Kim Larson of Charleston-based, feminist post-rock band Southern Femisphere talks about the new split album with Sweatlands, expanding and diversifying the Charleston music scene, and her REAL influences (stop saying Sleater Kinney).
Tell me about the music you make.
When we first started playing, Emily and I were both pretty new on our instruments. We were also involved with starting the Girls Rock camp in Charleston. I think the mindset of girls rock camp really influenced how we approached playing our instruments and writing songs. At camp youth are encouraged to express themselves and be creative without needing to master the techniques and know all the standard chords. This idea has definitely driven our songwriting process. We write parts without thinking about what key or time signature they’re in and then fit all the pieces together later. This keeps us from sticking to any formula or traditional structure and lets our songs develop in their own weird way.
Does living in the South impact your music?
Being a feminist post-band band in the South is complicated. There are not a lot of bands in South Carolina that stray from mainstream genres. And the ones that do often don’t get the attention they deserve or have the resources they need to sustain themselves as musicians (money to release albums, tour, etc.) There are a lot of people in Charleston who are eager for more diversity and risk taking in the music scene. And these people are incredibly dedicated and supportive. This has encouraged us to keep trying new things and write songs that reflect our experiences and who we are. We know we won’t ever be Charleston’s most beloved band, but we feel like what we do is important for this town.
Also, it still often feels like being a female guitar player in this loud, abrasive band is a novelty. I feel like there is this expectation for women in bands to be great singers, and I am not but I still do it anyway. I am proud to be a female musician and I’m always excited to support other female and non-gender conforming musicians, but it’s frustrating when we’re asked to play with another band that sounds nothing like us just because there are girls in the band.
What are your hopes for your music?
My biggest hope is that our music inspires young women to start playing music. I think misogyny is very real in the music world and we need more girls, women, and non-gender conforming folks to be creators and leaders in the music scene and creative community. I also hope more dudes hold themselves accountable to making space in the music world and prioritizing other people’s voices. I don’t know how our music can do that though, haha.
Your new album?
Our new release is a split with our friends Sweatlands. We have been wanting to collaborate for a long time. Our bands have totally different sounds but we have a lot of the same musical influences. Members of our bands have worked on different projects together, played shows together for years, and even worked at the same dog day care center together. We basically wanted to collaborate on a project because we care about each other’s music and sometimes it’s more fun to promote other music that you like than your own music.
Upcoming shows? Tour?
We are playing a release show with Sweatlands and Coeds from Savannah on September 30th at the Local 616 in Charleston. We don’t have any plans to tour but we would love to tour in support of the new record. It seems like we have more fans outside the state of South Carolina than in the state.
Who do you listen to?
A lot of people assume we are heavily inspired by riot grrrl and I can’t even count the number of times we’ve been compared to Sleater-Kinney. I’ve never actually listened to them much and I don’t think we sound anything like them. I’ve been much more inspired by 1980’s European post-punk bands like Kleenex and Mo-Dettes. They are super catchy and have great energy. We listen to a lot of post-rock bands like A Silver Mt. Zion and Slint because it’s epic and sometimes cheesy in the best way. When we’re going to out of town shows we often listen to 90’s alternative rock.
Any favorite Southern women?
Through working with Girls Rock I’ve gotten to learn about a lot of South Carolina activist’s who are so important in the history of our state but whose work and contributions aren’t talked about enough. Septima Clark, Modjeska Simkins, and Mary Moultrie and important movement leaders I would encourage everyone to look up.
Any other Southern women or non-binary or trans Southerners making music that we should know about?
Camela Guevara plays drums in a great new band called Quad. They just released their first EP! Diaspoura is another Charleston artists who plays radical electronic music. Ellen Elias plays drums and sings in Indiana Junk and helps run Academia tapes.