The music industry is unfortunately still very much a male-dominated market. Glastonbury created an all-female stage this year after its 2015 festival line-up was made up of 86% men. Dance festival Creamfields had just 3% female musicians booked. We caught up with Cardiff based musician Estelle Ios from all-girl band, Baby Queens, to discuss being a woman in the industry.
I was born in the mid-eighties, and like most kids, I was immersed in pop culture from a young age. My first album was Jason Donavon on cassette in 1989, I was 4-years-old. I would definitely have classed myself as a music fan, even back then. By 1995 my bedroom wall was covered in posters of the Gallagher brothers. My sister bought me ‘What’s The Story Morning Glory‘ for Christmas that year, I’m still an Oasis fan 20 years later. The next decade shaped my influences as a fan of music and must have had a profound effect on my influences as a songwriter. Back then it didn’t occur to me that there were more male bands than female; I loved bands like Hole and Mazzy star as much as Nirvana and the Ramones. I was given an acoustic guitar age thirteen and the first things I learned were Disarm by the Smashing Pumpkins and Come As You Are by Nirvana. When I was fourteen I got an electric guitar. I blew the amp twice cranking the volume, I loved that distortion switch. I only ever learned power chords, what more do you need? I started writing songs in my teens, me and my sister would learn chords to Weezer and Greenday, singing in our bedroom together. It was like we always knew we would be in a band someday.
When I left school and went to college, it was the era of nu-metal. There weren’t many female bands around then either but again, that fact didn’t occur to me. I didn’t know or hang out with any female musicians at that time, but I knew a lot of guys in bands. I did film and photography in college and was hoping to study fine art in university, I ended up going on a trip to Hawaii instead. When I returned, I decided to live with my sister and start a band. Fast forward 12 years I now play in two bands. An all female group named the Baby Queens and another with my partner and two boys named Zefur Wolves. I get to experience the trials and tribulations of working with both males and females. It can get interesting at times. I never did go to uni.
As me and my sister shared the same interest in music, maybe we overlooked that not many other women choose to be in bands. We played in different bands over the years, the other members were always men. Not by choice, that was all that was available. So why is there such a shortage of female musicians? Perhaps, the stereotypes were true and playing instruments like guitar appealed more to men? However, men and women like to express themselves through music. We are equal beings. It’s just unfortunate that throughout history, women have been repressed in patriarchal societies where men have dominated socially, politically and so it seems, creatively. Have we always felt too restricted to join in with the men, being expected to look after families instead of singing and playing music?
It’s just unfortunate that throughout history, women have been repressed in patriarchal societies where men have dominated socially, politically and so it seems, creatively.
For me, playing music was the perfect antidote to my teenage angst and I still feel like that teenager with the same angst. Even now as a mother. I use music to express myself and the things that upset and anger me in the world. I think people who follow their creative paths are still very much connected to their inner child. Women have more expectations on them to start a family or get married whereas men can get away with holding off for longer. Perhaps women are expected to grow up quicker? And is living a rock n roll lifestyle considered reckless and unladylike? Life on tour in a rock band means you have to sometimes slum it. Even high paid pampered pop-stars have to endure long journeys on buses and tours that last for months.
Speaking from my own experience, traveling in a van, suffering with migraines and hangovers whilst feeling hormonal and knackered is not the greatest feeling. Especially knowing when you get to the venue, you have to lug all the equipment and set everything up yourself. Because when you’re starting out in a band, that’s what you have to do. Me and my sister even were the designated drivers, spending long journeys on the motorway stopping multiple times for service-stop coffees to keep us awake. It’s character building, but it’s not for everyone.
After speaking to friends and fellow musicians, both male and female, I realised we all share one thing in common, we all started making music in our teenage years. Therefore the conclusion that I came to when thinking I had better wrap this story up is that, If you are compelled to start a band when you’re young and full of angst, chances are you will carry it through and if you’re lucky enough and determined enough to keep going, you will hopefully still be in a band when you reach your thirties! There are many components to being in a band; all of which women and men are equally capable, but men still seem to dominate the music scene. My advice to any girls out there reading this: Being in a band is a lifestyle choice, it can define you as a person, and it’s empowering. It is a journey that never ends. You are always on it, finding motivation and inspiration for your next lyric or musical endeavor. Go for it!
The debut album, Baby Queen’s is out October 28th. Watch their latest music video below.