Fea May Be A “Girl Band,” But They’re Not A Novelty Act

Photo: Courtesy of Jaime Monzon.
Welcome to The Drop, Refinery29's home for music video premieres. We want to shine the spotlight on women artists whose music inspires, excites, and (literally) moves us. This is where we'll champion their voices.
If you're wondering where the descendants of punk and goth music who are making the best indie music out there can be found, point your eyes towards San Antonio, TX. The streets of this (highly underrated) town are lined with excited, talented musicians who were influenced by the sounds of those iconic genres, but who add enough of their own flavour on it to make things interesting.
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Fea is one of those bands. Bassist Jenn Alva, drummer Phanie Diaz, guitarist Sofi Lopez, and vocalist  Letty Martinez just dropped their sophomore album, No Novelties on Joan Jett's Blackheart Records, and it's one of the rawest and most important listens of the year. That's due, at least in part, to its production, which is handled by Alice Bag, who was one half of the West Coast punk duo The Bags and is one of the most important feminist icons going. While it's notable that Diaz and Alva come from the beloved San Antonio band Girlfriend in a Coma, it's also worth noting that this band is a very different vibe.
TK spoke to Refinery29 about the project, telling us about the insulting comment that inspired "Girl Band" and the album, the struggle to find representation both as women as queer Latinx performers, and why they won't be treated as a novelty act because of any of their identifiers.
Refinery29: Tell me about what inspired writing this song?
Letty Martinez: “A random man told me that we aren’t really hot or good looking but that our music was pretty cool for a girl band. I didn't understand why our looks had anything to do with it or why he felt the need to say that. Guy bands don’t really get comments like that. They are just judged for their music, yet we are looked at as novelties.”
Phanie Diaz: "The song really just wrote itself. It started it with a bass line Jenn was playing with followed by drums and bass. Letty takes the music and just starts playing with melodies and lyrics. It was completely 100% organic and that's usually how we write. Sometimes a jam just starts with all of us present or it will start with a member and a groove they come up with. Letty’s lyrics are usually inspired by what’s happening around her or what is affecting us collectively at the time."
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Why do you think it's still difficult for men in music, from other bands to journalists to record industry folks, to take women who play instruments and write their own music seriously — and give them credit for it?
Diaz: "It’s a strange thing that women are still looked down upon or can’t have an equal position of power and respect. It could really be just the way we were conditioned to think. It’s intentionally and sometimes unintentionally drilled into our heads from scenes of cavemen hitting women over the head and throwing them over their shoulders to the images of women in kitchens, making babies while the men do all work. It’s something that just needs to change and there needs to be more imagery and representation of us as equals. Little by little, we hope to get there. I know we will continue to play our role in changing that."
Representation for women in music is still far from reaching parity. What recommendations do you have for women to help make things more equal in representation?
Diaz: "I think women just need to stay visible and speak up. Unfortunately, we need to work a little harder but we take our craft seriously and play just as hard as the men. We are not novelties and we shouldn’t be treated as such. If we continue to own our craft and stay at the forefront we can inspire more women to own what they have and be proud of it."
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