Tonight at Spider House Ballroom, we’re helping put on a show with three groups fronted by super talented women– Portland’s shoegazey badasses Genders, K Records’ orchestral pop star Ruby Fray and Denise, a trio fronted by newcomer Kate Doherty (featuring Ovrld’s own Morgan Davis on drums). But this barely scratches the surface of all the incredible women in Austin’s music scene, which is why we wanted to point you towards nine other groups fronted by phenomenally talented women.
What better place to start than with Austin’s reigning guitar superhero, Lauren Larson? As the ferocious center of hot shit trio Ume, Larson is a force to be reckoned with, juxtaposing a frequently angelic voice with absolutely demonic riffs. Ume have swiftly become one of the most promising breakout acts in Austin, signing to Dangerbird Records to release their excellent new album Monuments, which brought them to the attention of everyone from tourmates Toadies to Sammy fucking Hagar. Ume have always been an especially impressive live act, thanks in no small part to Larson’s athletic stage performance and while they’ve been away from Austin for most of this year on a neverending tour, they’ll be making a triumphant return at Holy Mountain on October 11th.
Of course, Lauren Larson isn’t the only master guitarist in Austin. Dani Neff of Megafauna is equally prone to diabolical licks, though she prefers to use her voice as a spice rather than a sweetener. The music of Megafauna is slightly sinister, palatable in its devotion to hooks but seemingly always ready to rip out your throat without notice. The band’s newest LP Maximalist truly delivers on the promise of that title, offering up tracks that run the gamut from stoner rock to punk to their own twisted take on pop, every song recorded in a way that has the sound maximizing its space, frequently bleeding out beyond comfortable frequencies. The band is another must-see live act, with the twist that outside of legendary guitar playing Neff also provides choreographed dance routines, making her a true triple threat.
On the more experimental end of the spectrum is Angie Kang’s Future Death, a group of noisy punk deconstructionists that don’t make songs so much as they break down all the notions of what a song can be. Kang’s vocals are playful but violent, clawing their way through the layers of fuzz and massive percussion created by her bandmates, like every member of the group is competing for inches of sonic space. In the hands of a lesser band, that could be a disaster, but Kang is the glue that binds Future Death, emphasizing the subtle melodicism lurking beneath all the distortion and twists and turns. It’s no wonder the band got early love from places like Pitchfork, the only surprise is that the local press hasn’t been more eager to cover them.
Though it might at first seem odd that Ruby Fray is signed to legendary twee-oriented label K, there’s an interesting delicacy to the ornate chamber pop she creates that makes her fit right in with the same label that Mirah and the Blow have called home. Ruby Fray’s recordings have a disquieting intimacy to them, as though you’re listening in on a private conversation or overhearing an argument between your neighbors through too thin walls. At the center of it all is Emily Beanblossom’s enchanting vocals, each lyric coated in complex emotions and a simmering passion, the instrumentation framing but never interfering with her breathtaking delivery. Their releases may be infrequent, but Ruby Fray make sure each song they craft is too beautiful to forget.
Born from the ashes of Voxtrot and Agent Ribbons, Tele Novella is a quartet that sounds at odds with its own era and scene. A mixture of go-go influences and the crystal clear tone of classic pop enchantresses give Tele Novella their driving aesthetic, like Peggy Lee teaming up with the Zombies in the 21st century. Natalie Ribbons is the group’s charismatic leader, as stylish and personable as Nancy Sinatra but with the golden vocal tones of Dusty Springfield; every Tele Novella song is infused with Ribbons’ personality, making for recordings you can’t help but come back to over and over in order to spend more time with her clever lyricism and acrobatic melodies. It doesn’t hurt that Tele Novella is also a dynamite band, their arrangements carefully crafted in a way that allows each ingredient to get its moment in the sun, be it a simple guitar hook that swoops in for a second only to be stuck in your head all day or an organ line that sneaks up on you.
Stylish but by no means lacking in substance, Holiday Mountain is one of Austin’s funnest bands, their music as colorful as frontwoman Laura Patino’s ever changing hair. This year has been especially good to Holiday Mountain, as the synth pop group has lined up a West Coast tour with Ben Kweller and played a cheerfully received set at Austin’s Utopia Fest and the early glimpses at their upcoming album are very promising. In the past, Patino’s vocal style has been to almost emulate her synth sounds, using her voice not as a lyrical delivery system but as another instrument to add in to the mix. But as “I Love You” shows, she’s gotten more confident, still mimicking synth sounds at certain points, but also providing counter-melodies and smooth hooks on the chorus. Patino is still just as charismatic on stage, bouncing from instrument to instrument, teasing her bandmates, but now she’s also providing melodic depth and in the process is helping Holiday Mountain move closer and closer to a breakout.
Featuring a stripped down but no less powerful sound, Feral Future have swiftly become one of Austin’s best punk bands thanks to their in-your-face performances and confrontational lyrics. Relle Sonnenschien is an unflinching frontwoman, capable of seamlessly taking her vocals from fragile to devastatingly vicious as she tackles subjects even the bravest of lyricists tend to avoid. The simple structure of the songs and Mike McCarthy’s hands-off production all allow Sonnenschien’s performance to take the spotlight, forcing listeners to listen to her words rather than avoid them or tune them out. The band’s sound may seem simple, but the complexity is in the perspective they offer, which stands out as a heavy contrast to what women are supposed to be like in pop culture, rejecting the belief that women artists must look or behave a certain way and can only talk about approved subjects.
Austin certainly isn’t lacking in the symphonic pop department, but Les Rav has always stood out as a phenomenally talented songwriter with a bright future. Possessing a strong, rich voice and songwriting chops that are far beyond what you’d expect from someone so young, Les Rav has carved out her own unique sound in the Austin scene– theatrical and breezy, full of beauty and verve. But Les Rav’s songs are unusually adaptable, as potent when it’s just her voice and a piano as they are when given a full string accompaniment, showing that she’s a songwriter who understands the best songs are the ones you can play anywhere, at any time, no matter the size of the venue or the number of backing musicians you can count on.
A Giant Dog
As one of the preeminent garage rock bands in Austin, A Giant Dog are rightfully held up as powerhouse performers who don’t play shows so much as they provide debauched experiences. Fronted by both Sabrina Ellis and Andrew Cashen, the band is like Austin’s own take on X, except drunker and rowdier and less obsessed with country classics. Ellis in particular is impossible to turn away from live, as she turns fronting a band into an athletic event on the level of an Olympic decathlon as she belts out the band’s party friendly, wonderfully sleazy rock. The band is fearless in their presentation, too, offering up cheeky, grimy publicity stills and frequently deranged videos (like the Joker nurse shenanigans above). What’s not to love?
Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Ovrld as well as Loser City, where he mostly writes about comics. You can also flip through his archives at Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with his friends and enemies on twitter: @Nick_Hanover