Interview: War on Women's Shawna Potter On the Power Of Conversation & 'Capture the Flag'

War on Women - Shawna Potter

Musicians are today’s philosophers, helping us make sense of the – often man-made – chaos that swirls like a tornado in the modern ethos. With War on Women‘s second studio album, “Capture the Flag” out now via Bridge Nine Records the Baltimore-based, hardcore band aims to destroy society’s lackadaisical approach to oppression with relentless rhythms, infectious melodies and lyrics that cut like a knife.

Front woman Shawna Potter is a fearless fighter for feminism and – faced with a hostile White House threatening the rights of immigrants, people of color, women, the LGBTQ community and more – she is harnessing her lyrical power to call for change while empowering others to start with that oh-so-important first step of engaging in conversation.

“I hope what people get out of ‘Capture the Flag’ is that the album is a natural progression for the band musically,” said Potter in a phone call. “I don’t want to write about the same subject matter over and over even though feminists are still struggling with a lot of the same things that we have been for the past 100 years. I try to approach things in a different way musically and lyrically.”

After taking some time to clear her head following the election, while giving herself permission not to write about Donald Trump (Potter was ultimately inspired to tackle the trouble with POTUS 45 on “Predator in Chief”), Potter was able to quiet the news cycle noise and focus on a variety of important subjects.

“On this album, I’ve written about female genital mutilations – not really speaking for anyone or putting a weird white savior slant on it – I’m directly critiquing the way the U.S. government will fund money into certain issues and causes and then take that money away with every new administration,” she said. “The system is really setting up other countries and cultures for failure in a way. It’s really cruel to voice support, give a little support and then pull the rug out from under them.”

Capture the Flag - War on Women

“’Capture the Flag’ also has songs about gun culture in America and how entitled, toxic masculinity is a form of terrorism. And, how unfortunate it is that it’s not called that [terrorism] because if we don’t call it terrorism, then we can’t address it in the same way, which is deadly, honestly.”

War on Women spent much of last summer traveling across the country as members of the Warped Tour 2017 lineup, an experience that Potter appreciated for facilitating connections with fans in smaller markets where the group may not otherwise have had the opportunity to play.

“The fans in Middle America deserve to hear progressive messages as well, and I think that if there are bands that are still calling women b*tches or still saying f*ggot on stage then I think that it’s only fair that the same audience gets to listen to us and hear an alternative.”

Potter is passionate about creating safer spaces at live shows and beyond through conversation and education regarding bystander intervention, a mission she works toward with the Baltimore chapter of Hollaback!. She also hosted workshops throughout the Warped Tour and is known to make herself available to address fans’ comments or concerns at War on Women concerts.

“I always try to mention something on stage when we are performing at a club to make it clear that if people don’t feel secure talking to the employees of the club we’re playing, they can always talk to us. We want everyone to feel safe going to our shows and to know that if they’re there for our show, we have their back.”

Building on a passion to make change through discussion and education, War on Women has created a companion workbook to “Capture the Flag” designed to generate college-level discussion on the lyrics and themes of the track-list.

“We made the workbooks for university classrooms, and they can be used for any group that wants to just get together and marinate on each song topic,” Potter said. “We’ve included links that explain more about some of the topics we address on the new album, and there’s also some personal stories or backstories associated with the meanings of the songs.”

Just as War on Women took a chance and reached out to Bikini Kill legend Kathleen Hanna to invite her to contribute to the “Capture the Flag” track “YDTMHTL” – an experience Potter described as “mind-blowing” and “surreal” – Potter is hoping that educators and influencers will reach out to War on Women for any number of collaborations.

“We want to be involved, and we want safer spaces to pop up everywhere all over the country,” she said. “What I’d really like to see in the future is us performing at more universities, coinciding with Q&As, or panel discussions, or talks or workshops. It’s really open-ended how much we can do on top of performing.”

“If there’s anyone involved in any colleges, universities, or feminist groups, we really are available for all that. If you want to get involved – we’re here for it.”

“Capture the Flag” by War on Women and the companion workbook are available at Bridge9.bandcamp.com. Keep up to date with the band’s latest news and tour announcements by following them on Twitter.

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Laurie Fanelli is a Chicago-based writer and photographer who specializes in live entertainment coverage. She is at home at major music festivals like Coachella, Bonnaroo and, of course, Lollapalooza and Riot Fest. She loves chatting with hilarious comedians and has interviewed the likes of Maria Bamford, Paula Poundstone and Tracy Morgan, to name a few. She has photographed tons of great bands/musicians – from every genre – including Rob Zombie, Florence and the Machine, Alabama Shakes, Neil Young, Shania Twain, Pitbull, Pierce the Veil, Kendrick Lamar, Patti Smith and many, many more. When not writing or shooting shows, Laurie loves to spend her free time training for marathons and exploring the city of Chicago. She is a longtime vegetarian and animal advocate who likes to cook healthy, delicious meals that everyone can enjoy. For more information or to contact Laurie, head over to www.lauriefanelli.com.