I am sending this confession way late but after learning what the original idea was for blackout Tuesday, I wanted to send some recommendations of black women in metal/rock/punk as well as some other genres. Most are female fronted but some are also women playing instruments. Also tried my best to list the genre for each band but some may not be totally accurate. So here is the list:
Southern Avenue (Blues)
Vodun (Psychedelic metal)
Skinflint (Heavy metal, I don’t think Sandra is in the band anymore but she has done drums on all of their releases so far)
Witch Mountain (Doom Metal) Dress The Dead (both fronted by Kayla Dixon)
Oceans of Slumber (Progressive Metal)
Ad Infinitum (Symphonic Metal. Melissa Bonny is also in Rage of Light which is Industrial Metal and she was in Evenmore which is also Symphonic)
Butcher Babies (Groove Metal/Metalcore)
X-Ray Spex (Punk)
Ianwill (Melodic Death Metal, Audrey was also in a band called Diary of Destruction but they have split up)
Straight Line Stitch (Metalcore)
Alabama Shakes (Blues/Southern Rock)
Clay (Alternative Rock/Pop)
Rosetta Tharpe (Rock n Roll, one of the biggest influences on the genre)
Nubian Rose (Hard Rock)
The Txlips Band (Rock, their frontwoman Gabby also has her own project as well)
Nova Twins (Alternative Rock)
Meet Me @ The Altar (Pop Punk)
Big Joanie (Punk)
The 1865 (Punk, also check out Honeychild Coleman
Tetrarch (Metalcore/Nu metal, not female fronted but she plays guitar)
Tamar Kali (Alternative Rock)
Jingo De Lunch (Punk)
Skunk Anansie (Alternative Rock)
Militia Vox (Heavy Metal)
Pleasure Venom (Punk)
Oak, Ash & Thorn (Folk Meta, not female fronted but she is the drummer)
The Objex (Punk)
The BellRays (Rock)
The Skins (R&B/Soul)
Carson (Pop Punk)
Breaking The Silent (Power Metal)
TV Tramps (Punk)
Maafa Hardcore (Hardcore Punk)
Skinny Girl Diet (Punk/Grunge)
The Tuts (Indie/Pop Punk, she plays drums)
Charmpit (Pop Punk)
Sarah and the Safe Word (Cabaret Rock, she mostly plays violin but also contributes vocals sometimes)
Sate (Hard Rock/Blues)
Fatty Cakes and the Puff Pastries (Punk)
Shea Diamond (R&B/Blues)
The New Respects (Alternative)
Shemekia Copeland (Blues)
Ruthie Foster (Blues)
Shaka Ponk (Funk Rock)
Lil Halima (R&B/Soul)
Sudan Archives (R&B)
Darkest Place (Extreme Gothic Metal)
Hora Vitrum (Metalcore)
Bleed The Pigs (Grindcore/Noise)
I was on the phone briefly catching up with Meredith Bell of Palaceburn, Philadelphia’s emerging metal representatives. I asked her if she was excited for the her band to be performing at the 11th annual AFROPUNK FEST taking place this Saturday August 22nd in Brooklyn. Not only was she excited, she managed to sneak in her disappointment about missing WWE’s own annual event Summerslam, which commences during the end of the fest that the band is contributing to. I couldn’t help but smile and realize that it truly doesn’t get more real and down to earth than that. Ms. Bell opens up about her music background, overcoming stereotypes, what makes her tick, and what separates Palaceburn from all the rest.
JTHR: How long have you been singing?
MB: I’ve been singing since I was 4 years old. I started out in my grandfather’s church choir in VA. My grandpa played piano for the youth choir at the time. He had a knack for giving me all the solos, so it was pretty forced on me. Per his recollection, he states that none of the rest of the kids in the youth choir wanted to solo, so I was pretty much the guinea pig!
JTHR: What makes Palaceburn different from other bands you've fronted or been involved in?
MB: The work ethic, definitely. I haven’t been in many bands before Palaceburn, but the ones I was involved with… the band members didn’t really have the same desire to go where I wanted to go. I wanted to quit doing this several times because of it. I didn’t think I was ever going to find like-minded musicians who wanted to make this a career. For me, that was important.
JTHR: What is the meaning of the band name Palaceburn and how does it correlate to where the band wants to go?
MB: Palaceburn is a take of the Lamb of God album, “As The Palaces Burn”. I’m originally from Richmond, VA, where Lamb of God was formed. All of us in the band are pretty big LOG fans. I felt like if Randy and the rest of the boys could make it out of Richmond and make something out of themselves, I wanted to, as well.
JTHR: Have you ever been told "you're acting white" due to being into hard rock and metal music and how did that make you feel if and when you've heard that?
MB: I mean, I got that a lot growing up, even before I joined a band. When I was younger, it used to bother me a lot. There was this discord between having a bunch of white friends who liked the same things I did, and still being in touch with my “blackness”, in regards to myself and my family. My grandmother is biracial, so she got a lot of the “high yellow “comments growing up. She was around during the Civil Rights era. So she dealt with it worse than I ever did. She always taught me to follow my own path and not to let any sort of racial comments get to me. I don’t think anyone, including myself, needs to listen to a certain style of music to be in touch with who they are, their ethnicity and what they represent. It took me a while to realize it. Now, it doesn’t phase me as much anymore.
JTHR: Why do you particularly think people care to place such emphasis on race and what people listen to? Is there a way to actually stop it?
MB: It’s a bad situation right now, when it comes to racial intolerance. It’s 2015 and we’re still in the midst of fighting for equality for Blacks. When you have movements like #BlackLivesMatter really picking up as a result of several African-Americans being slaughtered in the streets by those who are supposed to “serve and protect”, it’s kind of hard not to look at things from a racial standpoint. Unfortunately, that has crossed over into music and pop culture in general. There’s a lot of cultural appropriation going on with certain artists, and the lack of respect for one’s culture is downright disgraceful. I’m not sure if it’s ever going to stop until we’re able to take race out of the picture entirely… and I feel like we have a long way to go before that happens.
JTHR: Who influenced you the most as a singer/artist?
MB: My grandfather, most definitely. He played piano for most of his life. And what a voice! He’s the only other musician in our family… no one else can really sing, haha. I was raised by my grandparents and I would come home every day to my grandpa playing the piano. He knew how to play everything and would be on that thing every day until his arthritis got really bad. I mean – Ray Charles, The Temptations, Ella Fitzgerald – you name it, he could play it. He truly has a love for music, and I think he’s bummed out now that he can’t play anymore. That’s what I think about when I have those negative urges to quit. I’m still physically capable of being able to perform – and I should do so until I can’t anymore.
JTHR: How do you feel about being a role model for black women who want to pursue careers in your profession and genre and women in general?
MB: I don’t really see myself as a role model. I never have. But, if I can inspire someone to continue to pursue their dreams, then so be it. I mean… there aren’t really a lot of WOC [women of color] who are doing the type of music I do. There are some… my sister Alexis from Straight Line Stitch, for example. I’d love to see more alternative WOC come out of the woodwork and front bands. That’d be killer.
JTHR: So you're performing at the 2015 Afro punk festival- holy shit.
What are Palaceburn's expectations? Nervous? Excited? Both? Just another opportunity to take advantage of? Everything above? Aiming to meet some fellow bands and artists backstage?
MB: It’s a huge opportunity for us, and I think we’re all just incredibly excited. I’ve wanted to be a part of this festival since 2012 or so. I’m thrilled. I think our expectation is just to go out there and give it all we’ve got – like we always strive to do. There’s been a shift with rock music – and we want to show Brooklyn that hard rock music is still alive and well.
I’ve made this clear to everyone – I want to meet Lenny Kravitz and touch his abs. That is all.
JTHR: As you and I know there were times where things seemed a little uncertain and foggy with where the band was going; what was it that kept the focus and momentum intact?
MB: Jim and I went through a lot of lineup changes. That was really what was holding us back from going where we wanted to go. We both told each other (when it just he and I there for a while) that we weren’t going to let this band die. He and I have been doing music for about the same amount of time. It wasn’t something that we were just willing to throw away. I think both of us know that we don’t want to be stuck in a cubicle for the rest of our lives. So we said we’d find new members and take it as far as it was willing to go.
JTHR: What's the meaning behind the single "breathless?"
MB: I was romantically linked with a friend of mine from another band (I do not wish to disclose his name). His sense of humor was a bit prickish…he’s a natural asshole. That’s just how he is with everyone. I guess I expected something different when he and I were messing around for a bit… and I pretty much was treated like all of the rest of his friends. There wasn’t that shift that people usually make from friends to being together, you know? It pissed me the hell off. So I went home one day and (naturally) wrote a song about it. Haha.
Funny story – after the recording was finished, I sent it over to him for a listen. He told me – “I’m incredibly sorry for what I did to make you mad – but this is a fantastic song.” So. It all worked out in the end.
JTHR: When does the new EP come out and what will it be called?
MB: Curses. The EP drops August 28th!
JTHR: After Afropunk what's next for Palaceburn?
MB: We’ll be booking more shows, trying to push the record more and more… and hopefully by the end of next year, we’ll have our first mini-tour under our belts. Onward and upward, man!
Curses is available for pre-order on iTunes. The first single, “Breathless” can be heard on Spotify, Youtube, and other music streaming services. The single can be also bought and downloaded on iTunes. AFROPUNK FEST 2015 takes place at Commodore Barry Park in Brooklyn, New York August 22nd and August 23rd.