Behind the Zine scene with Love Letters

Lola Pam Love Letter.jpg

Holed away in a share house in Fremantle, Lola Stephen and Pamela Bond sit cross legged on the floor surrounded by photographic prints, empty film canisters, a jumble of lap top leads and dozens of pages of scribbles and thoughts. They have been working hard on the inception, creation and launch of Love Letters - a DIY, not-for-profit zine showcasing female and non-binary musicians within the music industry. I had the oppurtunity to speak to Lola and Pam about all the gnitty-gritty in the lead up to the launch of the zine this evening at Mojo's.

For those who aren’t familiar – let’s start with the basics. Tell us the inspiration for this project – was there a ‘eureka’ moment that stands out to you?

Yep, definitely. It was around this time last year and I really wanted to put some creative energy into a new project and at the time was going through a bit of a bummer stage with a past relationship. I’d just watched The Runaways biopic and had made this playlist which heavily featured them, Patti Smith, Miss June and other loud female artists and it was one of the only things making me feel better. I thought it’d be cool to thank these women that we often turn to in these kind of times, the ones who give us a kick up the butt to be like ‘I’m good! I’ve got this! I’m great!’ - that’s where the idea of writing these ‘love letters’ to these women came about and the zine was born.

We’re very much in the age of the internet and online blogs and articles tend to be the major format for cultural and social discussion. What inspired the decision to put together a physical zine, as opposed to an online format? And what’s the importance of this to the themes and message the zine is encouraging?

I’ve always loved printed publications, having something to hold and flip through and pick up when you want and its so rewarding having a physical product of something that you’ve worked on for so long.

I’ve worked on zines and magazines in the past and always had this idea that I’d create one in every city I lived in (I’m from Scotland) and thought Perth was the perfect place to do one focused on music, specifically women in music because there is such a beautiful supportive scene here that I’ve never seen anywhere else. And although the music scene is thriving, there’s not much of a zine culture here so I wanted to bring that to the table and open more people up to the idea of creating your own DIY publications on whatever you want.

You’ve noted the inspiration of this zine is a celebration and exploration of femme and non-binary artists and their ability to provide a safe space when in times of need. I am more than familiar with this thanks to many contemplate evenings with PJ Harvey and Nico – which artists really affected you?

Oh gosh so so many. Big hitters for me are people like Debbie Harry, Patti Smith (lol how many times can I mention her in an interview), Kim Gordon, Beyonce!, Kim Deal, Angel Olsen, Jen Cloher, Julia Jacklin - I’ve written about Debbie Harry and Angel Olsen for the zine and our cover star is Julia Jacklin which is exciting.

Then there’s the women working and creating in this city around who through watching them play have given me the courage to start my own musical project from watching them do it, and kill it while doing so.

Love Letters Cover.jpg

The Love Letter’s scene utilizes a combination of photography, written words, art and design – why did you make the decision to include a variety of artistic mediums, and how does this marrying of mediums influence the way the ideas/topics are expressed?

For sure, I wanted to make something really visual and I know so many artists that I wanted to get on board to create imagery in order to accompany written aspects of the zine. I’m really inspired by 70s punk gig posters they’re always really bright and punchy so wanted to emulate that with Love Letters.

It was also really cool to reach out to friends who’s work I love and ask them to create these pieces and everyone created something so perfect for each piece. I think it’s really important to provide platforms and spaces for local artists and being able to merge so many different mediums into one publication is really special.

You and Pamela personally met with all the artists featured in the zine to photograph them. Was the direction/staging of the shoots quite deliberate? Or was there an organic, mutual approach to each shoot? And were there any artists that you particularly enjoyed chatting with/shooting? 

It really varied with everyone we met. For some we had a really clear image and idea how we wanted to photos to turn out, for example our shoot with Hyclass was a really strong vision Pam brought and created this really dreamy image, and then others had a clear idea how they themselves wanted to be portrayed. Sakidasumi was really cool to work with in that respect - she’s has such a strong image and is so sure and clear about what she wants. 

And then others we would just rock up at their houses and see what happened! A fun one was with Oosterbanger (hey that’s you!), there was some serious tree climbing involved - impressive skills. But it was really nice chatting to everyone involved and hearing who’s inspired and impacted their music. 

The zine celebrates femme and non-binary artists within the local community and across Australia. There is increasing awareness of representation and celebration for these artists within the music community. What decisions and steps do you believe we can take as gig-goers to support and strengthen this progress?

As gig-goers I think it’s really important to attend events with diverse lineups and question others which may be comprised of the usual straight, white, man bands we’re so used to seeing all the time. Diversity and representation is so important, Jennifer Aslett (San Cisco/Gunns), put it really well in the zine saying “you can’t be what you can’t see” which is so true, seeing someone like yourself on the stage really helps give you the confidence to do your own music or creative projects, it’s the little ‘fuck yeah I can do that too!’ push which is why it’s so important.

Can you tell us a little about the launch at Mojo’s this Thursday and where people can buy a copy of the zine if they’re unable to attend?

So our launch kicks off at 7.30pm at Mojo’s with an absolute killer line-up of women who we have featured in the zine - Childsaint, Demon Days, Ruby May, Kopano, Oosterbanger, Jamilla playing live sets as well as Nicole Filev and Love Letters DJs spinning tracks to keep ya dancing. And when I say Love Letters DJs it’s me and Soraya Stuart-Smith most likely playing Janet Jackson on repeat. They’ll be $10 on the night and we’ll be setting up an online place to buy zines, but if anyone is interested send us an email and we can forward details. 

Andrew Ryan