In the Blog
THE GRRLS OF “HERVANA”
Photo: Rannie Turingan
Check out Hervana perform at Shameless’ upcoming launch party on Friday, September 11! They’ll be playing at Trinity St. Paul’s Centre (Toronto) with other bands from Girls Rock Camp, starting at 7PM. The event is all ages and free for teens and only $5 for admission that comes with a brand spanking new issue of Shameless. The venue is accessible and offers gender neutral washrooms. Find more details here.
Nirvana is a band cherished by many, and often met with a lot of defensiveness from white dudes. Hervana, an all-grrl Nirvana cover band, is a band that is unapologetically reclaiming space and art that is usually held tightly by an especially plaid covered people.
Hervana is Carly Beath (aka Skirt Cobain), Adrian Pasen (aka Dave Grrrl), Erin Saunderson (aka Miss Novoselic), Michelle Turingan (aka Pap Smear). Hervana incorporates all the hugely influential stylistic components that Nirvana and other riot grrl bands (most notably Bikini Kill) from the 90s created, but also a contemporary and intersectional take on their really active political messages and presence.
How did Hervana meet and form?
Carly Beath: The whole thing started from the name - someone tweeted that Hervana should be a thing and I ran with it. I had played with Erin and Michelle in other musical projects, and we found Adrian through a good friend of ours.
Adrian Pasen: I was lucky enough to be hooked up with these amazing ladies through an old work colleague and haven’t looked back since!
Girls Rock Camp is a non-profit organization for children and youth (8-16 years old) who self-identify as female, trans, and gender non-conforming and they aim to build self esteem through music creation at March Break and Summer camps, workshops, and the after school rock party. Adrian, you were a volunteer there - could you tell us a bit about your experiences with Girls Rock Camp?
Adrian: Again, I was lucky enough to be connected to this through a good friend who knows one of the GRC Toronto founders who just happened to be in dire need of a last minute replacement drum instructor for their second week. I can’t even begin to describe how amazing my experience was…I think I got more out of it than the campers did! But wow, what an incredible, talented group of girls. I was truly inspired by their abilities, willingness to experiment and be themselves, and just sheer amazingness. I started the week terrified, not sure I’d be up to the task and worried that I’d not be able to teach them anything. But by the end of the week I truly felt transformed, and the girls had come so far and I was so proud of them. I think we all brought out the best in each other, and I know many of those girls will go on to rock for years to come. The final showcase was truly inspiring and I was so proud of them. I would happily do it again!
Why did your band choose Nirvana over other bands?
Carly: It started from the pun name, which was too good to pass up, but also I played a lot of Nirvana songs when I was learning to play guitar as a teenager. The songs are a lot of fun to play.
Erin Saunderson: Those were the first songs I learned on the bass. They still rock my socks off.
Hervana seems to be a contemporary combination of riot grrl and grunge, as the covers of Nirvana would suggest. What is your relationship with grunge/riot grrl as genres and as countercultural trends?
Carly: I’m really into the intersection of riot grrrl and grunge - it’s something people don’t always remember. Kurt and Kathleen Hanna were good friends and the title for Smells Like Teen Spirit came from some graffiti she wrote on his wall. Kurt hung around with riot grrrl bands and Nirvana played Rock for Choice benefits.
Erin: As a teenager, the Riot Grrrl movement made a big impact on me. I saw these bad-ass women who took no guff and played “like the boys” without having to be dainty or worry about looking a certain way. They could wail and didn’t give a care what people thought. It was liberating and reinforced my own feelings about music and femininity. It showed I could be whom I wanted and be confident in that.
Bands like Hervana, Vag Halen, Sheezer do something really transformative in recreating typically white male dominated spaces (respectively like, grunge, classic, and indie rock) with women’s talent and experiences. What has your experiences been like challenging these norms?
Carly: Within this band, I’ve actually found our experience to be pretty good. People seem to be into what we’re trying to do. Since Kurt was a pretty vocal feminist and ally, we’re in this space where we’re celebrating that but also subverting the male-heavy history of rock.
Adrian: With the exception of a few rogue guys and silly offhanded remarks, I’ve found the whole experience to be hugely uplifting and positive. People come to see us for our musicianship and talent, and I suppose for me, these have never been “norms” in that sense. I’ve never felt any need to define myself as a “female” musician, and I think we’re all similar in that way. It’s great if we’re inspiring other women who might feel challenged by the white male norm, but I think it’s really an afterthought for me.
How have you noticed intersections of race, class, gender identity, queerness, and ability in your own and other local musical endeavours?
Michelle Turingan: Sometimes when I travel, I become more aware that I might be seen as “other” – either because I’m a visible minority or because I dress like a tomboy or because I’ll hold my girlfriend’s hand in public. But, I think we are fortunate to live in a wonderfully diverse city like Toronto where intersections of race, class, gender identity, queerness, and ability occur quite frequently – and not just in music. I see this reflected in my workplace and in the neighbourhoods that make up the city that I love. And I see it every single day. So, because of this frequency, I don’t really notice these intersections. They just are. I feel very blessed to have that be my general daily experience.
Why do you think bands/projects such as Hervana are important for young women and trans and gender non-conforming folks?
Carly: When I was a teenager first learning to play guitar, I’d leave guitar stores in tears because I felt out of place and intimidated. (These days, I’m more confident about gear shopping so I’m more likely to leave straight up mad - the other day I was in a music store and heard an employee joking about domestic violence). Our band represents different female-identified gender presentations, so if young women and trans and gender non-conforming folks can see themselves reflected in our band, that would be rad - we hope it’ll give them an example to follow and inspire them to start their own bands.
Michelle: Visibility, plain and simple. If young women and trans and gender non-conforming folks can see themselves reflected in our band and bands like ours, then perhaps that will be the spark that sends them off to go do it for themselves.
Do you have any suggestions or advice for readers about being a young woman, trans, or gender non-conforming person wanting to pursue music?
Erin: Do you.
Michelle: Stay true and honest to yourself and your art. Try not to compare, just do what you can with what you have right now. Hustle hard and have a lot of fun doing so. Also, haters gonna hate always. Just keep doing you! And don’t be afraid to ask for help. We all have to start somewhere.
Adrian: Personally, I’ve found that when you go out there and just offer up your best self, the world is receptive. Express yourself artistically as best you can, subvert expectations and norms where you can, give people a chance to see various forms of expression and their validity. Possibilities are limitless within the world of music and art.
What does being Shameless mean to you?
Carly: To me it means being yourself - and being proud of yourself! - in a world that will try to tell you you’re not perfect for myriad reasons.
Erin: Doing you, unapologetically.
Michelle: Living unapologetically.
Adrian: Being true to yourself at all costs, and never apologizing for being who you are. Everyone brings something special to the table, and never let anyone tell you otherwise!