Shawna Potter has done many great things in the music industry: from playing in a Bikini Kill cover band as a fun side project to championing safer spaces and bystander intervention at shows to fronting Baltimore hardcore darlings War On Women.
However, Potter never thought she would get to work with one of her biggest influences.
War On Women are set to release their sophomore album, Capture the Flag, on April 13 via Bridge Nine Records. The album contains the same great in-your-face feminist punk style as their self-titled debut from 2015 but, this time, with more guest vocals from a diverse group of women.
One such guest vocalist is Burning Angel founder Joanna Angel, a friend of the band’s bassist Sue Werner. Potter says the two have been friends since they were kids, and the band have all grown close to Angel throughout the years. Another supporting vocalist is guitarist Brooks Harlan’s 13-year-old daughter Eva, who assisted the band with some spirited yelling and screaming.
However, Potter is most excited to share the microphone with her childhood hero and fellow feminist punk icon Kathleen Hanna, who guests on the pre-released song “YDTMHTL” or “You Don’t Tell Me How to Live.” Potter says she met Hanna while playing Riot Fest together in 2016. The two have kept in contact over the years via social media, so Potter decided to reach out to her to be a part of Capture the Flag. “It’s such a perfect 14-year-old STEM punk fuck-you song,” Potter says. “What’s cool about doing things like this today is she could record it at home on her own and email us the tracks. If we had to rely on being in the same room, we might not have had any guest vocals.”
War On Women’s previous record featured songs about street harassment, reproductive rights, critiques of the government, and many issues women and other oppressed peoples consistently face. Potter wanted to use the microphone as her platform to release her anger while also amplifying the importance of these problems.
“It just seemed like, at the time, politically, there was so much to be pissed off about,” she states. “I couldn’t understand why more people weren’t fucking pissed about cisgender men limiting the rights of people who have a uterus. It just doesn’t make sense to me that they would have a say in that at all. I felt like I was growing up and the world didn’t revolve around me and there were all these issues that affected other people too, and it was just—at the time, I just needed, mentally, to get this stuff out, and it made sense to us to do it with music that was a bit heavy, because I think we are righteously angry about these things. We’ve just been keeping up that momentum.”
Potter and the band strive to make their shows a safer space for their fans, encouraging them to speak up if they are ever threatened. She says it is important for them to know that War On Women will continue to believe them and fight to protect them. The group also encourage others to create safer spaces within their communities and hope to play more shows on college campuses, allowing students to have Q&A sessions with the band after their performance.
Capture the Flag is the next level for War On Women, continuing to spread important messages for the feminist movement and addressing problems we continue to face today. “I think it’s a natural progression from the last album; we aren’t repeating the same songs, whether it’s subject matter or musically,” Potter shares. “We keep pushing ourselves, and we keep trying to keep it interesting for people listening. Unfortunately, my anger about this stuff has not subsided—they keep pissing me off, all these men in power. They keep doing the exact wrong thing. They keep focusing and prioritizing the needs of rich people and corporations that are lining their pockets, and they keep ignoring the people they represent.”
“There’s plenty to be pissed off about.”