Patti Smith. Debbie Harry. Poly Styrene. Joan Jett. Siouxsie Sioux. Kathleen Hanna. Kim Gordon. Kim Deal. Corin Tucker. Carrie Brownstein—all have shown that women can rock as hard, live as dangerously, and make an impact as profound as any of their male counterparts. More importantly, they’ve shown that being punk, like being a woman, isn’t a singular thing.
In today’s punk scene, women are ever more seizing the mic (and spotlight) while male punk songwriters languish in navel-gazing. But these bands owe more to the aforementioned ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s artists than the pop-punk and emo bands of the 2000s. The Coathangers, Joanna Gruesome, Lithics, Priests, Dilly Dally, and Cherry Glazerr share an obvious reverence for their foremothers, but outside the ethos and an embodiment of a specific temporal influence, these bands don’t sound all that sonically similar.
Summer Cannibals, out of Portland, Oregon, proclaims its feminist punk-cred in its name, the title of a Patti Smith song from her 1996 album Gone Again. Summer Cannibals bring a weather-beaten ferocity to the female punk movement, but be careful throwing around the term “girl band.” In an interview with Drunken Werewolf, singer and guitarist Jessica Boudreaux refuses to “play up the fact that [as of this interview] 3/4 of the band are women.” She goes on to describe how to best combat prejudice in the music industry: “[We] play hard live so to me that’s the best way of dealing with any prejudice . . . playing hard, practicing hard and focusing on where you are as a musician, not where you are as a ‘female musician.’”
And playing hard (and loud) is just what they do. Boudreaux’s guitar is buzzsaw thick and cuts deep with layers awash in distortion. The rhythm section of drummer Devon Shirley and bassist Jenny Logan propels an aggressive groove, paying homage to the Pacific Northwest’s grunge lineage. Where they truly shine however is in Boudreaux’s lyrics, vocals, guitar tone, and presence.
While Savages worship at the throne of Siouxsie, and Priests’ singer Katie Alice Greer channels the outsized dramatics of Debbie Harry, Boudreaux tends to channel riot grrrl pioneers (and Kill Rock Stars alumni) Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney.
The rhythm section of drummer Devon Shirley and bassist Jenny Logan propels an aggressive groove, paying homage to the Pacific Northwest’s grunge lineage. Where they truly shine however is in Boudreaux’s lyrics, vocals, guitar tone, and presence.
On “Talk Over Me,” from the band’s 2016 release Full of It, Boudreaux lyrically moves from the personal ways in which men stifle women in relationships to more generally egregious behaviors like treating women as objects and/or ornaments. For her, the song serves as a rebuke against these toxic practices. “I’m not a bitch, it’s just presence, I’d rather not be harassed” and “I’m not going to let you talk over me one more time,” she howls in refrain, striking back at the portrayal of women that address these grievances as “bitches.” Boudreaux is having none of that.
On the title track, “Full of It,” Boudreaux’s voice shifts from a sing-speak to an aggrieved yell as she fights the social mores that demand women to clamor for approval from male peers and love interests. The track starts with her singing, “What do you wanna see? Yeah what should I say? / I’ll do anything that you want to feel like you’re listening.” She follows that wailing, “Tell me my worth, I'll tell you my pitch / Tell me my worth, another lie, yeah, another unreachable itch. / You say that’s smart, and I’ll say that’s shit. / That you think you care, well I think you're full of it” to highlight the subsequent patronizing tone that is often offered in return.
It is outspoken declarations such as these; levied against Boudreaux’s thick, caustic guitar tone; that make Summer Cannibals a formidable force, and a band to watch.
Summer Cannibals are touring throughout the spring supporting Full of It, including three highly coveted showcases at Austin, Texas’s SXSW festival March 15-17.