I love the Raincoats for so many reasons; the gentle shouting-out that contrasted with those anarcho-boys, the colourful naive paintings and the tub-thumping rhythms that were just so female.
This great interview http://www.richieunterberger.com/birch.html confirms that not all punk bands were the cack-handed, have-a-go experiment that the punk tin proclaimed. But Gina Birch and The Raincoats were. And that’s why they are my inspiration.
What do you think made the Raincoats different from other bands at the time you started, both punk/new wave and otherwise?
“I think the fact that we let ourselves be very vulnerable in a way. I think we really, really believed in a kind of punk ethos. I think it became quite clear to us quite quickly that lots of people seemed to believe in it, but they didn’t really practice it. We didn’t realize that so many of those musicians were actually fantastic musicians. We really believed the press, you know, that you just pick up an instrument and learn three chords and see what happens. There’s an awful lot of people practicing [that] were already really sharp musicians.
But I think what happened with us was…we really learned in public, and we were never really into a kind of idea of show business. And we were quite shy, really. Groups like the Slits, Ari Upp and Palm Olive, they really liked to show off. I really like that, I’m not saying this is a bad thing. But we were never like that. We were like a kind of…it was like watching a process, which the audience kind of felt they were privileged to kind of spy in on. I don’t know–it was odd. I saw Tricky recently, and when he was on the stage, I just felt like there was this kind of invisible wall, and he thought he was in his rehearsal room. He was chatting away to the other members of the band. There’s something really kind of unshowbizzy about it.
I suppose the fact that we were women, and the fact that we had some inkling about what we wanted as women, I suppose. We wanted things to be different. We didn’t want to have to wear short skirts and have fab legs in order to have people think what we did was great. Not that I’ve got anything against that either, but we wanted to be what we wanted to be.
It’s funny, there was a series of pieces about women in music at that time in glossy magazines. And they’d have pictures of all these all-girl bands, and they all looked terribly glamorous. And there was a picture of us in funny old jumpers, looking like what we’d just got out of bed and hadn’t brushed our hair. And actually, it was real kind of, you know, a precursor to what happened some years later, real kind of grungy riot grrl stuff (laughs). I suppose that’s the look we had.”