Bratmobile - Biography

The members of the all-female punk band Bratmobile were among the founders of the riot grrrl movement. Singer Allison Wolfe, who had grown up in Olympia, and drummer Molly Neuman, from Washington, DC, met while attending the University of Oregon in Eugene, where they began collaborating on the Girl Germs zine and playing music together. While Wolfe and Neuman were visiting DC in December 1990, K Records boss / Beat Happening singer Calvin Johnson introduced them to local guitarist Erin Smith, one of the authors of the Teenage Gang Debs zine. Wolfe and Neuman performed as a duo in Olympia the following Valentine’s Day, sharing the bill with Bikini Kill. Over spring break, Wolfe and Neuman returned to DC and formed a short-lived early lineup of Bratmobile with Neuman and Erin Smith on guitar, Wolfe and Jen Smith singing and Christina Billotte on drums. The five-piece Bratmobile played a a show at Abi’s and stayed at Nation of Ulysses’ house, the Embassy, where Tim Green of N.O.U. recorded the self-released Bratmobile D.C. (1991) cassette.


Neuman and Smith returned to the Northwest after Bratmobile D.C,. and the band took the form of a trio: Wolfe on vocals, Erin Smith on guitar and Neuman drumming. At some point in the early 90s, Wolfe and Neuman transferred to Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, while Smith continued to attend the University of Maryland, so the band could only gather during vacations. In August 1991, Bratmobile performed at Calvin Johnson’s International Pop Underground Convention in Olympia alongside the Melvins, the Pastels, Unwound, Fugazi, the Fastbacks and many other fine bands of the day; the live album of the event (1992 K) includes Bratmobile’s “Punk Rock Dream Come True.” Neuman also began publishing the riot grrrl zine in 1991.


Michelle Noel played bass on one of the B-sides of “Kiss And Ride” (1992 Homestead), apparently her only appearance on a Bratmobile record. Split singles with Brainiac, Heavens to Betsy and Tiger Trap followed that year, and Tim Green again recorded Bratmobile’s first album Pottymouth (1992 Kill Rock Stars) at the Embassy. Janelle Hessig, author of the zine Tales of Blarg and singer of the Tourettes, was the cover star and subject of Bratmobile’s next release, The Real Janelle EP (1994 Kill Rock Stars); Born Against had already immortalized Hessig in their 1993 song “Janelle.” After Bratmobile split up in May 1994, Wolfe and Smith formed Cold Cold Hearts, and Neuman played in the Frumpies and the PeeChees.


Bratmobile reunited in February 1999 and toured with Sleater-Kinney, the Donnas and the Make-Up that year. By this time, Neuman and then-husband Chris Appelgren co-owned Lookout! Records, which released two new Bratmobile albums: Ladies, Women and Girls (2000 Lookout!) and Girls Get Busy (2002 Lookout!). Bratmobile split again in 2003 after touring in support of Girls Get Busy.

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