by Laura Stanley
So Young leader Paterson Hodgson knows how to write a powerful song. The majority of the London, ON band’s second record Try Me is a candid conversation on issues like depression, rape culture, and misogyny. Hodgson’s songwriting is charged with raw and honest emotions that, when you get right down to it, makes for some of the strongest songwriting in the country.
“I think it’s really refreshing when you go see a band and you listen to their lyrics and they’re are interesting and they challenge something. I would like to be one of those people that people listen to and they’re like, ‘oh, I never thought about that.’”
Compared to the band’s first record Secrets, Try Me is a big confident step forward. So Young’s brand of garage/pop-rock sounds bolder and more complex than their previous effort. Their melodies are even more infectious and stay in your head long after the record is over. Though one of Hodgson’s introductions to music was playing in a folk band (Olenka and the Autumn Lovers), the move to play rock music was a completely natural transition. For Hodgson it all comes down to the basics – “Rock and roll is just super fun to play. The louder and crazier and grungier it sounds, the more fun it is.”
While the majority of Secrets does well to refresh the tired topic of love, a theme which does not disappear in So Young’s return, Try Me is new lyrical territory for Hodgson. “The newer songs are a little bit more mature musically,” she says.
“My writing style has changed a lot. I’ve become more radicalized as a feminist since Secrets came out so Try Me has a lot more darker themes and also less lovey dovey stuff and more hard hitting themes.”
Hodgson’s songwriting comes from both a personal and socially conscious place. Try Me’s first single, “He Had It Coming” is a devastatingly accurate song that touches on abuse and victim blaming while another standout “Haterz” is an empowering call to ignore those (“fucking yuppy, fucking baby”) who stand in the way of your truth telling ways.
Hodgson’s moving criticism of the treatment of women in the music industry as found in the album standout “Cock Rock” is the centrepiece of Try Me. Besides being laughably catchy, “Cock Rock” is Hodgson acting as a courageous and committed voice needed to help speak out against the struggles of women inside and outside of the music industry. “When I started playing in a rock band, I basically found out that sexism still exists,” she explains.
“I knew that it was real and I knew that it was out there but I didn’t experience a whole lot of it and I didn’t identify it when it was happening to me that well. I started playing in this band and I started getting tons of positive attention but tons of negative attention that I never experience before, mostly from men. Sometimes they were hitting on me or being creepy but a lot of the time it was not being listened to or respected. I started realizing that everyone is just writing love songs and I can still do that but maybe I should try writing songs about more serious stuff.”
Like many women having to navigate the male dominated music industry, Hodgson struggles with being marginalized because of her sex and her and her band’s craft disregarded as a result. “I think one of the hardest things about being a girl in a band is that you get tokenized or fetishized,” Hodgson says.
“They’re already not taking you serious because you are a girl and then they [promoters] bring you in to be the girl quotient of the night or part of an all girl night or something. You get pigeoned hole into this weird ‘oh, well, you’re a girl band.’”
So Young’s music is both progressive and, due to its pop sensibilities, entirely accessibly – an easy to swallow lesson for those unaware or ignoring issues that Hodgson writes about. And also it’s just really great music. While Paterson Hodgson is out there fighting the good fight, let’s acknowledge that gender in music is an important conversation that needs to be had but change also needs to happen.
In the meantime, Hodgson is creatively controlling her passion the best way she can, letting out a small laugh while saying, “angst really helps songs and if my angst happens to be about the patriarchy…”
So Young will be playing Nu Music Night at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto tomorrow night. Full details here.
Unimpressed by the music industry and people in general after reading this interview? Be a friend, ally, and supporter of musicians who happen to be female and those folks who do not identify with the gender binary. Get involved with organizations like Girls Rock Camp Toronto, read great articles like this, and support bands like So Young.