Alicja is singer and guitarist for an array of Memphis-based bands, including the Lost Sounds and the River City Tanlines. We meet her at the HiTone, an eclectic retro-styled rock club where she is tending door. On a break between sets, she pulls us into the back room for a chat, before shooing us back to see the bands for a special discount. She is clearly a fixture in the scene here, as every few moments the interview is interrupted by a hello or congratulations on her recent baby. Alicja (left, backstage at the HiTone) tells us she started playing music with girls in high school, but always related more to males in rock music. She found that guys would approach her and say they don’t often relate to music written by girls, but they liked hers.
Has she experienced any discrimination being a woman in the heavily male-dominated garage and punk scenes? She looks bored with the question, but lets us know “men always soundcheck you last, look embarrassed for you, and always try to give advice to you if you are in an all-girl band.” I ask her about how she relates to the tradition of ostentatious rocker front-women: “I’m a jeans and t-shirt kinda girl–I let my pride and vanity go out the door. I want to be able to play with the boys.” She admits though that she “stands out. But I use it to my advantage, without dressing slutty when I play.” The last time I saw Alicja play in Chicago, she was six months pregnant and rocking out in a flowing red dress, riling the crowd with her punk pregnancy performance. She tells us that she hopes that her newborn daughter will be impressed with her mom one day, that she’ll see her with a “flying v-guitar” and think “mom is a bad-ass.”
Does she relate to feminism? “I secretly get satisfaction from the feminist movement, but I have felt repelled by the term, and by women who can’t stand up for themselves without relating to the term. I know I am a great guitarist already.” Alicja’s attitude is typical of many woman musicians, who have felt singled out for their gender, and have traded irreverence and confidence for being pigeonholed. “I can’t live down the stereotype of always being a woman in rock. I don’t understand, women are not a race. We are not like the Aztecs or Eskimos. We are 50% of the world, why do we keep being defined as separate from it?”