Of Raincoats and Riot Grrrls

The pioneers of British post-punk rerelease another classic album

September 14, 2011

Ana da Silva, left, and Gina Birch are the Raincoats, a band that broke barriers.

In 1979, while the future Riot Grrrls of the world were still in grade school, Ana da Silva and Gina Birch put out a record that would one day be the cheat sheet of that ’90s musical movement. “The Raincoats,” the all-female British post-punk band’s debut album, caused a stir back then for a fuzzed-up cover of the Kinks classic, “Lola.”

Fifteen years later, a fanboy named Kurt Cobain tracked da Silva down at a London record store, and the album made it to the masses when his influence led Geffen Records to release it on CD. After that, a new generation of bands took up the Raincoats’ feedbacky mantle.

But 30 years down the road, da Silva isn’t much interested in honorifics. She just wants to jam.

“When we play gigs, we’re not performing the past,” she says. “It’s always a new moment. We aren’t some sort of [musical] grandmothers. It’s much more important for me to be an inspiration than an influence — making people think, ‘Hey, I want to do that.’”

The Raincoats haven’t toured much since their last studio album, 1996′s “Looking in the Shadows.” They did a handful of dates in 2009 after Kill Rock Stars reissued a vinyl edition of “The Raincoats.” And they played a show last October at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in honor of the late Ari Up, vocalist for the Slits, another legendary all-girl Brit-punk band. The two bands played shows together in the early ’80s, breaking ground as female musicians in a male-dominated scene.

“We were fighting the same battle,” da Silva remembers. The band played the Slits song “Vindictive,” sharing vocals with Kathleen Hanna of Riot Grrrl bands Bikini Kill and Le Tigre.

“We asked her to sing with us because [those bands are] another generation of what we were doing in our time,” she says. “We’re speaking a similar language.”

On Saturday, the Raincoats will play an intimate show at Comet Ping Pong, part of a mini-tour celebrating the rerelease of their 1981 classic, “Odyshape.” The album was reissued Tuesday on vinyl and CD on the band’s We ThRee label.

Does da Silva think the record stands up to the years? “I still enjoy listening to it,” she laughs. “We tried a lot of things. There’s a lot of experimentation, a lot of feelings, a lot of things on the edge.”

Comet Ping Pong, 5037 Connecticut Ave. NW; Sat., 10:30 p.m., $20; 202-364-0404. (Van Ness)
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