“A lot of women are afraid to speak up.”
Misty Miller is a punk musician and ardent feminist. Megan White spoke to her about finding her feet in the music industry, breaking free of folk, and London’s never-ending gentrification.
Many women are scared of ‘the F word.’ Misty Miller is not one of them.
Born in Wimbledon, Miller now lives in Brixton, and is a passionate anti-gentrification advocate and outspoken feminist, championing female musicians and their right to have their voices heard.
Miller began her career as a clean-cut folk singer / songwriter, heralding from her younger days playing the ukulele, and struck her first record deal aged 15. Her direction soon changed, though:
“I think I stopped doing folk music because it just wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. I did a session for Burberry Acoustic, and they styled me in a white dress, and everyone was saying I was so innocent – I never was.”
Her love of music began at a young age, growing up in a family of musicians, and spending much of her childhood on the road and in studios with her father, which “lit that fire” to write her own songs.
Miller’s main source of inspiration is the people around her – none more so than the crowd which amasses at SE14’s Skehan’s for the legendary Easycome Club every Wednesday night.
“I’ve always been most inspired by the people around me. I’ve been going to Easycome for the past two or three years, and everyone there just does exactly what they want. It’s the people there who I really want to impress – it’s them saying they like my songs that matters.”
Her musical roots lie firmly at the heart of Brixton’s thriving post-punk scene, alongside Fat White Family – two of whose former drummers and one former bassist are in Miller’s band – and The Severed Limb. Miller regularly plays intimate gigs at local venues, such as The Windmill, however gentrification is slowly but surely eroding away at the scene’s spiritual homes:
“There have been a few venues which I really loved, like the Grosvenor in Stockwell – a real punk venue – that have closed, which has been a real shame. Gentrification pushes things out but new things will always pop up elsewhere. People will always seek something new and authentic. The fancy coffee shops don’t bother me – it’s the luxury apartments that no-one can afford which are pushing locals out that is a problem.”
Miller is an ardent feminist, and wants more women to be the same. She has, she says, experienced a lot of sexism in the music industry, but has been lucky to find those who understand and support her:
“When women are signed to a label, they’re automatically given a stylist and a make-up artist. Luckily, I’ve found two who completely get what I’m about. You see so many male musicians with a ‘shabby’ look, but I can’t think of a single woman who does.
“The press really scrutinise what women say when they do speak about feminism, so a lot of women are afraid to speak up – maybe because they don’t know how to say things, and are worried that it’ll be picked up and people will pull what they say apart.”
Music festivals were heavily scrutinised this summer for their lack of female acts – Miller agrees that not enough is being done to book female-fronted acts:
“I think Reading and Leeds was the one where this was a big problem. I don’t think it’s that there aren’t enough women playing in bands, I just don’t think people know what to do with them – their labels aren’t pushing them enough.”
Misty Miller has a busy few months coming up, with a whistlestop tour of the UK in November, along with a new video. The New Year, however, is when things really kick off, and her new album is out – the album she has always wanted to release.