New York’s Suzy X is the frontwoman of the “Militant Feminist Revengecore” band Shady Hawkins (check the link at the bottom of the article for more info). She’s also a badass comics artist and activist for women’s rights. All tough, all action, Suzy sat down with us to talk about rocking out, comics, and her latest work at Girls Rock Camp down in Florida. Fierce, fearless, and fucking rad: Luna Luna loves everything Suzy’s about.
Suzy X with Shady Hawkins killin’ it at the Smash It Dead Fest. Photo courtesy of Rachel Atchetson
You are the frontwoman of a pretty rad band. Tell us about how Shady Hawkins got started. By the way, we love the bandname.
Haha, thanks! Shady Hawkins started the summer of 2010, as a casual musical project with my current partner, Mike Funk. We were both students at Eugene Lang College in New York City. We’d been making silly videos, in which he’d play guitar as I read from my old middle school diaries. (Which have since been turned into a blog.) Then we decided to recruit a better guitarist so Mike could play drums, and that ended up being my friend Matt Presto. Then Sabrina Crimmins joined as our bassist, after one crappy house show in 2012. Our band got like, 10 times better after she joined.
What’s your favorite show you’ve done thus far? What about the weirdest?
We can all agree that our favorite show was at Death By Audio last June, at a benefit for Pussy Riot. The energy was perfect. We all wore balaclavas in solidarity with Pussy Riot– at least until the heat of the venue forced us to peel them off. We performed a feminist reappropriation (or, cover) of the Black Flag song, “My War.” The crowd LOVED it, they were all shouting along and high fiving me as I belted out the lyrics. I jumped into the pit, which was really the most pleasant pit I’d ever jumped into. All kinds of people, young and old, were drenched in each other’s sweat, knocking around senselessly, but picking each other right back up if they fell. Later that night we met Ad-Rock from the Beastie Boys, who was very sweet and generous to play a siiiiick DJ set after us, especially right after the death of his bandmate, Adam Yauch.
I think the weirdest one might be the one we recently played this summer, at an after party for the Hollaback NYC conference on street harassment. I hate to say it, but I don’t think the crowd was really right for our music. Sure, we’re cute and sassy and feminist, but we’re pretty intense. We’ve written multiple songs against street harassment. But when I opened another song by talking about police brutality and racial profiling, the air just turned really… icy. Some people walked out. But I don’t regret it; we’re feminists who stand opposed to all forms of policing and intimidation, whether it’s sexual, racial, along class lines, etc. They’re all very connected. Some folks have experienced harassment on multiple levels, myself included. I find many feminists are afraid to delve into issues of injustice that they haven’t experienced firsthand, and I left feeling very disappointed that night.
Sum up your band’s sound in five words or less, go: Swampy abrasive foreboding revenge hexes.
What are the band’s plans for the rest of the year? Any upcoming events we should be making note of?
We’ve spent the last several months writing new material, so we hope to have it recorded in some form by the end of this year. Other than that, we’re playing a show at Hank’s Saloon in Brooklyn on October 26th, with Bad Behavior, Gay Panic, and Ruff Talons from Canada.
You’re an illustrator, as well. Your work is featured in Zines mostly, right? Why Zines? What are some advantages to having that outlet as opposed to others?
Most of my work is actually online! I’ve hardly done much independent artwork recently, but most of my work in the past year has been for Rookie Mag and Bitch Magazine. Outside of my freelance hustle, I do produce printed comics and zines. I’ve reclaimed the physical format of the zine only recently, after I revisited all my old physical diaries and sketchbooks. I was horrified that almost all
my work from the past few years is strictly on the web, and I’ve done a poor job at archiving it IRL. Meanwhile, a lot of my digital work from ten years ago–OKAY, my cartoon dolls and attempts at melodramatic teen fiction–can no longer be found. My urgency to make more tangible work can be explained here
, in a personal recap I wrote after teaching a zine workshop at the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls.
Shady Hawkins. Photo courtesy of Nicole Ayla Miles
Who are some artists that have inspire you? Tell us a little about them!
My favorite illustrators right now are Hellen Jo; my coworker at Rookie, Allegra Lockstadt; and Taylor Ruth of Hanging Rock Comics. They’re all incredible illustrators who are not only have a knack for technical things like line work and color, but they produce simultaneously fun and meaningful pieces that stand on their own. I’d really like to be one of those people.
Talking specifically about visual art: If you could do a collab exhibition with anyone, who would it be? Why?
I kind of hate art and gallery culture. I went to art school for 10 years and it just repels me now. Very few galleries these days have anything interactive about them besides the free wine and the posturing. But I think it’d be fun to collaborate on some sort of sloppy queer comic book with my friend Katrina
, who makes excellent comics about feeling too scuzzy and alienated from everyone on the planet.
I’m not as punk rock as they are, but I feel that a lot.
Back to music: not only do you write and perform, but you mentor kids, as well. Tell us a little about Girls Rock Camp! How are you involved?In the five summers I’ve volunteered at rock camp, I’ve been a counselor, a silkscreen instructor, a band coach, and a bass instructor. In that order. I was really, really shy my first summer; I was 19 and assumed I knew nothing at all. But I like music and I like kids, in fact I make my living as a nanny. And the volunteers are so affirming. They convinced me that my compassion was reason enough to be there, and they taught me all the rest. I probably wouldn’t be in a band myself if it wasn’t for what I learned at rock camp.
Clearly you’re very active as far as inspiring young ladies and promoting them to do awesome stuff goes. It seems like you’re always involved in Female Positive work in some way. How would you suggest our readers get involved in these types of projects? Anything you’d recommend?
Start with your own community. If you don’t have a girls rock camp where you live? Start one! Or seek out existing groups that work towards empowering girls. Before I was a rock camp volunteer, I was a Girl Scout. Can you believe it? I was a Girl Scout until I was 18. I stuck it out that long because I needed a positive community of women who encouraged me to take the initiative and get stuff done. And in the Middle of Nowhere, Florida, Girl Scouts was the ticket. Even though some kids dismissed us as totally nerdy, my troop was bad-ass. I never would’ve hiked a mountain in Yosemite or helped save local bat populations without them. Among other things.
Shady Hawkins rockin’ out. Photo courtesy of Jenna Marx.
What are some other current issues you care about? How are you getting involved? How could we get involved?
I’ve been on a year-long hiatus from political organizing– I don’t think my rants on Twitter count– but lately I’ve been really engaged with the fight to release Marissa Alexander, a domestic violence survivor in my hometown who was put in jail for defending herself. I’ve written her a couple of letters. I’m also following the movement to stop deportations of immigrants, which is really picking up! Although the media is generally focused on the Southwest US/Mexico border, there are Immigrant Rights coalitions in almost every state that you can contact. You can also sign up to visit an immigrant detention center or become a pen pal of someone who’s incarcerated. It will break your heart, but they really need people to talk to and advocate for them.
And what are some projects you’ve got on the horizon?
I’m just finishing up a compilation zine on interracial dating, and another zine consisting of my 8th grade diary entries.
What advice would you have for young people out there drawing comics or writing songs? I’m talking about the aspiring artists and musicians of tomorrow who don’t know what to do with their talent or how take it to the next level. Any words of wisdom?
Just put yourself out there. Be vulnerable, be open with your work. What you think is trivial and insignificant just might make somebody else’s day.
Check out Shady Hawkins on Bandcamp & on Facebook!
Renée Aubern is a California born, New York bred poet, writer of songs, and kook. Constantly on the move, she documents the world around her in photographs and notebook scribbles. @reneeaubern