By Taylor Burgess
For their only show of Sled Island, thru-and-thru riotgrrrls Aunty Panty sauntered onto the stage and they started pulling their white dresses over their heads. They exposed themselves to the crowd in nude-coloured bras and merkins over their pantyhose. There was a space of metres between them and the crowd, which was maintained while Aunty Panty burst out their alarmingly stripped-down blend of post-punk and riotgrrrl. To get into the heads of one of the more political bands at the festival, I sat down with them in the parking lot of the Palamino.
Stylus: Shavonne, could you perhaps tell me how Aunty Panty started, how you two met?
Shavonne Somvong: Well we met in Saskatoon, just through mutual friends. Partied a lot. We were friends for a quite a while but we didn’t get really close until we started Aunty Panty actually. We started Aunty Panty in the winter of 2010. We started playing electronic ambient, depressed emo-y stuff, and then I got a guitar for Christmas and it took off from there as you’ve seen it now.
Tiffany Paige: For me, it all started when I met Shavonne and we instantly started talking about Sleater-Kinney. I was like, “Omg, someone likes the same shit as me!” because that’s really rare in Saskatoon, in Saskatchewan. And then, she was really shy, kind of ran away from me. Finally, three years down the road, we decided we had to do something and we started playing together. We bought the drum kit, fucked around, and really had no idea what we were doing. Pretty much half the songs we play now are just from that beginning time.
Stylus: I really appreciate how minimal you get, and how you’re not afraid to leave a lot of space. You tackle some uncomfortable subjects, and I feel that you tackle them head-on, like body issues, and that leaves a lot of uncomfortable space between you and the audience. I was wondering how you deal with that uncomfortable space—if you relish it, how you feel about it, or why you think it’s necessary?
SS: First of all, I don’t know if the uncomfortable space is even intentional, in the fact that we don’t really know how to play guitar and drums. We just knew that we’re creative people and we grew up listening to the riotgrrrl movement, so we started there. And I think we’re really into performance art, and activism too. Politics are something I really like so we merged them together and we did what we could. We could take guitar and drum lessons but I think we like what we’ve created. And it’s not just about our music, it about the performance.
TP: At the same time, the uncomfortable space—I really like the tension. A huge part of us is making people uncomfortable with our visuals and with the noise. The music I listen to, I really love those parts just before it gets crazy. It is intentional in that way but it’s also sparse because we do what we can and work the shit out of what we can do.
SS: I guess that’s a part of our politics, claiming space. Going back to the things we sing about—about our bodies, and slaughtering men—it’s our activism and we want to portray it through the music that way.
Stylus: A quick aside about slaughtering men—in the sense of a dramatic song, I think it makes sense. You’re obviously not endorsing killing men—
SS: We’re talking about more of the systemic misogyny that exists. Not personally men, obviously. But we’re not going to be pretty little girls anymore.
TP: And about claiming space, and the kind of music we do, hardcore music—this is one of the only shows we ever played with another all-girl band, so I think it’s necessary to be really aggressive when we’re doing what we’re doing.
Stylus: You were wearing some pretty skimpy clothing today—I was wondering where you see the empowerment in dressing like you do in nude bras and merkins?
SS: This is very new to me. I’m actually pretty shy. Just in the last few months I think I’ve been more comfortable being a little more scantily clad. But I guess as a fat person, this is me claiming and being proud of my body. It is uncomfortable but there’s a lot of empowerment in being slutty, having this body, showing it to the world and being like, “Fuck you, I don’t care if you call me fat or ugly, this is what I’m going to do!” And there’s empowerment in that.
TP: I’m well familiar with dressing slutty because I’ve been doing Lipstickface for a long time. But this is completely different because we’re so scary and gross that I feel like even though people might think it’s hot in a sense, they’re so disturbed by finding it attractive that it makes them look into themselves more than objectify us. I don’t get a lot of people wanting to come up to me, wanting to touch my ass after [an Aunty Panty] performance. So I don’t feel that it’s sexual in that way. It’s sexual, but it’s not sexy.
SS: There’s [the idea] that just because you’re naked, you automatically equate sex with that, when it’s our body.
Stylus: Tiffany, where did you find the difference between this band and Lipstickface?
TP: Lipstickface is about turning people on, being cutesy, burlesque. This is completely opposite. This is like; if there is a boner, you want fucking crush it. You want to give someone a boner and then stomp on it. It’s completely different—it’s sexualized but in a completely opposite way, and that’s what I love about it. Because with Lipstickface, it was just really strange, I wouldn’t get a lot of respect. With this band, it’s all, “Fuck you!” so I still get to be expressing myself in that way, but in this more cocky, aggressive way and I’m getting more into this.
Watch out for Aunty Panty’s relocation to Montreal, Quebec, where they’ll start writing the shit out of songs.