If you haven’t heard of Petrol Girls yet, then a) you’re missing out, and b) you probably will do soon. They’re a four piece no nonsense punk outfit from South East London, describing their genre as ‘raging feminist post-hardcore’, and with the release of their debut LP, Talk Of Violence last year, they’ve been challenging stereotypes and provoking debate wherever they go ever since.
“So many aspects of our society are disgustingly violent, and most forms of power and control are maintained through violence”
According to lead vocalist and guitarist Ren Aldridge, they’ve been having “loads of great conversations with people at shows about what violence really is, and other topics on the record. So many aspects of our society are disgustingly violent, and most forms of power and control are maintained through violence, whether that’s within personal relationships or the way the demonstrations are policed. These forms of violence, enacted by the powerful, are often taken as ‘just the way things are’ – but it’s not how it should be.”
The name Petrol Girls may be deceiving, however, as they are mixed gendered and most definitely not ‘a girl band’. “We don’t look like we’re going to play the kind of music we do,” says Ren, and certainly, one might not expect a ‘feminist band’ to come out on stage with such aggression and attitude, but the energy and passion they put across at their live shows has definitely helped to make them memorable and exciting to the audiences they connect with, challenging the concepts of gender and turning capitalism on its head.
With a lot of bands these days often hesitating to express their opinions for fear of criticism, it’s truly refreshing to see an act like Petrol Girls take a stand and not shy away from important issues, but for Ren and the rest of the band, culture such as music, art and film is “a battleground. Because it’s how so much bullshit, like sexism, the gender binary, heteronormative relationships, and a sense of nationalism is maintained. I feel like if you’re not actively doing something against that shit, then you’re helping to maintain it, whether you want to or not. I’ve got a mic and a stage and that’s a massive opportunity to talk about some shit that really matters and hopefully provoke some meaningful conversations about it.”
“I’ve got a mic and a stage and that’s a massive opportunity to talk about some shit that really matters.”
Although there’s been a rise of feminist bands recently, Petrol Girls believe it’s still crucial to keep pushing for further representation over the spectrum, with more girls, trans and non-binary people getting their shot. “It can be so empowering to see someone that looks like you on stage…You are powerful,” says Ren of the band’s key message, talking with such eloquence, ease and intelligence on a variety of topics. “You are a vital part of the fight to make the world a fairer place…We need you.”
But Petrol Girls doesn’t just stop at feminism. Their single ‘Treading Water’ is about “the crisis of borders…” with the band feeling an urgent need to release it “because of everything happening in Calais and across Europe with refugees and European people’s reaction to them. We put it out the month before the Brexit vote, and all this racist shit was really escalating as a result of the Leave campaign. I couldn’t believe the mood across the UK as we were touring, and the shocking posters we were seeing in different places.”
This is a band not afraid to have a voice, and in today’s current climate, they seem to be more relevant than ever. Petrol Girls have already started work on a second LP, and will be touring with Dream Nails at the end of the summer, so catch them on the road while you can.
WORDS: BECTON SIMPSON
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