Bikini Kill’s first record, the 1991 demo Revolution Girl Style Now was the world’s first taste of the Riot Grrrl progenitors’ particular brand of clawing, screaming punk declarations on tape. After playing one of their first shows at the ABC House in Olympia, WA, the band left their equipment set up and recorded the demo with Pat Maley the next day. They self-released the tape, passing out copies to promoters in hopes of getting shows.
Twenty-four years later, Bikini Kill is set to reissue the landmark recording on September 22, for the first time on vinyl, CD, and digital formats. It will feature three previously unreleased bonus tracks: “Playground,” “Just Once,” and the surprisingly hushed and grungy “Ocean Song.” For the reissue of Revolution Girl Style Now on Bikini Kill Records, Wilcox’s husband, Fugazi’s Guy Picciotto, handled the mixing and John Golden the mastering.
The group featured Kathleen Hanna on vocals, Tobi Vail on drums, Billy Karren on guitar, and Kathi Wilcox on bass. They saw punk as a means of cultural resistance, encouraging women to start and front bands to have their voices heard. Hanna, for one, used her platform to redefine what a frontwoman in a punk band should or could be — she unapologetically embraced fashion, and purposefully blurred the line between her work on stage as a singer and her other work, as a stripper. As Hanna explained in a recent interview with T: The New York Times Style Magazine, “what’s the difference between when I’m on stage taking my clothes off and when I’m onstage singing in Bikini Kill? I’m still operating in a sexist society whether I’m in a strip bar or I’m in a punk club. What does that mean?”
Now, the band has shared the previously unreleased “Ocean Song” on Soundcloud; with sparse but plodding drums and hushed guitar tones, it might not carry the brash dissonance that Bikini Kill is known for, but it does bear traces of the Pacific Northwest scene the band sprouted out of. Hanna wrote the song while working at SafePlace, a shelter for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse in Olympia, feeling overwhelmed by victims’ stories and the sense that no one was listening. Sonically, it echoes the grunge vibes of the Olympia bands Bikini Kill came up with, an early glimpse at the beginnings of a band still trying to figure out who they were and what their sound would be. Listen to “Ocean Song” below.