Skinny Girl Diet are a band inspired by the political activism of today; a band railing against a CCTV state, the pressures on young women, and Tories. And they want new heroes.
Text by Richard Heasman
Photography provided by Dennis Morris, Scarlett Carlos Clarke & Francesca Allen
Approx reading time: 5 min
Skinny Girl Diet are here to change the world. The punk outfit are echoes of our disillusioned youth, finding common ground in growing activism. By using music as a medium in a society obsessed with fad diets, blaming the poor, and a hyper-sexualised creative industry, the three piece serve up a healthy alternative to a boring landscape - and it gets better; they have something very real to say.
Their name alone makes you smile. Skinny Girl Diet is a: "rejection of the slim-fast culture, one that encourages young women to starve themselves to achieve an impossible beauty standard." As they explain, "when girls now type in 'skinny girl diet', they find us, instead."
And they are right - a quick Google of the term turns up the band faster than any diet - but switch to Google Images and the diet still dominates. It describes a daily calorie intake of just 900 calories, dropping to 800 - that's 1,200 calories below the recommended average intake for females.
"We thought it was disgusting," begins SGD, "and it encapsulates what's wrong with our society, with regards to the treatment of women's bodies, so we wanted to make a point. We wanted to occupy that space with something empowering instead."
"There is so much shit that could do with flushing out of the internet, and by doing something as simple as choosing a band name to fight it, that can make even a small bit of difference. Why have a name that means nothing when you could just as easily have a name that means something, and could in result change someone's perspective on life/politics?"
And their inspiration says it all: Pixies, Maximum the Hormone, Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Jimi Hendrix, Talking Heads. And of course, Bowie: "David's album 'The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust' was the first piece of music to actually speak to me" says Ursula, "and I would play the whole album over & over again."
"I saw some footage of L7 performing Pretend That We're Dead live on The Word from 1992, which definitely inspired me to not care on stage and the powerful and hilarious image of when Donita Sparks took her pants down - completely unsexualised."
SGD's willingness to blur lines between different art forms highlights the bands' diversity, with some aspects of their music raising a hand to the great David Lynch: "You can’t isolate one art from another completely. Art is everywhere in our lives and we can’t avoid being inspired and influenced by loads of different art forms."
"Ursula loves film, another art form, music adds so much to film - for example, Quentin Tarantino's soundtrack, his authentic music taste has created scenes that say so much because of his track choice."
SGD's artwork is done by Dhalia and is heavily influenced by 70s vine Sniffin' Glue. Credit is also given to Frida Kahlo's paintings, "whose politics and ideas we agree with and whose art we love".
Politics and art truly share the same bed, but is enough being done by today's bands to provide a sanctuary in a worryingly negative landscape? SGD are setting the bar high, and rightly so - but by waging war they have indirectly exposed a gaping hole not being filled by like-minded bands.
"We are lacking bands to unite behind. Music and art has so much influence in society, they have the power to convey a message, to inspire. It seems such a waste that a lot of musicians have a platform, but they don't speak out."
"That’s not to say there are no musicians who are saying anything, but we just need more to actually say something worthwhile. It’s just that a lot of bands, when asked a question about politics, give a shit wishy washy answer with no real deep thought process behind it, no clear message and would much rather sit on the fence."
And it's not hard to predict where SGD sit on the political spectrum, or their thoughts on the older generation voting us out of the EU - they send a clear message to the over 45's who voted overwhelmingly against the under 25s:
"I hope you’re proud of yourselves. It wasn’t enough to leave us with the mess of an economy it already was, you had to push the dagger deeper. If you even feel a little bad about it, help us by supporting Corbyn, the person the young voted in."
A sentiment shared by many young voters is paranoia and distrust with the political establishment. This is why many flock to figures like Jeremy Corbyn, and to alternative media like Novara Media or Real Media. It also doesn't help having a new prime minister who spent her years as home secretary trying to bring in a Snooper's Charter so extreme, it's almost reflective of Party Policy from George Orwell's infamous 1984 - a sentiment SGD share:
"I feel like time is cyclical and it blows my mind how relevant George Orwell’s novel still is. We have CCTV constantly watching us, a biased media that is constantly inducing fear and making us hate minorities.
"And then people are being put on high platforms with no opinions and even when they are marketed to have “opinions” they are just brushing on important topics and not actually delving into to the deeper issues because they are too scared about offending people and not getting enough retweets/likes.
"We are living in turbulent times and all you can do to stay sane is to make art, be yourself and not get distracted by materialistic aspirations."
Delilah had this to add, however: "I think it's ageist to completely blame an older generation. There were young people that voted out too. It's ignorant racist scummy assholes I have a problem with. People are getting deported because these people are so stupid that they can't even bring them selves to be empathic. There isn’t enough empathy in this world."
It is easy to place titles on views like this and they tend to sound like 'radical', 'extreme' or 'socialist' - a term now used as insult. But it is a growing feeling shared by many and the Labour leadership battle is testament to it. In an age where everyone and everything is connected or owned, the traditional notion of 'self' that inspired Liberalism is now inspiring artistic rebellion. If they won't do it, we will, and if they don't listen, we will shout louder.
And the message is getting through. SGD were recently featured in Vogue. Critics may argue that this undermines their mantra on positive body image and feminism without the clickbait, considering Vogue are responsible for flaming these fires since being established.
"It is definitely something we think about. We always find it funny when fashion magazines feature us, despite the name being a criticism of a lot of what they do. In the end, magazines such as Vogue will always be immensely popular, and being featured on there becomes like people searching for the diet and finding us instead, good for the message."
"It’s a way for people to see three women doing their own thing and even a platform like Vogue understanding what we're doing might make those that could be afraid to actually join our movement. Being visible to young women is really important to us and we want to be able to encourage them to do what they want to without fear."
Finding a platform to deliver the message to a wider, more mainstream audience is something that SGD do fear, however. The plunge from DIY band to signed act is one that many bands strive for eagerly, willing to drop notions of remaining independent for the chance of getting paid and becoming validated.
But as SGD explain: "Major labels are pretty terrifying, they can really fuck your life up. We will always be wary of them.
"Island record apparently gave no royalties to the Slits and still claim the owe them 10k and have no money for a lawyer - so you can see why. We’re really proud that we’ve gotten to the point where we are now completely unsigned. We’ve funded our new album ourselves, completely through money we’ve earned as a band. We want to show that it is possible."
It wouldn't be right to end this piece without a line about London's dramatically changing landscape. London's new mayor Sadiq Khan has pledged to preserve London's Nightlife and has admitted to a 'crisis' as greater numbers of independent venues face closing due to high rates and low turnover.
"We don’t need more luxury flats and ivory towers," say SGD. "We need to keep London weird. Support your local. What makes London so appealing is the strong creative scene and exciting nightlife. As soon as you start forcing out young creatives and closing down nightclubs, what makes London what it is and that soul that attracted so many people here in the first place - you’re going to make London a very boring city."
And the final word? "Listen to the young, the working class, the open minded, the misfits and POC. Fuck the right wing, UKIP, racist, sexist, homophobic, fat cat tax avoiders, Tory scumbags, yuppie asshole bullies."
Text by Richard Heasman
Photography: Dennis Morris, Scarlett Carlos Clarke & Francesca Allen