There is this wonderfully niche community that exists in our little town. They are the ones in the front row of a gig of only six supporters, looking like they’re walking in snow. Through writing for this cool little zine, I’ve finally had the opportunity to spend time with, and interview some really special individuals who make up a wonderful chunk of this world. Where people gather to watch their talented friends doing talented things, and one of those talented people is Rachel Maria Cox aka RMC.
I met RMC, one evening at the Lass, after I watched them play alongside two other incredible local artists and all round wonderful humans Spencer Scott and Bofolk Ballico. A bill that made up the “Sad-O-Meter” fest which has since surfaced as one of my favourite local gigs to date. It was the first time I had ever heard RMC play and I stood there transfixed, as they played a flawless set. A string of acoustic, heart felt, sad songs met my eyes and ears as this incredible artist seemed to be slowly but surely offering up complex puzzle pieces of the most intimate parts of their mind. There is an art to making sad music and a lot of the time people tend to misjudge the genre in its entirety. Overlooking the complexities that may present as simple vocals, an acoustic guitar and a well-placed spotlight. It’s about connecting with your audience, and being able to be completely and so unapologetically raw is a real gift. A talent, which RMC carries in droves. When the time came to sift through the stream of great local acts to focus on for the August issue of NM, I was slightly biased. I unashamedly surfaced as the self-confessed super fan and found myself face to face with an amazing local artist. It was a ridiculously windy Wednesday evening. In “God’s Country” of course, aka the Hamilton Station Hotel where we chatted about all things music, a killer organisation called Sad Grrrls Club (SGC) and making the move back to Newcastle.
“I had no idea they serve tea here”, I commented after seeing RMC return from the bar with a mug. “See (handsome) Wil (Houlcroft) knows exactly how to make it. …So today I bought I big suitcase of stuff to start the process of moving back to Newcastle, I taught singing at the National Music Academy (NMA), and that’s about it really, oh… And I announced a show that I’ve been working on”… So clearly just a typical day in the life of RMC. I took a moment to look back on my day “coffee, headphones, words”. Clearly I need to step up my game. The show in question is Transgender Weekender – a celebration of transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming artists run by RMC’s own organisation ‘SGC’ and Wollongong based ‘Queer and Now’. After attending and playing in a similar showcase run by Myriad Collective held in Melbourne last year, RMC was inspired to create something similar and bring this incredible ‘safe space’ philosophy much closer to home. “It’s such a cool idea and it’s not fair that Melbourne gets to have all the fun” so Transgender Weekender was born.
I’d been following SGC for quite a while now on various social media platforms. I took so much comfort watching on in awe knowing that someone, somewhere was organising something that I was so intensely passionate about. A safe place for non-male artists and bands to not only play select and purposeful shows, but for performers to be placed at the forefront of an industry which can be highly male dominated. SGC, which is actually run and managed solely by RMC although the output creates the illusion of a much larger organisation. It’s now grown from booking and playing a 12-day national tour in 2015 to now presenting as two (stacked) mini fests in both Melbourne and Sydney, co-organising Transgender Weekender, and most recently transforming into a DIY and record label.
Clearly passionate about their brand, I quizzed RMC on the ethos of SGC and where the philosophy began. “When I first started playing gigs, I noticed straight away that a lot of the time I was playing with all dudes, and I really began reflecting on that… but SGC kind of started as a bit of a joke” says RMC through sips of tea and nostalgic nods. SGC launched officially just over a year ago, with what RMC thought would be a one off gig, the Christmas of 2014.
It’s apparent that the phrase “SGC” was initially thought of as just a simple and perhaps somewhat tongue in cheek comment, about a niche corner of a particular community. Escalating eventually to a drunken chant uniting like-minded individuals who had the pleasure of watching an array of talented non male supporters kill it on stage. The current-day ethos behind the organisation though, runs much deeper, presenting as an undercover commentary about everything from mental health stigmas to emotional stereotypes. “There’s this whole idea about people telling women to smile, and there is still a whole lot of stigma surrounding mental health… There’s this whole weird response thing to the way emotions are perceived based on gender… The second you start to own your own emotional responses; no one can really use them against you anymore… And this is what SGC is really all about”.
SGC has now grown into an entity in its own right with RMC ever so humbly at the forefront of both an organisation and now a DIY record label. Because it’s so much more than just drawing a logo on the back of a CD and if Courtney Barnett has taught us anything, it’s about community. “I don’t want to make money off of others peoples music…I just want all my mates to do what they love” – preach RMC.
Perhaps the most important tool in both SGC and RMC’s toolbox of philosophy, is the emphasis upon creating safer spaces for performers, artists and gig-goers within the LGBTQI community, something which hits particularly close to home for RMC. “I came out as gender non-binary, right before the first Sad Grrrls show last year” RMC tells me confidently through more sips of tea. “I use they/them pronouns and when I go out, I’m constantly on edge. It’s this low level hum of anxiety when people unknowingly and often innocently label me as something I am not”. Safe spaces are about creating an environment of true inclusivity and respect. In terms of local venues fitting this bill, both the Lass O’Gowrie and the Hamilton Station Hotel go a long way to creating these types of spaces, due solely to the commitment of the staff.
Somehow, someway RMC managed to sit down, write and record a new EP titled “I just have a lot of feelings” with an EP launch set for the 28th of July at the Lass coinciding with celebrating their move back to Newcastle. Picking up on the Mean Girls reference straight away, I wanted to know if literal cakes made out of ‘rainbows and smiles’ were included. “I’ve committed to the gimmick now… the whole ‘buy a cassette, get a cupcake thing’ because you know ‘I just have a lot of feelings’. Hilarity aside, it seems as though this EP, perhaps more than most, has been an incredibly cathartic experience for the singer/songwriter. “The last year and a bit has just been really emotionally intense for me. I wrote a lot of these song in a really dark and emotionally intense period of time, it’s good to get that out and not be ashamed of having those feelings…when you listen to this EP I feel like you’re going to know a whole lot about me”. Thinking it must be intense being so transparent, RMC replied “I do get nervous sometimes, it just depends on who I am performing in front of. The majority of the time it feels good to know that I’ll get off that stage and everyone knows that kind of stuff about me… I’m really not good at having those hard conversations with people so it’s easier expressing myself through music than any other medium”.
Luckily for you and the rest of the big wide world, “I Just Have a Lot of Feelings” is now available for all to hear and here’s the scoop. I am glad to say that this particular EP has been circulating constantly as I make my way around town.
In celebration of RMC’s move back to Newcastle I asked where they intended to go to ‘get that Newy feeling back’. “I would probably go down to the foreshore, it’s really lovely there, but I would go to Mayfield West Kebabs and get a Halal snack pack…” (Subtle but oh so smooth RMC). “Also, I would go to the Hamo or the Lass. …But, I would probably go into the NMA and hang out because I love my job”. Sounds like a perfect day to me. As a really proud Novocastrian I am incredibly thankful that so many passionate people, like RMC are a part of our community.
Where can you find out more information about the successes of an awesome local artist/entrepreneur/all-round awesome individual? Head to:
And keep an eye out for some really cool SGC things happening right here in our backyard!
Be kind to retail workers, and you do you.