“You Can’t Play Metal in a Pink Dress.” An Interview with Mares of Thrace

Mares of Thrace are a two-piece metal band hailing from Calgary, Alberta. No novices, band members Thérèse Lanz and Stef MacKichan have been playing extremely heavy music together for nearly ten years, finding their roots in riot grrrl punk. Besides being phenomenal players in their field, they are also feminist minded and fashion conscious women who quite literally know how to rock pink. Mares of Thrace and Jenna Wornette caught up for beers on a patio and vintage shopping in the Annex to chat about fashion, subculture, and sexism.

Who or what inspires your style?
Thérèse: I really like Victorian stuff and a lot of Japanese street fashion, even though it’s one of those things I admire in theory but would never ever wear in a million years. There is a pretty big gap between my fashion theoretically and my fashion in practice. There are things that make the aesthetic part of my brain hum, but I know that it’s always going to come down to jeans and a t-shirt, because I’m constantly moving heavy stuff, and being in filthy dirty places. I really like DIY fashion – it’s kind of my financial Achilles heel. If these things were on a rack in any other store at the mall I would never shell out this much money for them, but here it’s someone’s art! I have a tradition that every time I come to Toronto on tour I try and find a DIY garment and buy it as a souvenir.

Stef: Honestly, I never thought I would do an interview about fashion in a million years! What guides my fashion sense is cost and being a drummer. Everything needs to be comfortable, loose fitting and inexpensive.

Is there a difference between what you wear on stage and the rest of the time?
Thérèse: It depends on the occasion. I mean, at the inception of this music act, we sort of adopted the dress as reclaiming traditional femininity; in the name of strength and competence and being empowered. I’ve heard people say stuff like, “oh that band makes this band sound like they wear skirts,” when talking about a heavy band, implying that this then makes this band seem lame and weak. So we were like “fuck that we’re going to be heavy AND wear skirts!” So in a way we wanted to re-appropriate the dress and the frilly skirt as an iconic thing but unfortunately that doesn’t always work out in practice.

Stef: I tried to wear bows for awhile every time we played on stage. I got pink drums. Just as a good ol’ “up yours.”

Thérèse: I once heard someone say “she can’t play metal in a pink dress,” and as soon as I heard that, I knew that I was going to wear a pink dress as often as I could. On tours sometimes when you’re tired and feeling a little worn down it’s hard to want to spruce yourself up.

Stef: Plus there’s only so much you can do when you haven’t showered in a few days. We just drove in the van for 12 hours.

Thérèse: And no one has an iron anywhere for hundred kilometers.

You were talking about femininity and girlishness in metal culture. Do you think guys who play metal have to deal with any other comparable fashion or clothing issues?
Thérèse: I always thought subculture was about non-conformity, but I find that in some subgenres the pressure to conform is stifling. You get made fun of if you’re not wearing the uniform. And that bums me out.

Do you think there’s a certain stereotype about “men in metal” and “women in metal”?
Thérèse: There’s a plethora of stereotypes! I would call metal the most sexist of all the subgenres. It seems to me pretty much if you’re a dude you need to have long hair and a beard and a black shirt with a spiky logo on it. And if you’re a woman there’s somewhat of a dichotomy. You either look like a guy, and are treated as such, or you have to wear a corset, knee high platform boots, and PVC hot pants. So when we were pink ruffles and peter pan collars, people are confused and don’t know what to make of it.

Which is good! There’s a theorist named Dick Hebdige who suggested that subcultural style is supposed to be a signification of disorder. Things are supposed to break moulds and confuse you but a lot of the time it ends up being more about conformity.
Thérèse: I understand that a lot of the time its easier to identify people with similar interests. It’s a tribal thing. If I go to a bar in a strange town and I see someone with a swans shirt and like a biomech forearm sleeve, then Ill probably know that I can talk to them. There’s good and bad, but I don’t like any sort of overarching pressure to conform to anything.

What does the way you dress say about you?
Thérèse: In our younger years, I definitely felt a certain pressure to butch up in order to be taken seriously. In terms of fashion now I’m pretty girly, so we made the decision that androgyny should not be a requisite for equality. We can be girly and competent and heavy as fuck and that’s what we would like to present to people.

Stef: I wanted pink drums. and I thought maybe because of that people wouldn’t take me seriously. Now I just don’t care – watch me hit these pink drums harder than anyone else in this room.

Thérèse: There’s a cultural thing here too. My mom’s Filipino. Part of what being a Filipino woman, according to my mom (who could be full of shit), is paying attention to fashion and hair and makeup and grooming and very traditional femininity. So when I was a riot grrrl teen, I rebelled against that. I find in adulthood I have whole-heartedly embraced it.

How did you dress when you were a kid?
Thérèse: When I was a teenager I wore cut off punk rock shirts and pajama pants and rubber boots and I gave myself a Chelsea with pair of scissors over the kitchen sink. I later dyed the Chelsea with a bingo dabber.

Stef: When I was 12, I wore very large parachuted lime green army pants and had multi-coloured dreadlocks and lots of chains. It was very punk rock. Everything had to be punk rock.

By the end of our chat (and the end of our beers) Mares of Thrace and I were pretty excited about what we had discussed – it’s not every day a doom metal band meets a fashion magazine.
Thérèse: Talking about fashion is awesome! I didn’t think I cared about it for years and years, and then one day suddenly I was like hey this is great! And all the stuff I subconsciously absorbed from my mom my whole life – all the lessons were still there and they were timeless lessons. As a feminist, women’s studies academic type little angry girl, for the longest time I viewed fashion as a tool of subjugation, but it was much later that I started viewing it as a tool of self expression. Like as a positive art form, but it took a long time and it’s a fine line to walk.

Interview by Jenna Danchuk
Images by Brittany Lucas
Special Thanks to Brianne Burnell

5 thoughts on ““You Can’t Play Metal in a Pink Dress.” An Interview with Mares of Thrace

  1. When I started reading this, I found a really great line and thought, “yeah, I’m going to quote this and comment on it.” Except that every question had a line like that. Where to I begin?

    This interview made me so, so happy on a bunch of levels. The idea of wanting to be “girly and competent” comes up in all kinds of fields and situations–it’s so common for people to think you can’t lift anything heavy if you’ve got cute shoes. It’s infuriating (but fun to mess with people’s expectations). And not wanting to conform to any one uniform–frills one day, flannel the next–resonates, too.

    Everything I’ve read here is amazing. “We can be girly and competent and heavy as fuck and that’s what we would like to present to people.” Hear, hear.

  2. I love it when women embrace fashion and femininity. Down with the whole ‘girly is frivolous’ nonsense! – Mai

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