“Bikini Kill brought us together,” says Jenn Archerd, singer and bassist of Wasteland Witch. Two years ago at a Halloween cover band show, lead guitarist Teresa Flammia and aspiring drummer Flat Mingus joined forces with Archerd to invoke the angry girl music of Bikini Kill, the band that epitomized the Riot Grrrl movement of the early 1990s.
While Archerd’s distinct voice is still imbued with the imprint of the impetuous squawk of Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna, the band has developed its own musical niche.
The members of Wasteland Witch craft original melodies and lyrics as a group. They prefer to play fun, high-energy punk music that people can dance to.
“We don’t really sound like any other bands in Reno,” says Archerd.
“And we aren’t into playing a bunch of shows with bands whose philosophies or ethics we don’t support just to have a name for ourselves,” says Flammia.
Equality and respect are values that transcend beyond each member’s personal ideologies into a variety of social and political statements in their music. Wasteland Witch places importance on playing shows that can be attended and enjoyed by all ages.
“Do you remember when the world was young?” is a line from their song “No More Grease for Your Squeaky Wheel.” The song activates listeners with its rapid, powerful bass lines; rugged, complementary guitar chords; fast, erratic drum fills and beats and Archerd’s edgy, vibrato-laden sing-shouts.
The song was inspired by group discussions on the injustice of basic health care that is unaffordable for minimum wage workers. Flammia says Archerd’s lyrics in this song are some of her favorites.
“It makes me think about young children,” says Flammia, “their innocence and pure compassion for one another. It’s about not treating people when they need help even though you have the power to do so.”
The group has visible cohesion and a communicative dynamic, aiding them in their ability to channel their social unrest and feminist quandary into their music.
“Feminism is humanism,” says Flammia.
“It’s really nice to play music with people [and] freely write and sing about issues like abortion without being shunned for it,” adds Archerd.
“I love playing music with Jenn and Teresa and the feminist aspect of things is great!” says Flat.
The band members agree they appreciate the liberated feelings that come from their shared honesty and openness.
They grew up listening to bands like Crass, Nirvana, Team Dresch and the Pixies, and attending local punk rock shows, but each has been subject to or witnessed the violence sometimes occurring at venues for this kind of music.
The group believes in creating a safe show environment. They unanimously consent to stopping a show if a fight breaks out.
“Punk rock to me is a celebration of diversity and a place to go if you don’t fit in elsewhere,” says Archerd. “It always bothers me when I see a kid wearing a Crass patch while also slurring pejoratives at women. I do not advocate being blatantly degraded or groped in a mosh pit. Girls shouldn’t have to feel scared to be, well, girls. It’s tough getting sexually harassed on a daily basis, just trying to live your life, and the last thing you need is to get manhandled at a show when you’re trying to have some fun. Sometimes these [guys] need a big reality check. … And sometimes, that big reality check involves a big smack upside the head. Girl’s got to look out for herself.”