On tour with new-wave synth-pop outfit Windom Earle last week, Jen Clarke left her alter-ego, Jenocide, back in Halifax. As the lone female in all-dude bands for almost five years, she knows some things can't be addressed playing with guys.
But her bottled-up feminism explodes 10-fold when assuming the exaggerated electro-synth-fuelled Jenocide persona, first felt in the EP bikerides.barrettes.bruises, and now her first full-length, Machines to Make Us Wet. Her signature heart-shaped sunglasses may replace the barrettes of the EP on the cover, but, understand, such girly things are only accessories in the truest sense.
"Cutesy? That makes me want to throw up," says Clarke. "One can be feminine without being described as cutesy. These are objects a girl would use, but not necessarily definitive of who she is."
Machines isn't so easily pigeonholed either. Down-tempo tracks mix with riotous electro, while pop presides over the EP's earlier thrash, reflecting the diversity of sounds found in Clarke's favourite female-centric post-punk acts. It's a softer side of Jenocide, and Clarke enjoys exploring the personality of the alter-ego that once only existed in her notebooks.
Like her musical influences, even Clarke's feminism is complex. She'll tell an audience "If your boyfriend sucks, dump him!" but on Machines it's easier to get lost in the thumping bass and bacchanalian rhythms. It's feminism that's devilishly fun and aware, without being didactic. "People get scared off by the word feminist," she says. "But I just wanted to create a character that is strong, and not completely alienating. I have a message for those who identify with it, and if you're about it, that's awesome."
Beat master Ed Renzi embraces Clarke's excitement and ideology. He programs beats after situations, like breaking onto a downtown office roof, intoxicated by booze and adrenaline. In Renzi's heart is his mother who escaped an abusive marriage and raised him on her own, while getting a PhD. "These are issues we all have," he says. "Feminism isn't just for women."