East Vancouver punks Skunt are more than just a cool all-girl band: they are three best friends using feminism as their musical weapon. The group, comprised of Allie O’Neill (vocals, drums), Nora Kelly (vocals, guitar), and Phoenix Robson (bass), temporarily disbanded last year while Kelly went to university in Montreal, O’Neill traveled to New Orleans, and Robson worked in Vancouver. Now, Skunt is back in town for the summer and poised to prove to the world that women can do anything they want.
“We can put on a crazy show and a bunch of people can come out and have a really awesome time and acknowledge that it was just a bunch of girls that did it,” Kelly says. “You don’t have to be perfect to put yourself out there on the stage. As long as you’re having fun with what you’re doing you should share it with other people.”
Being female in a male-dominated genre can certainly put a lot of pressure on a band. For Skunt, it’s an unspoken responsibility that, simply because of their sex, they represent the gender as a whole. “There was a lot of anxiety at the beginning,” Kelly confesses. “Like, ‘oh, god, we are going to let all these girls down.’ I feel like our shows have imperfections, but they’re just fun imperfections that people can enjoy because it’s sort of… relatable.”
“We’ve always kept it super simple,” O’Neill continues. “Especially when you’re a woman, people are kind of looking at you expecting that you’re maybe not gonna do so well and that you’re not gonna have confidence onstage. We’ve always just done this for fun and [are] always surprising ourselves with the stuff we’re doing.”
Skunt is working on new material, writing songs individually with a plan to combine them in the near future. The band’s first release, a six-track demo dropped in 2014, is an impressive collection of raw vocals, melodic riffs, and fuzzy scuzz that pays homage to the Riot Grrrl movement.
“Everytime I’m asked about my influences, Kathleen Hanna [of Bikini Kill] is, like, number one hero, queen, queen, queen of punk,” Robson gushes.
“And Sleater-Kinney,” Kelly adds. “I personally feel a little influenced by The Pixies. Or The Breeders, which is Kim Deal’s girl band. Patti Smith, too.”
Self-assured and knowledgeable of the punk scene as they are, it’s easy to forget that Skunt’s ages fall between just 19 and 20. Until this year, that made performing quite difficult, as they weren’t actually old enough to get into the bars they were playing in. Nevertheless, the girls found refuge in the supportive nature of Vancouver’s underground scene, with all-ages shows and open-minded organizers who ensured that these three strong women with loud voices had a place to shout.
“When you have that obstacle and the right people jump in, all of a sudden you have a cool community of people,” O’Neill continues. “It’s kind of great, in a way, that there was the obstacle because then we made friends because we saw the same people all of the time. That’s [what’s] special [about Vancouver’s music scene] – when things are against the odds, people band together and create something pretty amazing.”