By Aja Cadman
CALGARY — Born out of a desire to shatter the negative stereotypes regarding women’s ability to peacefully co-exist with other females is Rosie & the Riveters. The uplifting quartet spreads their message through folk music with a sassy, ‘40s inspired flare. The foursome from Saskatoon consists of Alexis Normand, Allyson Reigh, Melissa Nygren and Farideh Olsen.
“Farideh started the band, she wanted to create an opportunity for woman to come together and collaborate and do something positive together. Previous to that she always heard that women aren’t able to work together, that they get too catty. She wanted to do something where everyone can bring their talents and learn from each other and that is the spirit of the group,” says Normand.
The band is named after an icon that represents much to the feminist movement: Rosie the Riveter. With her rolled-up sleeves and infamous red bandana, she stands with her bicep curled and fist raised under the phrase “We Can Do It!”
Symbolizing American women who laboured in shipyards and factories during World War II, producing supplies and munitions, Rosie was developed to encourage women to join the war efforts. Given that the male population was being shipped overseas to fight in combat, millions of women were needed to take over vacant jobs. While the government changed their tune after victory seemed assured and encouraged women to return to working at home, this movement was revolutionary for women’s equality. Post war, many women remained in their factory jobs, signaling a shift in social attitudes regarding what women could and should do for work.
In that sense, the “Rosie” name chose the quartet.
“We were looking for a band name we thought could represent the strength of women as well as a throwback to retro 1940s and that’s how Rosie the Riveter came up.”
The Riveters’ debut album Good Clean Fun! was released October 8th and will really flip your wig. The harmonies are impeccable and compelling. With no bandleader, all women take a turn singing while the music is an eclectic melting pot, skirting between bluegrass, jazz, gospel, and folk with instruments as diverse as saw, double bass, trumpet, dobro, accordion, glockenspiel and guitars.
“It resonates with how the band started, we wanted it to be a place where all women contribute equally and so it’s a way of sharing each other’s talents in an equal way as well,” explains Normand.
Produced by Canadian guitarist, composer, producer and JUNO-winner Murray Pulver, the album varies emotionally, shifting from fun and carefree to haunting. Tracks like “Red Dress” chronicle the love of thrift shopping while the melancholic and dark “Ain’t Gonna Bother” has crooning vocals lines of, “If it ain’t gonna dig your grave/It ain’t botherin me.” It shifts and changes throughout, though the powerful vocals and complex arrangements are omnipresent.
The visual aesthetic is straight up ‘40s, from the curled hair to the polka dotted dresses, puffed shoulders, pumps and nylons, and while they may not love to have to wear pantyhose and heels every time they perform they agree that it’s a necessary component in painting their picture.
“That was part of the brainstorming session early on too, this is after we figured out what our band name was and we thought well our sound is ‘40s, our name is ‘40s and we all enjoy dressing up a little bit, but there was something fun about the idea of having to dress up together and it was one way of coming together in a united front.”
Good Clean Fun! does not dwell on heartbreak, nor does it boast a female superiority complex. It is simply original, fun and fearless. It intends to treat women like people.
“Feminism is definitely part of our group. We are not anti-men in any way as it’s really just about celebrating what women have to offer and also encouraging each other as women.” That said, Rosie & the Riveters does assist in advancing female empowerment is by donating 20 per cent of all merchandise sales to KIVA.org where they select women’s projects around the world to microfinance.
“We try as much as possible to pick women who are somewhat related to arts and culture, for example women who knit or make clothing and need supplies. We just want to pay it forward,” says Normand.
Rosie & the Riveters’ national tour begins in October; they will bring their funny, energetic and interactive show to the Calgary Folk Club on October 30th, which will see them sing, play acoustic guitar and dance, along with pull out the kazoos amidst hand clapping and foot stomping.
“Expect to laugh,” says Normand. “Expect to be uplifted, to smile and to have fun.”
“We really try to provide a night where people can temporarily forget what is going on in their lives, and leave a little lighter.”
See Rosie & the Riveters on October 30th at the Calgary Folk Club (5432 Dalhart Rd. NW).AB, Alberta, Calgary Folk Club, Rosie & the Riveters