Cat Valley: Louder than loud
by Autumn Marceau
photo by Jonathan Hucke
Anger. That was the first word to come from the mouths of Abby Hegge and Whitney Flinn when asked what empowered them to write music that is as honest and unequivocally feminist as Cat Valley’s. “We just get so angry, we can’t shut up about it,” Hegge continued. Although her response was masked in laughter, the staidness of her words rings like an ear-splitting bell in the head of any woman who has tried make music in this male dominated industry.
Cat Valley, the surf-y, feminist pop-punk trio of Abby Hegge, Whitney Flinn and Melanie Sehmen, describes themselves as a band who “writes songs about cat-calling, misogyny, and trying to get off in our modern day patriarchy.” Previously they had recorded with drummer Sam Bolt, who eventually had to move out of town. But, chance would have them meet Sehman while all three were at Girls Rock Camp.
Originally, the trio began as Hegge and Flinn, who met after playing a house show together. “[Whitney] played her beautiful harp music and I cried, and I played my guitar music and she cried,” said Hegge. They decided to have this jam on Flinn’s porch, and wrote their first song, entitled “Fuck You.” Hegge described the encounter, saying they were berated by a neighbor who complained about them “cussing in the street” while his young daughter was within earshot. Hegge had responded, “this is for her!” given the song is about cat-calling. Hegge laughed, saying “I guess we were singing pretty loudly.”
And it’s this loudness that fuels their sound. Not only in the sense of volume, but in the unabashed reverberations of women who deserve to have their voices to heard. Their newest single, “Cat Valley,” from their upcoming self-titled EP illustrates this perfectly. The surf-inspired, groovy and melodic guitars draw you in. You nod your head to the rhythms as the lyrics weave their message in your ears. Flinn delivers the line “Did we say too much? Did we make you blush?” in a sassy, angelic croon. Cat Valley proclaims their message with intention, without remorse.
Hegge and Flinn’s musical collaboration has always been one with purpose. The isolation that comes with being a non-male musician in an industry heavily saturated with men can be harrowing. But Cat Valley has never had any intention of staying silent or complacent in a scene that is rightfully theirs as much as anyone else’s. “From the very beginning, there was never any doubt in my mind that we were going to be a band. This isn’t a bedroom project, we’re doing this, we’re going to be in the scene. Shut the fuck up and listen to us,” said Flinn. She continued, “to me it was a serious thing, because it’s always been really magical and powerful to write with Abby.” Hegge agreed, saying their guitar styles are complementary to each other. She turned to Flinn to say, “Whenever you’re playing, I can feel where you’re going and go there myself. It’s very intuitive, it doesn’t feel like work, at all”.
Unfortunately, despite the importance or relevance of a band’s message, sometimes the words fall on deaf ears. “When we play a bill with all-dude bands, we’ll talk to other musicians afterwards and they’ll either put us on a pedestal so they can’t interact with us, or they’ll just not give a shit at all. There’s always a separation,” said Hegge. Flinn expanded on this, “ I think if you’re trying to have a specific message that is political, it becomes something where people feel like they can’t approach you. They think, ‘oh, that band is just aggressive, or they just want to male-bash us.” But Cat Valley does not make music for those who would prefer their silence. They write music to give themselves a voice, to connect and reach other people whose experiences mirror their own. Flinn says, “when we have femmes or queers coming up to us after shows to say that it felt good to hear someone else saying these things, that’s what’s really motivational.”
Cat Valley by Cat Valley will be released on Sept. 15, with an EP release party at the Alternative Library including Porch Cat, Wigs, and Supermissive. Follow them on social media for more details.