Gouge Away Offers Female-Fronted, Hardcore Music for Resistance, Education, and Awareness

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At the door where a sheet of paper reminds to "Mosh at Your Own Risk," no one is being turned away because of a lack of funds, and between-song banter is the kind normally reserved for a college gender-studies course. It's music as a means of resistance, education, and awareness.

The mission Gouge Away offers is a dominant female perspective. Toward the end of the set, as the song "Enough" (about Stily's personal experience with sexual assault), the audience sings along to the chorus in an act that is at once complete catharsis and a gigantic pushback to those who attempt to silence.

In a time of overwhelmingly no fux given, parents -- if this is where your kid is on a Saturday night -- you outta be proud.

It's this that has led the band in its short existence to be featured in (best blog ever) Fuck Yeah Female Fronted Hardcore and go on its first tour this summer, when it shared the stage with other female musicians in Cop Problem, Bitchmouth, and Appartition.

Each member comes to the band from other well-known projects (drummer Mikil Ford does vocals in Reveal Renew out of Tampa and the Dead Legs from Boca Raton; Victor sings in mathcore set Fero Lux; and there are other unnamed projects in the hopper for the others).

Gouge Away recently talked to New Times about the importance of giving a shit even when it can be seen as uncool, maintaining a scene, and what is next.

New Times: What were the reasons for wanting to start the band?

Christina Stijy: I was ranting to Victor about everything going on in the world and in music, and it ended with, "And that's why I need to start a band!" And he responded with, "OK, let's do it." The first people we had in mind were Kotu and Mikil, and they were all-in. We got together in December 2012 and released our first EP and started playing shows in March 2013.

Kotu Hell: In fall of 2011, I had just moved back to South Florida... I was working a shitty job and taking care of my mom while she was undergoing breast cancer treatment, and life was just weighing heavy. I had known Victor and Christina through Ben, the bassist in Fero Lux, who's been my best friend since middle school. So when they asked me to play bass in this band, it seemed like the perfect outlet for my personal, social, and political discontent.

Mikil Ford: I remember being at a Denny's after a show we'd all been at. Christina and Vic asked me if I'd want to play drums in a band with them and just write a few songs and play a couple of shows.

There seems to be a lot of South Florida pride and emphasis on maintaining a community here versus moving away like so many do. Why is it important?

Victor Skamiera: We've been a part of the South Florida hardcore scene for a decade now -- maybe not in this band, but others -- as well as booking, and being patrons of shows all over Florida. I personally want to see our scene thrive, and I wouldn't trade this for anything.

Christina Stijy: Yeah, some of us have had a hand in booking shows. I used to run a page called the Florida Scene for seven years before starting this band, and brought a lot of touring friends through here. Sometimes I want to move away to cities that have more female involvement and stuff like that, but then I also have the thought that if something is not the way that I want it to be, then I need to take ownership of it and make the change myself.

Kotu Hell: I really love Florida. I don't think there's another place on Earth like it. Besides the beautiful weather, it's wildly diverse here. So many different languages, cultures, music, food (as long as it's vegan), and I love it all. Growing up, I was always kind of culturally confused (in a good way), and I attribute that in large part to growing up here.

In punk/hardcore, lots of scenes are known for having a really distinct sound: NYC, Boston, L.A., Chicago, etc. I think in some ways, Florida has the same thing. You know a Miami band when you're listening to a Miami band. You know a Gainesville band when you're listening to a Gainesville band. I don't know if GA has a distinctly Florida sound, but I do know that some of my favorite bands just happen to also be Florida bands, and I take pride in being a part of that.

Mikil Ford: Some people are scared to speak out about things they believe in. No one wants to get picked on or be uncool and whatnot. We're just used to being in our safe zones, our goal being to push you out of that and know there's a whole bunch of people who are always backing you up and trying to be the best they can.

South Florida is not necessarily known as the most altruistic place (it is ranked last in 51 metro areas for volunteering), but you volunteer, have anti-oppression literature at shows, play benefit shows for nonprofits, talk about consent in between songs, make sure whoever wants to come to a show but doesn't have the funds gets in. Do you think that's a rarity here? How do you resist apathy, and what keeps you inspired to do better?

Victor Skamiera: I don't think it's a rarity. It may have been in the past, but I think all of the scenes in South Florida are connecting, growing, and looking out for one another. I think we're all just getting smarter and becoming more aware of our shitty world outside of our scene. I look at what we have at a really awesome show and think, "This is how our whole world could be," we just need to implement these beliefs on the street. And I think some kids are doing that these days.

Christina Stijy: I feel like our scene has definitely made progress, but I would like to see it continue, and I would like to see people take an interest in Food Not Bombs and Smash HLS, or keep asking what they can do to help. Putting myself in situations like the ones you mentioned helps me feel less hopeless in this negative world and more productive.

Kotu Hell: As much as I love Florida, I also acknowledge that it is way fucked up. I kind of come from an activist background, and so I believe in the following principles: One, think global, act local; two, be the change you want to see in the world; three, go where the work needs to be done. Hence, Florida. Although I do take a kind of twisted pride in all the crazy headlines out of Florida. I don't think our attitude is actually that rare at all. I think people like us often just feel so disconnected from like-minded people that we collectively end up feeling defeated.

Honestly, for me, having friends involved is the best way to stay motivated. If GA can make people feel a part of something bigger and better, keep people motivated and connected, then my job is done. But I do think the scene has changed immensely since I was kid. Seems as if the like-minded people have been organizing a lot. Kids are getting smarter or, at the very least, more sensitive. I hope to continue seeing that and being a part of it.

How did the Solid Sound show come about?

Christina Stijy: We don't really have many venues in South Florida anymore, and lots of people are trying to put their heads together to open a new place. We were doing the same, and we practice in that Solid Sound warehouse that the show was held in and always said that it would be a great spot for shows. So Victor took the initiative and went ahead and asked. That's all it took. 

Victor Skamiera: SSS used to have shows all the time, but they stopped a year or so ago. But we're going to keep running... As far as all-ages shows being important to us, yes, it is very important. It's hard to get people into their local music scene when they can't get in until they're 21. Screw that. By that time, it'll be too late; they'll have already gotten into Robin Thicke, Lil' Wayne, or some other garbage that Clear Channel tells them to like, and they'll most likely have little interest in going to a local show at that point.

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Terra Sullivan