I stumbled on Hard Femme almost by accident. I saw someone mention them on Twitter, late one night, calling it interesting. A couple days later, I went back and checked it out. Within maybe half an hour, I found myself humming along to them on a second listen and now, over a week later, I’ll catch myself singing along to them when I’m driving or working around the house.
So, yeah, I really dug this one. I think you will, too.
Hard Femme – aka Jean Cochrane – is a musician and artist based out of Chicago.Their first album is Masculinity and Other Inconveniences, which I found via the indie cassette label Athletic Tapes. It’s a short little EP, a tasty little gem of catchy, memorable and lo-fi queer pop.
Through seven songs, Hard Femme tackles gender issues, goes deep into a personal darkness and emerges, thanking their friends. It goes back and forth between riding bikes with your friends to feelings of dissociation and frustration. As Femme sings on “You Won’t Understand Till You’re Living With It”: “Yeah, my body doesn’t feel like it fits right / talking to my friend, she says I should sit tight / feels like I’ve sat tight since I was born.”
“This was actually the easiest record I’ve ever written,” said Femme in an email interview. “It all fell together over a handful of weeks when I was unemployed, in distress, all of my friends were out of town, and I had nothing better to do. I was going through a major transition in terms of the way I thought about my body and my gender presentation, and since I didn’t have anyone around, making music about it felt right.”
Indeed, feelings of transition and frustration are all throughout Masculinity and Other Inconveniences. It comes through most vividly on “You Won’t Understand Till You’re Living With It,” a song about the frustration of expressing dysphoria, but there are also dark feelings throughout “Seasons Change” and “How Can You Eat.” But even at the album’s darkest, Hard Femme’s music is a compelling mix of introspection, depression, and handclap-spiked bedroom pop.
“It sounds masochistic, but I’m glad it wound up being dark,” said Hard Femme. “Thinking internally, it helps me remember how difficult that time in my life was; thinking externally, it helps me remember that a lot of other people are going through those same dark spots, too,” they added.
Still, there are moments of light, like the opening cut, where Hard Femme explains what’s hard femme – when you kick butt in lipstick, for example – or “I’m Glad You’re Alive,” which ends the Masculinity and Other Inconveniences on a positive note: “nothing gets me down when I know you’re still alive,” they sing.
Although this isn’t the first musical project Hard Femme has worked on – they were also part of Slurp’s Up – making music isn’t their first priority, either. “I’m not interested in having my music reach a wide audience, or in having it be lucrative in any way,” said Hard Femme. “Music is not terribly interesting or important to me and I’m intimidated by the enormous world of people who feel that it is, and desperately so.”
Originally released earlier this year, Masculinity and Other Inconveniences hasn’t quite set the world on fire – aside from a couple of one-line mentions, it’s hard to find much press on it – but Hard Femme’s pleased with the reception: “Every now and then a friend will ask me to play a show they’re hosting, or someone will send me a message online telling me how much the record means to them. To me, that’s a smash hit!” they said.
You can find the record and even order a physical copy at Athletic Tapes’ Bandcamp page.
Follow Hard Femme on tumblr.
Freelance writer and music fan, whose writing has appeared on The Good Point, The Toronto Review of Books, and CTV.ca, among other places. Favorite albums: Dig Me Out, Live-Evil, Decade.