Nothing against girl power, but members of Australian rock group Litany are determined to be the alternative to the Spice Girls for 13 year old girls living in the suburbs.
“I find the Spice Girls particularly frustrating,” drummer Stephanie Bourke said recently, “because there are so many little girls out there, 12 and 13 years old, that are about to pick up on something, that there’s some sort of independence they should be striving for, but then the Spice Girls give them no direction.”
Bourke and singer-guitarist Fran Evans and guitarist Melanie Schmidt do their part to make sense of it all with their debut Time Bomb Recordings album, “Peculiar World” (released May 19). Assertive tracks such as the first single, “By Myself,” encourage women to stand up and change their fate – “It’s a peculiar world where to be a girl/ You have to be sexy and thin/ And with money we use/ When we don’t buy food/ We spend millions to care for our skin.”
“By Myself,” in particular, showcases Litany’s skilled musicianship and diverse tastes. It stops and starts throughout, one minute providing rapid-fire rants, the next emitting sweet harmonies slowly punctuated by grinding guitars.
“I wanted people to hear the content, that it’s not just a tennis match – this chord, this chord, this chord, this chord,” Bourke said, “and realize there’s arrangements and harmonies. We want people to say, ‘I like that chord progression,’ not ‘Gee, aren’t those girls really cute?’ and ‘Girl power!’ ”
Litany goes one step further by teaching at Rock ‘n Roll High School, a Melbourne-based nonprofit music school founded by Bourke.
“I was teaching classical piano,” Bourke said, “and the kids would ask to play the Pixies or ‘Can I play AC/DC?’ So we decided, my friends and I in bands, that we would lend our equipment to these girls, and they just wanted to keep doing it, so after about a year, we had 70 girls playing and using our gear. I applied for a government grant and moved to a bigger building and got more stuff.
“As the years progressed, we took them into recording studios, and now there’s 200 of them. It’s been a real interesting experiment because we’ve had 17 year old girls and 17 year old boys and watched how they work together, how they perceive themselves.”
Litany has the musical training to back it up. Each member began taking classical lessons when they were 3.
“Anyone who does classical music,” Bourke said, “you’re supposed to show that you can play as many styles as possible in order to get anywhere in the classical world. You’re not going to play Mozart and Mozart only. When we started picking up our rock instruments, it never occurred to us that we should be this kind of band or that kind of band.
“We wouldn’t have been able to play the instruments as well as we do if we hadn’t done all the other stuff. I played piano for 20 years before I swapped it for a drum kit. Other people we know in bands pick up the guitar when they’re 12 and play it in front of the mirror, the usual play-in-your-bedroom, jump-around stuff. We didn’t do that, so we’re lucky that we had at least some musical background.”
BWF (before we forget): For more on Litany, stop by www.msopr.com.