Last updated: 02/23/2013 12:38:11 PM
Bratmobile is an American punk band. Growing from the rich NW and DC underground and influenced by indie pop in the US as well as Britpop, girl groups, grunge, and punk rock, Bratmobile was a first-generation Riot Grrrl band. Formed when University of Oregon students Allison Wolfe and Molly Neuman collaborated on a noted feminist fanzine, Girl Germs, Bratmobile played its first show as a two-woman act at Olympia's North Shore Surf Club on Valentine's Day, 1991 with Molly and Allison sharing duties on guitar, drums, and vocals. During spring break 1991, Allison and Molly went to DC to follow Beat Happening and Nation Of Ulysses on tour and try to work on a new form of Bratmobile. Beat Happening's Calvin Johnson had previously introduced Molly to nascent guitarist Erin Smith from Bethesda, MD during the Christmas holiday in December, 1990 at a Nation Of Ulysses show in Washington, DC. Smith was the author of the much-revered TV pop culture fanzine Teenage Gang Debs when Allison and Molly asked her to jam with them. It clicked, and in July 1991 the trio played their first show as a 3-piece with Molly Neuman on drums, Erin Smith on guitar, and Allison Wolfe on vocals. They were just in time to play at the historic International Pop Underground Convention in Olympia Washington, becoming the only band to appear twice.
From their first shows, Bratmobile was considered an exciting and important addition to the fertile early 90's NW scene. "We were incredibly lucky to feel support and encouragement from our favorite bands like Bikini Kill, Nation Of Ulysses, Beat Happening, and Fugazi" says Neuman. From 1991-1994 Bratmobile released a classic album,"Pottymouth," and an EP, "The Real Janelle," on Kill Rock Stars Records, as well as a Peel Session recording before the intense media scrutiny and inner pressures of the Riot Grrrl movement hastened the band's breakup in 1994. "We were young, inexperienced, and highly opinionated. I think people often expected too much from us, and we expected a lot from ourselves and each other. We just couldn't be all the different things that people expected us to be." says Wolfe.
For five years, the Brats honed their skills in other bands and developed their lives with other pursuits. Neuman moved to the SF Bay Area and began working at East Bay punk record label Lookout! Records, for which she now acts as general manager and co-owns. She also played in The PeeChees and The Frumpies and continued to perfect her stylish, powerful drumming; Allison Wolfe moved to DC, and she and MD-based Erin Smith started a new band together called Cold Cold Hearts. Allison's feminism and activism found many significant outlets and Erin's guitar playing grew more accomplished and technical while always staying true to her minimalist pop leanings. Then in 1999, the three women decided to reunite for a low-key show in Oakland's Stork Club. "I didn't know what we'd had until it was gone. When we got back together, we realized that we had always missed playing together and nothing else was ever quite as special as playing in Bratmobile," says Smith. The chemistry was right, and the band was relaunched.
In 2000, Bratmobile released their second full length studio album, "Ladies, Women and Girls," to an audience who had never forgotten them and never found a replacement for their poppy, sassy, smart, bratty, sexy punk. The album delighted critics and earned Bratmobile new fans as they toured with Sleater - Kinney, The Donnas, The Locust, and more. "Our approach to this record was totally different. We knew we had something to prove, and we wanted to do it right," says Molly. "Ladies, Women and Girls" was released on Neuman's Lookout! Records and produced by Tim Green of Nation of Ulysses and The Fucking Champs. Jon Nikki (Prima Donnas, Gene Defcon, Sarah Dougher) added guitar, bass and keyboard parts to flesh out the famously minimal Brat sound. "With òLadies, Women, and Girls" we were going for a sound that would feel reminiscent of the earlier Bratmobile records and retain our classic, minimal sound while still showing our growth as artists," says Smith.
On May 7, 2002, Bratmobile releases their third album, "Girls Get Busy." The album is an expression of a band with a storied history and a boundless future. Says Allison, "We are older now, and (hopefully!) wiser and more mature in our music and in our business dealings, while staying true to punk. I think we have more control now over our music and lives, and we're just trying to enjoy things we may have missed the first time around. But ultimately, we'll always be a punk rock band." On "Girls Get Busy," Bratmobile's best lady friend, Audrey Marrs, (Mocket, Gene Defcon) adds keyboards that help give the album its distinctive new sound. Roadie extraordinaire Marty Violence (Young Pioneers) also contributed bass, a Bratmobile first. Allison's lyrics are timely and critical of the current political climate with songs such as the ironic "Shop For America" and "United We Donate," plus "Shut Your Face," which touches on the Chandra Levy disappearance. Molly steps up to the mic to sing lead on the heartfelt and lovelorn "Pagan Baby," and Erin really breaks out and goes to the next level with her incredible guitar style throughout. The record sounds like just what it is; "Girls Get Busy" is the product of an important and influential American punk band in its 11th year. It is accomplished, compelling, sexy, and important.