Under the glow of a billboard off Clark Drive, in a location that is new to me but familiar to them and the photographer, I really see WANT for the first time. Steph, Kate and April form a tight triangle with their faces turned to the light. The faintest suggestion could crack their cool expressions into smiles, but they are pros. They take themselves seriously. WANT, or We Are Not Things, isn’t your typical hobby jam band.
On WANT’s Facebook page, their description reads, “We got tired of the ‘girls can’t be punks’ joke, so we started a band.” I ask if they’ve witnessed any change in their community since forming WANT and Steph responds first —
“I’ve noticed perception has changed now being in a band. I started going to punk shows when I was in the seventh grade, and I literally remember [hearing] casual sexism. To me, it was normalized because I was used to it. It was such a male-dominated scene. They’d say jokes like, ‘Why can’t girls go on tour? — Cuz they’d bleed all over the merch.’” Steph continues, “Back then, people would say that if they heard a girl band they would completely disregard it … [I decided] if I’m going to play in a band I’m not going to suck because I’m not going to give those guys fuel to say the stupid shit they want to say. Now I don’t encounter that at all, and it’s probably because girls are starting to own their place in hardcore scenes.”
WANT certainly is. They released a demo on Bandcamp this summer and is releasing their official tape demo November 18. They have also recorded a 7-inch to be released in 2017, and have performed plenty, including the opening slot for G.L.O.S.S. (Girls Living Outside Society’s Shit) — a band that Kate describes as “one of the most important American punk bands to have ever happened.”
“When [G.L.O.S.S.] announced they were coming to Vancouver, as soon as I found out I was like, ‘Okay, we have to open that show.’ When we didn’t get asked I had to take a lot of deep breaths,” explains Kate, “But then we ended up on the bill and practiced more than ever … It was so worth it because it was our best set.”
Steph continues, “Yeah, I vividly remember looking at my phone when [Kate] texted me, ‘WE JUST GOT ASKED TO PLAY GLOSS. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. I REPEAT, THIS IS NOT A DRILL.’ I remember because that was a point in time where we were struggling with our lineup and feeling deflated, but those pieces fell into place just oh so fucking perfectly.”
“You know when you go to a show and everyone gets along and there are no problems? It was one of those shows,” says April. “I love it, that’s like my way of gauging if a show is good or not — if the audience is playing well together.”
WANT is Steph on vocals, Kate on drums, and April on guitar. They play a brand of hardcore punk best reserved for packed, sweaty venues. On the topic of venues, WANT attempts to play exclusively all-ages shows, but that’s not always possible.
“I can’t count the amount of times I was fourteen or fifteen and couldn’t see the bands I really admired because I was too young,” says Steph. “Black Lab is one of the few [local venues] that stands out to me. When I think of all ages venues, I think of the ones that are already gone, like Casa Del Artista.”
“Because I grew up on the Island, the first show I went to here was at Mesa Luna. It was amazing,” reminisces Kate. “B.C. liquor laws being what they are, it is so hard. It discourages places from being all-ages, at least compared to the States — it’s a lot easier to find a bar that can have everyone.”
WANT is also open to touring, having recently played at a golf course in Kelowna with Gardener and Drag — “The carpets were clean and there were really nice mirrors everywhere. It was sick!” says Steph.
“I grew up in a small town, so it’s important for me, even if it’s a pain in the ass, to play those smaller places rather than keeping it in the city all the time,” says Kate. “I definitely don’t think people should underestimate the influence they can have sometimes. Especially when playing smaller towns and all-ages venues with younger people attending … Honestly, if there is one thing I want people to get from WANT, it’s for girls to see us play and realize they can do it, too.”
It is impossible to divorce WANT from the politics of being an all-women band, even as Steph states, “We don’t want to be a band where people are like, ‘Oh they’re all chicks? I’m going to like them automatically.’ It’s like, no! I want people to like us because they like what we’re talking about and they like our music.”
Strength of the music aside, when I ask about the topic of consent and predator culture in the scene, WANT is not shy in responding—
“Punk has always been ahead of the curve in terms of trying to be better than greater society,” Kate iterates. “That’s [the thought] I always come back to when we keep saying, ‘Oh, there’s so many problematic people.’ There are abusers in every scene … It’s just a matter of how we react that’s different.”
We speak about the child luring accusations against Jim Hesketh, formerly of Champion and True Identity, and everyone agrees with the way the community responded. Friends and fans released statements distancing themselves from Hesketh’s actions, and True Identity chose to disband as a statement of solidarity with victims. “I think it’s really cool, but still what I see a lot of and what frustrates me is men speaking on behalf of women. I use Jim Hesketh as a reference, the thing I would point out is that men try to dominate the conversation because we still haven’t addressed the underlying problem of women being viewed as disposable in the scene — any musical scene — because we’re seen as somebody’s girlfriend or tag along, that we don’t actually have our own place,” explains Steph.
“When dudes are like, ‘Let’s talk about sexual harassment,’ it’s almost like a pat on the back for them,” she continues. “I don’t think they’re doing it intentionally, but they’re still talking over women … So when I tell guys that I am seen as disposable when I’ve been going to shows for years and years, that like, rocks their world because they never considered that. But that’s like, every day of my life.”
Kate adds, “Basically, we need to let women speak.”
And that’s at the heart of WANT — the desire to be heard and have others be heard, and to make really fucking good music while they’re at it.
Listen to WANT at wearenotthings.bandcamp.com, and check out their upcoming shows: Sticks & Stones Fundraiser November 5 at the Matador, and their tape release November 18 at 333 with Alien Boys.