Spanning more than six decades the music genre and subculture known as ‘punk’ has gone through many changes and generations but the angsty spirit of the music has never withered away.
This is especially true for female punk bands over the years with their often feminist approach to an already politically-charged genre, they could play and mosh with the best of them, reminding the other bands and concertgoers that punk was a place for women too.
They demanded their position on stage and for that we’re grateful. Now with the Internet giving new rise to old bands and a fanbase to current ones were seeing punk take a whole new life. In this list, we’ve compiled our top ten female-fronted or all-female punk bands we think you should give a listen to!
Hands Off Gretel
Hailing from across the pond this UK-based punk-rock band is often referred to as “grunge” and “riot grrrl’ influenced. Their current lineup consists of vocalist Lauren Tate, guitarist Sean Bon. drummer Sam Hobbins. and bassist Becky Baldwin.
One-half of the group includes women, but don’t worry that’s no macho-man toxic masculinity here. Vocalist Tate’s lyrics often touch on subjects of women’s bodily autonomy veganism, and rape culture.
She has said one of her goals with Hands Off Gretel is to make sure that “strong young women have a voice in today’s music industry”, while she sings pretty ballads and angry melodies about how girls bodies are policed, like in their track “S.A.S.S.” and “Don’t Touch.”
Their discography consists of The Angry EP, Be Mine EP. I Want the World album, and Burn the Beauty Queen CD. Give this female punk band a listen to with their single Milk, a critical look at the dairy industry.
In addition to her work with Hands Off Gretel. Lauren Tate also hosts her own podcast called Sad Grrl Podcast (a clear reference to Riot Grrl) where she discusses her struggle with struggles with depression, puberty, and the many experiences young girls and women face today. Her podcast is a reflection of her own personal experiences but by putting them out there she hopes to bring comfort to other girls going through similar issues.
The Godmothers of 90’s punk rock and riot grrl. Sleater-Kinney laid the foundation as we know it and still reigns supreme today. They remain a staple of what the scene was back then, and still very much is.
Their frenzied-sounding music was infused leftist ideas, and feminist concepts all packed in by profound lyricism that gained them notoriety and popularity. Sleater-Kinney has said their influence and success stems directly from other notable riot grrl groups of the era like Sonic Youth. Bikini Kill. Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Patti Smith Group.
Now lead singer Carrie Brownstein has gone on to have a successful career as an actress, in shows like Portlandia that pokes fun at the alternative west coast lifestyle and subculture of the yesteryears, thus bringing even more awareness to Sleater-Kinney to a whole new generation. In addition to that, Brownstein has been open about her bisexuality for a long time and has become an icon for the LGBTQ+ community.
Listen to their newest single Worry With You or one of their most well-known tracks Jumpers.
Doll Skin is a relatively new band, having formed in 2013 in Phoneix. AZ.. and have been given much praise for their work in the 7 years they’ve been together. Having won first place at their local battle of the bands that year their trajectory has only gone up since.
One of the judges at the battle of the bands that day was Megadeath bassist David Ellefson who approached the young group and offered to produce and manage their music. Doll Skin has been featured on Alice Cooper’s compilation album “Alice Cooper’s Taste of Christmas Pudding 2015,” with their cover of All I Want For Christmas Is You by Mariah Carey.
While Doll Skin’s sound is more along the lines of pop-punk, they’ve been compared to the likes of The Runaways, The Go-Gos, and The Donnas for being an all-female group that doesn’t play by the rules and simply has fun making music and playing it. Many of their lyrics touch upon issues like punching nazis and corporate-produced boy bands if ya dig that!
Their current lineup only consists of drummer and backing vocalist. Meghan Herring and lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist, Sydney Dolezal. This all-female punk band has a mix of genres in their sound that range from metal to alternative, and pop-punk.
As of right now the band is on tour in the UK and US for 2021 and has released 3-full length studio albums, and 1 EP. The track Nasty Man from their album Love is Dead and We Killed Her is driven by melodic angst.
Another newcomer, compared to some of the others on this list. Destroy Boys came out of Sacramento in 2015 and has been consistently recognized for their talent and efforts since 2017. On their website, they describe themselves as “carrying on the riot grrl legacy and redefining Left Coast punk.”
Their music is bridled with a manic energy that is both chaotic and pleasing to the ears. Destroy Boys album Sorry. Mom was praised in Rolling Stone Magazine by Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, a tremendous feat for these young rockers. Their music is at the very heart, punk rock in nature with a lot of non-sensical lyrics that seemingly have no rhyme or rhythm, and fast-paced guitars to compliment it.
To give them a listen see their newest music video for their single Locker Room Bully and follow them on Bandcamp for the latest info on album releases, tour dates, and merch.
Babes In Toyland
Formed in 1987, Babes in Toyland quickly became an iconic blend of punk rock and grunge, so they were very much “on-point” in the early 90s. But don’t question their relevance to today’s music, they helped change the face of rock and roll and punk forever., and have been described as “as harsh as music gets”, by AIIMusic editor Stephen Thomas Erlewine.
Another staple group from this era their heavy and unapologetic sound made its everlasting mark on music and changed how a generation would view women in rock. Their most well-known single Bruise Violet was a massive success that sealed their fate as being legendary in the punk rock scene.
For another raucous tune to awake your sense try their single Sweet’69 that features a music video that’s referencing beat bands’ performances on talk shows in the ’60s.
We can’t have a female punk band’s list without including Bikini Kill. They’re up there with the likes of Babes in Toyland and Sleater-Kinney as being a defining brand in the punk-rock, grunge, and the riot grrl movement of the 1990s. Coming out of Olympia, Washington they continued to keep the Evergreen State on the rock music map alongside Nirvana and Alice in Chains. Frontwoman.
Kathleen Hanna was a force to be reckoned with during this time because she was a staunch supporter of women’s rights and an advocate for young women. She heavily encourages young female fans to attend their shows and to feel safe going to concerts where they could avoid being harassed by men in the crowd.
It’s also worth noting that Hanna strongly discipline male hecklers who were obnoxious and wouldn’t take crap from them. She felt that concerts should be for everybody and encouraged everyone to attend as long as they were respectful. And nothing says punk rock more than respect!
You’ve likely heard Bikini Kill’s most well-known song Rebel Girl, a truly great tune! Be sure to check out their other songs like Double Dare Ya, another kickass bop!
Meet Me @ The Altar
A pop-punk group heavily influenced by Paramore this all-women of the color punk band has gained a lot of success with their positive, upbeat lyrics and can-do attitude. Meet Me @ The Altar are like a ray of sunshine amongst the darkness.
They were signed by Fueled By Ramen in 2020 and released their first signed studio album, Model Citizen in 2021. Before that, they had three self-released albums. To listen to this group check out their latest single and accompanying music video, Hit Like a Girl.
And to get the latest on this band check out their website, a very counter-aesthetic to the grit and grime of punk back in the day with the color layout that showcases how vibrant this band truly is!
Pioneering the riotgrrl and grunge movement of the early ’90s, but often getting outshined by their counterparts in Bikini Kill, Babes in Toyland, and Sleater-Kinney. Bratmobile deserves a spot on our list for being truly innovative in their approach to music.
This is how the story goes: they were invited by Kathleen Hanna to open up for them at a show on Valentine’s Day in 1991, but having never played as a band before they quickly learned to play their instruments and were able to write five original songs for their debut performance. They are referred to as first- generation riot grrl and could rock with the best of them all up and down the Pacific West Coast.
Despite their breakup, the women in Bratmobile remain true to their virtues of being activists for feminism and women’s rights. Back in the day they even had a helping hand in the feminist fanzine, Girl Gems. You can listen to Bratmobile’s single Shut Your Face and all their other wonderful tunes!
A British punk, post-punk band forming in 1976. The Slits have earned their place in punk history for being unabashedly weird and chaotic in an avant-garde sort of way. They were not traditionally punk, and for that matter, they were not traditional at all. The Slits really just did whatever they felt like, and that feels pretty punk rock!
At the beginning of their career, they toured punk pioneers with The Clash on more than one occasion as a supporting band and ended up in The Punk Rock Movie in 1978 with their performances being featured.
While the band went through lineup changes their sound changed with the members. In the early days, their sound was rowdier and conventionally “punk” in its raw attitude, but soon their music would become more polished and experimental. To hear these raucous godmothers of late 70’s punk check out their song Typical Girls.
Having formed in 1985. L7 was there for the beginning of grunge as they became one of the leading female punk bands in the late 80s and early 90s. A band that halted in 2001 and then reunited in 2014, is currently reminding younger generations what it means to be punk rock in a man’s world.
L7 gained their place quickly in the scene as one of the founding members Suzi Gardner had contributed vocals to a legendary punk band, Black Flag’s song Slip It In.
With the four of them embark on this journey they’re first single Shove was an overnight sensation and was surpassed by their song Pretend We’re Dead from their third-studio album Bricks Are Heavy.
L7 went on to perform with legendary bands like Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Rage Against the Machine. This all-female punk band set the stage for the sound during the grunge era and continues to do so today.
What did you think of our list of all-female punk bands? Compiling a comprehensive list of punk acts throughout the decades is never an easy task, and while there are so many deserving bands they can’t all make the cut.
We felt that with this particular list we wanted to put the limelight on some new music groups that are up and coming and show a lot of promise, while the pioneers of the genre deserve respect and acknowledgment. Which of these punk bands have you listened to or which ones will you be checking out now? Tell us below we’d love to know your thoughts!