A SAFARI FESTIVAL TIE-IN!
Sarah Broadhurst and Julia Scheele’s zine-making collective/distro One Beat Zines burst onto the small press scene at the end of last year with their well-received multi-creator anthology Double Dare Ya, a tribute to the ‘90s Riot Grrrl movement. Since then they’ve been acting as an umbrella group, both originating new material and bringing the work of zinesters to a wider audience, with a notable stated interest in “publishing strong feminist voices, and in working with women of all ages and backgrounds who are not already established in the current comics and zine scenes”.
Not a New Wave was released earlier in 2015 and is an obvious fanzine labour of love to influential rock band Sleater-Kinney. It’s a timely collection given the trio of Corin Tucker, Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss released ‘No Cities to Love’, their first new album in a decade, in January of this year. A mix of comics and prose pieces, Not a New Wave includes work from a number of ‘Small Pressganged’ favourites including Scheele herself, Wallis Eates, Babak Ganjei, Sally-Anne Hickman, Rachael Smith, Joe Decie and Jess Milton, one of my ‘Six UK Small Press Creators to Watch in 2015’ of course.
The first thing to highlight is that this is an offering that embraces welcome old school zine values in content (albeit with high production values in a tactile sense) with a focus that is more about contributors celebrating their devotion to the band for themselves rather than necessarily writing/creating with an audience primarily in mind. And that’s as it should be because as far as I’m concerned the term “zine” doesn’t simply describe a physical product – it’s indicative of a philosophy of approach. In this case a group of enthusiasts coming together to freely express what Sleater-Kinney mean to them in the format and style of their choosing.
In that regard this is obviously a rather disparate collection of material but that’s entirely appropriate as it underlines the unique connection that each artist and writer has for identifying with the group’s music and message. Writer Hannah K. Chapman and artist Jess Milton kick proceedings off with a defiantly frenzied two-page strip set at a karaoke competition placed against the aural backdrop of the ‘No Cities to Love’ lyrics. The unrelenting energy of Milton’s art here is one of the visual highs of the entire book (example below).
Other artists to take the words of Sleater-Kinney as a starting point include Sammy Borras (top banner image) who evokes a tangible sense of awe at watching the band playing ‘A New Wave’ live, and Rachael Smith whose realisation of ‘Price Tag’ (below left) moves from the literal to the metaphorical with a dreamlike fusion of text and imagery. Smith’s often understated control of the possibilities of the form never ceases to amaze.
While structuring mini-narratives around the lyrics of songs is often an interesting interpretive exercise the work that really stands out in this issue, though, is the material that spotlights a direct personal connection between the individual creators and their love for the spirit of the band. Scheele’s ‘Surface Envy’ (below right) – the strongest piece in Not a New Wave for me – fosters a sense of catharsis through inspiration, while Sarah Broadhurst’s single image dedication (below left) about seeing the Sleater-Kinney road sign the band took their name from for the first time is intensely touching in its emotional potency.
Given Broken Frontier’s focus I have concentrated mainly on the comics contained within Not a New Wave rather than the prose offerings but there’s plenty of written material to capture the imagination of the committed fans here, from Laura Snapes’ review of ‘No Cities to Love’ to Neasa’s account of the importance of Sleater-Kinney to her over a near two decade period, through to Scheele’s own reflections on what their music has represented for her.
Is Not a New Wave too niche for the casual reader not versed in its subject matter? Very possibly… but that’s really rather the point given its zine-style ethos. However, with comics from Scheele, Smith, Eates and Milton included – all of whom I consider as among the most vital presences working in the UK small press scene in 2015 – I would argue that anyone with even a passing interest in British self and micropublishing should be picking up Not a New Wave, regardless of their familiarity with its source of inspiration…
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One Beat Zines will be tabling at Safari Festival on August 22nd where they will have some all-new zine/comics material debuting plus this set of postcards (below) from Julia Scheele and a limited number of Girl Zine.