I was 21 when I watched the documentary The Punk Singer which chronicles the life of Kathleen Hanna, lead singer of Bikini Kill, a popular feminist punk bands from the 90s. Kathleen Hanna became a punk icon (albeit mostly for white women) by making music about taboo topics like rape, incest, female sexual pleasure, and queerness. The song “Rebel Girl” is a well-known anthem that encourages women to support and admire one another to be bold and rebellious, “When she talks, I hear the revolution. In her hips, there’s revolution. In her kiss, I taste the revolution."
I’m a bit embarrassed to say I didn’t know much about punk music or the punk community in my own backyard up until this point. But I happened to be in the right place at the right time (the Universe has a funny way of doing that), and ended up playing guitar in an all-ladies punk band we call Litter Brain.
Here’s how it happened:
Me to my friend Alex: I watched this documentary about 90s feminist punk bands and now I want to be in a punk band.
Alex: I think I know some girls who want to do that too. I’ll get us all together.
Two weeks later we met, exchanged phone numbers, and made a date to buy some used drums, amps, and patch cables. I bought my guitar on craigslist for $25.
Honestly, it was as simple as that. Litter Brain was born, we practiced once a week, and started playing shows the next year. Last year we recorded an album and went on a week-long tour up the West Coast.
Here’s the fun part:
I had never played an instrument before. Never in my entire life had I picked up an instrument and decided that I wanted to play music. Was I scared to be in a band with these super cool girls who clearly knew way more about music than I ever would? Of course! But did they made me feel safe and supported as I learned? Yes, they did. I specifically remember Liza, our drummer, said to me, “It’s okay if it sounds bad, it’s punk music,” which eased my anxiety about making one trillion mistakes, playing crappy power chords, and looking like a complete beginner for a solid year and a half.
For the first time in my life, I didn’t care about making something pretty or nice. I just wanted to create something and hang out with people who wanted to do the same. I had just graduated from university and was accustomed to writing polished ten page essays about communication theory. Playing punk music felt like a breath of fresh air.
This concept of creating without the pressure of making it look or sound perfect spilled over into other areas of my life. I stopped caring so much about whether or not my creations would live up to the idealized version in my head, which meant for the first time since middle school I was actually starting and finishing creative projects. And it felt awesome. My college-bred perfectionism was actually a form of fear, and it was holding me back from creating the things that my soul needed to create and that the world needed to see.
“Done is better than good” - Elizabeth Gilbert
As I started getting more involved in the punk community, (going to house shows and dive bars with my band mates, going to public pools and drinking slurpees) I also started writing and compiling zines, which served as my introduction to graphic design and set me up to create a strong portfolio.
Perfection kills creativity. It doesn’t even let you start dreaming. Don’t let it have that power. How can you win the battle against perfectionism this week? What will you create that isn’t perfect, but it’s something the world needs to see? The world needs your unique voice and I want to hear it!!! Send me your creative ideas (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we can chat about making them happen!
“I always tell girls who say they want to start a band but don’t have any talent, ‘Well, neither do I.’ I mean, I can carry a tune, but anyone who picks up a bass can figure it out. You don’t have to have magic unicorn powers.” - Kathleen Hanna