One of the real joys in music journalism is discovering a new band and being able to tell your readers about them. It’s a thrill to be one of the first people to stand up and recognize a band as being worthy of attention. So let me be on record as saying that Richmond, Virginia’s Girlush Figure is a band on its way that deserves to be heard and heard from. I first got to see this all girl punk trio as part of the Girls Rock Fest in New Orleans, this past Labor Day. Their sound and their style both captivated me, even though I had seen nearly 20 bands that day. Since that show, they have released their first CD, Target You, are planning a long tour this summer with 5 Days Late, and now have given me their first telephone interview. We talked about role models, high school, the death of Mia Zapata, and revenge for the theft of their gear.
How did everyone get their names?
Pigpen: My name came basically because of Squeaky’s boyfriend —
Donna: She doesn’t bathe.
Pigpen: Be quiet Donna, I’m talking — because Squeaky’s boyfriend decided I had poor hygiene habits. So somehow, after calling me Stinky for a while, he just decided to go with Pigpen. But don’t listen to them, it’s not true. I’m very clean.
Squeaky: My name came from when I was in high school. I used to wear vinyl pants a lot, and used to squeak when I would walk down the hallway, so a bunch of people would just say, “Hi Squeaky” when I was walking down the hallway, and then it just kind of stuck. So that’s why I got Squeaky. And then Donna•
Donna: I don’t really have a name•
Squeaky: She originally had Captain and then she went with Sexy.
Donna: Captain came from a picture of me. I look kind of like a captain• I’m saluting, it’s not very interesting.
So Donna needs a better name.
Squeaky: I think we should go back to calling her Sexy.
Donna: I am dead sexy, Phil.
What kind of musical training have you had?
Donna: I took drum lessons for a couple of months.
Squeaky: I taught myself. I taught myself by just listening to music and I picked it up. After learning other people’s songs for about a year or two, I just started writing my own.
Pigpen: For the most part, I just taught myself. I had some friends who played different instruments and they tried to teach me, but that didn’t work and then I had a hippie try to teach me bass guitar, and that lasted two lessons. That was a no go. Just a conflict there. So for the most part, self taught.
Who were some of the first bands you started copying as you learned to play?
Squeaky: The songs that I started copying were Hole’s Pretty On the Inside album. I started copying that. And I started copying Bikini Kill’s first album, which was their two cassette• two records on one CD they never had a name for that album. So it’s pretty much Hole and Bikini Kill and then 7 Year Bitch, those are probably the bands I copied the most. My style guitar-wise leans towards them just because that’s what I used to copy and I’m happy playing, but I think that’s where my musical influences come from the most.
Pigpen: For me, I first started playing guitar back in middle school and I was convinced that I should be like the next Kurt Cobain or something so I was all about like Nevermind and trying to figure out how to play songs like that.
How important are female role models for female musicians or artists?
Squeaky: I think it’s very important. I honestly didn’t have the urge to pick up an instrument until I saw bands like Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, The Pretenders. Seeing women like that playing instruments, I saw that it could actually be done and they didn’t have to play that folk shit. Sorry, Donna.
Donna: It’s OK.
Squeaky: I saw that it could be rock and roll it could be punk rock, it could be powerful, other than just being in front of a microphone without holding an instrument. I think an instrument is a very powerful thing to have. I don’t think vocal wise I would be as powerful if I was not holding an instrument. I think it is important for women musicians to have role models, and I hope it doesn’t die out like all these other fucking fads do.
Pigpen: I think it is important, but I don’t think it’s essential. Along the lines of what Squeaky was saying, I grew up and I just idolized Madonna. I just thought she was the shit! But I was always like, “why is she not playing?” And it took her like twenty years to pick up a guitar and actually play.
Donna: She still can’t play.
Does it bother you that most of the women getting noticed are folkie or dance, R&B type singers?
Pigpen: Basically, I’m just fed up with all the girls that get noticed now days are either ones that are prancing around with no clothes on•
Squeaky: Britney Spears!
Pigpen: •or even like Lil’ Kim. It’s ridiculous — if you’re not throwing your body out, you’re not going to get any recognition at all. It kind of sucks.
Squeaky: I think it really fucking sucks. People seem to think when they see an all-girl band or a girl in a rock and roll band, a punk band, they think she can’t play, she only knows three chords, her vocals are screaming, the drummer can only keep this one beat, and they’re sitting there whining, “oh my boyfriend sucks, chop off his dick.” They think that it’s all about man hating, and I think that’s bullshit. I’m sorry that there are bands out there that feel that way, that men suck, that they’re worth nothing, that being lesbian is the only way to go, I’m just saying that there are all-girl bands out there that can sing, that know more than three chords or one drum beat, that aren’t a bunch of dykes, that the bass does not always follow the guitar, that they write their own music, they don’t have someone writing this stuff for them• that pisses me off. If you look at half the folk singers that are out now and if you look at their songs, and I hate to say this because Donna is a folk lover, but a lot of them are covers of really good old songs or a lot of them aren’t even written by them.
Which movie about high school was most like your high school experience?
Squeaky: I wanted it to be like Rock & Roll High School, but it wasn’t!
Pigpen: Mine was like Heathers. Mine was totally like Heathers. There were the cliques — instead of the Heathers we had the Katies. Then all the people who knocked others• if you wear black you’re a weirdo, if you have something pierced you’re crazy and devil worshiper and all that, but definitely Heathers for me.
Donna: I’m all about Ferris Bueller[‘s Day Off], man. I got along with everybody, it was all good. There were cliques, but I didn’t get involved in that, I just had a good time in high school.
Squeaky: I would say mine was kind of like Clueless. I was kind of like that skater guy that no one liked, that everyone thought was dirty and disgusting.
Pigpen: And smoked weed all day.
Squeaky: Yeah! They thought they smoked weed all day and did nothing but listen to heavy metal and everybody else was prim, proper, and their parents lived in the best neighborhoods and they got cars as soon as they turned fifteen and a half. I didn’t talk to anybody; I tried not to talk to anybody.
Donna: You talked to me.
Squeaky: I talked to Donna. Mine was more like that — I didn’t like anybody, no one liked me. That was my high school life. I thought it was gonna be like Rock & Roll High School, man! I saw that movie in middle school and thought, “that’s gonna be me.” It didn’t happen, but I was sure that’s what it was going to be like.
Why have you written a song about Mia Zapata?
Squeaky: She was a big influence, vocal-wise. I loved what she could do with her voice. She could be very bluesy, she could be very soulful, she could be very punk, she could rock, she could be very rock and roll.
When I was listening to bands like Hole and 7 Year Bitch, The Gits were a very big influence, and I saw her death [as] very tragic, especially in the fact that they didn’t catch him, the rapist/murderer yet, and it’s been six years. They could not catch him, yet the police have, from my knowledge from speaking with Home Alive and from reading up on it, the police had some leads on who it might have been but they didn’t want to make it public. They didn’t want to scare anybody in the neighborhood, pretty much. They believed it was someone she knew, and yet they did not follow after that. Whether or not it was someone she knew, if they would have went on their leads, they could have caught the killer. I think it’s just horrible what happened to her and that they have not been able to find the killer.
Pigpen: I just think it’s unfortunate that they still haven’t found her killer after so long. Tonight Unsolved Mysteries comes on and they’re still airing that episode because they still haven’t found him, how many years later? It’s ridiculous.
Squeaky: It’s been six or seven now.
What are some of your goals for the upcoming year?
Squeaky: Finding the asshole who broke into our storage shed this past Monday and stole all of our equipment. Everything, every frickin’ thing. That is my goal. Is to get revenge against the motherfuckers who did this. I want to find them and break their legs.
Donna: To go on this tour in June. Play a lot of shows. Survive it, still love each other when we get back. And be rock stars. Sell a lot of CDs, hang out have fun. It’s all about the groupies.
Pigpen: I’m honestly really bad with goals, because whenever I make them, I break them, like New Year’s resolutions. But for short term, play this show tonight with what little equipment we have. And for the long term, finish school and become a nurse or a rock star, whichever hits first.