Rebecca Redman broke onto the KCSB schedule with lo-fi pop. Then, being half-Persian, she dropped that show for one about Persian pop. (“Persians would call in and say, ‘Who are you?’” she told me.) Later, she hosted 5… 4… 3… 2… Dumb!! which mirrored the music of her brother Josh Redman’s show 5… 4… 3… 2… Fun!! (“I wanted to make fun of him,” she explained.) At some point, she’d moved on to create the cultural arts program D.I.Y. from A to ‘Zine. (“We read ‘zines on the air,” she said, “until my co-host got too busy.”) Now she does a Thursday-night program called Jody Fester’s Army, which I sat in on to get an idea of the workings of the mind of one of KCSB’s most prolific show creators.
“I fee like she actually does radio,” Josh Redman said of his sister. “She spends all her time thinking up radio shows, while I’ve just kept doing the same thing.” Rebecca Redman’s latest concept, which explores the work of female punk and hardcore bands, comes as something new for the station. “There hasn’t been a KCSB show like this,” she said. “Women are underrepresented in the punk scene. Punk is sometimes inclusive, but sometimes it’s macho: bro bands, bro moshing, guys being bro-y together. Punk shows are supposed to be places where people are aware of these things, not engaging in machismo.”
Standing against this, Redman plays a great deal of music on Jody Fester’s Army that either gave rise to or grew from the riot grrrl movement of the 1990s. “Riot grrrl was a feminist upheaval against male-dominated punk scenes, against violence, against sexual discrimination,” she explained. “It tried to legitimize and normalize women in punk.” But how has that normalization gone? “Not well,” she admitted, having often struggled to unearth substantial amounts of the right kind of female-crafted rock, even doing plenty of Internet research and following players in well-known female bands such as the Pacific Northwest’s Bikini Kill through their countless other bands, solo recordings, side projects, and obscurities. “Sometimes I have to play whatever I can find,” she said. “But bad sound quality is punk.”
The pressure of Redman’s musical search has brought her show’s playlists to a certain level of internationalism. “I found this one band, Beyond Pink, from Sweden or somewhere — they’re so good,” she said. “Or Glasses, from Germany. There’s La Quiete, from Italy; it’s a bummer they don’t come to the U.S. to play. Italy and France have some cool bands, though they have more of a screamo scene than anything. Last week, I played all Spanish punk from the 1980s. That took a solid week of research.”
Even if the foreign bands she’s discovered don’t play over here very often, Redman said she’d love to play overseas herself. As the duo Watercolor Paintings, she and her brother have already played many local shows and even toured the country, but on a purely sonic level, their harp-driven music would seem to bear no resemblance to the content of Jody Fester’s Army. “I was into hardcore, post-rock, noisy stuff — then I remembered I had a harp that I bought cheap on eBay,” she said. She also plays the ukulele, trombone, and drums. “I’m not good, but I’m good enough for punk, she added. “What I do with radio, I do with instruments: I start one thing, get bored, then start something else.” The instruments at hand, and their variety, shaped Watercolor Paintings’ distinctive sound — and by the way don’t call that sound cute.
“People call our music ‘cute,’ but it’s not,” she said. “It’s about angry things! The songs are depressing! They’re anything but cute! People talk about us as cute because of the harp, or because of how Josh acts at our shows, but we’re like a lot of acoustic bands: We play songs with intense meanings that don’t sound intense. My favorite shows to play are the hardcore ones where all the other bands are screaming and crazy, and we’re the only acoustic one,” she said. But is the Santa Barbara punk scene, such as it is, big enough to sustainably accommodate that whole range? Admitting that, lacking venues for bigger shows, Santa Barbara’s may be a “secret punk scene,” she nonetheless believes that “lots of kids would be stoked to see it in a place like Isla Vista.”
The number of active female bands might offer an indicator of the punk scene’s progress. “Women seem more comfortable playing this kind of music in major cities,” Redman said, and although Santa Barbara hasn’t gotten anywhere near major-city size, the more the selection of live shows here starts to sound like Jody Fester’s Army, the more it will have developed. “Most dudes are into ladybands, and more women are inclined to go to their shows. The content of female-made songs is different. They’re about more politically relevant things. Punk is a political genre, but a lot of bands here just play about skateboarding.”
Jody Fester’s Army airs Thursdays from 11 p.m. to midnight on KCSB, 91.9 FM.