There no doubt about it, Lene Cortina and Vim Renault, came pummeling in the music blog scene with their tenacious drive for articles about women in punk, what is punk, and celebrating women musicians. For these two, punk was never going to be dead. I first starting following them on Twitter promoting their blog, Punkgirldiaries, and discovered a force of nature and DIY spirit that refuses to die.
So Kapow!! It’s on to the quintessential blog of Punk GIRLS, celebrating all women singers and musicians that were, and still are, part of the punk movement. Lene and Vim even delve deep into what defines punk, or just celebrate female artists that personify punk. Whether you are old skool fans or new, see what inspires women to keep playing and being punks. Punk is a state of mind after all, isn’t it?
I caught up with them, very socially distanced, and asked them if they would talk about where they have been, what they are doing during the lockdown in the UK, and future projects.
Interview with Lene Cortina and Vim Renault
You can find Lene and Vim at https://punkgirldiaries.com/
Punkgirldiaries Blogzine Vol 1 now available, order onsite https://punkgirldiaries.com/store/
Also a Spotify playlist here
So how did the “I gotta blog about women in punk!” come about?
Lene – We’d already discovered through talking, that although we didn’t actually know each other as teenagers, there seemed to be so many parallels to our lives growing up. Whether that was listening to music, learning to play guitars, starting teenage bedroom bands, writing fanzines or doing art. We thought that if we felt this sense of shared history, then others might too. We were going to be in a band, but live too far apart, so the band became the blog. Vim – We knew at the start that it wasn’t going to be just about us, nor just an information blog about women who were punk musicians. The idea was to filter our experiences in the late ‘70s and ‘80s and also get across the feelings that we, and others had at that time. It was a way of regenerating fun!
You have a great digital presence and a great following, what made you want to do an old skool ‘Zine?
Lene – We liked the idea of producing a printed document, something more permanent, and also something that wouldn’t just disappear whenever the internet packs up! Vim-The digital world has made so many things much quicker and easier, but physical products have that visceral quality. We’re all for the pleasure of rippling through a ‘zine! People’s eyes are so much better at focussing in and out of graphics on a page than zooming in digitally. Hopefully the punkgirldiaries blog is a good read, but the printed zine is a treat for the eyes!
What are some future projects you may be developing?
Lene – Punkgirldiaries Blogzine 1 was published in May 2020, and we’re already working on laying out Blogzine 2. Vim – We do still want to be in a band together and hope to do a one-off single sometime as a start! Some established older women artists carry on writing and performing past their 40s, 50s, 60s even ….. but women that age don’t tend to start new bands in the way that teenagers do. Now the zine’s a reality, let’s form a band!
What has been your greatest challenge in keeping your blog full of great content?
Lene – Probably time. Enthusiasm and ideas have never been a problem. Vim – In 2018, we blogged nearly every day for a year, despite us both having full-time jobs. There’d be a race on to get something researched, written and posted for 8pm and we kind of synched it together. If one of us had a busy week at work, the other would write more posts. As the year went on, though, our standards rose. The first posts were really short, with maybe a link to a video. By the end of 2018, we’d set a standard of researching widely, taking our own angle on things and aiming for high writing standards!
Have you met any of your music heroes as a result of your publishing? Any great followers you were astounded checked you out?
Vim – Sorry not really. We’re still relatively small and unknown … or should we say ‘cult’?
Anything you can tell us about your daily routine to stay sane in our current global lockdown? How have your music habits been affected?
Lene – Both of our normal daily routines have been put on hold throughout lockdown, hence we’ve had more time to devote to the blog and the zine. Vim – We had discussed the idea of producing a printed zine, but with plenty of spare time, we were able to produce the whole thing in just over a month and it helped keep us both focussed and sane. Lene–In terms of music habits, I think the time at home has allowed both of us to catch up on current sounds as well as old favourites, and we’ve both been listening to BBC Radio 6 music. Vim has also been playing her guitar in a field.
The first record bought?
Lene – David Bowie or TRex probably
Vim – Parents bought me Bay City Rollers and Abba. But a Patrick Fitzgerald EP I’d heard John Peel play was the first I can remember buying myself.
How did you listen to new music when you were young?
Vim – All music was new music when I was young. My parents had records but they didn’t listen to them. I remember listening on a stereogram – which was like a big piece of furniture – to The Beatles, Four Tops, The Supremes. But also Radio 1 was on a lot and I used to sing along to that. Friends were very influential, and most of my punk listening was done at other, much cooler friends’ houses who always had the key singles and a record player. I had a cassette player, but when the Sony Walkman came out, I wouldn’t get one because I didn’t like headphones – and I still don’t.
First gig you went to? Who were you with and what did you wear?
Lene – Adverts – Slough College – October 1979. My first, their last.
Vim – School English trip to see John Cooper Clarke (with Warsaw supporting) doesn’t really count, so Young Marble Giants at Nottingham Boat House 1980 – although strangely, I’d been playing gigs with my band The Devices before I’d actually been to see a gig! No idea what I wore – maybe the Royal Navy jacket with the stuffed budgerigar on it – see below.
Favorite bands or artists in your youth?
Lene – Buzzcocks, Slits, Dolly Mixture, Adverts, X-Ray Spex
Vim– Buzzcocks, Raincoats, Au Pairs, Gang of Four, Selector, Elvis Costello
Favorite music venues?
Lene – Currently -100 Club London, The Lexington London.
Vim – Used to love The Charlotte in Leicester (now closed) I like it when venues have a community purpose as well, like the Hebden Bridge Trades Club, the 1 in 12 Club in Bradford. Always prefer very small venues or ones with theatre seats; I’m over pogoing or even standing amongst hundreds of tall sweaty men.
Music venues you are dying to go to?
Vim – I really prefer to be in the band. It is so much more fun than just watching! So I am looking forward to getting a band together and playing some big outdoor festivals maybe even next year. Or maybe I could just slip down to do solo acoustic at the lovely local venues in Leicester – The Musician, The Soundhouse, Music Café, The Donkey, The Shed, The Cookie, Firebug – hoping that they all survive!
What would be your fantasy gig if space and time continuum allowed? If money were no object, who would you go see and where?
Lene – X Ray Spex on the Moon.
Vim – A relaxed afternoon that had periods of silence interspersed with top songwriters popping by for 10 minutes to sing a couple of songs, giving me time to think about them. I think I’d need a bass player (Carole Kaye – Wrecking Crew) and drummer (Cat Myers – Mogwai) to back up the piano/guitar. But it would include Elvis Costello, Carole King, Bob Marley, Laura Nyro .. but maybe some newer ones too – Billie Eilish, Sia, Alicia Keys … for me it’s all about the songs and my ears are too wrecked for noise now!
Vinyl, cassette, or digital fiend?
Lene – They all have their uses, I’m a fan of all of them for different reasons.
Vim – I am not someone who constantly listens to music. There seems to be music in my head which is quite good to listen to, and I’m constantly singing classic old songs from all eras. I woke up singing ‘Sheena is a punk rocker’ today. So, deliberately putting on some music is a bit of a faff for me. I frequently check things out digitally, but I do love a 7” vinyl.
Did you take up an instrument(s) and teach yourself to play because of a band?
Lene – Of course! But not one particular band. I liked bands like Dolly Mixture or the Buzzcocks for their structured songs with a catchy chorus, but at the same time, I loved The Slits for their raw power.
Vim – It was an awareness that girls were doing it – probably The Raincoats that convinced me I could do it. I never had lessons but now I think it’s probably a good idea for girls to learn conventionally after your first experimentation so that you can survive in the music industry long-term.