Local Produce: Vagina Dry

Local Produce: Vagina Dry

Vagina Dry are the new leaders of Ōtepoti Riot Grrrl music. Fronted by El (she/they) on vocals and guitar, she spits forth a political and intersectional feminist message in their lyrics. Backed by Caleb (he/him) on drums and Reef (he/him) on bass, in a short amount of time they have become one of the most recognisable names in the Dunedin punk scene due to a passionate sound and memorable name. Critic Te Ārohi talked to the band about a new album, opening for Dartz, and the political importance of their music. 

Vagina Dry has only been together for a short time, but after a consistent run of gigs they have managed to find their sound and style of feminist punk. “We started around early November last year,” says Caleb. El is a big fan of the Riot Grrrl bands, especially Bikini Kill, which inspired them to start a similar band. “I look up to Kathleen Hana a lot,” says El. “I wanted to have the same powerful lyrics.” Vagina Dry wants to normalise women in the Dunedin music scene, minority voices in music, and intersectionality. “There’s often the token women bass player which somehow makes the band diverse, but the lead voice is a cis het man. It doesn’t represent the struggle women, trans, and non-binary people have to go through to make music.”

The band manages to stick out due to their use of a provocative word. The name came from Caleb trying to be involved with current lingo, particularly the saying ‘Vagina Slay’. “I’m very oblivious to all the lingo, and I saw something that was lame and said that was vagina dry. Reef said that should be the band name.” While provocative, El hopes to normalise the word vagina, saying, “When people refer to our band, they’re saying the word vagina and it’s not a big issue. Everyone treats it as such a dirty word but it’s just normal. People need to stop tearing down our posters because they say vagina.” It has, however, made marketing and booking gigs more difficult. Caleb mentions how he managed to book a gig on the Interislander: “They said we couldn’t use that name and we had to be family friendly. I said our name was ‘Dunedin Riot Grrrl Band’. The name is good for shock value.”

But Vagina Dry is far more than just a name, snagging a spot opening for one of New Zealand's biggest alternative bands DARTZ. “The experience was actually pretty horrible for me,” says El. “I was talking about pretty important issues like the Palestine conflict, reproductive rights, the problems with white feminism and it was dead silence with men just staring at me. They didn’t want me to speak. It was hard to get through that.” El did not worry too hard about “beer punk” (a term they define as people who just want to get drunk and not hear the message behind the music) because earlier in the day the band had started to record an album. “It was stressful because we were recording live so if someone messed up we had to start again,” says El. Caleb adds, “We spent an hour and a half on one song but it’s all done now, post production stuff is just needed.” 

Vagina Dry has upcoming gigs on May 10th at Inch Bar for Drag! Music! You can follow Vagina Dry on Instagram @thevaginadryband to keep up to date with gigs and music releases.

This article first appeared in Issue 9, 2024.
Posted 10:32pm Friday 26th April 2024 by Jordan Irvine.