Ali Barter: We need 'more women in festival line-ups! And less shaming in reviews'

Words by Freya Langley

Photo by Hannah Markoff

Photo by Hannah Markoff

Following the release of ‘Far Away’ earlier this year, Melbourne singer/songwriter, Ali Barter has been hard at work. Her new single ‘Girlie Bits' combines pop with punk in a full-scale verbal attack on sexism, objectification and perceptions of femininity. “Give us a smile, baby. Act like a real lady”, sings Barter sweetly – sarcasm bleeding through her gentle melodies. She goes on to pick apart pricks and the patriarchy in an upbeat pop song with cool punk undertones – a perfect poppy “Fuck you” to the standards imposed on women.

Ali is touring nationally this month with City Calm Down and again this October with The Jezabels. We caught up with the the Melburnian for a little yarn about touring and 'Girlie Bits'.

How did you enjoy the first night of tour with the City Calm Down boys?

It was fun! We played in Hobart to a packed out Republic bar at 11:15pm which is way past my bedtime. It was pretty rowdy – which I like. Tiny stage, lots of vibe.

Tell us a little bit about your new feminist anthem, Girlie Bits' – is there anything in particular that motivated you to write it? What message do you hope to communicate?

It was written on a beach holiday while I was feeling shitty about myself because I was scrolling through Instagram and comparing myself to this idea of women that we are presented it. It made me feel like there was something wrong with me and I realised that I confused as to what a woman is meant to look like.

There is so much dissatisfaction with ourselves and I think it’s because we are bombard with an unattainable ideal of ‘woman’ – whether it be thin, mother, success, beautiful, the list goes on. I also read an article by Bethany Cosentino from the band, Best Coast. She was talking about how journalists review her shows and comment on how she looks and that she isn't smiling, that she looks pissed off. I hate that shit. Because a guy doesn't have to smile, in fact, he is perceived as dark or brooding if he’s not giving much.

We have this idea of what a woman should be: cute, upbeat, happy, feminine, and if she presents anything other than this, she’s cut down, told she looks too serious, or grumpy. It’s happened to me. I’ve had dudes talk to my husband about his band and the recording process and his guitar, blah blah blah and then turn to me and say, ‘wow, you looked so much older when I saw you play live’. It’s like they don't know what to say, and so they say that dumb shit. I want to point out this double standard and make people think about what they say and give women the same level of respect as they do men.

Other than something “glorious”, what is a woman made of?

Where do I start! I am surrounded by incredible women every day. My friends, my co-workers, my family, my manager, my mum! All these women are courageous and empathetic. When I wrote ‘Whats a woman made of’, I was thinking of a woman’s power, their sexuality, their softness and their strength. Women have an incredible energy, at least the women I know do. It’s not so obvious or easily explained as other sources of power or the conventional idea of strength, but that's what makes it glorious.

What steps do you think we need to be taking to address sexism in the music industry?

More women in festival line-ups! And less shaming in reviews. The attitude needs to change. Journalists, bookers, labels and promoters need to take a look at how they view women. Not to see them as a ‘girl band’ or a ‘rock chick’. We are no different to any male group or performer. We are not a novelty act or pretty palate cleanser.

What can we expect from an Ali Barter performance? Can we expect homage to Riot Grrrl with a “Girls to the front”?

My show is fun! I want it to be inclusive. I love looking out and seeing girls and guys singing the lyrics to 'Girlie Bits', because that what I hoped for. It’s a song for everyone. I want to open a discussion, not shame and persecute. Hopefully we can all come together over fuzzy guitars, big choruses and a bit of healthy anger! That’s what you can expect from my show.

So you’re touring nationally with The Jezabels in October, other than that, have you got anything new in the works over the next couple of months? What can we expect?

I am finishing my record and planning a run of headline shows in November, so that’s pretty much it. Hopefully start writing some new stuff, make some fun music videos… Looking forward to playing some festivals over summer too!

Catch Ali Barter supporting The Jezabels October 19 at the Gov - Tickets on sale here.