Petrol Girls: Fueling Hope in a Broken World


ESSENCE GIRLS have Laurie Penny to thank for their group name. Singer ren Aldridge heard the name being mentioned at a conference on feminism by Pennyas she spoke of the French women who went by the name which loosely translated to ESSENCE GIRLS. Aldridge liked the idea so much that she had to write it down. The group is known for their wry humor while discussing otherwise difficult topics.

“It was a case-by-case thing with the subject,” Aldridge explains as we sit down to discuss the band‘s new album, Babe, which is their third release. She is in Austria as we speak via video call. “Abortion, because of my personal experiences that I went through, felt like fair game to be irreverent and ironic.”

The song that Aldridge is talking Baby, I had an abortion, which is a standout song on their fantastic third album, and not just because of the name. It’s an honest, raw, and silly pro-choice song. However, not all songs are irreverent on the album. Let’s fight for our lives is “about femicide and the global movement fighting back against it. I don’t know how you could approach it in an irreverent or playful way.

The fun side of ESSENCE GIRLS is refreshing. At a time when everything is catastrophic, the group sheds light on dark subjects: when it is relevant. However, while it may seem off-putting, the band clearly cares about what they stand for. Apart from music and her job as a waitress (“for me, it’s all tangled up”), Aldridge devotes her free time to demonstrations for women’s rights. “With this record, I was really interested in how and where humor can be used as a political tool. I think it can be very powerful.

She’s right. Over the past two years, social media has seen an increase in comedians creating parody sketches, such as the British actress and comedian Pink Holt, who gained popularity in 2020 with his satirical sketches on Twitter; or write silly but scathing songs about what’s going on in our lives, like Munya Chawawa, who wrote and performed parody versions of popular songs in response to British politics. The TV show and children’s book series, Horrible stories, has taught generations about the bad sides of history with a much-needed comedic angle. Basically, if you can’t laugh, you’ll probably cry.

However, crying is not a bad thing. Or be vulnerable. Despite his carefree tone, Baby, I had an abortion is still a vulnerable song at its core. Talking openly about an abortion is an inspiring thing to do. According Aldridge“I’m trying to challenge the idea that you should be sorry or ashamed of it. If more and more people reject the idea that it’s something to be ashamed of, then it’s much more difficult to get laws passed that prohibit it because then people [view abortion] as normal and fair [a part of] Health care.”

There is a song on Babe it’s the perfect mix of humor and seriousness. It’s called Violent by design, and while “the verses are angry and serious, the choruses just piss us off from the standpoint of thinking the police are going to protect us because they don’t”. Throughout our conversation, Aldridge makes jokes and laughs a lot. It’s clear that his humor never goes away. An example is when she explains the reason behind the name of the album, Babeshe jokes, “I call my dog, Patch, ‘baby’, and she was with us at the studio. So the other [band members] are like, ‘No, ren, it has nothing to do with your dog!’ But for me, totally, it’s about my baby.

However, there are several meanings behind the name Babe. “I’m really in the ambivalence of this one. Some people call their partner “baby,” and that’s something they both enjoy, and it’s a nice, romantic thing between them. But it can also be sexual harassment, like “hey, baby,” and weird sexualizing stuff. I kind of like the gendered side of things.

As for what fans and the general public should take away from this album? “I hope people play Baby, I had an abortion to counter-demonstrations against pro-lifers, and really liquidate them. I would love that “, Aldridge Explain. “And I hope it gets played at events where it’s relevant, after-parties and social centers. I hope it keeps someone company on the bus on the way to work. I hope this brightens people’s days and helps them connect to the difficult things they are dealing with. hope this reaches the ears of someone who has very complicated feelings about their abortion and gives them the impression that he has nothing to regret.

ESSENCE GIRLS have already released two albums (2016 talk about violence and 2017 cut and sew) which saw them gain media coverage from Kerrang! and The Independent. However, Babe could be the breakthrough the band has been building towards. Their feminist words will resonate with anyone who has been angry with the world. In a world where everything seems to be going to hell, ESSENCE GIRLS provided the fuel to ignite hope with their music. And that fuel could easily turn into a blaze of change. You just have to be brave enough to light the match.

Baby is now out via Hassle Records.

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