It’s been a tough couple of years for essentially everyone, and SOFTCULT has channelled all of this global frustration into their music with the result being their forthcoming EP, Year of the Snake. It’s a special day for the duo as today marks the album’s official release. When the world went to hell in the late winter of 2020, twin sisters Mercedes Arn-Horn and Phoenix saw it as the perfect time to recalibrate. They had already been making music together for a decade but saw the new-found global insecurity and collective anxiety as an opportunity to start a whole new musical project. Enter SOFTCULT.

While they previously relied on touring to inspire creativity, they were forced to change things up and renew their focus on the studio. The project essentially took shape while experimenting in the studio, and with the outward instability brought on by the global pandemic, protests against race-related violence and police brutality, and growing financial inequality, it all provided the ideal breeding ground for new music that was sharper in its commentary, and darker in its themes.

It has been a while since our last Women of Rock feature, but we’re pleased to be presenting you a brand new edition, with both Mercedes and Phoenix running down for us five of the most significant female musical influences that have had a serious impact on them as artists.

1. Kathleen Hanna

“Kathleen Hanna is so much more than a musician. She’s the front person/voice behind Bikini Kill, Le Tigre, and Julie Ruin. She’s a feminist icon, activist, zine writer, and pioneer behind the Riot Grrrl movement. Her legacy brought feminism to the 1990s punk scene. She fought for solidarity in a scene that is infamously male-dominated and toxic towards women. She helped pave the way for artists like us to break the glass ceiling of the ‘boys clubs’ in music and empower others around us. She is a constant reminder that women’s voices need to be heard in the alternative scene and that we need to continue carrying the torch for generations to come.”

2. Shirley Manson

“Shirley Manson is the lead singer of another alternative ’90s band that inspires us: Garbage. Her style, rebellious attitude, and distinctive voice changed the game for women in the alternative music scene. Her lyrics in particular are inspiring to us because she’s always been very outspoken about overcoming self-doubt and insecurity. She is so open about her own struggles with self-deprecation in her lyrics and interviews, she shows us a different kind of strength that a lot of us probably need to see represented in the mainstream to find it within ourselves.”

3. Laura Jane Grace

“Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! has been a huge inspiration to us since we were teenagers. Her lyrics are so visceral and to the point, speaking poetically and eloquently about hard-hitting issues. Not only is she a talented musician, but she is also an amazing author. Her memoir Tranny: Confessions Of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout changed my life when I first read it.

“She should also be recognized for being one of the first highly visible trans artists in the punk rock scene, inspiring an underrepresented community, and increasing public awareness and acceptance of trans people. I had the honour of meeting her in person backstage at an award show a few years ago and I was so star-struck, not only because I respect her so much, but because she is so well-spoken and such a strikingly powerful presence.”

4. Nicole Hughes

“Nicole was the lead vocalist and guitarist for Scratching Post, an alternative rock band from London, Ontario that was popular in the 1990s. Her band paved the way for women in the grunge and alternative scene here in Canada. She has always been so ahead of her time. She combined heavy guitars with soft, girlish ethereal vocals before it was cool. Her sound was so raw and honest. Nicole has been our co-manager and friend for over ten years now. She started working with us when we were only 15 years old and had braces and acne (I still have acne, but I digress…) She believes in us harder than anyone else and fights for us ALWAYS.

“Not only has she been guiding us and riding for us since the beginning, but she also taught us how to write hooks and make music that’s actually catchy. In the studio, she would always encourage me to be as flashy on guitar as possible; pinch harmonics, sweeps, solos… the works. Nicole (and our other co-manager Chris Perry) showed us every cool ’90s grunge and shoegaze band we know, and are constantly encouraging us to execute whatever whacky ideas we come up with, supporting us every step of the way. There would be no SOFTCULT without them both, and that’s just the truth.”

5. Wata

“Wata of the band Boris is a huge inspiration to me for guitar style and tones. She creates the most atmospheric sounds, spacious, walls of sounds that are lush and ambient, as well as beautiful dark riffs that you can’t help but band your head to. I love that she is redefining people’s expectations of women in the industry with her sound. She lets her music do the talking, and her talent speaks for itself.

“ use her Hizumitas pedal live and in the studio and it’s one of my favourite fuzz tones I’ve ever used. Boris has been active since 1992 and STILL releases bangers to this day. I always get so excited any time I see they’re working on music.”

Artwork for the album ‘Year of the Snake’ by Softcult
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