SINCE their inception in 2010, Athens’ SHEHEHE has been bringing punk rock to the masses at full force. Blending elements of hardcore and '70s British punk with Riot Grrrl-esque sensibilities and the classic rock bombast of Cheap Trick, the band has toured the country and carved out a space for themselves as a band who’s truly leading the charge forward for DIY music.
Ahead of their Statts Fest performance at The Jinx on September 29th, we talked to guitarist Noelle Shuck about punk, the Athens scene, and the lines drawn for female musicians in a male-dominated industry.
How did you guys get involved in Statts Fest?
We’ve been friends with Gil [Cruz] for a while. Actually our first gig ever in Savannah ended up being cancelled when we got to town, so Gil was nice enough to move some things around and we had our show there. He saw us play and really liked us, so pretty much any time he thinks a bill will work for us he hits us up. We’ve played with The Queers and all these cool bands. He thought of us for this, and it’s such a good cause that we said yes.
I’ve been in bands for years and have played around the world, but am embarrassed to say that I’ve never played in Athens. There was a big scene in the ‘80s with bands like R.E.M., Pylon, etc. How would you compare today’s scene in Athens?
I would say it’s different now, for sure. You don’t have bands as big as R.E.M., but the style of music has branched out a bit. It’s gone through phases as well. Early 2000s, Athens had a really vibrant hardcore scene.
As far as what SHEHEHE does, we kind of fit into a lot of areas. We can play with an Americana band or a punk band. We love playing mixed bills, with hip hop artists and stuff like that. Athens has a lot of different things that are growing, and the hip hop scene here is becoming a highlight.
When you started, were you all coming from different bands? How did you find each other?
The band started back in August for 2010. The original bass player and our drummer, Jason, were the first people to start hammering things out. His girlfriend at the time, Nicole, loves punk music and has a big background in that. She was immediately interested In being a part of it so she started singing for them.
I was a regular at a bar that Jason was a barback at. I’m a graphic designer, and I was working on an exit piece for my Bachelors and it had a Cheap Trick layout, and Jason stopped by my table and was asking me if I like Cheap Trick. I was like, “Fuck yeah! It’s one of my favorite bands.”
He was like, “Cool, we need a guitar player. Do you play guitar?” I primarily played bass, but I said yes, and we all got together and went from there.
There’s an interesting climate right now in music, but also in arts overall, with the Me Too movement, gender inequality and pay inequality. A lot of injustices are being examined. So I wonder, from your experience, if you’ve found it particularly hard to be a female in a band?
It’s not entirely difficult, but I think as women we are pre-conditioned to de-escalate certain scenarios. For me that’s kind of what it is. We tour with bands, and most of them are fucking fantastic. It’s usually not the bands that are the problem, it’s usually some drunk asshole or whatever. I brought this up to someone the other day – whenever I tell people I’m in a band they always ask me if I’m the singer [laughs].
Yeah! If you asked a dude that – well, you wouldn't even. You'd just say, "what do you play?" But yeah, it's not always difficult. If you do it well, it gets you a lot of respect and can be very empowering. I think if you're out there trying to do it at all, you're a fucking brave badass and you can be praised for.
What's next for you guys in terms of writing and recording?
We're always writing! We have a full-length that's done. We're shopping it around a bit, but it's done, mastered, and ready for the world – we just have to find the right place for it. 14 tracks, 30 minutes, and they're all pretty great. I'm a big fan of it [laughs].
Is the new stuff in the same vein as your previous work?
It's definitely in the same vein, but we've evolved over the course of our career. This will be the second full-length that has the format of no lead guitar. It's rhythm guitar, bass, drums and vocals. I think we've found a recipe that we've really clicked into and gotten tight. It's more, like, experimentation with curveballs in terms of time signatures. We're still evolving, trying things out and seeing what works.