IMHO, all the greatest bands are based on great friendships. The band is the ultimate gang – or should be, if it’s done right. The best bands look like a gang of mates having a laugh, not like some slick corporation.
I know all the classic pairings are obviously, like, Lennon/McCartney etc, but the best friendship gangs in the history of music are always girl gangs. It’s why as a teenager I loved Kenickie and Shampoo, and even the early Spice Girls back when they looked like they dyed their own hair and bought their stage outfits from Camden Market, and Geri (my fave) always looked a bit like she’d just fallen over at all times.
My new book BECOMING BETTY features a lot of bands (which makes sense, given that the action centres around a Battle of the Bands contest). My favourite of the lot are the all-girl gang, Dirty Harriet. They have been getting a lot of love from readers, which particularly delights me as they are pretty much my dream girl gang.
I thought 'Dirty Harriet' sounded like such a classic riot grrl band name, like the DIY punk bands I loved as a teenager and still do – like Heavens to Betsy, Bratmobile, 7 Year Bitch or Lunachicks. I googled the name to make sure it hadn’t already been done, and was actually shocked (and pretty delighted, for my purposes) that it hadn’t been used before.
I discovered the original riot grrl bands via reading interviews with Kurt Cobain in NME, in which he sang their praises (many of my early musical discoveries came via my love for Kurt Cobain and his love for generously bigging-up his favourite obscure bands). I discovered a whole world of DIY culture, bands and fanzines, and it was genuinely life-changing. The riot grrl DIY ethos made me feel like I could have a go, create my own culture and get involved – the same message I would love to give readers of BECOMING BETTY.
Dirty Harriet are made up of Harry, Jess and Lola. They are friends first and bandmates second. In fact, Harry and Lola are cousins – an important fact as my cousin is my BFF and it adds to the tight-knit gang mentality (see also: Shampoo made up of cousins Jacqui and Carrie; Throwing Muses revolving around stepsisters Kristin and Tanya). Also, when you're a teenage girl who doesn't have that many friends, having a cousin the same age is really useful (just saying).
Dirty Harriet take their band seriously; music is the most important thing in the world to them and they practise diligently. As they say themselves:
‘Basically, we all have no life. But that’s OK because we didn’t exactly have glittering social lives to begin with. We’re all music geeks.’‘…But that’s OK, because it’s always the music geeks who win in the end. Every cool rock star in the canon was once a music geek. That’s the law.’
However, they also want to have fun and remember that friendship is more important than anything else. They have their own manifesto to prove it, which covers everything from their influences to gig etiquette to anti-fashion ideas.
Most important, Dirty Harriet are about doing things their own way: playing what they want, wearing what they want and not caring about what anybody else thinks. Just like all the best girl gangs in history.
Here are some of their favourites…