"We don't play music people expect from female musicians," says Mar, 27, the Venus in Furs drummer who, like her two bandmates, uses only her first name.
"We play really hard rock," she says. "We move around the stage, jump off drum sets and roll on the floor. It's exciting to catch people off guard because it's women doing it."
Twenty years after Bikini Kill help launch the feminist punk movement riot grrrl, rock bands made up entirely of women remain uncommon. So there's reason to take notice of Venus in Furs' debut CD release party at the Frequency on Sept. 2.
The members of the local band don't fit the clichés. They've got college degrees and established professional careers.
Guitarist Vic, who is 32, has a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering and a master's in biotechnology. She works as a cell biologist. Bassist Nat has a bachelor's degree in graphic design, art history and business. She runs a video and multimedia production company. Mar has a bachelor's in horticulture and works as a manager of a microbiology lab.
The band's music is smart, too. The 12 songs on their new, self-titled album are heavy on instrumental surf-rock that sometimes wanders through a moody, restless post-punk vibe. "We all come from different musical backgrounds," says Nat. "Vic has been playing guitar since she was 5. She is classically trained. I didn't start playing bass until I was 18."
"It's fun to be able to take the many different sounds and influences we each have and turn it into our own sound," says Mar.
The trio added lyrics to half the songs on the new album. The abstract verses have more meaning than meets the ear. "Altars of Ego" connects the dots between McCarthyism and the tea party. On "Crimson Tide," Venus in Furs resist the rise of a red-state nation. "Politics of fear," sings Nat. "Fear of the unknown. Your existence is a threat, and it's a choice to survive."
Venus in Furs formed as a duo in late 2009, when Mar and Nat met at a party. They added Vic by spring 2010. "The specific surf sound was something we started playing around with before Vic joined," says Mar. "Then when we heard what she could do, it sort of sealed the deal."
Instrumental songwriting, says Nat, makes the band egalitarian. "The attention tends to gravitate toward the singer at shows," says Nat. "When we play our songs that don't have any lyrics, it makes the three of us more equal performers. Our drummer is really fun and funny and makes a lot of faces when we play."
Why have these three busy professional women made time in their lives to perform in a rock band? It's something they can't resist. "People can tell we're having a good time when the see us onstage together," says Nat.
"Sometimes bands take themselves so seriously," she adds. "We think it's fun to be up there making eye contact with people in the audience and smiling at them."
"It's a hugely personal, political act to be in an all-girl band that plays in a male-dominated genre," says Vic. "There's still a huge gender disparity in music, and very few role models for young women who want to write hard rock music and be on the stage."