MEET: Rachel Maria Cox from Sad Grrrls Club

MEET: Rachel Maria Cox from Sad Grrrls Club

Newcastle local Rachel Maria Cox is helping to overhaul male-dominated line-ups, one ass-kicking festival at a time. Now in its third year, Sad Grrrl Fest 2017 will bring the inclusive party to Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney - with each city adding its own local flavour to the musical offering. Here's what RMC had to say...

Hey Rachel, tell us a little about yourself…
My name’s Rachel Maria Cox, I go by RMC to my friends, and I’m a non-binary singer/songwriter. I grew up in Western Sydney and am now based in Newcastle, NSW. I’m also the founder of Sad Grrrls Club and I run Sad Grrrls Fest, which is an annual celebration of gender diversity in Australian Music. Also, I don’t want to brag, but in 2006 I won an episode of Go Go Stop. 

And Sad Grrrls Fest 2017…what are we in for?
Sad Grrrls Fest this year is going to be an awesome day of music in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. We’ve got 6 touring acts (myself included) playing in each city, ranging from the jangle-pop of Major leagues to indie-electronica of Huntly and Nakatomi, and the Emo Punk vibes of Antonia & the Lazy Susans and Moaning Lisa. Plus, a stacked line up of local supports in each city.

The aim of Sad Grrrls Fest is to create a space where everyone can come and enjoy music without having to worry about feeling unsafe or unwelcome so if that sounds like ya thang then grab a ticket! 

Was there a pivotal moment or experience you had where you just thought ‘Right, we need to address this - the music industry has a gender equality problem’?
Not so much, but something I noticed when I first started playing music solo was how frequently I was the only non-male person on an otherwise all-male bill. It started out as a joke actually, between myself and a friend of mine, Ess-em, who ended up touring with me for the first Sad Grrrls Tour in 2015. We kept playing on awesome, gender diverse shows, and thought it would be great to tour with all our amazing ‘sad girl’ pals, and now here we are! 

I mean, the fact that the music industry has a diversity problem (not just gender either) is well documented, so I don’t think there was a big “a-ha” moment with realising that, but more that there was a moment when I booked the 2015 tour and was putting the festival together, that I realised “hey I can actually do something about this”.

The festival is in its third year. How different is it now orchestrating a festival with multiple dates and cities compared with its original incarnation?
I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t far more stressful than it was when it started! There’s definitely more pressure on the festival given the attention we got last year, and more interest from people. It’s a bigger effort to co-ordinate a festival than a tour, let alone multiple festivals. I think the biggest difference is that we’ve taken a lot of feedback on board from previous years and tried to improve the diversity and inclusivity of our line ups which I hope is something that only continues to improve.

What’s the process for curating the line-up?
This year I decided to do things a bit differently and open up an EOI form for artists to apply to play, which then meant going through and listening to hundreds of amazing artists, finding people who fit with what we’re trying to do and then checking availability and budgets to try and put together the line ups for each city! Once we had all the EOIs it was a matter of checking who’s interested, who’s available, who we want and who we can afford! 

How does the festival strike a balance between addressing the equality problem without getting relegated as niche or ‘special interest’? 
Honestly, I don’t mind being a niche festival. I would prefer to have the event stay small and remain truly safe for all attendees than have it get massive and become unsafe for the marginalised people it was developed to include. 

What are your hopes and dreams for the festival?
Honestly I’d just like it to break even! It would be great if we get it to that point so it can be sustainable for the future.

And finally, what’s the first gig you ever went to?  
The first gig I ever went to (that my parents didn’t take me to) was The Cat Empire at the Enmore Theatre when I was in year 9.

Sad Grrrls Fest takes place in Brisbane on Sat 4th November, Melbourne on Sat 11th November and Sydney on Sat 18th November

Sad Grrrls Fest 2017