Fyzz Wallis of The Fyzz Wallis Band runs a band night with a difference called Twisted where drag is a key feature and the nights are themed too. It’s great fun and has proven very popular. It’s interesting also as a bit of a leveler in terms of how genders are perceived on stage. Here Fyzz and bass player Zoe talk about a brand new song based on the gender divide and the way women are viewed by many when performing.
You’ve written a song relating to the feature we did with Tommy Keeling about freedom of expression. So tell us more about it.
Fyzz: “It’s called Pretty Good For A Boy and I owe a lot of the lyrics to conversations I’ve had with other people. One of the places the song comes from is from when we went on a night out and were drinking with some men from and band called Scumbus discussing this. We realised how different our experiences of a night out are. And also playing in bands and how people treat you, how radically different they are. I brought to that conversation that I’d read the article with Tommy from Minatore and how much I’d agreed with it after having similar experiences. We started talking quite broadly about it and we started talking about guitar pedals called Muffs and Flanges and stuff like that. We also talked about the things people say and the things boys don’t have to deal with. Like when you come off stage and someone you’ve never met will feel your arse. Or they go to say you’re pretty good for… and they nearly say girl. So all of those things went in to this song. I’d kind of half written already about buying a second hand guitar off someone and they’d assumed you know nothing about them. So I’d got half a song ready. It’s all based on things that genuinely have been said to us or people we know. I just had to make it rhyme and make it fit in to verses.”
Zoe: “There were some things like when we were sound checking for a gig and the sound person was being really patronising but I wasn’t sure I wasn’t doing something stupid. At the end of the gig he came up to me and said he was sorry but just assumed I was just a bimbo with a guitar or you’d just brought your husband’s guitar out. He did apologise afterwards but it’s a massively backhanded comment. You look like a twat but well done you can play a guitar is what he was actually saying.”
Fyzz: “Before the Fyzz Wallis Band I’d sing on my own and did festivals and things so we would go as a family. My husband and I would arrive with the children and I’d be the one with the pass to go back stage at little festivals. More than once I’d be carrying my guitar and he’d be carrying my spare guitar and I’d get someone say to me sorry love it’s just the musicians. I’d say it’s me! I’m playing and he’s with me not I’m with him. The assumption is made. The fact you have to overcome that assumption all the time, for years, you actually forget that your male friends who play in bands don’t have to do this. They don’t have to explain why they’re there or justify why they’re there.”
Zoe: “The other thing is when you mention you’re with a band you get oh are you the singer? I just say no and let them fill in the blanks. I just let them have an awkward silence and think what else I could possibly be doing? Keyboard? Maybe tambourine?”
Is it the same with production?
Fyzz: “Yes. I’ve had it with recording the songs. People believe that I sing them, possibly that I write them but that I record and mix them and you again get a bit of an awkward silence. I think being a bit older now and having heard it all before I think we quite enjoy playing with it now. So we’re at the point now when we perform that we’re like yes a female, get over it!”
And then there’s the supposed use of sexuality by women but never by men regarding clothing?
Fyzz: “Oh there’s some serious double standards there and we tried to slip that in to the song a little bit as well. When you are performing there’s never a problem with the chaps doing that. There’s a double standards thing particularly if you dare to do it as an older woman. It’s like if you’re in your 20s and you’re just a singer then that’s OK. But if you’re in your 40s and you’ve got kids then somehow that’s wrong.”
Zoe: “People always seem to feel the need to comment on your appearance as well, they can’t just say they liked the songs. Like you looked really hot as well, and men just don’t get that happen to them.”
You should be allowed to wear what you like on stage as well surly? Your Twisted events promote this with the guys donning dresses and tights on stage.
Fyzz: “One of the joys of the Twisted nights that we’ve done is that they’ve been a real eye opener for people generally and for men particularly. I certainly didn’t wear a whole lot last time, sometimes I don’t wear a lot and sometimes I do. It depends on how I feel thanks very much. It’s been a real eye opener because the lads are like do I look fat in this? One guy was quite disappointed he was a size 20 bless him. He said he thought he’d get in the 18. It was wonderful. One guy said he’d lost his phone in his tights. We had some brilliant conversations. The whole feeling exposed experience you just have to roll with as a woman but the men don’t have to feel exposed. They can feel very comfortable wearing very little or wearing a lot.”
Obviously if you’re going to perform on stage then making an effort with your image is going to generally go down well but do you think there’s a social pressure on women to make more of an effort?
Fyzz: “I think the journey is completely different to performing as a man or a woman generally although I’m sure there are lots of exceptions to that. Being the front man of a band and being the front woman of a band is just not the same thing. Probably I’m not typical because I’m not interested in what other people think, but it’s still there and you’re aware of it. And it’s other woman more than the chaps that will cut you to bits.”
Zoe: “The problem is whatever you wear there will be comments about it. Even if you just put jeans and a t-shirt on there would be a comment. Whatever you look like there’s going to be some comment.”
So those bands out there that do their thing like The Soap Girls and Tiger Sex where they’re getting slated for what they’re wearing. They’re just doing their thing and entertaining a great many people.
Fyzz: “There’s a world of difference between being expected to dress like that, or being told to dress like that and then just thinking do you know what I’m just going to wear a bikini tonight. If it’s their choice then all power to them. There is a history of exploiting young women who perform and expecting them to look a certain way and that’s a different thing. Those two things are just not the same. When you see someone not wearing a lot you shouldn’t be making assumptions. It’s up to them.”
Zoe: “I was in a manufactured girl band years ago. There was massive conversations about how we looked and could I try a bit harder to look a bit more like the other members of the band and do my hair a bit different. Can you be an individual but can you be a bit less individual. I was like… no. It’s funny because the slut comments tend to come more from other women. Whereas the male comments tend to be more uninvited comments on your arse or boobs.”
Fyzz: “It depends on how someone says something too. At one end you can get you look nice which is fine and at the other you get sex how much? And there is a world between those two things. You don’t want to make someone feel uncomfortable and I don’t think there’s enough understanding of that. It’s not about being prudish but it’s about how you say stuff.”