Mix Pick Obey Convention: Vulva Culture

In our Obey Convention festival guide, Vulva Culture told us a few bands they are looking forward to at the music festival in Halifax this weekend. Now we take a chance to tell you a little bit about our Mix Pick for the festival. They play Saturday, May 22 at 12p.m. (yes, that’s in the afternoon) along with Bonnie Doon and Moss Lime at the Bus Stop Theatre. 

Words by Jonathan Briggins

Vulva Culture is one of the most important bands in the Halifax arts scene despite only being a band for close to a year. They’re a group of musicians that individually and collectively empower women musicians in Atlantic Canada.

The name Vulva Culture has floated around for nearly a decade, originally picked by project nucleus Amy V when she was in school, studying audio engineering. For a composition class, she covered a Scribbler song. She shared the recording with the band and was put on a compilation by Radiator Collective, a now dormant group of artists. They asked here what name she wanted to be called.

“Out of nowhere, with no thought really behind it, I said Vulva Culture,” says Amy V who later joined . The name has been used over the past decade for various projects Amy has worked on. It wasn’t until last year that the project became more focused. After working as a solo project, she wanted to add more to her sound.

“What I was looking for and the way I wanted to sound, I definitely needed and wanted more people. My dream team kind of assembled in my brain,” says Amy.

At first it was a duo with riff master Kayla Stevens (Crossed Wires) who Amy knew through other projects. Amy met Bianca Palmer through Rebel Girl Rock Camp (a non-profit organization that welcomes youth who identify as female, trans and gender non-conforming and gives them a rock camp experience) when Palmer gave her a drum lesson. After the drum lesson, Amy wanted her to play in the band, but a broken ankle kept her from joining the band right away but now she’s a key part of the band. Guitarist Hannah Guinan (Old&Weird), also heavily involved with Rebel Girl Rock Camp, is close friends with Amy V and joined in to round out the band.

The name Vulva Culture stuck as the project evolved, and the meaning of the name took more importance.

“None of the music really has any message about women. But the name itself, I kept it because it feels really comforting to be part of the community of females making music,” says Amy V. “A lot of people when they first hear the name, they think they’re going to hear an all-girl punk band with feminist undertones and a scum manifesto kind of preaching. But it’s definitely not. It’s really just a name and a declaration of my happiness to be playing with women.”

“It’s turned into a celebration of women,” says Bianca Palmer.

“100 per cent,” says Amy V.

Amy has been playing music in Halifax since she moved here ten years ago, but none of the music was ever her own as she worked as a contributor in other bands. When she started writing music last summer, it was almost a sort of therapy for her.

“I didn’t really know what to expect when I started writing music. For the longest time I didn’t think I was capable of writing my own music.”

The lyrics come from a personal place, most songs start with the word “I”. The music itself rolls along in a relaxed fashion, but guitar riffs resonate and reverberate, creating a haunting atmosphere.

Earlier this spring, they played Lawnya Vawnya in St. John’s, N.L. where they played to an audience with a lot of women who were on the verge of starting bands. Seeing females in bands in Weaves, Mauno, Gianna Lauren, Vulva Culture and others helped stir up excitement in the city.

“I feel like a lot of women in Newfoundland who were wanting to do something, but didn’t have the inspiration or felt like they could, I think after they saw the huge surge of female musicians at one festival, they really got inspired to start doing something,” says Amy.

It’s hard to make the leap from private to public as a musician. Vulva Culture are a band that have made that leap and push others to do the same.

Photo: Evelyn Hornbeck/Mixtape