April 21, 2017
Punk ain’t pretty, but that’s just fine for The Shiverettes. They’d rather channel their anger into vicious punk anthems with substance and sincerity than worry about creating a carefully sculpted image.
Refusing to accept the kind of sexism and misogyny that sadly continues to pervade society, they’ve eviscerated public figures like former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the recently-resigned Federal Court Justice Robin Camp in their patented “snotty feminist punk” songwriting style. With their debut full-length album Dead Men Can’t Cat Call, released late last month, they’ve taken the next step in their path to calling out the patriarchy through punk.
Years in the making, this album represents a major milestone for the band, who’ve come a long way in the past few years to coalesce as a leading force putting the politics back into punk rock. The Shiverettes were formed right around the time of the disastrous Calgary flood of 2013, by Kaely Cormack (guitar/vocals) and Hayley Muir (lead vocals) who sought to build the band as an all-female group at first. They went through some growing pains during their initial months as a band, but landed Cecilia Schlemm on bass and Steve Richter on drums to round out their current lineup, which has remained unchanged since early 2014.
Even in those early days there was a fierce energy and pointed direction towards taking an overtly feminist stance in their music. They launched themselves into a new sphere of recognition with their very first recording, leaving no confusion as to their musical intent with the pointedly titled “Stephen Harper, Suck My Dick.”
Released as a flexi-disc on Saved By Vinyl, they backed it with “Hey Stephen Harper,” a further excoriation of the former Prime Minister’s policies, lack of action in regards to missing and murdered Indigenous women and budget cuts towards programs designed to support women. Both songs not only prompted those in the Calgary scene to take notice of The Shiverettes, but helped inspire a compilation album called Rock Against Harper, hastily assembled by Calgary stalwart Kenna Burima just prior to the 2015 federal election.
It might be a stretch to say their protest songs turned the tide against Harper and resulted in his election loss, but it certainly solidified The Shiverettes as a force to be reckoned with. Just two weeks later, they released their first EP, aptly titled Just Three Songs, which continued to outline their feminist agenda, tearing apart unequal relationships on “Bad For Me” and the uselessness of vanity on “Go Fuck Yr Selfie.”
Not content just to focus on themselves, Cormack and Muir have strived to create positive change outside the band as well, forming Femme Wave feminist arts festival in 2015. In two short years, they’ve built on their mission to create opportunities for women and non-binary artists in the local arts scene, featuring local and regional acts like FOONYAP and The Garrys alongside big names like catl. and Peach Kelli Pop. Even in the face of pushback from some circles, they’re forging ahead into year three, planned for November 16–19, 2017.
Their early momentum as a band helped them land spots in numerous festivals last year, from Sled Island and the BIG Winter Classic to Golden Sound Festival and a special performance as part of the Calgary Songs Project during the 2016 High Performance Rodeo. They took that energy into the studio to record their debut full-length last April with local producer/musician Ryan Lottermoser and walked away with a new manifesto for the destruction of the patriarchy in Dead Men Can’t Cat Call.
The opening track “Broken Record” demonstrates the progression of the band, with this song from their early days now transformed into an effective introduction to the group’s frenetic energy, bouncing the vocals back and forth between Cormack and Muir. “Justice Robin Camp” uses crunchy and compressed guitars to attack the faulty logic of the “keep your knees together” judge and his victim-blaming tactics in a song I’m sure he won’t enjoy listening to anytime soon. The driving energy of the title track gives the middle finger to those who would objectify women, with Muir retorting that “I’ll smile when I’m dead,” while Cormack takes a turn using her voice to recognize the importance of also giving victims a voice on “Shout Your Assault.”
The Shiverettes channel the best kind of punk energy – towards a productive goal, rather than self-destructive irrelevancy. While misogyny, transphobia and victim blaming aren’t going to disappear overnight, The Shiveretttes remind us that it’s everyone’s job to find solutions and keep these topics front of mind, even if they have to be the ones yelling it in our faces so we don’t forget.