The first Cable Ties show was in a backyard. It was in 2015 as part of the inaugural Wetfest, an annual gig that showcases some of the best emerging women-led and gender non-conforming acts from the Melbourne music scene.
A year later they were playing on the stage of Meredith Music Festival. As they blasted their rousing punk rock loud and proud, it wasn't surprising that some of the audience held aloft their shoes and boots in what has become a festival tradition as a sign of appreciation and acknowledgement for the best acts playing the festival. It was surprising that in Meredith's 26-year history this was the first time the 'Golden Boot' was being awarded to the opening band.
Cable Ties' rise has been well deserved and the three piece - vocalist and guitarist Jenny McKechnie, bassist Nick Brown, and drummer Shauna Boyle - work hard at contributing and giving back to the scene. Jenny, who also plays in Wet Lips, is one of the organisers of Wetfest, and here and Shauna were recently involved in Girls Rock, an initiative that aims to empower young female, trans, and gender non-conforming youth through music and education.
But stepping outside the well connected and supportive DIY music scene the band have experienced some frustration dealing with elements of the Big Music business.
"The Producer", the first single from their upcoming debut album on Poison City Records brings some of that frustration. In between sharp guitars and fervent howling, the track captures the injustice of female celebrities whose fame has come with the price of the oppression and toxic power imbalances in working relationships with male producers, managers, and manipulators.
Just before the band kicked into a band practice they gathered around the phone to talk feminist punk and the beauty of the Melbourne music community.
Noisey: It seems like a lot of women-led, queer punk bands, like Amyl & The Sniffers and Chelsea Bleach, have recently cropped up in Melbourne.
Jenny: Yeah, I think there's definitely an explosion of bands recently. Especially within our scene, which is more like bands with women and gender non-conforming, trans and queer people. I think there's been a huge expansion in that scene over the two years which has been awesome. I think that's just a product of people forming a really strong community and supporting each other's music.
Nick: I'd probably say that, also, people have started to pay attention to those bands that have been playing for a while and people are catching on and being a bit more interested. It's certainly not like it hasn't existed before.
Why do you think punk music is such a good vehicle for women and LGBT communities?
Jenny: For a start, people who have something to say that don't think that they can be proficient at playing music or don't know an instrument, can just pick one up and do it anyway. The DIY spirit is really conducive to people just giving it a go and having the passion to put into it, but not necessarily having learnt an instrument all the way through school.
Have you guys always been making music in that vein?
Jenny: I used to play in a Celtic folk band [laughs]. I found that I moved into this type of music because it was much better at expressing the emotions I wanted to express in my music, things that were more political and angry and passionate.
Shauna: I grew up in a country town and it was like, only country music or whatever was being played on the commercial stations and I was just bored of it. It's exciting to find something else that you're more interested in and you feel like, well, this is an outlet and I don't have to be the same as everyone else and that's okay. There's other things you can do. But there's definitely something about moving up to Melbourne and meeting all these people that were into the same music as me and having the opportunity to play music where I never thought that I would be able to.
What do you love most about the Melbourne music community?
Nick: I just like the low threshold of entry for playing and participating. It's built on a community model in the same way people play community sport at the local sporting club. It's actually not about being shit hot. It's about being there, participating, having a good time, and being in a social situation with people. It's a less hierarchical music structure, and it's about everyone mattering, rather than just the people playing, which is a pretty boring idea.
Shauna: I found that I was apprehensive playing shows for the first time because I thought, "Oh god, no one's going to give us a show. We won't be able to book any gigs. No one's going to come…" But if you are going and seeing other people's bands and you're meeting all these wonderful people, then they'll let you be on their lineup and they'll watch you play. Even if you're a new band, even if you're just doing something a bit different, you can always find a show. You can always find people to play with.
Jenny: In the more feminist punk scene, I always think of that tiny little section of the world that we've managed to carve out for ourselves where everything is a lot less screwed up. I think it's this sanctuary where people actually give a shit about each other and aren't just totally attached to a capitalist value system where the only value that you place on stuff doesn't have to be just monetary value. That's a huge part of where you can work into this group of people who put value on music and political ideas and caring for and loving each other.
Are there any particular bands that you take from, local or iconic?
Shauna: I think every single other person in every single Melbourne punk band that was at the Golden Plains where Eddy Current Suppression Ring played was a pretty important moment for everyone, and obviously was an influence for us as a band. We all grew up listening to a lot different stuff so that's a really important thing. Jenny's really into hip hop at the moment, I just really like power pop bands that play songs that go for a minute and a half, and Nick's really into everything he's going through with radio as well.
Nick: I'd probably just add that yeah, now, what comes out when we play is the sound of the three of us, playing together. It's an exploration of each other's personalities and that's about it. We're just at the point where we're comfortable playing with each other and it just sounds like the three of us getting together and doing our thing.
Jenny: Not to downplay, I also get heaps of inspiration from going out and watching other bands in Melbourne play, mainly. Musically, that's where a lot of it comes from, just going to our mates' gigs and seeing them play.
How was the experience of playing at the Girls Rock camp?
Shauna: I was there teaching drums for the week and helping out with the band groups as well. It was a pretty awesome experience just to see these girls, NGC (Non Gender Conforming), and trans youth who were so scared to begin with, just shining at the end of the week and the confidence levels skyrocketing. It was a great experience, not just for the campers, but for all the volunteers involved. I met so many other volunteers that are from the same, broader music community in Melbourne, and [Cable Ties] were lucky enough to perform one of their lunch time concerts.
What's been the biggest challenge for Cable Ties?
Jenny: Honestly, the biggest challenge that we face is more from when we have to interact with big industry people. We feel extremely supported by other bands in our community. The point we find difficult is when you get an e-mail saying, "Hey, we're just sussing your avails to play this show with some touring band", and they don't want to tell you how much money they want to pay you, and you find out that you're going to have to take a sound engineer or pay fifty bucks to drive all that gear, y'know? That's really where most of our challenges come from. But we're pretty good at avoiding that now.
Nick: I'd say we've had a pretty blessed run as a band with people we come into contact most of the time, and I would say internally as well. We've been lucky enough to get along because when you start a band, it's a bit of an experiment of personalities and it just happens that we've been lucky enough that the three of us work really well together and we have a really good time doing it.
Jenny: Hopefully it continues [laughs].
Cable Ties' debut album is available May through Poison City records