Tomar Control

There are not many all-female bands in hardcore punk in general, and in Latin America even less. In fact, at the moment there is only one: ¡Tomar Control! These four ladies – July, Carmen, Malena and Luchita – have been playing together since 2014 and have since then released one album. I went to their band rehearsal on a Friday night to listen to them play and to interview their singer on how it all began.

July, you’re the singer of the only all-female hardcore punk band in whole Latin America. What brought you here?
“I started listening to punk when I was 15 years old. At some point, through punk, I ended up going to hardcore gigs, which is where I really felt at home. I liked the music and was immediately fascinated by a culture which is mostly drug-free and promotes positive values. And in 2014, me and the girls finally decided to start a band of our own – in order to be an even more integral part of it all.

I knew our drummer, Luchita, from punk gigs from 2006. And with Malena, the guitar player, we met in 2012. The two women used to have a punk band called “1955” (which is the year Peruvian women were given the right to vote) back then, but as soon as the band broke up, I asked them to start a hardcore band together. And soon thereafter we were joined by Carmen, the Little Sheep as we call her, who we had met at gigs as well. She couldn’t play the bass back then, but as she was extremely motivated, we told her to give it a try.”

Are many women into hardcore in Peru?
“When I first entered the scene, there were very few of us around. However, not long after I became fully immersed into the scene in 2014, I started seeing also other women at the concerts. These women came there out of their own interest, not just to accompany their boyfriends.

¡Tomar Control! was founded in 2014 and in October that year we had our first own show. In 2015 we released our first album, Lo que llevamos dentro, with 11 songs of our own, and in December 2015 we did an album release show with all our families attending the event as well. In October 2016 we went on a tour to Chile and Argentina.”

Tomar Control All

As a female, how are you treated in this typically male environment?
“Being a woman in hardcore is great! There’s no rivalry between men and women, and women are truly treated as equals. And the best part is that I’ve always felt secure at gigs – you know, I’ve never feared that a man will do me any harm. There’s solidarity and people respect you. I can say with no doubts that there really aren’t any problems at all.”

What about the other hardcore bands around, are there any women out there?
“At the moment there are around 150-200 hardcore bands in Latin America, and in Peru we’re around 25: Conflicto Urbano, Reflexions, Coraje, Sin Rostro, Alambre, Perdida, Nueva Dirección, Eterno… But ¡Tomar Control! is the only existing all-female hardcore punk band. There used to be another one in Cajamarca, Perdida, and there are bands with female singers – like Trincheta, Hasta El Final and XhastalamuerteX from Argentina, but no other ones where everyone’s female.

In the USA there are some all-female bands like Lowest Priority. Then there are The Radigals from Singapore. In Santiago de Chile there’s Revivir which also used to be an all-female band nowadays they have a man in their band. Nevertheless, women in hardcore stick together quite a lot. In fact, during our Argentinian and Chilean tour we met a lot of these fellow females with whom we had already long before been friends on Facebook.”

Hardcore, as well as punk, is known to be quite opinionated as to the music. What do you sing about?
“Our songs, as hardcore songs in general, are mostly about animal liberation, straight edge (no consumption of any kind of drugs, alcohol included), belief in oneself and PMA (positive mental attitude) which means looking for solutions when there are problems. Sometimes the songs are about basic everyday life, like you know, work, relationships etc.

Being an all-female group we also deliver messages on feminism and gender equality, not only in our songs but also during our shows. I think it’s very important to spread the message at live concerts, because that’s when you have a direct and powerful contact with the audience.”

What do you wish to achieve with your music?
“My dream is that through hardcore and the messages we deliver in each one of our songs, I could make this world even just a little bit better place to live for animals, for people, for us, for the people we love, and for everyone out there. Every time that I get on stage I hope that at least one person will hear our message and it will change his/her life like hardcore has changed mine.

When I first started with hardcore, there were many things I had never even heard about. Take veganism, for example. It was through the music (hardcore often speaks about animal liberation) that I started reading more about animal rights and consequently turned into a vegan three years ago. I also used to drink alcohol, but through hardcore I’ve become straight edge.”

Hardcore is an underground culture all over the world. How big is it in Peru?
“In the years 2006-2010 around 80 people would go to the gigs, but nowadays the amount has dropped to around 50-60. Whenever foreign bands come, the amount of people at their concerts is around 100-150. And European and North American bands do tour Latin America quite well. For example Terror, Have Heart, Bane, Sinking Ships, Wolf Down, Youth of Today, No Turning Back and Cruel Hand have all been to Latin America.”

Do you have any favorite bands yourself?
“I like a lot of bands. My favorite ones are Youth of Today, Turning Point, 7 Seconds and Vieja Escuela.”

Tomar Control chicas

How I met July?

A friend of mine from El Salvador, Juan, who is also traveling by bicycle, suggested for me to contact his friend July when in Lima. So I did and as soon as I wrote to her, she invited me to their band rehearsal. And what a great encounter it was! July is quite a petite and sweet woman, whose presence makes a powerful contrast with the music she sings. Moreover, as we were exchanging messages with July, I casually told her that my brother Sasu also used to sing in a hardcore band called Death From Above. “Whaaat??! He’s your brother?!” she wrote to me and told me she knew my brother’s band! So crazy. And as I told this to my friend Juan, he told me he also knew DFA and loved them! Who would’ve thought! Turns out my dear brother is a living legend of hardcore in Latin America. And for those of you who don’t know Death From Above yet, maybe you should!

To listen more to ¡Tomar Control! and to read their lyrics, click here.

Written by Sissi Korhonen
Exploring, interpreting and understanding cultures through local languages and people. An advocate for intercultural communication as a basis for diversity acceptance and human equality.