Carol-Lynne Quinn from the Edmonton rock band Rend is part of a growing number of women lending their voices to rock bands.

The power of women: Female-fronted rock bands breaking down the old boys’ club

Women rock! — especially women like Carol-Lynne Quinn and Felicia Harding. Quinn, who fronts award-winning Edmonton alt-rock band Rend, and Harding, lead singer of Victoria-based synth-rock band Isobel Trigger, are riding a welcome wave.

Women rock! — especially women like Carol-Lynne Quinn and Felicia Harding.

Quinn, who fronts award-winning Edmonton alt-rock band Rend, and Harding, lead singer of Victoria-based synth-rock band Isobel Trigger, are riding a welcome wave.

They are among a growing number of women who are lending their powerful voices — as well as considerable musician and songwriting talents — to bands that play loud, aggressive and smart music, along the lines of Metric, Florence and the Machine, and Paramore.

It never used to be that way. There was a time, not long ago, when you’d have to think back to Heart and Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders to come up with examples of really successful female-fronted groups.

Harding remembers attending a Virgin Music Festival in Vancouver five years ago and being “shocked” that only a handful of women musicians were taking part in the whole festival.

“I remember thinking, I want to do that! I want to be part of it. I need to represent the power of women,” she said.

Harding now thinks it’s “awesome” that so many more women are rocking out on stages across North America.

Rend and Isobel Trigger will perform on Tuesday, Sept. 30, at a double-bill concert at Red Deer’s The Vat.

Both groups have singles on the radio and music videos that are getting Internet attention. But one fan commented online “Why aren’t we hearing more women’s voices in rock?”

Harding believes the reasons have been multitude. Family orientation, social conditioning towards “softer” music, and gender discrimination have all factored, to some degree, against women aiming to be touring rockers.

“It has been harder to gain respect, for sure. For a long time, this has been a male-dominated thing,” said Harding, who listened to Cyndi Lauper, as well as The Rolling Stones and Billy Idol, while growing up in Victoria.

Quinn agreed, saying “It’s definitely been a boys’ club, and you have to work harder to gain respect.” She also believes the music industry allowed fewer women into a front-line roles with bands, saying “it’s been a smaller niche to fill.”

But one of the biggest obstacles faced by female-fronted bands has been finding male as well as female listeners. Historically, men have preferred male-centred bands, observed Harding.

But she believes a lot of guys have lately come around, since so many great women singers are now leading rock groups — such as Florence and the Machine, as a popular example.

Performing was probably in Harding’s genes, since two of her grandparents were opera singers and her father was a musician in a cover band.

Her group evolved, largely through membership changes, to a harder-edged rock band from the acoustic group it started as a few years ago.

Isobel Trigger, also made up of lead guitarist Brett Faulkner, bassist Kyle Lowther and drummer Ariel Tseng, is getting critical nods for the Dust and Bones single off the new EP Nocturnal, which was inspired by night life.

Quinn’s band, Rend, is also reaping plenty of attention — and a $50,000 recording grant as the 2014 Rawlco Radio Breakout Artist of the Year — since starting four years ago. Most of the grant money is already slated towards recording a new full-length album next year.

Rend is also among the select Alberta bands chosen to perform at an Indie Week Canada showcase for the music industry in Toronto next month.

Quinn, a trained jazz singer, believes the group stands apart because of its strong female voice. “Our music is very vocal-driven. We work very hard and invest time and everything we have into this. … And we’re pretty strong live.”

Scars is the latest single from Rend’s Winter to Summer EP, which has received Canada-wide radio play.

The band that also features drummer Jordan Dempter, guitarist Steve Rose and bassist Jeff Quinn (the singer’s husband), has performed in the same lineup as Mother Mother, City and Colour, Weezer, Dear Rouge and Faber Drive, Victoria Duffield and Zerbin.

Quinn lists Led Zeppelin and R&B among her influences, and believes her band is living up to its name: “Rend means to tear apart, to never be the same again. … We don’t want people to listen to our music and not be affected by it. We want to create different emotional experiences.”

For more information about the Red Deer show, call The Vat at 403-346-5636.

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