In conversation with Broken Instinct

Within our society, the LGBT community, women and various youth subcultures are treated unfairly. Issues such as mental health are shushed and shooed away from the mainstream media. Groups are oppressed and alienated on a regular basis, and many people don’t even realise it. The mass media place negative labels on certain groups, causing them to seem deviant and unstable. This has led to many identities being underrepresented within the music industry. Music should be an open place in society, where people can freely express themselves and show that to the world. The ever-changing views of society and the media seems to have a direct impact on the way the music industry treats certain people. We should all be able to embrace our identities through the art of music.

That is why Broken Instinct are ready to challenge societies norms and break down musical barriers. They are shaking things up, with their first hard hitting single, ‘Break Me’. Taking inspiration from bands such as Korn, Paramore, Disturbed, Tonight Alive and Periphery, they plan to use the undeniable force of nu metal and hard rock to connect with people, resist labels and fight social change.

‘Break Me’ holds a harsh and fearful truth, that numerous people can relate to. The gritty, descending guitar, the fantastically violent and bone-crunching rhythm and the mysterious and euphonious vocals explode into a perfect chaos. Like a glowing fire, the song possesses a dangerous beauty. Lyrics such as, “I’m really going insane/From all this pain of how I’m much too strange” blaze through you, overwhelming your emotions. The song is primarily about mental health. Evie Carter-Sheen (guitar) wrote the lyrics, explaining that it was about “being scared of what I can become and what I can lose.” She believes that “if you are connected to it, then you play it better.” Jess Havens (singer) believes that, “there will be people that will be attached to it emotionally as well, there will be people who haven’t listened to anything remotely like it but will hear the lyrics and be like, ‘Oh, I can get into this’.”

Mental health within the music industry is a growing issue; charities such as Help Musicians have found that musicians are three times more likely to suffer from depression. There is still, to this day, a constant stigma around mental health – in everyday life, the media and the industry. More and more musicians in the metal and rock genre have spoken about mental health but it is still shied away. Jess, said that “mental health is a massive thing” behind the single and the band. Their aim is “helping other people with their problems, like music helped us.”

Rock and metal has given its fan base a strong feeling of empowerment from its epic and massive sound. Not only in many sections of society are women sexualised but the media especially sexualises women within these genres. Magazines, online articles and videos don’t truly express the contribution rock and metal female musicians make. They are not truly appreciated for their talent, mainly just their appearance.

As it was International Women’s Day yesterday, I was wondering if you have faced any struggles being women in the music industry or elsewhere? 

Evie: I have in a lot of jobs: harassment and sexual harassment. I have a twin as well and she’s girly, so [there’s] the comparison to what makes you female, in terms of what you must wear and look a certain way. I would rather climb a tree than go and buy Mac [makeup]. I have had it where I say I play guitar and they are like, ‘no you don’t’. It’s kind of like a blessing and a curse because it makes you stick out, so you kind of just use that.

Ben Charleston (guitar): When I first started playing guitar, you never really saw girls or women playing a lot of guitar – it was always lads. At the time, it was seen as a bit of a “boys thing to do”.

Evie: A stereotype

Ben: I have been playing for ten or eleven years and I now see a lot more women play guitar and absolutely ripping it.

Jess: Some of them are better than men.

Ben: It’s mental how sick some people are! You don’t look at them and think “Oh, that’s a girl!”, you just think “Yeah that’s sick”.

Sara: I have been pretty lucky as I went to an all-girls school for my whole life and I have grown up with feminist ideology. I guess once I got out of school and into the real world, it kind of shocked me how little respect there is for some women. Especially in music; it is so hard for a lot of women to get anywhere in the music industry.

Jess: Especially in the alternative metal genres, the women that are in it; It’s all about sexualisation and things like that.

Sara: Also, every female-fronted band is compared to Paramore. It is so hard to create a proper name for yourself that is separate from other female fronted bands. You have got to work so much harder and you’ve got to be pitch perfect as well. You’ve got to be an amazing singer or an amazing guitarist or whatever, just to get to the same level as some guy fronted bands are at.

I know that you have said about it (gesturing to Ben), but as lads what do you think of it? Do you guys have any input on it?  

Tom F-H (bassist): Personally, I have had quite a strong opinion. I have obviously never experienced anything like that, but I don’t agree with any kind of misogyny at all and discrimination. Honestly anything that we can do to get equality and get women up there in the music industry, then that’s great.

Have you guys faced any problems? I know you said you haven’t but do you feel expected to be at a certain level? 

Ben: I think it’s different with certain types of music, I play a lot of …

Jess: Hard and complicated

Ben: Not harder but there is a bit of a stigma that they are quite technical and complex. So, when you say to someone that you play that kind of music, they instantly expect you to be amazing – well if you can’t play in 17/15-time signature then you’re crap. I just want to count to 4 sometimes, what’s wrong with that?

Over the years, artists within the music industry have become more open about their sexuality.  However, musicians that are part of the LGBTQ community within the metal and rock genre don’t seem to be as vocal about the issues the community face and how it is treated within the industry world. I was able to question Broken Instinct whether it is a prominent theme they will use in the band. Jess laughs and exclaims, “well we have three gays!”, going on to tell me that, “I think it is important that when you have a platform, to use it. I think once we develop a following, we become a part of the public eye, so why wouldn’t we use that to talk about it.”

I asked them whether they feel that the LGBT community is being represented and spoken about in today’s music industry. They all agreed that in music they don’t think it is, however Sara claimed, “we have got some more artists that are quite open about it.” Ben adds that, “I don’t think it gets talked about quite a lot, from my point of view I don’t see a lot of it anyway. So, that kind of gives it even more reason to promote it.” The women discuss how being a part of the community in general makes you feel included, whatever identity you may have. Evie believes that, “you don’t have to be gay to be a part of the community.” This is a really refreshing idea, expressing that the community accepts anyone, just like the industry and the rest of society should accept them. The band strive to perform at metal bars across Manchester, such as Satan’s Hollow and venues and clubs within GAY Village.

Broken Instinct are a powerful band, that will liberate and empower many people involved in music. They are showing that all of the negative experiences that people go through, should never control you and stop you from doing what you adore. They will rise to the top and smash their way into Manchester’s metal and rock scene. Not only will they be performing, but they will also be talking at diverse events, in order to help people with mental health, women in the industry and the LGBT community. This band are going to be revolutionary.

Check out their social media to hear first about the release of their single.

Zara Huxley

Image: Felicity-Joy Giffard

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