Boat Show are just a couple of mates from Perth calling out the bullshit. Making music in their hometown of Fremantle, the band began with vocalist Ali Flintoff and a single revelation: punk music can be an incredible kind of self-care.
Dealing with feelings of frustration and the inescapable mansplaining of society’s systems, Groundbreaking Masterpiece serves as a dazzling induction to Boat Show’s sonic world—their grating energy, set by the clashing chords of Jenny Aslett and Naomi Robinson, smoothed down by the progressive rhythms of Indigo Foster-Tuke and token boy, George Foster. Of course, this space is contorted and stretched by Ali’s songwriting, led by her quick-witted lyrics about daily ironies, feelings and the day-to-day slump of speaking out.
Discussing Groundbreaking Masterpiece, we spoke to Ali to chat about the debut, Perth’s expanding music scene and pushing aside punk traditions.
Hey Alison! I listened to Groundbreaking Masterpiece and I felt so many things. How did Boat Show first come about?
It’s funny, we’ve only been playing together since October last year. Boat Show came together because I was writing a bunch of music and I just wanted to play heaps of gigs. I was writing a lot of pop music previously, but then I created this one punky song about my ex—which was ‘Serious’, the first track on the album—and I realised: this is so much fun to play and it was so therapeutic to write about that shit.
Do you think your friendship has created a safe space to explore your feelings and music as self-care?
Yeah, definitely. Since starting Boat Show I feel like it has empowered me and my whole. I’ve become a lot more confident as a person and I feel like I can talk about things—I think it empowers the others in the band too. We all feel like we can say anything now without getting shut down. I think the music has helped verbalise it… before that, it was a little bit scary to say anything—if you say anything, you’ll probably get into a fight with someone. I feel like with Boat Show, people know where we stand and what we’re standing for… it came through in the music.
For you, has creating or listening to punk music always been very personal?
No, not at all. I grew up listening to ’90s pop, shoegaze and dreamy shit. I had a brief punk phase a few years ago, but it was only until I wrote ‘Serious’ that I started getting involved.
At 22, is it strange now to be entering a space that is so historically masculine?
I was thinking about this the other day, because in Perth we’re not really in the punk scene—we’re more in the indie scene, supporting other diverse bands. There’s a proper punk scene here and a lot of that for a while was lots of men. It can definitely be seen as a big dude-y thing, which is what empowers me when I’m now running around and playing and realising that I can do this too, so fuck you.
Totally. Do you think the Australian music scene has more room for political conversations?
Yeah, it’s kind of overwhelming—Jenny and I recently were groped at a local venue and called it out—but it’s happening so much in the music scene and so is this discussion. I’m kind of wondering how this conversation though can go beyond, to people who aren’t in these communities. The incident with Jenny and I happened because the top balcony was sealed off and all these strangers attending the club came down to the basement, not having anything to do with the music and only wanting a place to drink.
I’m so sorry you had to deal with that bullshit. I feel like your track ‘Cis White Boy’ has a lot to do with this culture of entitlement. Was this single something you felt directed at this discourse?
It started off really general, but I definitely now relate this to a few guys that I know in the scene. There’s a lot of guys in the scene who can’t handle strong women, and in the scene they try and make you feel really small. They actively make you feel like you don’t matter. If Boat Show get a cool gig, they’d complain, “why are Boat Show getting that gig? They’ve only been a band for five months! What about us?” They think they’re entitled to things just because they’ve always been given what they want.
Going off that, ’Staying Alive’ is my personal favourite from the album. The lyrics just blew me away. Have you always been one to call out bullshit? Was it something you had to unlearn?
I have always called out bullshit in my own friendship circle, but I’ve never been one to do it on Facebook until recently. ‘Staying Alive’ is more about this—seeing threads online and having friends making a status that’s really important, but always having that one person making it always end up as a fight. In a way, you can’t do anything… you can’t write something totally morally awesome without someone putting you down. It’s about feeling scared to even comment on things.
I really get that. For me, keeping silent is definitely something I’ve had to unlearn. For example, if someone were to make a pass at me, my natural reaction when I was younger would be to laugh it off. It’s only now I’ve realised that hey, hang on, you can’t fucking do that.
Yes! Yes, man. That is exactly me and all my friends. We all used to shove it off and you don’t even think about it, but then you realise it’s so not okay. I think I only became feminist two years ago because I was brought up in a pretty bogan family and you just get conditioned to think certain ways. Everyone needs to actually research feminism themselves, and I think it’s important to go out and research things properly yourself.
I couldn’t agree more. When you sat down with the band to write ‘Groundbreaking Masterpiece’, did you all have a clear idea where you wanted to head?
I think I wrote one song and it fed into the next and it fed into another and it emerged with this theme of feminism. It wasn’t an agenda, it was just so easy to write those songs and to stay at home and write all these demos for the band. I’ve never made an album before…but it came really naturally.
If you had to describe ‘Groundbreaking Masterpiece’ in three words, what would it be?
Women power. That’s two words. Maybe, women power, full-stop?