Poly Styrene Returns
In 1977, punk rock was ramping up on the music scene, and a nineteen year old called Poly Styrene was among those leading the charge. Front woman for the short-lived but influential band X-ray Spex, she was noted for her powerful voice, the braces on her teeth,and her dayglo anti-fashion. Poly's refusal to submit to sexualized stereotypes, along with the opening line of their best known song - "Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard, but i think oh bondage up yours!" - gave a rallying cry to girls and women who felt marginalized, and helped inspire the Riot Grrrl movement of the 90's, as well as artists like the Yeah Yeahs Yeahs and The Gossip .
After the X-ray Spex disbanded in 1979, Poly recorded a couple of solo ventures, and briefly reunited with the Spex in 1995 to record a second album. In 2008, after playing one off show with the band at The Roundhouse in Camden, she was inspired to write and record another solo album, Generation Indigo. We'll have to wait until the release in March of 2011 to hear it, but Poly has given us a taste of what's to come with her non-album track, Black Christmas.
We were thrilled to hear about Poly's return to the studio - and we dig her Christmas song - and she was kind enough to answer some questions for us about her upcoming album and about her role in female empowerment:
K: With your music, you've inspired a generation of women to be strong and to fight small thinking. Is that a role you ever thought you'd find yourself in?
Poly: I never thought I would find myself in this role consciously, but it's great that if I've been able to do that then, it's fantastic!
K: Who were you inspired by when you were younger?
Poly: Many singers like Grace Slick, Janice Joplin, Tina Turner and many other strong female singers.
K: What inspires you now?
Poly: Enthusiasm for life, students standing up for their rights. When I played the Roundhouse in 2008 there were a lot of young girls in the crowd and I found that quite inspiring as well as the optimism of the generation of 20 somethings.
K: Did you ever see yourself as being part of the women's movement?
Poly: Not really, at the time I didn't, but because of the song Oh Bondage Up Yours and the intro Some People Think Little Girls Should Be Seen And Not Heard, I was definitely seen as a feminist and a women's liber, but at the time the song was just an emotional outburst. When I'm writing I'm not being calculating trying to hit a feminist audience, but sometimes the songs just come out.
K: How has the landscape changed for female musicians since you first stepped into the music industry in the 70's?
Poly: I think it's changed in that female musicians and singers are more accepted today than they were in the 70s. Back then it was just the privilege of the few and now it's much more widely accepted.
K: Have you seen a substantial change of landscape in the racial discrimination and stereotypes that you also sang about?
Poly: I didn't write that much in the 70s about racial discrimination, but I did play at a lot of Rock Against Racism benefits.
K: What propelled you to record Generation Indigo after so many years away from the studio? What can we expect from the album?
Poly: I'd been writing a lot and I had songs and it was nice to be given the opportunity to record them. Funnily enough I think I hit more on the subject of racism and feminism on this new album with songs like Colourblind and Kitsch. Lyrically it's still very much Poly Styrene and musically and melodically it's probably more accessible than my out and out punk stuff.
K: Black Christmas is one of the most wonderfully original Christmas songs to come out in ages. What do you hope people take away from that song, if anything?
Poly: Oooh, thanks for the compliment! That Christmas as well as being a festive time is also a time for introspection and reflection on the sad story of the birth and death of Christ.
K: Your daughter Celeste sings with you on Black Christmas - does she join you on any other tracks?
Poly: Yes, she joins me on Kitsch and White Gold and I think that's it.
K: Do you have plans to tour with this album release?
Poly: I'm hoping to in the summer.
K: Any advice for aspiring female musicians out there?
Poly: Stay positive, do it because you love it and above all be true to yourself.
Thanks so much, Poly, for sharing with us - can't wait for the new album!
(Originally published at YoLadies.com)