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Swimmers Club

The pioneers of aviation were never lonely

Sunday, October 15, 2017
Courtesy of Fiona McNeill


Who: Interview with Sam Knee about new book Untypical Girls
Where: ,

What timescale does the book cover and why did you choose that timescale?

Initially i planned it to span 78-93 and skip 77. That whole punk ’77 thing i find so tediously overplayed these days that it’s best avoided to prevent terminal boredom. But once the book began falling together into some tangible flow, it soon dawned that key 1977 female figures had to be included to portray the genuine evolution.

I cut it off at 93 as the indie scenes were losing pace and slumping into complacent conformity. I actually believe this happened in the UK a little earlier, around ’89 and the indie action switched to the US scene for the final wave.

For anyone familiar with your other books, they’re usually a mixture of photographs and interviews. Who did you interview for this one?

For Untypical Girls I compiled five contributing mini-interviews from Gina of the Marine Girls, from Dolly Mixture, Kira from Black Flag, Julie from Pussy Galore and Erin from Bratmobile. So a crossover of UK/US indie girl representatives.

As an indie-music fan growing up, who were the first girls in bands who would have been aware of?

For me it was Kleenex, The Raincoats, Siouxsie and X-Ray Spex as my older sister possessed some of their records. The whole post punk era was extremely unisex in its makeup, a given thing, the same with the anarcho-scene that bubbled up around the same time. But for me Ivy from the Cramps was where it was at, I was totally Cramped as a youth, she added mystery and detached belligerence to an already perfect unit.

Relative to other genres of rock, it seems like indie-pop type genres were always a bit more even-handed in terms of male and female representation. Do you think that had any kind of effect on you as a young male music fan?

I was never much of a macho kid and always liked hanging round with girls as much as possible. The indie scene for me was the only scene I felt any real affinity with for lots of reasons, but that was definitely one of them.

Untypical Girls covers both US and UK bands, did you have any trouble gaining images from American bands as I know you’re British and based here and maybe have more people to call on to ask for images in the UK or was it just like…use the internet?

It was actually pretty straight forward. I had a hit list of bands, individuals I wanted photos of so was fairly focused right from the start. I lived in San Francisco between 1990- 94 and still have some connections from those days. Some of those folk were in the 80’s scenes before I knew them so they hit me up with old Paisley Underground, post-punk scenester types.

It soon snowballed into something bigger than me, a force of nature perhaps?

Subcultural fashion has been something that all of your books have been heavily interested in. From your previous ‘A Scene In Between’ book, we’re guessing that the indie-charity charity shop look might get a look in here but were you also interested to document styles such as Kat Bjelland’s ‘kinderwhore’ type look and others such as the Kim Gordon X-Girl look?

I delve into the US evolution via the post-punk, through to hardcore punk, college-rock, grunge, riot grrrl American indie-scene styles.

The US indie approach to fashion is often less self conscious, more thrown together, compared to the UK psychology where its importance is often placed as paramount, fashion first.

Do you see affinities between US and UK female subcultural styles? Or do you think they’ve generally always been fairly unique to each country?

As they’re largely thrift, charity shop based they really depended on what was available locally, regionally at that time. Having said that there’s always zeitgeist threads that bind the scenes nationally

Are there any bands who you really wanted to include but just couldn’t because you couldn’t get access to images?

Yes, there were a few- Catholic Girls, Chalk Circle spring to mind and a few others, so maybe a Volume 2 is a distant possibility down the line…

Thanks to Sam for talking to us and for sending over a few images that he’s gathered. We look forward to Volume 2!

You can pre-order (or just buy if you’re reading this after Oct 27th 2017) Untypical Girls here.

Image Bands/People and credits below:
The Modettes, 1980 (courtesy of Neal Anderson), Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth, Free Kitten and Ciccone Youth, 1987 (Scott Monroe),  Julie Cafritz of Pussy Galore and Free Kitten, 1988 (JJ Gonson), Bikini Kill, 1991 (Brad Sigal), Huggy Bear, 1992 (Mick Mercer), Aberdeen, 1981 (Fiona McNeill).


Listen to our Astronaut Wives Club: Unofficial Untypical Girls mix.

Municipal Pool

Check which is the shallow end and note the point where you will be out of your depth.