Film puts spotlight on Scotland's female pop and rock stars

A new feature film documentary is to shine a light on the unsung women of Scottish pop and rock music.

Scottish pop group Strawberry Switchblade are expected to feature in the film.
Scottish pop group Strawberry Switchblade are expected to feature in the film.

One of Glasgow’s new singer-songwriters, Carla Easton, is joining forces with director Blair Young to tell the story of “sonic sisterhood” in Scotland.

The pair, who have been working together on the project for around two years, will go back to the 1960s to trace the evolution of “girl groups” and female-led bands. The McKinleys, The Ettes, The Twinsets, Strawberry Switchblade, Sophisticated Boom Boom and His Latest Flame are among the acts expected to be featured in the film.

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Yet to be given an official name, it is hoped that it will be finished in time for an official launch at a festival next year.

Director Blair Young.

The film will look at the obstacles faced by female musicians and singers, how they have been sexualised by the music industry over the years, and the difficulties faced in being in a band and bringing up a family at the same time.

The documentary will focus on the acts to emerge during a number of key eras, including the early girl-group boom in the 1960s, post punk and new wave in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and “Riot Grrl” in the 1990s, including The Fizzbombs, Lungleg, Bis and The Shop Assistants.

Easton said: “A lot of the bands that will be in the documentary got a lot of coverage in the music press, they were on radio and television, they played big venues, they supported big bands and were doing it full-time. But it is very difficult to read anything about them online.”

The project emerged out of discussions between Easton and Young, a regular collaborator with her on music videos.

Indie-pop outfit Teen Canteen.

He said: “Around the same time there had been a few documentaries on Scottish pop music and although it was an area of Scottish music that had never been that well documented, oddly, it still felt like it was the usual names that were being explored.

“We recognised that there was a number of groups being overlooked, as the cultural climate back then still dictated that all-female groups were still treated a bit like a novelty. They are just not remembered in the same way as all-male bands.

“It felt like the music of these bands needed rediscovered and presented to a contemporary audience.

“We really wanted to tell the stories of the women too. They are just as relevant today as they were back then - I’m not sure how much has changed in the record industry for women.”

Scottish band Sophisticated Boom Boom. Picture: Simon Clegg

Clare Grogan, who shot to fame in the 1980s with the band Altered Images, and KT Tunstall, who emerged from the indie-folk scene in Fife, are among those to have been interviewed for the film.

It is hoped many of those featured in the documentary will either appear on stage at, or have their music featured in, a special concert being staged as part of the strand of the Edinburgh International Festival line-up which has been programmed to coincide with an exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland this summer.

Easton, a solo performer who also sings and plays keyboards with the all-female indie-pop outfit Teen Canteen, will be putting together a “house band” for the night, which will also feature several modern-day acts, including Scottish Album of the Year winners Sacred Paws, The Van T’s and Bossy Love.

She said: “We formed Teen Canteen in 2012 and by the time Blair and I started working on the documentary in 2016 there was definitely more all-female bands coming up at the grass-roots level in Scotland.

“You kind of look at what is going on around you and you want to know what your place is in that and what has come before.

“Sometimes I think that if I’d been exposed to more all-female bands and artists when I was kid I maybe wouldn’t have waited until I was in my late twenties to form a band.”

Young added: “Aside from exploring the music that was created, the documentary really charts the journey, and obstacles for women trying to make music. From being taken less seriously as musicians, to being sexualised at every possible opportunity, to balancing a music career with family, it’s a completely different experience from what men will have.”