about, creating and playing, but it still being assumed that someone else is doing it for you.
Here are those feelings captured by the fierce women in this industry. They need us.
It is important to acknowledge that as white women we have an inherent privilege. We would also like to acknowledge the men in our industry that are supporting women in music and encouraging change to improve equality.
“Did you make that beat yourself?” and “Who does all of your production?” are two lines that really hit home for me. In the music industry, it’s often assumed that women got to where they are with a lot of external help. Particularly in electronic music where people often assume that female artists are just the vocalist or top-liner rather than the producer that created the whole track from scratch.
I found myself discriminated against, and pushed around by males in live music venue environments during soundcheck and set up, which luckily I have the confidence to stand up to. What hurts me the most is seeing successful female artists treated poorly on festival bookings. This lyric from Camp Cope’s “The Opener” is too real. “It’s another male telling us we can’t fill up the room… yeah just get a female opener, that will fill the quota”.
Jenny from San Cisco
When the first thing someone says to you about your set is a comment on what you look like it’s really disheartening because as women I feel like we work so hard to be taken seriously as musicians. I’ve had reviews commenting on my hair and my outfit or saying I was the ‘token’ female bass player, without even touching on my guitar or bass playing. (One time) a guy came up to me after a show and said: “I’ll buy your EP if you give me a kiss.”
I think the lyric “are you here with someone else?” resonates the most with me. There have been a few too many times while setting up my gear on stage people (usually male) have asked which one of my bandmates/friends is my boyfriend and when his band will be playing. It sucks to have to see their surprise when I tell them that no, I’ll actually be playing and feeling pressure to prove that I can ‘rock’ as hard as a guy could when really I just want to be myself onstage.
The entire song resonates with me, being a woman in a male-dominated industry we deal with pre-judgements and stereotyping all the time and so the overall message in this song being that “They need us” is so important because I feel in order to have balance and equality the feminine presence must be there.
I have had very positive experiences as a female rapper, but there were definitely incidents when I DJ’d in the past and was treated pretty poorly because of my gender and mainly by men. Sometimes I would have men come up to me during my sets and throw in their 5 cents from time to time but I vividly remembered one time a guy said to me “You’re pretty good for a chick DJ, I can help you play better though let me show you” and he proceeded with trying to take over my set! That was crazy, I was in shock, this would hardly ever happen to any of male family or friends that DJ’d.
And it happened more than a handful of times, I had guys question me about my skill set eg. “Do you know how to mix?” and if I was even actually playing my own set assuming It was pre-recorded… It got to a point I would literally have to tell people to “F##k Off” or have a security guard nearby to take them away and 9 out of 10 times it was Men who would be the ones pestering me. I think it’s a hang-up for those types of men, seeing a woman do something they perceive as a ‘dude’s’ job I think it just hurts their egos and pride. It spills out into playing our roles down too and not taking us seriously because they think it’s a gimmick “Oh cute girl DJs, they’re everywhere because it’s a good look” etc.
While I was listening to this song I realised that the lyrics of the chorus — “we’ll find our place in this world cos they need us” — have been one of the mainstays of my motivation and my mental health for as long as I’ve been working in music. Whenever I’ve had setbacks or when men in the industry have said things that threaten my self-confidence, I’ve always fallen back on knowing two things — firstly that I have skills and creative ideas that it would be wasteful not to share, and secondly that there are other people in gender minorities who want to have careers in production, songwriting, and engineering, who need to know that they’re welcome in the industry — and the more of their peers they can see doing those jobs already, the more welcome they’re going to feel.
The number of times something has been assumed of me by men in this industry, or I’ve been spoken to as though I was a child — it’s something I expect at this point. I’m lucky that’s the worst I get (to my face at least).
As a white cis woman, I am inherently privileged and it’s crucial to remember that, especially when discussing experiences of sexism in this industry. On the grand scale, I am one of the lucky — I don’t experience even close to the worst of the discrimination that exists in this industry.
In terms of my own experience, I actually think that rather than outright ‘unfair treatment’, I’ve mainly been treated patronisingly – which I guess is unfair, in a way. That’s why I relate to much to this song — it’s that tone that men in the music world so often take with women — commented on by Camp Cope as well in The Opener (‘Nah hey c’mon girls we’re only thinking about you!’).
It’s frustrating, and can be hurtful too, especially when coming from men that you actually like! It’s not just stranger sound engineers or roadies or A&Rs or whatever who take this tone with women — it’s our male friends, who do it often without thinking. It’s in everything from words and actions and can be super subtle — for example, having your male bandmate lean over your keyboard and fiddle with something you are perfectly capable of fiddling with yourself – feels awful!
When I played a DJ set at Falls Festival a man I didn’t know was trying to grab my attention mid-set, and wouldn’t stop trying to tell me how to mix. Eventually, he reached over the cdj and started to turn my knobs and I really freaked out, since he was invading my space.
I love this song. It places a crucial importance on the role women play in our world, while also drawing attention to the people who can’t even recognise that. I thankfully haven’t had to deal with any major sexist moments in my career, but the small moments definitely build up and form a mountain. But I’m sensing a change and a shift, and thank the gods that women’s voices are getting more and more impossible to ignore.
There must be a change in the music industry and this song sends a powerful message. We are so excited for the launch of WOMPP and all of the forthcoming releases from this killer label.
We try to keep it fair, but there are no female bands we chose merit over gender, hope you ladies understand’ The thing that resonates with me in this song, is all the excuses that women have had to listen to whilst being undermined in this industry. There is no justification for misogyny.
I don’t even think the worst thing has been something that someone has said to me. One of the most horrible things is when I do live shows and the sound guys directly ignore me and talk to my male MD — they don’t even bother to introduce themselves to me at all… even though, I am the live act. I have had two experiences where the sound guy for the evening hasn’t checked his gear properly and is blaming our gear — my MD is frantically trying to fix the problem on our end — I have suggested to the sound guy to maybe check the DI and the cables on his end — and I have been ignored. 20 mins go by and he checks his DI and the cables and low and beholds — it is the DI.
This whole song speaks to me in a big way! I don’t think there are many female identifying people that it won’t speak to on some level. The part “it was cute” resonates a lot. I’m a not even 5-foot female so I get “cute” a lot, it feels pretty condescending when you’re out here trying to do much more than be “cute” on stage.
I know it is progressing and it is better but navigating your way through what still feels like a boys club industry is scary. It’s hard when the sound guy talks to you like you don’t understand your own equipment or talks to the guys in your band instead of you or when you’re the only female on the lineup. In 2 years of doing shows we’ve only had one female sound person, I remember being so excited about it and instantly sad that I was excited about that. I can only speak from my experiences but I don’t think a male artist would often have someone come up to them post-show and tell them they should “smile more”. They might think they’re giving valuable feedback but it usually leaves me feeling super intimidated and belittled.
They absolutely do need us though. The support and strength of women is the reason I’m able to do anything. Women, especially ‘First Nations women’, have always been at the forefront of change in this country.