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So Pretty are a DIY feminist punk rock band from Chicago who not only make a fabulous raucous noise but are also community activists in their own right, creating their own arts space for women and trans individuals.

Guitarist Rachel Manter, who got in touch via to tell us about Don't Give Up the Ship, describes it as a song "about how evil banks are and the system is not set up to help people get out of poverty, but we have to get through".

Not being familiar with the aphorism that gives the song its name, I asked Rachel to explain.

"The term Don't Give Up the Ship is one that James (my brother) and I grew up with," says Rachel, who founded the band with Ashley Holman. "It's a phrase from the war of 1812. Commodore Perry's battleship, the USS Niagara, had those words on the flag. Our grandmother lived on the island Put-In-Bay, near the battle, so the island has replicas of the flag and we knew the history growing up. It really became the phrase that you don't give up on what you have. You keep going."

There's a real sense of pushed-to-the-edge desperation about Don't Give Up the Ship, a near-hysterical caving in under the pressure of everyday life. Bass player James Seminara sings lead vocals on this track and fans of Captain Beefheart's delirious babbling or the gravel-voiced storytelling of Tom Waits will love it; and I was also reminded of Faith No More's lugubrious, nihilistic white-trash vignette RV, from the album Angel Dust. The lyric "Sit the fuck down and learn your place, That's all they ever taught in school" brought to mind Mike Patton growling "I think it's time I had a talk with my kids. I'll just tell 'em what my daddy told me. You ain't never gonna amount to nothin'".


Though they've only been gigging for two years, So Pretty have already founded their own arts rehearsal rooms which have blossomed into the Pretty Pit a "safe space" for women/trans/femmes/non-binary/fem-identified individuals based around "Skill Shares" where musicians, artists and artisans are invited into an environment where they can pass on their talents, learn new ones and collaborate on new projects without judgement or ridicule.

"I think it's threatening to a lot of men who have been in control of a scene," founder Ashley Holman told Jill Hopkins of Vocalo Music in an interview you can find on Soundcloud. "Men who have been in control of ideas and creativity.... Any time a group of women decided to just circumvent the problem and be like 'Now, we're just gonna do this ourselves', it's always going to get a lot of backlash. We've gotten some pretty horrible names thrown at us. But it actually inspires me more. Because I'm like 'Okay everybody, can everybody now see why we need this place?' Right? This is exactly why."

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About the curator: Jon Ewing

After graduating from the University of Keele in England with a degree in Politics and American Studies, Jon worked as editor of a music and entertainment magazine before spending several years as a freelance writer and, with the advent of the internet, a website designer, developer and consultant. He lives in Reading, home to one of the world's most famous and long-running music festivals, which he has attended every year since 1992.