20 Important Female-Led Rock Bands You Should Know
The rock scene seem to have always been dominated by males but in reality women played a huge part in the creation and development of rock and roll.
Recording artist Sister Rosetta Tharpe is recognized by many as the originator of the rock and roll sound, thanks to her unique mixture of spiritual lyrics and electric guitar. She was the first to appeal to rhythm-and-blues and rock-and-roll audiences, and was later referred to as "the original soul sister" and "the Godmother of rock and roll". She influenced early rock-and-roll musicians, including Little Richard, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis.
Luckily, many more women entered the scene since its inception and still thrive to this day, some by becoming legendary staples and the new generations by following their footsteps.
Here are 20 important female-led rock bands we think you should know:
Horrorpops is a Danish band founded by singer and contrabass player Patricia Day in 1996. The band's sound is rooted in psychobilly, rockabilly, and punk rock. The band recorded a couple of demos but it’s only in 2003 that they signed a record deal with Hellcat Records, the label of Tim Armstrong, singer of Rancid.
The band was able to release a vinyl single in September 2003, and began a U.S. headlining tour.
In 2004 the album Hell Yeah! was released February 10, 2004; the interest in the band grew and they were invited to support The Offspring on their month-long European tour.
The album includes memorable tracks such as "Miss Take" "Psychobitches Outta Hell" and “Baby Lou Tattoo”.
The band soon relocated from Denmark to Los Angeles, California. The band's second album, Bring It On!, was released on September 13, 2005 Their third album, released on February 5, 2008, is called Kiss Kiss Kill Kill.
19. ALABAMA SHAKES
If you watch many TV Shows or any tv at all (or if you just have good taste in music), you are probably already familiar with Alabama Shakes. In fact their music was featured in so many shows and commercials that it is impossible to miss their majestic yet melancholic and easy listening sound.
The band formed in Athens, Alabama, in 2009. The band maintained a consistent lineup of lead singer and guitarist Brittany Howard, guitarist Heath Fogg, bassist Zac Cockrell, and drummer Steve Johnson. It is very easy to start thinking about Janis Joplin, Otis Redding, and Aretha Franklin when hearing Howard’s incredible voice. Howard herself took inspiration from Bon Scott of AC/DC in her vocal style, praising his "soulful" way of singing and was more influenced by bands such as Led Zeppelin and artists like David Bowie. The success of debut single "Hold On" led some to believe the group "[was] trying to pass themselves off as revivalists, something they never aspired to be.
18. THE DONNAS
“ I'm on my second drink, but I've had a few before, I'm trying hard to think, and I think that I want you on the floor Uh-huh, yeah on the floor - Go on and take it off (Take it off) You got to shake it off baby for me." These are the typical filter-free straightforward lyrics of The Donnas, a band that originally formed in 1993, when all four members (all born in 1979) were still in the eighth grade together in Palo Alto, CA. Calling themselves Ragady Anne at first, they played covers of groups like R.E.M., L7, the Muffs, and Shonen Knife, and entered a junior-high battle of the bands just one month after forming.
Early on, they were invariably described as "The Ramones meet The Runaways," but their bratty high-school-delinquent image was clearly indebted to the latter, as their songs concerned themselves mostly with boys, booze, drugs, and hated classmates.
The band recorded two albums, self-titled album The Donnas in 1997 and Get Skintitght in 1999 although they gained even more notoriety after catching the attention of major label Atlantic, who signed them up in late 2001.
Launched with a new wave of publicity, The Donnas label debut, Spend the Night arrived in 2002 and became their first album to break into the Top 100 of the pop charts. It also earned them their biggest radio hit to date in the single "Take It Off".
17. AMYL AND THE SNIFFERS
Amyl and the Sniffers is one of the most original Aussie punk bands you need to know.
Based in Melbourne, Australia, and formed by housemates vocalist Amy Taylor, drummer Bryce Wilson, guitarist Dec Martens, and bassist Fergus Romer. The four wrote, recorded, and released their first EP, Giddy Up, in a span of 12 hours.They take their name from the Australian slang for amyl nitrite, also known as poppers.
Their sound will remind you of those 1970s hard rock groups such as Iggy Pop and The Stooges and The Damned. However, Taylor has cited a number of varying influences including Minor Threat, Ceremony, AC/DC, Sleaford Mods, Dolly Parton, and Cardi B.
Taylor describes the first pit she went in, at 14, as “consensual violence,” though that could just as easily describe one of their shows. The band gives you a safe space — that is, a safe space for you to go absolutely nuts. “Where I grew up, it was like, ‘hippie, happy, love forever,’” she says, “and I’m like, ‘That’s not the only thing I can feel.”
We recommend you listen to their homonymous album Amyl And The Sniffers .
Kittie is a band that will easily take you back to your 90s nostalgia era. Their very grungy sounds, powerful heavy metal guitar riffs and female empowerment lyrics are everything you need to get into during your daily workout.
Kittie is a Canadian heavy metal band from London Ontario formed in 1996 and most of their material has been recorded through independent record labels which makes a lot of sense considering their very raw yet clean sound.
Kittie formed in 1996 when Fallon Bowman and Mercedes Lander met in gym class. Morgan Lander became the lead vocalist and one of Kittie's guitarists and Tanya Candler completed the band's lineup on bass. After signing to NG Records, Kittie released their debut album Spit, which was certified gold by the RIAA and sold at least 600,000 copies in the United States.
Some of their following projects are the album Oracle that was released in 2001, Until The End in 2004 and Funeral For Yesterday in 2007.
Tetrarch Diamond Rose Rowe is the ultimate woman rising in the rock and alternative scene. Lead guitarist of the band Tetrarch, she gained notoriety thanks to her superior guitar skills and overall great taste in composition. Diamond Rowe is influenced by the likes of Dimebag, Slash, and Mark Morton. She is the first African American female metal guitarist featured in the mainstream alternative media, grabbing front covers all over the place and was nominated as one of the game-changer guitarists of the past year.
Her band Tetrarch was formed in Atlanta, Georgia, United States. Their debut album was recorded with producer Dave Otero (Cattle Decapitation, Khemmis, Allegeon), and blends the modern metalcore sound with the energy and dark vibes of 2000’s Nu Metal. With their influences being bands that have topped the metal world for years such as Slipknot, Korn and Metallica – Tetrarch are not shy about wanting to reach the top of the genre.
14. ARCH ENEMY
Arch Enemy is a Swedish melodic death metal band originally a super group from Homestead formed in 1995. Although the band was originally fronted by Johan Liiva, he was soon replaced by German female vocalist Angela Gossow in the year 2000. Angela Gossow was very significant for the widespread fame of the band as she was able to bring not only a feminine touch to a very extreme metal sound but also by keeping it as authentic as possible. She has a mezzo-soprano vocal range with a death growl and she uses false cord screams.
Her main influences are Jeff Walker of Carcass, David Vincent of Morbid Angel, Chuck Billy of Testament, John Tardy of Obituary, Chuck Schuldiner of Death, Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, and Rob Halford of Judas Priest.
On 17 March 2014, it was announced that Gossow was stepping down as Arch Enemy vocalist to pursue other interests and spend more time with her family. Gossow recommended Alissa White-Gluz from Canadian metal band The Agonist as her replacement, and will remain business manager for the band.
The addition of Alissa in the band was a total success. Thanks to her charisma, powerful voice, stage presence and amazing looks, Arch Enemy are now one of the most famous metal bands in the whole world, selling out hundreds of shows worldwide. Their songs “Nemesis” and “War Eternal” are now hymns of all extreme metal fans. It is safe to say that collaborations between women will always lead to amazing unthinkable things.
ARCH ENEMY with Angela Gossow
ARCH ENEMY with Alissa White-Gluz
13. JULIETTE & THE LICKS
If you’re a fan of Quentin Tarantino‘s “From Dusk Til Dawn” and Oliver Stone’s “Natural Born Killers” but you also just love browsing into 90s Pinterest “styles inspiration” you’ve probably seen the amazing Juliette Lewis.
Juliette Lewis is an actress and singer known for her portrayals of offbeat characters, often in films with dark themes. This is how she became the “It Girl” of American cinema in the early 90s appearing in various independent and arthouse films.
Her main passion though has always been music, so at the beginning of 2003, Lewis embarked on a musical career, forming the rock band Juliet And The Licks with former Hole drummer Patty Schemel.
The band released their debut EP ...Like a Bolt of Lightning in late 2004. She also appeared as a guest vocalist on three tracks by electronic music group The Prodigy and successfully released her album Four On The Floor which featured drumming by Dave Grohl and was released in 2007.
Some of the most iconic tracks of the band are “Got Love To Kill” and “Purgatory Blues”.
12. THE DEVOTCHKAS
The Devotchkas were an all female punk band formed in Long Island, New York in 1996. Their music specifically falls into the category of street punk which is a faster and raw subgenre.
They were as punk as you can get. Their name was derived from the popular film and novel A Clockwork Orange. Devotchka in Nadsat means "girl", which is itself derived from the Russian word (девочка) of the same meaning. In 1998, they were signed to Punk Core Records for the release of their debut EP, which sold in excess of 5,000 copies, a surprisingly high number for a band's debut EP, especially on vinyl format. After the release of their second EP, Annihilation, in 1999 singer Stephanie left the band to be replaced by JJ. JJ sang on their 2001 album Live Fast, Die Young.
The Devotchkas are no longer playing together but they left us an incredible portfolio of music that we are just extremely lucky to be able to stream to this day, as they were a real independent who never even reached the charts. The Devotchkas deserve more recognition and we’ll make sure to talk about them as much as we can here on Rarepeace.
11. NOVA TWINS
Nova Twins are the “must know” band of this generation. The english rock duo formed in London, England, in 2014 and is consisting of vocalist/guitarist Amy Love and bassist Georgia South. The Nova Twins have been described by The Guardian as a "bass-heavy duo fusing grime and punk", and by themselves as "urban punk".
Their existence is nothing but a blessing as it is very important to see them making it happen in this industry of the current days.
They cited in Kerrang that is “It’s Difficult For Women Of Colour In Rock Music”
“There hasn’t really been a big one since Skin, in Skunk Anansie, which is very telling. And they’re out there. They’re just not shown anywhere, therefore people don’t feel like they can do it.”
“We want to see the punks and hip-hop kids rubbing shoulders. We’re starting to see more diversity of race and gender at our shows,” Amy enthuses. “We want to spread that message and team up with other musicians. We want to shake things up.”
The girls have already toured with FEVER333 and are set to tour with Bring Me the Horizon in 2022.
10 . YEAH YEAH YEAHS
Yeah Yeah Yeahs are an Indie Rock band that formed in New York City in 2000 and the group is composed by vocalist and pianist Karen O, guitarist and keyboardist Nick Zinner, and drummer Brian Chase.
The Yeah Yeahs’ style has been described as "an art-rock trio who made an edgy post-punk, dancefloor-friendly racket that mixed up Blondie with Siouxsie and the Banshees". They gain immediate worldwide success with their single “Maps” which is very interesting considering that it doesn’t really represent the full capacity and sometimes sound of the band.
The song was part of their debut album Fever To Tell which is still to this day one of the best indie albums of the century. It has inspired so many bands and it opened up an infinite world of possibilities to create music as they were able to mix different styles by creating a very distinctive sound.
9. BIG JOANIE
Big Joanie is a British, all black punk trio formed in London in 2013. Its members are Stephanie Phillips (guitar and vocals), Estella Adeyeri (bass guitar and vocals), and Chardine Taylor-Stone (drums and vocals). Big Joanie was formed by Stephanie Phillips in 2013, who posted online asking for bandmates with whom to start black feminist punk band after becoming frustrated with the lack of intersectionality in the scene. Chardine Taylor-Stone, and the band's original bassist Kiera Coward-Deyell responded. The name of the band is partly a tribute to Phillips’ mother, Joan, and partly based on a Caribbean figure of speech. ‘When we say a child is “acting big”, they’re acting bigger than themselves. I just thought that would be a great phrase for a strong, confident woman.
In 2014 the band released their first EP Sistah Punk on Tuff Enuff Records, and in 2016 they self released a 7" three song single entitled Crooked Room on their own Sistah Punk Records. The title track is inspired by a lecture by the writer Melissa Harris-Perry, who compared life as a black woman in a white patriarchy to trying to find a true vertical in a room where everything is crooked. Another song on the release is a punk cover of No Scrubs by TLC. The band also released a 7" single of their cover of Solange's Cranes in the Sky.
Garbage is an American rock band formed in 1993 in Madison Wisconsin. The lead singer is the Scottish talent Shirley Manson and the lineup remains the same since its inception. Garbage has sold over $17 million albums worldwide. Their debut album was a success and critically acclaimed upon his release in fact the tracks “Stupid Girl” and “Only Happy When It Rains” became a major statement of their discography. This was followed by numerous albums such as Beautiful Garbage , Bleed Like Me and many more to this day. Shirley Manson got media attention for her trademark rebellious attitude and distinctive voice.
She began her music career in her teens and developed a formidable stage presence.
Garbage is one of the most significant alternative rock bands to these days and I have inspired millions of women all over the world.
7. SKUNK ANANSIE
Skunk Anansie are a British rock band that formed in 1994, disbanded in 2001 and reformed in 2009. The name "Skunk Anansie" is taken from Akan folk tales of Anansi the spider-man of Ghana, with "Skunk" added to "make the name nastier".
The band is led by female force Deborah Ann Dyer aka Skin, who was born on 3 August 1967 in Brixton, London, to Jamaican parents.
Skin presence has always been very important in the music especially because the band videos were highly rotated on MTV so it’s safe to say that it was a relief seeing her on top of the charts as being a black woman in the rock scene.
6. NO DOUBT
No Doubt is a Californian project funded by Gwen Stefani‘s brother Eric and his friend John’s Spence. They were talking about forming a band and asked Gwen to fill in the backing vocals. This marked the beginning of one of the most important female lead bands of the past 30 years.
If you ask anybody about No Doubt, it will be really hard for them not to like them as they are a band that basically marked everyone’s life (If you were born in the 90’s) one way or the other.
They are the soundtracks of many people lives as they were able to mash many styles together by creating and hardcore yet easy listening style that still thrives to this day.
Gwen Stefani's incredible stage presence, the positivity of Ska music, the particular voice and overall innovative aurea was the main inspiration for so many girls in the 90s who were tired of looking and acting like innocent girls and were feeling the urge to be different and independent.
Songs like “Just a Girl” are still very important staples of the importance of feminine independence as much as “Don’t Speak” is the ultimate break up song of the century.
Courtney Love is said to be the queen of grunge but we think that title needs to be given to Bam Bam’s singer Tina Bell.
Nevertheless, Courtney played a huge part in the grunge scene. She founded (alongside Eric Erlandsson) one of our favorite bands ever which is also easily one of the best female bands of our generation.
Hole was an American alternative rock band formed in Los Angeles, California in 1989.
Influenced by Los Angeles' punk rock scene, the band's debut album, Pretty on the Inside (1991), was produced by Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth, and attracted critical interest from British and American alternative press. Their second album, Live Through This, released 1994 was widely acclaimed and reached platinum status within a year of its release. Their third album, Celebrity Skin (1998), marked a notable departure from their earlier punk influences, boasting a more commercially viable sound. Music and feminist scholars have recognized the band as the most high-profile musical group of the 1990s to discuss gender issues in their songs, due to Love's aggressive and violent lyrical content, which often addressed themes of body image, abuse, and sexual exploitation.
You will recognize them for one of their most famous songs “Celebrity Skin” and “Malibu”.
4. BIKINI KILL
Bikini Kill are the definition of rrriot girl, in fact they are said to be the pioneers of this movement with radical feminist lyrics and fiery performances, their music is abrasive and hard-core influenced.
The band formed in Washington in 1990 by Kathleen Hannah, Billy Karen, Kathy Wilcox and Toby Vile.
The band often writes songs together and are very focused on the female centric environment.
Rebel Girl is their most famous song to date. The single version was produced by Joan Jett and features her on guitar and background vocals. Widely considered a classic example of punk music, the song remains emblematic of the riot grrrl movement of the 1990s.
The song's theme and lyrics overturn the traditional heterosexual tropes of pop music. Giving voice to an unconcealed lesbian perspective, it is a frank and explicit "tribute to, and love song for, another woman". It is considered to be Bikini Kill's signature song.
In 1991 Bikini Kill spent a summer in Washington DC and there Kathleen began collaborating with several other women on the punk zine Riot grrrl. It promoted greater female involvement and feminist activity in the male-centric punk scene. It has inspired and encouraged women of the genre to take up space and express themselves in ways that they previously had not felt able to do.
L7 is an American rock band founded in Los Angeles, California, active since 1985.Their longest standing lineup consists of Suzi Gardner (vocals, guitar), Donita Sparks (vocals, guitar), Dee Plakas (drums, vocals) and Jennifer Finch (bass, vocals). L7 has released seven studio albums and has toured widely in the US, Europe, Japan, Australia, and South America.
We love L7 because they transmit an extreme 90’s nostalgia and are able to take you back to those summer evenings spent watching Daria on MTV when it was “still cool”.
Some of their most recognizable songs are “Pretend We’re Dead” and “Shitlist”. The Prodigy even reproposed L7's track "Fuel My Fire" on their major homonym dance hit.
2. THE DISTILLERS
The Distillers are the most significant band led by a woman in the punk rock scene of the last 25 years. They were formed by Brody Dalle in Los Angeles in 1998 and soon released an eponymous successful album.
Brody was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia. She was already experienced with playing in bands as she was the previous singer and guitarist for her band Sourpuss and played several live shows with that band. She picked up guitar at 13 years old, she cites Courtney Love’s Hole as early influences and soon became interested in bands such as Black Flag, Discharge and Flipper (as well as other female-led punk groups such as Babes in Toyland and Bikini Kill) as early influences.
Her powerful voice, strong punk guitar riffs and hard-core driven strength, made the Distillers an iconic band for everyone who is lucky enough to ever cross their music.
They then released the album Sing sing that house in 2002 with famous tracks City of Angels and Seneca Falls that helped them gain world-wide notoriety.
Their following album Coral Fang proudly lived up to their previous success and marked the band’s major label debut.
1. BAM BAM
Bam Bam is the reason why we couldn’t give Courtney Love the title of queen of grunge. In fact the real "queen of grunge" is Tina Bell, a pioneer black woman whose story is often overlooked.
Since their inception, the band had a hard time performing as the crowd wasn’t used to seeing a black woman in that specific environment. The racism was blatant and people were often very prejudiced toward Tina, sometimes calling her ‘n’, “She grabbed the mic stand, swung it around several times, then smashed both of them in the head; one pretty badly. It makes me shake with rage to this day.” It was this coupled with the lack of recognition for the band that eventually led Tina to quitting the group, says Scott.
Usually considered a blokey, almost exclusively white genre, the existence of Bam Bam is revelatory in the grunge world. The group’s grunge credentials are solid. They were the first band to set up shop at Reciprocal Recording – the studio where Nirvana would later cut the demos for ‘Bleach’ and ‘Incesticide’ – using it to record their 1984 EP ‘Villains (Also Wear White)’.
We highly recommended to check their album Fall From Space.