Top Girl Bands in Rock and Punk

Updated on November 13, 2018
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I have been an online writer for over eight years. My articles often focus on art and entertainment with an emphasis on punk rock.

Lunachicks
Lunachicks

Female rock and punk musicians have not been recognized for their talents as frequently as their male-counterparts have. Co-pioneering both genres, lady rockers have inspired and revolutionized punk and rock by slamming society's norms with powerful lyrics and wry wit. This list focuses on all-girl bands. However, female fronted bands have also played a huge role in the industry. Their success helped increase the level of recruitment for new aspiring female artists all over the world. Here is a list of some girl bands who used guitars and feminine empowerment as a weapon and began a "riot grrrrrl" revolution.

Top Girl Bands in Rock and Punk

  1. The Pleasure Seekers
  2. The Runaways
  3. The Slits
  4. Babes in Toyland
  5. Bikini Kill
  6. Lunachicks
  7. 7-Year Bitch
  8. Sleater-Kinney
  9. Cycle Sluts From Hell
  10. Betty Blowtorch
  11. L7
  12. Kittie
  13. Devotchkas
  14. Savages
  15. Pussy Riot

1. The Pleasure Seekers

About the Band:

  • The Pleasure Seekers were the first all-girl group to be signed to a major record label (Mercury Records in 1968).
  • The original band included Suzi Quatro and Patti Quatro, Nancy Ball (drums), Mary Lou Ball (guitar) and Diane Baker (keyboards).
  • Front woman, Suzie Quatro, was responsible for influencing Joan Jett.
  • In 1969, The Pleasure Seekers became Cradle, which consisted of a harder edge and heavier sound.

When I start my drinking

My baby throws a fit

So I just blitz him outta my mind

With seventeen bottles of Schlitz

— The Pleasure Seekers, "What a Way to Die"

2. The Runaways

About the Band:

  • The members of The Runaways included legend Joan Jett, Cherie Currie, Lita Ford, Sandy Fox, and Jamie West.
  • Formed in 1975 with the help of record producer, Kim Fowley-who spotted Joan Jett and Sandy West at an early '70s L.A. club, Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco.
  • Signed to Mercury Records in 1976 and played numerous sold out shows in the US and toured Japan.
  • After a fall out with Lita Ford during a photo shoot, Cherie Currie left the band in 1977 and Joan Jett took over vocals.
  • The group then fired Fowely for mismanagement and lost their contract with Mercury/Polygram records.
  • In April 1979 the Runaways went their separate ways due to style conflicts between Lita Ford, Sandy West, and Joan Jett.
  • Joan Jett and Lita Ford went on to pursue their highly successful solo careers.
  • Joan Jett also went on to start Blackheart Records, signing up and coming new female artists like Girl in a Coma.

I think I was born strong-willed. That's not the kind of thing you can learn. The advantage is, you stick to what you believe in and rarely get pushed out of what you want to do.

— Joan Jett

3. The Slits

About the Band:

  • Formed in 1976 as a punk and post-punk band from London, with former members of The Flowers of Romance and The Castrators.
  • Formed by lead singer Ariane Forester/Ari-Up (Whose step-dad is Sex Pistols and P.I.L frontman, Johnny Rotten), Paloma Romero and Viv Albertine and Tessa Pollitt.
  • Later, Palmolive (Paloma) was replaced by drummer Peter Clarke (Budgie of Siouxsie and the Banshees).
  • The band toured with The Clash during the WhiteRiot Tour in the early 1980s during their Avant-garde, experimental phase.
  • The band dispersed in 1982, while Ariane Forester joined the New Age Steppers.
  • Rejoined in 2005, the band toured the U.S. for the first time in twenty-five years during the 'State of Mind' tour.
  • Sadly In 2010, lead singer and founding member Ariane Forester passed away from Cancer.

Typical girls get upset to quickly

Typical girls can't control themselves

Typical girls are so confusing

Typical girls - you can always tell

Typical girls don't think too clearly

— The Slits, "Typical Girls"

4. Babes in Toyland

About the Band:

  • Formed in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1987 with members Kat Bjelland, Lori Barbero, and Michelle Leon-later replaced by Maureen Herman in 1992.
  • While forming the band line-up, Bjalland recruited former band mate of Pagan Babies, Courtney Love.
  • After one practice, Bjelland had stated in an interview that Courtney practiced with Babes in Toyland only once, and it sucked.
  • Between 1989 and 1995, they released three studio albums with success of the single "Bruise Violet" which was rumored to be an attack on Courtney Love.
  • The band reached notoriety due to Kat Bjellands "baby-doll image" or "kinderwhore" look.
  • Inspiring up-and-comers to mimic this style mixed along with their hard-edge and aggressive lyrical style of sheer feminist rage.

You see the stars through

Eyes lit up with lies

You got your stories

All twisted up with mine

You got this thing that

Follows me around

You were born with glue

Instead of spine

— Babes in Toyland, "Bruise Violet"

5. Bikini Kill

About the Band:

  • The only band on this list that has a man, but is significant enough to be noted.
  • Formed in Olympia, WA. in 1990 by members Kathleen Hanna, Billy Karren, Kathi Wilcox, and Tobi Vail.
  • Front woman, First lady in punk, Kathleen Hanna was an inspiring writer who helped form the zine, riot grrl in 1991, which focused on feminist social issues, punk music and a support for women in music.
  • Noted for their shock-punk and aggressive raw presence-while sustaining a strong sexual dominance, Bikini Kill formed a path for women in a new age form of feminism.
  • Staying true to their roots, Bikini Kill shunned major labels and press. Disbanded in 1997, but is still one of the most influential "rebel" girl bands in history.
  • After the split, Kathleen Hanna recorded a full album in her bedroom with low-fi quality called Julie Ruin, later forming the band The Julie Ruin in 2010.
  • She also formed Le Tigre in 1998 disbanding in 2005 due to her contracting lyme disease.

Rebel girl rebel girl

Rebel girl you are the queen of my world

Rebel girl rebel girl

I think I want to take you home

I want to try on your clothes

— Bikini Kill, "Rebel Girl"

6. Lunachicks

About the Band:

  • Forming in 1986 when Theo Kogan, Gina Volpe, and Syndney "Squid" Silver met at La Guardia school of Music/Art and Performing Arts in NYC.
  • Discovered at there second live performance show by Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, which landed them their first record deal with Blast First (1989) and later, with Go Kart records (1995).
  • Their outlandish style with spider legged eye-lashes and smeared make-up, front woman Theo Kogan, became the quintessential definition of psycho barbie.
  • In addition to their music, the Lunachicks landed film roles in the splatter film, Blue Vengeance released in 1992 and in music videos such as The Offspring's "I Choose" in 1997.
  • The band has currently been on hiatus since 2000, but according to rumor have not disbanded completely.

I can't go on like this

I didn't understand a word you said

You didn't mean to not to

But you didn't ’cause you couldn't

But you would've if you could've

And you might, but you wouldn't

— Lunachicks, "Say What You Mean?"

7. 7-Year Bitch

About the Band:

  • Formed in 1990 by Selene Vigil, Stefanie Sargent, Elizabeth Davis and Valerie Agnew.
  • The group had been playing together in the Seattle band Barbie's Dream Car, when their bassist left for Europe.
  • They recruited Davis and renamed their band 7-Year Bitch.
  • After the untimely deaths of Stephanie Sergeant in 1992 and Mia Zapata of the Seattle punk band,The Gits- the influence showed in their music, by a dedication album Viva Zapata.
  • Signed to Atlantic records in 1995, then shortly disbanded in 1997.

I'm looking through a plastic bag

It's on my face

It squares my head

A little moist hot head sweat

Some little beads of brain

A little mind rain

It's just a thought inside my head

— 7-Year Bitch, "24,900 Miles Per Hour"

8. Sleater-Kinney

About the Band:

  • Formed in Olympia, WA. in 1994 with band members-Corin Tucker, Carrie Brownstein, and Janet Weiss.
  • Politically driven lyrics and left-wing ideals, Sleater-Kinney became a feminist powerhouse in the exploding pacific northwest riot grrl revolution.
  • Derived their name from Sleater-Kinney Road in Lacey, WA., where they spent their early practice days.
  • Last live performance was in Portland, OR. in 2006 and are currently on hiatus, but made a reunion appearance in 2013 with Pearl Jam and retired members of R.E.M., Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey.
  • Guitarist and Vocalist, Carrie Brownstein is currently on the hit TV show, Portlandia on IFC.

Lonely as a cloud

In the Golden State

The coldest winter that I ever saw

Was the summer that I spent

— Sleater-Kinney, "Jumpers"

9. Cycle Sluts From Hell

About the Band:

  • The heavy-metal and sexual prowess of the Cycle Sluts-though short lived-left a burning impression on the face of rock-and-roll.
  • Names such as Queen Vixen, She-Fire of Ice, Honey One Percenter and Venus Penis Crusher, all made up an elaborate theatrical heavy metal spectacle with all the spikes and leather.
  • Notable for playing a European gig with Motorhead in the early nineties and receiving airplay on MTV's Beavis and Butthead with their song, "I wish you were a beer".

Hey there poseur

You look pretty stupid to me

Hey there poseur

I'm broke & it's half-past three

Hey there poseur

I wish you were a beer!

— Cycle Sluts From Hell, "I Wish You Were a Beer"

10. Betty Blowtorch

About the Band:

  • Female Firecrakers on stage, full of sexual innuendos and low-fi pyrotechnics with a raunchy flair, Betty Blowtorch blossomed in the heart of the LA's heavy metal scene in 1998.
  • Formed from the former members of Butt Trumpet, Bianca Halstead, Sharon Needles, Blare N. Bitch, Judy Molish, and Jennifer Finch.
  • Duff Mckagan of Guns and Roses produced their 1999 debut album Get off.
  • In the middle of their tour with Nashville Pussy promoting their new album Are You Man Enough, Lead singer Bianca Halstead died in car crash ending the short career of the band, but not their legacy.
  • Born to love, lived to rock.

You say you want a backstage pass

Well baby, you better kiss my ass

You gotta pay for the rock-n-roll shows

We'll steal your money and away we'll go

Sirens blaring down the highway

We don't give a fuck, we're doin' it our way

The law won't slow us down

Fuck you man, we'll rock in your town

— Betty Blowtorch, "Hell on Wheels"
Betty Blowtorch
Betty Blowtorch

11. L7

About the Band:

  • Spawning from the LA scene in 1985, L7 became one of the first of the well known, all-female, hard-cores to reach mainstream status.
  • Lead by the raw power of front woman Donita Sparks, Jennifer Finch, Suzi Gardner, Dee Plakas and Gail Greenwood.
  • Heavy-riff's full of grinding guitar licks and raw lyrics with a powerful message, these ladies brought all-girl bands into the mainstream limelight and kicked the door open for many to follow.

Turn the tables with our unity

They neither moral nor majority

Wake up and smell the coffee

Or just say no to individuality

— L7, "Pretend We're Dead"

12. Kittie

About the Band:

  • In 1997, schoolgirls Mercedes Lander and Fallon Bowman met in their high school gym class.
  • Shortly after, became the birth of Kittie.
  • Joining the band was Mercedes sister Morgan, who became the lead vocalist and Tanya Candler who became rhythm guitarist.
  • Started off as a cover band playing covers from Silver Chair and Nirvana, Kittie decided to kick it up a notch and became one of the most recognized all-girl death metal bands in the world.
  • With several line up change-ups and problems, the band still carries on and is currently working on a documentary for their 20th anniversary, which had a successful indiegogo campaign to help fund the project.
  • The Documentary will include archives from the band with band members of past and present.

She's taught to believe, that it be OK

Look at your face

Scarred in dismay

Now times have changed, and so have you

I think I'd rather crucify than learn

— Kittie, "Brackish"

13. Devotchkas

About the Band:

  • Formed in 1996 in Long Island, NY, the ladies of Devotchka, (meaning "girl" in Russian) busted out onto the scene as a four piece American punk band.
  • With mohawks and punk attire, Devotchkas made a statement with their fashion as well as music-bringing back the classic punk style.
  • Their first EP on vinyl sold an impressive 5,000 copies for their first release.
  • With a switch-up with band members along with a name change, The Devotchkas sadly disbanded in 2001.

So full of hate and full of fury

To tell you a story

You would say

He was a one man jury

Catalogue of anger posted through your door

Your door, your door, your door

A chance would come to even the score

— Devotchkas, "

14. Savages

About the Band:

  • Savages are a post-punk revival band formed in London in 2011.
  • Band members include Jenny Beth, Gemma Thompson, Ayse Hassan, and Fay Milton.
  • A conjuring of dark 80's new wave with a voice reminiscent of Siouxsie and the Banshees, Savages play in a new emerging scene with eye-opening lyrics and powerful presence.
  • Their first ever produced album, Silence Yourself, reached no.19 in 2013 on the top U.K. Album Charts.

Too many to convince

Too many to hire

And nothing you ever own

The world's a dead sorry hole

And I'm cold, and I'm cold

And I'm cold, and I'm stubborn

I'm sick to keep it open wide

And speaking words to the blind

— Savages, "Shut Up"

15. Pussy Riot

About the Band:

  • A Russian feminist group that used music and guerrilla pop-up performances in unusual public places for protests and retaliation against the Russian Government.
  • Singing about LBGT rights, feminism, their opposition of Russian President, Vladamir Putin and his relations with the Orthodox Church.
  • Sentenced to prison for hooliganism and anti-religious hatred and after 21 months, the girls were released on probation.
  • The case was picked up by human rights groups including Amnesty International, which claimed the women prisoners of conscience.
  • The members have recently been victims of violence with pepper spray and whips after their performance in the Winter Olympics in Sochi and were seriously assaulted at a fast food outlet in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia in March 2014.

Big smile for the camera, it's always on

It's all in the protocol, they tapped my phone

Golden idols holding rivals, take my body, anybody

I'm your trophy, make my nose bleed, now you own me

— Pussy Riot, "State Police"

Who are your favorite rock rebel girls?

See results

© 2014 Stephanie Ford

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    • Krista Barnish profile image

      Krista Maxine Barnish 

      4 years ago from Casper, Wy

      This is awesome! I love all these incredible and influential bands.

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