The Submissives: Montreal’s Subversive Art-Pop Girl Group
New album “Do You Really Love Me?” from Fixture Records
by Katie Ingegneri
Photography by Linx Selby
“The Submissives succumb to man’s every whim. Yearning for love and attention, they stagger blindly, tethered hopeless to a domestic mirage. They suffer with longing and pine for the boy who burdens them with this undying lovesickness.”
It’s time to submit to The Submissives: a conceptual girl group playing the music of experimental Montreal bedroom pop artist Deb Edison.
I first stumbled across The Submissives via the Twitter page of indie rock band Ought. Like me, Ought are Americans who went to McGill University in Montreal, but unlike me, are still based there and are a part of the excellent music and art scene. They were playing a show with The Submissives and posted a video, and I was immediately entranced.
A girl group, all in monochromatic color, playing artsy, retro lo-fi pop songs and spoken monologues about boys, slightly out of tune, mostly unmoving on stage — where do I sign up? I’m super into this whole c0ncept, like Virgin Suicides meets Nico and the Velvet Underground. With song titles like “My Boyfriend,” “Boys, Boys, Boys,” and “Perfect Woman,” The Submissives foreground lovesick submission to boys and relationships in a way that is both ironic and refreshingly straightforward. Doesn’t get any more subversive than naming your pop band The Submissives.
But while The Submissives in their videos and live performances are a six-piece band, it’s actually the project of Deb Edison, who wrote and recorded all the “warped lovesick pop tunes” — and the band members are mostly “non-musicians,” just like Sonic Youth and other art kids who pick up instruments as part of alternative modes of performance. As Deb said in her interview with Noisey, “I used to play in bands that were complete random noise, and for that, it’s about having the idea really solid in your mind, and knowing what you want to tell people sub-consciously.” She notes that she had been in more experimental noise groups before and that moving to writing pop songs was “really addictive.”
There’s something really appealing and refreshing to me about the style and approach of this project that foregrounds the feelings and lovesickness and Male Gaze oppression that comes with being a girl, and particularly a girl who loves men, in this male-dominated world of ours. And personally, I’m so saturated in dude bands, listening to dude bands, and hanging out with dude bands that listening to The Submissives is like a breath of fresh air, a project that I feel in my bones as a “crazy girl,” as we pretty much all are.
As Deb said to Noisey, “I came up with the band name before I did any of this stuff. And I knew that was the main idea: to submit to the boys. To play for them and dress up pretty for them just to see what happens. Maybe that’s easier; maybe that’s the way you’re supposed to do it.”
The Submissives’ new album, “Do You Really Love Me?” is out September 9th on Fixture Records, which, according to their bio page, “is run by Conor and Tessa from our apartment in Montreal, Canada.” DIY labels are the best, and I’m so psyched to be learning about more outside my Chicago bubble — particularly in my old home city of four years. Hoping The Submissives bring this show on the road so I can check them out for real, but maybe it’s a good excuse to go back and visit Canada, eh?