Bitch Alert

{mosimage}I really had to ask. What was the name again? Talking music over coffee on a grumpy
afternoon of the apologetic Finnish spring, the name was dropped like a coin on
the kitchen tile. Silence crept in. I show you – came the answer. Somebody
slipped the CD into the player, and on came sweeping, towering waves of sound,
and riding them the raspy, angry, vivid voice of a girl, irresistibly
commanding everybody's attention. "I wanna see your skeleton," she
snarled, "and I can feel your bones!" This is how I first met Bitch Alert.


T
he second meeting is slightly less spiritual
and certainly not so loud, but much more relaxed and, compared to what I'd
expected, reassuringly real. On the other end of the telephone line is Heinie
Immonen
, lead singer and songwriter for the band.

"I'm sorry about my English, it must be
fuckin' rusty by now," she rushes to say, confirming two stereotypes at
once: the one about Finns apologising for their impeccable English, and the one
about the flippant attitude of rock musicians. Suddenly the choice of the band
name doesn't sound so strange anymore.

"In fact, originally we were called
simply Bitch, but when we signed to Poko Records, the label made us
change the name for copyright reasons. An '80s hard rock band was called the
same," Heinie explains. Reasonable, one could say, but, then, why
"Bitch" in the first place?

"At the time we thought that was just the
coolest name ever. That was the only reason. Sure, it's not a name your grandma
would like, but… luckily, at least my grandma doesn't speak English. And
after all, we were 15 or 16 at the time the band was founded. But we never
regretted the choice."

The "we" refers to the original
line-up of Bitch Alert (née Bitch), that is Heinie on guitars and
vocals, and friends Maria and Maritta, playing, respectively, the
bass and the drums. The trio got together in 1997. However, Maria soon chose to
leave the band, and it is with new bass player Kimmo that the band
finally got signed in 2000. (Just to avoid confusion, for those who are not
familiar with Finnish first names: yes, Kimmo is a guy.) Following the debut LP Pay for orgasm, the band has since then released four
albums, the latest of which is last year's I can feel your bones.



{mosimage}Riot grrrls

"We're not decidedly feminists,"
Heinie says, when I ask about the lyrics and the attitude. "We don't write
songs under a manifesto, and we don't consider ourselves political in any way.
On the other hand, most of our songs are very personal, and the person whose
view they are written from happens to be a young woman, so in this sense, you
can still say we are feminists. But I think the music is more important than
the lyrics anyway. Ideally, each of our songs would only have one line, one
sentence as lyrics."

The title of Bitch Alert's second album
(…rriot!) suggests a link to the riot grrrll movement –
the loose spiritual attitude at the meeting point of punk and feminism, started
almost two decades ago by bands like Bikini Kill and Bratmobile
–, and Heinie confirms.

"Bitch Alert is about girls – and of
course, boys – being themselves, having fun and being free to do whatever they
want, no matter how they are expected or told to behave by others," she
sums up.

2002's ...rriot! was
released in the UK too. Although it received some unexpected and positive
critical attention (notably from the Kerrang! magazine), and the 28-stop
promotional UK tour was considered a success, it didn't bring international
breakthrough for the band. Subsequent records haven't been released outside
Finland, either.

"We'd love to tour England again. Or the
US, or other countries of Europe. Being on tour is what we love the most. But I
just hate the business side of it; going on tour abroad is so expensive!"

And tight budgets are indeed quite a concern
for the band, whose three members all have day jobs to support their passion.

"Unless you're HIM or Rasmus,
or a similarly big act, in Finland you can't make a living solely with
music," Heinie comments.

Incidentally, this might have just changed. Just
as this issue of FREE! Magazine hits the streets, Bitch Alert are on
their way back from Los Angeles, after playing a showcase to "drunken
record company executives" at the Musexpo 2007 event, and with any bit of
luck, this has been an important step in going to "the next level,"
whatever that might turn out to be.

What is sure, on the other hand, that 10 years
on, the once-teen-band of Bitch Alert is as alive and kicking as it can be.

"Our last record was probably the
darkest, heaviest one so far, full of desperation. But if you listen close, you
can feel there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and there is always a
sparkle in the eyes. It's like the band. Although we got a bit bored with
touring Finland over and over again, we're still having a whole lot of fun
playing," she affirms.

This, in practice, means a couple of more
months of gathering inspiration, and a new tour in the autumn. And until then?

"I don't know, I've never been too good
at wise concluding remarks. Just have a nice fuckin' spring time!"

The music
Comparing Bitch Alert to '90s grunge-rock
sweethearts Hole is inevitable, and admittedly, the comparison describes
aptly the mix of fuzzy rock, grunge, pop and punk that is Bitch Alert. In fact,
there is little in there that you haven't heard before, if you're a fan of
Courtney Love, Nirvana, the Smashing Pumpkins or, even, Muse.
And still, as is often the case, the end result sounds fresh and invigorating,
partly because of the catchy riffs and grooves, and, perhaps more importantly,
because of the rich and powerful vocals, frail and whispering in one second and
breaking into uninhibited shouting in the next instant. (Heinie's singing could
remind you of PJ Harvey as well as Juliette Lewis, and sometimes
even the monotonous, aggressive snarl of Liam Gallagher.) Bitch Alert,
then, is not the band if you're looking for sophisticated subtlety or craftily
used samples, it's merely catchy and truthful – like emo would be, without the
fakery.
"If you never heard of Bitch Alert
before, and want to take the easy way, listen to the …rriot! album,"
recommends Heinie. "If you want to listen to our punk side, you should go
for Songs for your wedding EP. If you're more into indie rock, Kill
your darlings
would suit you best."

And if you'd like to know where Bitch Alert
could go next, give a listen to I can feel your bones. Or just visit the
band's myspace-site (www.myspace.com/bitchalert),
and decide for yourself if all their albums are merely a waste of plastic.
After all, independent choice is exactly what they are all about.

They sound like: Courtney Love finally got inspired!

Essential listening: The album I Can Feel Your Bones

The latest: spring break and showcase set in LA. Expect a return to stage in the autumn.