Living too “punk” is always risky. In China, it might be an even greater risk, as the mainly black-haired, homogeneous society isn’t exactly known for being welcoming to the attitudes and aesthetics that define punk culture. Pink, six-inch hair spikes and studded jackets aren’t digestible for most in the country. Chinese parents often have particular hopes for their children, and any deviation from their expectations means disappointment.
Despite these adversities, punk bands have kept on in China. Within the underground punk scene, female punkers remain somewhat of a rarity. Though they may be hard to find, they exist. It’s encouraging to see their presence, but it’s clear that if punk wants to find a stronger foothold in China, women will need to play a larger role in its evolution. In Western countries, the role of females in punk has been a constant: bands like Bikini Kill, L7, Blondie, and The Distillers have elevated the genre to greater heights. Looking at China’s neighboring countries, such as Japan, where punk arrived much earlier, female groups like OXZ were challenging gender stereotypes as early as 1981. China’s female punk revolution has been more recent in comparison, but its development has been rapid.
但在这样的大环境下，朋克乐队在中国仍不屈于现实。以女性朋克为例，即便在地下朋克圈子属于少数派，但她们一直存在。女性的出现，在圈内令人鼓舞，这也表明，朋克文化要想在中国占据立足之地，女性需要在其中发挥更大的作用。在欧美国家，女性一直活跃于朋克文化中：从 The Slits、Blondie 到 The Distillers 和 Bikini Kill，这些女性朋克乐队是朋克乐历史的参与者，更将朋克音乐拔升至新的高度。近看中国的邻国日本，OXZ 等女性乐队早在 1981 年就开始挑战性别刻板印象。相比之下，中国的女子朋克圈子相对较新，但发展相当迅猛。
Women-run venues in China have been key to the scene’s development in the country. These spaces include Inferno in Shanghai, DAFA Club in Tianjin, Prison in Wuhan, and DMC in Qingdao—but as the scene grows, the new generation of female punkers will need role models they can look up to. While these women who work behind the scenes are integral, the ascent of more female-fronted and all-female punk bands will be equally important.
China’s first all-women punk band is Hang On The Box. Formed in 1998, after 20 years when China was beginning to open itself to the outside world, the band were pioneers in the country, with many bands and musicians following in their footsteps. They showed countless Chinese women that it was perfectly fine to express themselves in ways that deviate from cultural norms. Their impact was enormous. Within just six months of their first live gig, they appeared on the cover of Newsweek. Despite this momentum, a lack of further mainstream recognition forced HOTB to eventually sign with a Japanese label.
Listen to select tracks from Hang on the Box below:
挂在盒子上乐队（Hang on the Box）是中国第一支全女性朋克乐队，成立于 1998 年，当时正值中国对外开放的二十年后。挂在盒子上在当时成为中国女子朋克的先驱，对日后的许多乐队和歌手都产生过深远的影响。她们向无数中国女性证明，生活没必要循规蹈矩，妳大可以离经叛道、大胆表达自我。她们在国内曾引起轰动，第一次现场的六个月后，乐队就登上了美国的《新闻周刊（Newsweek）》的封面。虽然势头凶猛，但乐队在中国始终缺乏进一步的主流认可，甚至被一些男性主导的乐队排挤。后来乐队签约海外，被招至日本厂牌麾下。
Punk as a genre has evolved into offshoot subgenres like post-punk—a similar trajectory was followed by Chinese punk rockers. Beijing’s SUBS are not punk in the strictest sense, but their attitude and street-wise nature can only be described as punk rock. Their DIY methods are a fixture of punk culture, and SUBS have made a name for themselves as China’s longest-running art-punk idols, having been entirely independent for their ten-plus year tenure as a band.
Fronted by Kang Mao, the self-appointed Queen of Fucking Everything (also the name of their 2010 album), whose stage presence is as chic as former Crystal Castles vocalist Alice Glass, SUBS’ screaming garage-punk is one of the most coveted live experiences one can have in the country. Just as an artist evolves through the years experimenting with different mediums, the art-punk sound of SUBS has also: their latest full-length album, yoU aRe yoU, experiments with new wave, post-punk, psych, and electronic.
Listen to select tracks from SUBS below:
SUBS 乐队主唱抗猫自居“操万物女王”，尖叫、以及撕裂式的表演都是她们的招牌，颇具艺术气息。一直以来，SUBS 都尝试运用不同媒介，探索朋克乐的更多可能：他们于 2014 年发行的全长专辑《yoU aRe yoU》就是一次对新浪潮、后朋克、迷幻和电子音乐的试验。
Building upon the art-punk recipe that SUBS started, Beijing’s Pizza Face combines a street-punk aesthetic with an unhinged stage presence that results in chaotic shows. Established in 2018 by vocalist Spirit, drummer A-ze, guitarist Fengzi, and bass player A-Fan, they keep the frantic tempo of punk rock but blend in melodic touches and exotic textures resulting in a sound that teeters between sweet and grating. “I always wanted to find a way to be against things out of my logic since I was little,” says Spirit, who cites The Clash, Rancid, and Brody Dalle as some of her influences. ”Regarding the Pizza Face experience, we are more like an animated film with a punk soundtrack.”
Just as a pizza can be host to any toppings you like, Pizza Face comes in many “flavors.” Their shows are the epitome of unfiltered expression. When Spirit and company play a venue, it becomes their kingdom for time that they are on stage. A set ranges from mouth-full-of-pizza-style-screaming songs to moody mid-tempo pieces perfect for writhing around on the floor to. Their shows prove that unpredictability is still one of the greatest assets of punk music. At one performance, after climbing the speakers, frontwoman Spirit was given a rose by a concert attendee, which she promptly chewed up and swallowed.
与 SUBS 艺术气质不同，北京新晋女子朋克乐队披萨脸乐队（Pizzaface）则将街头朋克美学与自身的怪脾气相结合，呈现出极具混乱与耍宝的气质。乐队由主唱小航、鼓手阿泽、吉他手峰子和贝斯于 2018 年创立，在延续朋克的张狂节奏之余，又融入令人耳前一亮的律动，交错出声动刺耳的聆听体验。“我从小就想方设法来对抗自己脑海中的既定逻辑，”小航说道，她指出自己深受 The Clash、Rancid 和 Brody Dalle 等乐队的影响，“就披萨脸乐队的演出而言，我们更像是动画片儿的朋克配乐。”
Aside from the music itself, punk fashion remains elusive in China, of either gender. While the younger generation has become more willing to dress in bolder, unconventional ways, the Middle Kingdom is still a largely conservative society, and the conspicuous nature of punk fashion often still garners double-takes and raised brows on the street. While Hang on the Box set a precedent for female punk bands in China, their look still remained somewhat modest.
However, spiked hair, leather boots, studs, and piercings are what Qingdao’s Dummy Toys are all about. They have taken the punk aesthetic to its purest form, representing a contemporary take on the old-school 70s punk look. Their attitude is equally punk, unafraid of flipping off anyone who judges their lifestyle. Only teenagers when Hang On The Box was at the height of their popularity, Dummy Toys’ members say they were influenced by them but give equal credit to non-female bands in the country as well, such as Demerit.
Their acidic anthem, “Street Punk Girls,” from their Not A Puppet album encapsulates their look and desire to be free from a mundane, homogenized existence. The music video for the song shows a girl bored with her normal life, and in a not-so-subtle display of how one might break out of monotony, she spikes her hair, throws on a pair of Doc Martens, and skateboards to a Dummy Toys’ concert.
The song “Not a Puppet,” the title track from their debut LP, further emphasizes their philosophy of carving out one’s own lane. The notion of being a puppet on a string is a metaphor many bands have used in the past, the most famous being Metallica with their Master of Puppets album. “We don’t want to be puppets of anyone or anything, and we don’t want to be restrained,” says guitarist Xiaoniao. “The education we have received from childhood teaches us about a lot of so-called norms in society. We don’t want to be what others want; we still want to be ourselves.”
When asked if their appearance has caused any trouble for them, Xiaoniao says, “I’ve heard that some people think it’s a bit strange, but it’s not a big problem. We don’t want to force them to accept us, and we will not change ourselves because of them.”
Huanzi says, “We think Qingdao’s musical atmosphere is better than in previous years. It’s not just punk music. Everyone is willing to come to watch the show, but most people don’t necessarily have a fixed musical style or preference.”
At a Dummy Toy show, children may sometimes even be seen catching the show from backstage. These are the kids of the members themselves, and while they’re delighted that their children can see what they do, they have no intentions of molding them into images themselves. “What children like is their own thing,” Xiaoniao says. “It doesn’t matter whether they enter the punk world or not. In fact, we think children should be rebellious by nature. Most of them don’t like the same things as their parents.”
They understandably also have zero interest in being defined by their gender. The band only wants to keep making great punk music and isn’t interested in focusing on the band members’ gender. Pizza Face’s Spirit echoes the same sentiment, ”I’d prefer the focus to be on the personality inside the music and the fun we can offer, and hopefully encourage listeners to re-examine their outlooks.”
Listen to select tracks from SUBS below:
不在乎旁人眼光，青岛的人形玩偶乐队（≈）则淋漓尽致地诠释了朋克美学：鸡冠头、皮靴、铆钉和皮肤穿孔，她们与主流背道而弛，让一切仿佛回到了 70 年代，那个朋克刚刚起步的年代。她们拥有朋克态度，敢于与那些看不惯的人对峙。当挂在盒子上在中国最火的时候，还是十几岁的 Dummy Toys 成员就受到了来自她们的很多影响。乐队还表示，国内有很多乐队对她们影响很大，比如中国硬核、街头朋克领衔之辈，过失（Demerit）乐队。
人形玩偶乐队在 2020 年发行了《Not A Puppet》专辑，其中的歌曲《Street Punk Girls》讲述了她们对于着装的看法、以及对摆脱平凡、同质化生活的渴望。这首歌曲的 MV 讲述了一个女孩挣脱沉闷生活的故事——她从格子间回到卧室，烫起朋克头，换上马丁靴，踩上滑板冲向 Dummy Toys 的音乐现场。
专辑同名主打歌《Not a Puppet》进一步强调了她们独辟蹊径的理念。此前，很多乐队都曾借用提线木偶概念，最著名的莫过于激流金属班霸 Metallica 的传奇唱片《Master of Puppets》。吉他手小鸟说：“从小到大，我们接受的教育和普世观会给予我们很多所谓的规范，有好有不好，有很多感觉都是要把我们统一化，但我们不想成为别人希望的样子，还是想要做自己，我们觉得每一个生命都应该闪闪发光，有自己的颜色。”
在 Dummy Toys 的演出过程中，你经常可以在后台看到一帮小孩，他们其实都是乐队成员的孩子。对此，成员们都表示欣慰，但她们并不期望孩子也变得和自己一样。小鸟说：“孩子喜欢什么是他们自己的事情，会不会进入朋克世界无所谓。我们其实觉得小孩都天生叛逆，他们大多都不会和父母喜欢一样的东西吧。”
From Hang on the Box to Dummy Toys, the growing female presence in the punk-rock scene shows no sign of slowing down. Punk, like any other form of music, is always evolving, and no band is in its final form. A new generation of female artists influenced by the Chinese punk idols of the last 20 years are already emerging; they include Xiao Wang, a feisty and somewhat self-deprecating group who identify themselves as kawaiicore punk, and Free Sex Shop, a group that’s been a staple act at Beijing’s famous punk hangout, School Bar.
It is not just the punk subculture that has become a breeding ground for these current and future generations of musically inclined women in China. Rock and metal genres have been equally inclusive to women in China. At those same bars hosting punk bands like Dummy Toys or Pizza Face, it’s not uncommon to see other bands with female members. Take Tianjin’s Angel Monoplane for example, a symphonic metal band featuring a female singer who’s wheelchair-bound. Additionally, Silent Elegy is another band with a talented, operatic female vocalist. Though these bands would be the first to tell you that females being in the group are purely incidental. China is now a place where females can freely and openly create many forms of art without much judgment from their peers, and while the style of bands like Dummy Toys may be unique, it would make heads turn like back when Hang on the Box first started.
Times and attitudes are changing, and what seems bold and expressive now could very well be the norm in ten years. Time will tell who the next girl inspired by these bands will be to pick up her guitar and to put that strife to artistic use. Not long from now, in that crowd of black hair, half of the heads could very well be rainbow-colored.
从挂在盒子上到 Dummy Toys，朋克界开始涌现更多的女性身影。和其他音乐流派一样，朋克也一直在不断演变，历史上没有一支乐队是朋克的最终形式。受到过去 20 年的中国朋克乐先锋们的影响，新一代朋克女孩更是人才辈出，你会看到自居“卡哇伊硬核”(kawaiicore)、活泼又带点自嘲的小王乐队、以及曲风原始直接、英姿飒爽，常年混迹于北京著名地下摇滚酒吧 School（学校酒吧）的 Free Sex Shop 乐队。