Welcome to the Black Parade: 4 Alt Acts of Color Dismantling Societal Rules
This feature is in the March/April Next Wave Issue. Click here to subscribe.
Black women have been foundational to rock, punk, and emo culture since the subgenres’ creation. Now, through sound, style, and even their way of being, the following artists represent a new generation of alternative artists—using hair, makeup, clothes, and music to dismantle societal rules.
British alt-rock duo Nova Twins, whose sophomore album Supernova arrives on June 17. PHOTO BY JAMIE WATERS
“Black women in today’s rock, punk scene, we never saw representation,” guitarist Amy Love, of British DIY alt-rock duo Nova Twins (@novatwinsmusic), explains, adding, “We had to navigate differently to be able to exist.” Bassist Georgia South agrees, sharing that instead of attempting to fit in, they “rebelled even more,” showing up to festivals in bright clothes and embracing bright hues in their “massive hair,” to fight stereotypes. Their DIY ethos is not only crucial to their sound but their style as well. They make their own clothing for the performances, something that started by customizing their ripped jeans with safety pins but eventually escalated to full outfits ornamented with buttons, zips and even paint. For the gritty “Antagonist” video in 2021, they created silver looks to represent armor and were even conscious about how they styled their hair. “It’s quite a rock-y track, so we wanted to wear fros because you don’t necessarily see fros with rock music,” Love says, adding, “So when young girls see us we’re sitting there being loud, Black and proud.”
A press image of Amindi. PHOTO BY MYAI ANTHONY
Growing up in Los Angeles, Amindi’s (@amindi) first fashion influences were the girls she saw in South Central. “I love Dickies and [Nike] Cortezes, and when I had hair, I wore big bamboo earrings,” the artist says. Since then, she’s made that look her own, dying her buzzed cut in light hues that reflect the phrase she coined to describe her music, “pastel rap.” Though her current staples (bleached blond hair, black hoodie and sweatpants) and music (fusing influences from rap, rock and R&B) can be described as alternative, she’s not interested in labels. “What people think I am has nothing to do with me,” she says. “As a Black woman, I feel like we’re known to be the blueprint. So, I’m making a wave and you can hop on, or not. I’m going to be doing what I’m doing either way.”
Guitarist bassist Téa Campbell, vocalist Edith Johnson and drummer Ada Juarez of Meet Me @ The Altar MEET ME @ THE ALTAR PHOTO BY JIMMY FONTAINE
Rico Nasty’s (@riconasty) style, as it relates to both her music and aesthetic, has always embodied punk, donning mohawks or spiked-up hair and performing with a combination of gritty vocals and hardcore shrieks. Songs like “Rage” from 2018’s Nasty mixtape, which signals a mosh pit during her live set, represent righteous anger and rebelliousness, traits that have long been seen as harmful attributes for Black women to embrace, traits that Rico puts on full display. Her alternative style didn’t come overnight, however, and not without a fair amount of confidence. She told The Fader in 2018, “I’ve been imagining spikes in my head since I was 13 years old,” before confidently explaining what sets her apart from her contemporaries, adding, “You don’t have the balls to walk outside looking like this.”
Rico Nasty performs at the 30th anniversary of Lollapalooza on Aug. 1, 2021, in Chicago, Ill. RICO NASTY PHOTO BY JOSH BRASTED/FILMMAGIC
Meet Me @ The Altar
“With my hair, I want to send a message that alternative Black people exist,” Edith Johnson, frontwoman of Meet Me @ The Altar (@mmataband), shares, noting her trademark colorful braids. “I’m not going out of my way to not wear protective styles. I want people to know they can be a Black person, with protective styles, and they can be considered emo.” Johnson got her first taste of individual expression through fashion when she joined the alternative music scene. Now, through leading a pop-punk band and embracing a signature style of “baggy jeans, Vans, black lipstick, and eccentric makeup,” she’s unapologetically shifting the face of that scene for good. “I break the rules by not being afraid of a subculture that didn’t originally invite me in,” Johnson shares. “I don’t care if you invite me or not. I’m going to be here.”
The Nova Twins PHOTO BY SHEA MCCHRYSTAL