Women have historically not been seen as human. The thousands of years of human history and endless threads of Tweets trying to negate or obliterate a woman's existence support this statement. For Toronto rock band Peeling, this is a sentiment worth unpacking and exploring yet again. On their new track "Wandering Womb," Peeling looked back to an Ancient Greek belief for inspiration that wombs could act independent of the woman, causing her to be emotionally erratic or hysterical. "Female hysteria" is another iteration of this that, like other poorly researched or thought out practices, trickled down the historical timeline and stayed part of belief systems. To this day, some men will say, as an insult, that women are "being a certain way" because of their menstruation.
In the video for the song, shot by Preoccupations' Mike Wallace, singer Annabelle Lee and guitarist Alana DeVito wander around in a barren California desert in bridal gowns smeared with menstrual blood. It's a jarring image, accompanied by loud, clashing guitar hooks and a bassline so thick you can almost feel it slapping into your skin. Lee and DeVito represent a subversion in the video; that they are aggressively pursuing this barren landscape, away from thoughts derived by men who don't understand their bodies.
"Wandering Womb" appears on Peeling's second EP 7 Years of Blood via Buzz Records, which came out last week. It's the sort of second part to their first EP Rats in Paradise released in August of last year.
Watch the video and read our interview with Lee about the song below:
Noisey: Can you tell me a bit about the meaning of "Wandering Womb" as a track?
Annabelle Lee: "Wandering Womb" is a song kind of about "difficult women." This song… the history sort of goes back a little bit. In Liberty Village—kind of right near the VICE office, and really close to my house in Parkdale—there used to be a woman's reformatory center right where the soccer park is now in the 1800s. It was a reformatory for unruly women. They could get sent there for being unwed mothers or not having the right manners and undergo all of these crazy shock therapies. They tried to reform them into proper Victorian women. I kind of got into a wormhole with that. They gave you this diagnosis called "wandering womb," which is kind of like hysteria. [That diagnosis] goes back to Ancient Greece. They thought the womb was an animal inside an animal so that a woman's womb had a mind of its own. If it was off-kilter, then it would make the woman do all of these crazy things. So that's where the inspiration for where the song came from.
Do you think the concept of "female hysteria" is more relevant than ever now, even though it is an incredibly dated term and mentality?
It is an incredibly dated mentality! But I feel like people still think that but in a modern way where they still think a girl is acting insane because she's on her period or something. A put down for women that as soon as you express some kind of, like, displeasure with something or if something is pissing you off, they are like "oh are you on your rag or something?" It all goes back to your emotions being directly attached to your uterus.
Before I get to the obvious point of how intense the video is: it is was shot in California. What made you want to do the video there?
I really love the desert and we were there anyway. We thought it would be a nice setting. The idea of the desert being barren resonated with me. I thought the placement of the two things together were kind of interesting—the desert is a place that doesn't really cultivate life. It doesn't really flourish.
In the video, shot by your partner Mike Wallace from Preoccupations, you and Alana are wandering around the desert with menstrual blood smeared on wedding dresses. Where did the idea of the video's concept come from?
We thought it would be visually interesting. The blood was kind of meant to be, like… I mean, in some ways, too, we were kind of touching on the issue of abortion, unwed mothers, and going back to the theme of a woman's reformatory as well. It's supposed to be these two girls who are friends and they ditched everything else and they are just out there in the desert.
You just released your latest EP, 7 Years of Blood. Last year, Peeling released Rats in Paradise. Do you find that there is a benefit to EP releases every handful of months versus doing a full-length record?
Both of the EPs were originally recorded at the same time and finished at the same time. They are meant to complement one another. I went into the studio with these songs and just didn't feel like it fit as a full-length record and I thought having them as two EPs made more sense sonically. I like that they are complementary and you can do smaller tours around the EPs. We're a really new band and we're trying to still get our shit together. A full-length record is a big step. Are there plans for a full-length record soon?
I have songs written already. We're playing on this tour some of the new [songs] from the record. Trying it out live. We're already starting to rehearse and all that stuff. I think the record will be full demoed and going into the studio by the fall and then hopefully it will be done by the end of the full. It's coming along! Catch Peeling on tour:
05/31 Richmond, VA - Strange Matter
with Richard Lloyd (Television)
06/01 Knoxville, TN - Pilot Light %
06/02 Nashville, TN - High Watt %
06/05 Dallas, TX - Armory D.E.
06/07 Austin, TX - Hotel Vegas
06/13 Oakland, CA - Night Light
06/18 Vancouver, BC - Red Gate
06/19 Ymir, BC - The Schoolhouse
06/20 Lethbridge, AB - The Owl
06/21-24 Calgary, AB - Sled Island
06/25 Saskatoon, SK - Witch Mansion
06/28 Milwaukee, WI - Cactus Club
06/29 Madison, WI - Mickey's Tavern
06/30 Detroit, MI - Kelly's Bar (Hamtramck)
07/07 Toronto, ON - The Baby G
09/15 Toronto, ON @ The Danforth *
% with Muuy Biien
* with Thee Oh Sees
Sarah MacDonald is an Assistant Editor at Noisey Canada. Follow her on Twitter.