Once again, it comes back to Kathleen Hanna. She put her performance poetry to music because, she was told, it was a better way of making people listen. Not everyone cares about poetry, not everyone cares about activism, but a hell of a lot of people care about music. If there’s something you have to say, a song’s not a bad way to do it – it’s fun, it’s digestible, and it’s beautifully communal.
Being in a band gives you a way to make yourself heard. It gives you power. Softcult know this, and they’re determined to use it wisely.
“Whether you realise it or not, [when you’re in a band] you have influence over people,” asserts Mercedes. “They’re listening to what you have to say, and how you choose to influence people is very important. You can’t take it lightly – you have a responsibility to use that power wisely.”
Softcult’s thirst for change isn’t just confined to their music – it spills onto paper. In a further homage to the riot grrrl era, they started their own zine as a way of expanding on their message and connecting with their fanbase, when they couldn’t see them staring back from the crowd. “It’s funny, because when I was a kid, I always really liked doing collage,” recalls Phoenix, whose childhood hobby has since grown and changed with them. “We started it in quarantine, so it’s not like we could really outsource too much, so Mercedes and I just did it ourselves.”
Inside the zine, Softcult expand on the meanings and context behind their music, as well as the issues that inspire their songs. They signpost relevant charities and resources and invite fans to be a part of it too, recently allowing them to submit art for inclusion in the zine. It can be accessed online and ordered in the post, and when they were finally able to play live, they handed them out at shows.
“It’s a piece of nostalgia, because a lot of people who were our age in the ’90s, that’s how they discovered new bands and ideas,” says Mercedes. “We read so much news and, honestly, propaganda on our devices. We like having something [like a zine] that’s tangible.”