By Emilie Charette
CALGARY – Too often it’s been a “Man’s man’s man’s world,” but that doesn’t mean Rosie & the Riveters aren’t going to make their voices heard. Formed in 2011, the group sprang from Farideh Olsen’s desire to create a collaborative space for female singer-songwriters in a male-dominated industry. With this in mind, the group named themselves after feminist icon Rosie the Riveter, after finding that their voices blended in a vintage style reminiscent of the Andrews Sisters.
“There are a lot of strong woman in each of our family histories,” says band member Allyson Reigh. “My grandmother repaired planes outside Shellbrook, Saskatchewan during WWII, and that’s a legacy I’m proud to represent.”
In keeping with the vintage theme, all three band members present themselves in the ultra-feminine style of the 1940s, something that Reigh says is not contrived, but rather genuine self-expression. “It lets us express our personalities in a different way from our everyday lives.”
Although they’ve been asked if their style is counter-productive to their message, Reigh doesn’t see the two as being mutually exclusive. “It’s not like we can have feminist-leaning songs or we can dress femininely. It’s a mix of both,” she emphasizes. “We see the message of feminism as being that you can decide your own destiny and how you express yourself.”
Rosie & the Riveters are also firm in their conviction to put their money where their mouth is and support other people. Twenty per cent of the proceeds from their merchandise sales are donated to fund the projects of women around the world through Kiva, a microfinance initiative. To date, the band has helped fund 200 projects, amounting to nearly $10,000.
Guided by the belief in supporting others, the band secluded themselves in a cabin in Northern Saskatchewan to write the songs for their new album, Ms. Behave. The emphasis was on collaboration and splitting the work equally.
“We took inspiration from the things going on around us,” states Reigh, citing the gender pay gap, “mansplaining” how society polices the behaviour of women and non-binary people, and sexual violence. “These are issues that are current, even though they’ve been going on for a long time.”
The new album is both hilarious and heartbreaking, but above all, powerful. The last track, “I Believe You,” is a poignant message of support to survivors of sexual assault. Proceeds from digital sales and streaming of this track are donated to YWCAs across Canada to help survivors of sexual assault, one of the ways the band fulfills its goal of empowering and uplifting others.
Reigh’s favourite track, however, is the CBC Radio hit “Let ’Em Talk.”
“It’s really about letting people talk shit about you and not caring, because what does it matter? Don’t let them ruin your ambition or your dreams.”
Rosie & the Riveters perform Sat., May 5 at the Ironwood Stage & Grillbreaking out, Ironwood Stage & Grill, Rosie & the Riveters