Music with mammaries

An artsy all-girl band commands respect—even though its members are cute

Megan Berne, Terina McCraw, and Jeanne Joo

Megan Berne, Terina McCraw, and Jeanne Joo

Photo by Miranda Jesch

Girls are rad. Girl bands are especially rad, but there are not many out there making music. The ones who are tend to be soft-core porn heroes like Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears or superficial and soiled wannabe rock stars like Courtney Love. From the perspective of the local all-girl band Dirty Mouth and the Oubliettes, these women are sorry excuses of the female sex and should not be the deities they have become: Fabricated goddesses worshipped by million of young girls.

The mainstream’s sex-radiating female singers and musicians seriously irritate Terina McCraw, Dirty Mouth guitarist and vocalist.

“The images kids are asked to look up to are sick,” she says. “I think if you are a mother or sister to a young girl, you have an enormous responsibility to help these kids be themselves and not what pop culture says you should be as a girl. You are a living example, you are the ultimate role model.”

I talk with the members of Dirty Mouth at UNR’s Scary Art Auction and Halloween Party. Megan Berner, the drummer, and Jeanne Jo (pronounced jee-nee), bassist and vocalist, are dressed as the part of the cool ‘80s cartoon girl band, The Misfits (remember Gem?). McCraw wears an adult size Pokemon Pikachu costume. All three girls are art students in their early 20s. Berner’s medium is principally black-and-white photography, reminiscent sometimes of Andy Warhol’s pop art. Jo is into mixed media. She has produced a range of pieces including a scrapbook full of pictures of her and Patrick Stewart (perhaps better known as Captain Jean Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise) digitally placed together in various locations, such as punk shows or quaint patios, sharing morning tea in their bathrobes. McCraw paints and is not afraid to tap into feminine motifs like bears, hearts and sad girls.

The band’s conglomeration of creative talents leads to their eclectic sound and causes members to label themselves as an art band. In many ways, their music is an extension of their art, very playful and unrestricted by convention. They assert their femininity by taking control of the word “cute” itself, demonstrating its potential for embodying positive female characteristics. When they play, Dirty Mouth members usually wear jeans and sweatshirts and only occasionally skirts and dresses, which are never overly revealing. When they let a bit of their girly-ness slip, they sport innocent pigtails, precious hairclips and a little face glitter now and then.

“Cute is not a diminutive term,” McGraw says. Being cute means having the ability to present yourself in a fragile, feminine and silly way, while still being respectable and not letting anybody trample on your image.

As I interview Dirty Mouth, McCraw takes the role of the spokesperson. After all, she did write a 20-page paper on the positive aspects of cute, and she has the most assertive personality of the three. Jo, the youngest of the group, is also rather candid. She wears a long purple wig over her usually short, black and messy hair.

“We are all exactly who we are,” Jo says. “We never make pretenses about being feminine or masculine. We are who we want to be.”

Dirty Mouth members Megan Berner, Terina McCraw and Jeanne Jo dress like this for Halloween, not for shows.

Photo by Miranda Jesch

Berner, the quietest member of the band adds: “The whole thing about feminists is that you have to be tough in a man’s world, but that’s not a quality in itself—that’s not a way to act. You just have to be who you are and not care what anybody thinks.”

And to those people who don’t like their music Berner softly says, “We don’t care what those people think … Fuck ’em.”

Dirty Mouth never tries to use the fact that they are women to make some feminist declaration to the world. They believe that no singer or band deserves respect just because they are female. All bands face the same challenges.

“I don’t think there is a message to our music,” Berner says. “I just hope that [girls] can see us and see that being in a band is something that anyone can do if they want to. The best thing about the band is the friendship that has come out of it.”

McCraw says, “I love being in a band with these girls. I don’t know if I could be like this in a different band. It’s almost like losing your virginity—I’m glad it was with Jeanne and Megan.”

Dirty Mouth respects the female musicians who are doing something original and doing it without compromising their music values. They mention such bands as Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo, Cat Power, the Pixies, Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna, Cibo Matto and the all-girl AC/DC cover band Hell’s Belles. But it’s not just girl bands that are inspiring, the boys can be influential too. Bands like The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Def Leppard, The Cure, Jawbreaker and Pavement, McCraw believes, are all respectable musicians to idolize.

Dirty Mouth believes that if they can cultivate in one young girl the desire to make her own music, then that’s all they need to feel satisfied. They also say that it’s totally worth it to see a boy in the crowd at a one of their shows looking at them like he can’t wait for them to finish their set.

Their songs and lyrics prove just how cute, confident and also endearingly awkward they can be. None of their songs really have names, just designations so they can talk about what they’re going to play. Like “The Boys Suck Song,” “12 lines about the Queem,” a song about McCraw’s Chihuahua, and “The Summer Love Ballad,” about an undisclosed band member’s romance.

Dirty Mouth’s songs are catchy and youthful, mixing a little punk, a little pop and a little playground jump-rope rhyme. They are rarely smug, except for perhaps in their one song of personal praise—"The Dirty Mouth Anthem.”

Telling us how they think of themselves and how all girls need to view themselves they sing, "We’re super cute, you know it’s true, we totally have a fashion clue. We’re Dirty Mouth and we’re smart too … Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah."