SXSW Female Artist Discovery
The entertainment industry has always been problematic. From Elvis Presley to Mac DeMarco, speakers and screens have gravitated towards artists and performers of a similar race, gender and sexual orientation. This is not to say queer and female artists haven’t been met with mainstream success – artists such as St. Vincent, Charli XCX, Bjork and Fever Ray have proven that the modern music industry does have room for prominent female voices. Still, there is work to be done. Just this year a study conducted by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative reported that 90 percent of Grammy nominees in the last six years were male, and that just nine male songwriters hold one-fifth of the top songs since 2012. Additionally, a grim 2 percent of producers in the industry today are women. The aforementioned research focuses on Billboard charters and Grammy nominees rather than underground and independent artists, where the female voice may be more prominent. However, the side of chart-topping hits and inequality is what dominates our most accessible media and sets the agenda for the public’s mindset. This doesn’t only reflect issues in representation – it cycles back into the mindset of consumers and results in more content creation with unequal representation.
In the wake of troubling numbers and statistics, there are some who have stepped up and proactively worked towards equality. This year, the SXSW music festival lineup heavily featured female artists and female-fronted bands, exposing them to the industry at large and thousands of new fans. This series features some of WUSC’s favorites.
March 17 2018 – Eva Moolchan steps onto the stage wearing leopard print pants under a denim skirt with a bikini top and a bright yellow jacket wrapped around her neck. For one of the last performances of the 2018 SXSW music festival, she slings her bass over her neck with a matchless cool and throws her body and voice into a gripping, engaging 30 minutes of Sneaks.
Sneaks is the post-punk project of Tewadaj Eva Moolchan. With two albums over three years and two labels, her discography rings in at a mere 31 minutes. Moolchan’s music is minimalistic both in length and instrumentation, with nothing but drum and bass under her tongue-in-cheek spoken-word vocals. Yet neither album feels underdeveloped or short lived – each song is action-packed and in perfect length, working as a sonic equivalent to H.I.I.T. training. Each second is equally important, with no superfluous repetition for the sake of a longer runtime. Sneaks refuses to linger for too long, remaining perfectly concise and leaving the listener either wanting more or pressing repeat.
Starting in the male-dominated DIY punk scene of Washington D.C., Moolchan was first noticed by Katie Alice Greer of Priests. Soon she was brought onto Sister Polygon Records, where she released Gymnastics on tape. Still in her early 20’s, her refined yet minimalistic style has garnered the attention of the industry, fans and other artists alike. She later signed to Merge Records, reissuing Gymnastics in September 2016 and releasing her follow-up It’s A Myth in March 2017.
Her debut Gymnastics opens with “Tough Luck,” using only eight words throughout the one-and-a-half-minute song, “Boy being / Soft rocks / Girl being / Tough Luck,” and the single from her most recent release It’s A Myth repeats “What do they look like? / They look like that.” With playfully ambiguous lyrics, the essence of Sneaks is a hard one to put your finger on. Her deadpan repetitions seem like nuanced commentaries, but are surrounded by a degree of playfulness.
Sneaks played at the Co-Sign rooftop party for College Radio Day on the last day of SXSW this year, performing for fans and a few lucky St. Patrick’s Day celebrators. Everyone in the crowd engaged somehow, whether it was dancing, nodding their head or tapping a foot. Dancing in the crowd was fellow SXSW performer Jpegmafia, showing enthusiastic support from the front row. Sandwiched between five other incredible bands, Sneaks’ carefree movements, unique fashion sense and positive demeanor ensured that every audience member would remember her long after SXSW ended.
Watch the video for “Hair Slick Back” from It’s A Myth, out now on Merge Records.