Cry Babe started with a catcall.
The first song the local trio ever wrote, "Soft Honk," was inspired when drummer Rose Reinholz and frontwoman Anaïs Genevieve were honked at while going to practice.
"I never thought I would feel thankful for getting sexually harassed, but that was kind of a defining song for us," says Genevieve. "That first song set up our parameters—what we stood for seemed clearer after that. We are for femmes, we will fight back, and that fight will be on our terms, not theirs."
Cry Babe attempts to transcend "female-fronted band" tokenism with flagrant dream punk. This week, the trio will release their debut EP, Be Cool—four tracks of explosive energy that spell out "fuck you" with choral leaps and spry, indie-punk instrumentation.
Along with bassist Maddie Putney, Reinholz and Genevieve intend to foster an environment that supports those most marginalized in music. "I want to take all the benefits of the extra attention that is on female musicians right now and use that to create an even better environment for femme, non-binary, trans and POC musicians," says Genevieve, who sings and plays guitar.
Though representation in Portland music is getting better, the attention often comes with a caveat. "It's a little patronizing to think that I somehow overcame great odds to make music because I am a woman," says Genevieve. "Sometimes when we get asked to play a show it feels like they are just trying to fill some quota, like they are heroes even thinking of asking us."
If it's not filling a quota, it's aligning Cry Babe's success to their physical attributes—which may honestly be worse. "I've literally heard dudes say things like 'She's only bigger than us because she's hot,'" says Reinholz. "I think it's frustrating to be in a saturated realm full of band dudes."
Cry Babe formed out of the ashes of broken relationships and bad breakups for all three members, but they're not really down with being classified as "sensitive." The band chose their name partially for its humor. "I think it's important to acknowledge and be open about feelings, especially in this fucked-up political moment," says Putney. "But at the same time, we need to laugh, because otherwise things can just seem too overwhelmingly bleak to handle."
"Emotional" may not be the right word to describe their music, but uninhibited might be. Cry Babe isn't afraid to use their songs to call out the concerns and unsavory experiences that come with living as a femme. Their lyrics center on everything from general loss to "faking orgasms for shitty dudes who don't give a flying fuck if you get off or not," according to Reinholz.
Be it through Reinholz's frenzied drums from, Putney's low and sometimes doomy riffs, or Genevieve's deep bellows, Cry Babe's message is clear.
"It's important that we lift each other up in every possible way," says Putney. "If we do find any modicum of success, I want people to know that it was women, queers and trans people who found it."
SEE IT: Cry Babe plays the High Water Mark Lounge, 6800 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., highwatermarklounge.com, with Sea Moss and Mr. Wrong, on Thursday, Feb. 14. 9 pm. $7. 21+.