“It’s just wild,” says Necking drummer, Melissa Kuipers. Her, guitarist Nada Hayek, bassist Sonya Rez and vocalist Hannah Kay, collectively known as Necking, have met substantial success in Vancouver’s independent music scene since the release of their debut EP, Meditation Tape, in mid November. The punk group has been invited onto a plethora of show bills, received considerable airplay on campus radio stations across the Lower Mainland, and even reached number two on Ride The Tempo’s Weekly Top 10 chart last November. This exposure has earned the band a following that they were not expecting when they formed in February 2017, an exposure they are still struggling to accept as real.
“We’re waiting for the set to fall, and we’ll be standing in the middle of a field with all of Vancouver pointing and laughing at us,” says Melissa, having re-started her sentence after it was cut off by a beer spill in their Mount Pleasant rehearsal space. “Like a film set!” Nada adds, as she rescues the fallen can.
With songs that are not only catchy but also convey messages about social issues, it is easy to assume some of their sudden popularity is a result of the politics presented on Meditation Tape. “We’re political people,” Sonya says on behalf of the band. “We write songs about [what] we’re passionate about,” continues Hannah. “These things […] are really real and really important to us.”
The song “Detective Olivia Benson” is a perfect example of Necking using their lyrics to make a social stance. It focuses on a central character in the T.V. show Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. The show takes place inside “a dream universe […] where people are actually served justice for committing [sexual] assaults,” says Melissa, who wrote the song’s lyrics. She goes on to say, “It’s something that doesn’t actually really happen as much as it should.”
In the show, the fictitious police officer, Olivia Benson, calls for more sympathy toward sexual assault survivors and demands stricter consequences for abusers. These actions resonate with Necking’s members. “Her whole character is like, “Believe [sexual assault] survivors! […] Do whatever you can to make them feel heard! And change policy!’” explains Melissa, “It’s obviously something that is so important.”
But the popularity of one song is just an indicator of a larger society shift that Necking finds themselves a part of. Hannah recalls one particularly passionate performance during a gig last fall, when #MeToo was circulating social media: “I was singing [Detective Olivia Benson] and I kept making eye contact with women. […] I was supposed to be singing, but I was just screaming.” With a laugh she adds, “We were just tearing it up at that show.”
Comedy is one device Necking uses to convey strong messages, with the lyrics on Meditation Tape reflecting the bandmates’ senses of humour. Seemingly lighthearted songs, like “Ford Commercial” for example, use humour to make a critique on consumerism and capitalism. On the surface, lines like “Put us in a Ford commercial” and “We want money!” could poke fun at Necking’s own materialism, or could denounce the act of musicians “selling out.” Hannah explains, “You listen to the lyrics and they’re kind of funny, and then you’re like ‘Oh, this is a thing that happens, and it’s a bummer.’”
Whatever messages they may be conveying in a song, Hannah says that Necking strive to be varied with their lyrics, endeavouring not to write solely from their own perspectives as “cisgender women.” The value they place on inclusivity is the reason Necking object to their frequent association with Riot Grrrl, an early ‘90s feminist movement in the underground punk scene. “The definition of the word ‘inclusive’ has changed since then,” says Melissa. The Riot Grrrl brand of inclusivity, the band explains, was highly exclusive towards trans women, sex workers, and women of colour. “Inclusivity-centred seminars that Riot Grrrls held […] would be all white,” says Sonya, “and communities of colour would cater to them.”
In spite of their disagreements with some of the movement’s principles, Necking acknowledges the contributions that Riot Grrrls made to opening up the punk scene for female musicians. Nada says, “We wouldn’t be here without Riot Grrrl.”
It is likely that the following of fans hearing Necking’s stances on social issues by way of their mixture of serious and silly lyrics will continue to grow, as the group intends to continue gigging, to release an LP, and to tour to some towns in the U.S. and Canada. The band members’ senses of humour show through once more in their inability to resist providing some joke answers to my question about their plans for the future. Nada claims that their own reality T.V. show modelled after The Bachelor, in which the four members compete against each other “and Hannah wins every fucking time!” is in the works, and Sonya tells me that they anticipate an offer “to be in a Ford commercial.”
Listen to Necking at neckingband.bandcamp.com to hear their new release, Meditation Tape.