Flint’s Cheerleader revels in feminist album
Fans of the Flint punk trio Cheerleader have been waiting six years for a proper full-length album, and “B----craft,” which was self-released last Friday, doesn’t disappoint.
The band says they’re inspired by everything from Iggy Pop and Beyonce to the riot grrrl movement and the cult classic ’90s goth chick flick “The Craft.” On “B-----craft,” its influences dovetail with its feminist ideals to form a fierce, personal punk statement.
With its lurching Black Sabbath-esque guitar riff and anti-body shaming rant, lead-off track “Beauty Queen” is the album’s highlight. When lead singer and guitarist Polly McCollum chants “I am more than my body,” and “I am sick of not eating so you will accept me,” it feels like she’s grabbing you by the throat and desperately asserting her very right to be.
“That was a song I wrote to myself, for myself, to be honest,” McCollum said of the song’s inspiration. “Writing that song and playing that song reinforced body positivity in myself, which is really nice.”
McCollum said Cheerleader is a sort of musical alter ego for its members, allowing them to tap into their ideal selves and encourage others to do the same.
“None of us feel like super strong people, but when we do Cheerleader it reinforces us,” she said. “It makes me feel like a strong person, and I hope it makes people feel mad about the things they should feel mad about and want to be a tougher person.”
As brazenly confident as the lyrics on “Beauty Queen” — and every other track on the LP — come across, McCollum says she still had a moment of hesitation when writing the song. She eventually decided attitude was more important than political correctness.
“There’s a line that is, ‘I’m not skinny, and I never will be,’ ” she said. “I have a lot of fat babe friends that’re all about their bigger bodies, and I didn’t want to offend anybody. I thought about changing it, but I decided not to because that’s how I was feeling that day. I didn’t want it to be offensive; I wanted it to be empowering.”
The album’s other standout track is “Dentata,” which features guest vocals by Krista Loutner of fellow Flint band, Sweat.
Like “Beauty Queen,” “Dentata” can be read either as a feminist anthem or a personal tirade. McCollum says the opening line — “You’re not allowed to cheapen me /You’re a peasant, I’m a queen” — was probably inspired by a rude customer at work. But when the emasculating dentata come out later in the song, the band’s feminist ethos comes to the forefront. “Try to force your will on me/Come here and I’ll show you my teeth,” McCollum threatens.
Loutner will join Cheerleader on the song at Marble Bar on Saturday.
“That’s probably going to be the only time that’s going to happen, and we’re really pumped because we haven’t even performed it with her yet,” said Cheerleader bassist Ashley MacDermaid. “I was watching Krista perform when I was 13. It’s really come full circle for me to be performing with her now.”
When McCullom, MacDermaid and drummer Nina Seal formed Cheerleader in 2010, it had very little experience under their belt. “B----craft” is the culmination of six years of growth and experience, and the band is ready to tackle another full-length album and tour.
“When we started, we were so stoked on making music that if we made anything that made any bit of sense we would just put it out,” Seal says. “I had never played until we started Cheerleader. Now, I feel like I’m to a point where I can say I’m a drummer and have confidence in that, and I feel like the music reflects how much we’ve grown.”
Steven Sonoras is an Ypsilanti-based freelance writer.
Cheerleader’s ‘B----craft’ Record
with YUM and
9 p.m. Sat.