Riot grrrl-inspired, feminist DIY punk band The Menstrual Cramps are on a mission to ‘make girls feel good’ and ‘not take your shit’. Mixing elements of punk, Britney Spears, Spice Girls and a helping of witty humour, vocalist Emilia, guitarist Cooper, bassist Robyn and drummer Beth take their tenacious spirit and ignite the stage with brutally honest lyrics to empower women to break free from the patriarchy and speak their mind.
heralded the ‘British Pussy Riot’
Their debut album We’re Not Ovaryacting released last year caught people’s attention, bagging them the Loud Women Hercury Award and heralded the ‘British Pussy Riot’. Their follow up album Free Bleedin’ is due for release this month and their live gig schedule shows now signs of slowing down.
The Menstrual Cramps have been announced as the support act for She Makes War’s UK tour later in the year, which will see them play Thekla. But before that, you can catch them locally at the Loud Women showcase at The Golden Lion on 3 August, alongside some other badass all-girl bands including Krush Puppies and Slagheap.
Later this month, they’re celebrating their album release with a free party at The Canteen, with a slew of live bands and DJs till late. Nitelife sat down for a chat with vocalist Emilia and guitarist Cooper to talk about how The Menstrual Cramps first came about, their new album and why we should be pushing harder to promote equality within the music scene.
The story of The Menstrual Cramps began a swipe right and a tribute to pubic hair
The story of The Menstrual Cramps began with a swipe right and a tribute to pubic hair. After bonding on Tinder two and a half years ago over a mutual love of Dr. Who, Emilia and Cooper quickly became best friends and moved in together.
The band formed shortly after in Cooper’s bedroom when Emilia came home one day complaining about people’s opinions on women shaving. ‘I told her to let out her frustration and write a song about it’ Cooper recounts, as the three of us sit together sipping our drinks. ‘I produce music anyway, so I just put some really shit acoustic guitar down with loads of distortion and let Emilia do her thing’. That was when their first single My Bush Ain’t Your Business was born.
‘I didn’t have an electric guitar back then because I mainly write orchestral pieces’ Cooper admits, ‘but I suppose punk’s not about how well you play, it’s about the message.’
punk’s not about how well you play, it’s about the message
After playing their first track to their friends and receiving raging reviews, the band decided to make a music video for YouTube, which is when they ran into their first obstacle as a band.
‘Within two hours it was taken offline because I had nipple shots in there’ explains Emilia. ‘It was done to empower women by saying you are free to get your nipples out if you choose to. All we got was a bombardment of comments from guys and trolls, saying we were cancerous and that feminism shouldn’t exist’.
The band didn’t let that stop them though and quickly hopped over to Vimeo where they clocked over 25,000 views. ‘The irony is not lost on us, the song says free the nipple and free the bush, and YouTube just dismissed it’ Emilia laughs.
You only need to hear a couple of The Menstrual Cramps songs to understand what their mission is about. With comically direct songs Hashtag Sad Penis, Cull The Tories and Frack Off, it’s clear this band don’t shy away from telling it how it is.
‘I feel like I have always been politically opinionated and outspoken’ says Emilia. ‘People would call me a rebel without a cause because I used to shout and scream about injustices in the classroom. I even lied about being the union rep at one of my jobs. I think I just came out of the womb like that.’
if our music offends you, it’s probably because we’re talking about you
Cooper continues ‘We always say if our music offends you, it’s probably because we’re talking about you, so in that case you should listen even more… We’ve had a couple of backlashes though.
‘We had a social media run in with a load of neo-nazis. We were performing with the Cockney Rejects a while back and called out someone who we knew to be a neo-nazi in the crowd. After that, we began receiving loads of violent threats from neo-nazis across the world. They threatened to come to our other shows and cause trouble. We’ve had to start having extra security and choose our gigs carefully because of it.’
Despite facing threats and online hate, The Menstrual Cramps say they will continue to create music and do what they love. With their forthcoming album Free Bleedin’ set for release on 18 August, the band are ready to show fans how their sound has progressed since the debut release.
‘I think this album sounds more like how we sound live’ says Emilia. ‘I think we started out not really knowing what we were doing, but now we know what our sound is and we have evolved together. Everything is faster, harder and more distorted. It’s definitely more in your face.’
we know what our sound is and we have evolved together. Everything is faster, harder and more distorted. It’s definitely more in your face
Whilst talking about the band’s live shows coming up this month, including their set at The Loud Women event at The Golden Lion, it sparks a discussion from Cooper and Emilia about why all-female events are still needed in the music industry.
‘Some people argue that we shouldn’t segregate ourselves if we want to be treated equally, but in reality we’ve still got some way to go before we get to that’ says Cooper. ‘Right now, we need things like female-led promoters and women’s stages at events, because we still need to create a platform for artists who may otherwise go unheard. It’s true, we shouldn’t be treated any differently, but we’re not there yet.’
the DIY punk scene in particular is really supportive of women and I am aware change is happening within the music industry (…) We’ve just got to keep pushing through and take action for change
‘Don’t get us wrong, the DIY punk scene in particular is really supportive of women and I am aware change is happening within the music industry’ says Emilia. ‘Sometimes I just get weary – it can feel like one step forward, two steps back. We’ve just got to keep pushing through and take action for change.
‘It’s ok though, we are in a band with our best friends doing what we love. We are literally living the dream’.
Words by Abi Lewis
Photos by Dominika Scheibinger
18 August –The Menstrual Cramps album launch, The Canteen