The Buoys are done talking, and ready to amplify women in punk
All This Talking Gets Us Nowhere, the Sydney group’s second EP, is short but sweet, managing to punch in all the right places.
Header image and in-article images by April Josie.
“It’s almost as if all this talking gets us nowhere” is a phrase that’s been muttered a few times in the Australian music industry over the last couple of weeks, especially as it moves towards another wave of sexual assault and harassment allegations. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, the international music industry attempted to weed out past abusers, with an uptick of stories and recollections regarding sexual assault and harassment - as well as gender inequality and sexist behaviour - occurring as the entertainment sphere grappled with allegations against people like Harvey Weinstein, for example.
In Australia, however, our defamation laws are notoriously difficult, and that’s made a parallel #MeToo movement within our own music industry become near-impossible. “In Australia, where defamation laws are among the most stringent in the world, calling out sexual behaviour presents unique challenges,” wrote Laura Oxley for the University of Technology Sydney in 2018, a year after the Weinstein cases came to light. “We have a robust set of legal measures in this country which throw up barriers to publicly, and sometimes even privately, outing an abuser.”
For Sydney punk-four piece The Buoys - made up of lead vocalist Zoe, drummer Tess, guitarist Hillary and bassist Courtney - All This Talking Gets Us Nowhere wasn’t even the first choice for the name of their new EP, out now via Spunk! Records. However, as we talk amongst ongoing allegations against prestigious US punk label Burger Records and off the back of a turbulent two weeks for the Australian music industry with sexual assault and harassment allegations of their own, an EP titled All This Talking Gets Us Nowhere from a band as driven for equality as The Buoys feels like a perfect match, and one that summarises a lot to say about what’s happening.
“We came up with the EP title because it directly references one of the tracks from the EP, titled Inside Outside,” explains Zoe, who wrote the song about gender inequality through the lens of someone who has withstood it through her whole career. “It was a phrase that was just always being said over and over again, and I felt like the other girls could resonate with it because we have so far to come in terms of gender equality, and you’ve really got to filter through all of the noise around - especially at the moment - to find those who are actually taking actions to better it.”
Over the last few years, The Buoys have undergone a bit of a shake up, but this drive to amplify and spotlight women has always been at the core of their work. Initially, they formed as a three-piece featuring Zoe alongside Sophie Moroney on drums and Emily Jane on bass guitar, with an aim to bring more female-featuring bands to the Cronulla live music space, where Zoe remembers Ruby Fields being the only woman visible in the town’s rock/punk sphere. They put out a debut EP in 2017 that captured the energy of the band’s beginning and their passion to bring something different, before the group’s members parted ways and moved onto better things, with Zoe remaining throughout several line-up changes as The Buoys only remaining initial member.
Eventually, The Buoys became a four-piece with Zoe joined by Tess Wilkin, Courtney Cunningham and Hillary Geddes, and began working on new music as a newly-minted, well-rounded band ready to make their imprint on a male-dominated live music space. They recorded a new EP shortly after, which was then shelved in favour of newer material that Zoe believes showcases how the band have continued to evolve, and how their influences have shifted and encouraged a more DIY-adjacent sound that captures the band at their most passionate and fiery. Many of the singles from the initial, now-scrapped EP are found on All This Talking Gets Us Nowhere’s b-side, allowing you to see exactly how the group have grown, and further amplifying the band’s drive to create open, authentic art without the ego of a perfect-on-the-outside punk group.
“It was [a difficult process], but it was so quick to build them up,” explains Zoe, who led teaching the band’s current members - who initially came from a range of backgrounds and experience levels - to where they are now. “The musicians that ended up coming through were the highest of high calibre, and that made the learning process of me telling them what sound The Buoys is so easy - it was already in their language, after a little while.”
The end result obviously proves a success, with All This Talking Gets Us Nowhere being a fierce collection of tracks that elevates The Buoys - and the talent captured within - at their multi-faceted best, encapsulating the energy that goes into every one of their powerful tracks. Take the explosive Wah! for example, a rush of mania that wraps up in under two minutes, but not without breaking down Zoe’s frustration with systemic processes in the world, with capitalism being a core example. It’s an opportunity for her to vent and let things go, releasing built-up frustration in a way that also amplifies her message, and by coming from a woman in a space where they’re so often under-represented, brings a point of view often left for the curbside.
Linda is another example, being a raging two-minutes-forty that speaks about shitty workplaces and under-par bosses, while the aforementioned Inside Outside brings lyrics that any female, female-identifying, trans or non-binary musician could relate to: “There’s always gonna be someone, telling you what you know / I’m just trying to say that I don’t want your fucking opinion about anything!”
In a way, Zoe’s drive to find women amongst the Cronulla live music space and use The Buoys as an opportunity for amplifying these women, their work and their presence in the scene is synonymous with what The Buoys are all about, and in turn, have helped a previously male-dominated region for punk music - and other genres - become more inclusive and well-rounded. “Whenever I was looking for a new guitarist or drummer for a project people would be like ‘oh this guy plays’ and ‘oh this guy is good’ and it’s like no! Too easy! There are amazing women out there everywhere, they’re just hiding in the woodworks and you’ve got to find them, especially in somewhere like the Shire,” she explains.
However, things are slowing changing, both in general - as pressure for gender diversity and inclusivity in the music industry increases, so too has seemingly the presence of women and non-binary musicians in the spotlight - and for Zoe specifically, who contrasts a place like The Shire, where she was once one of two female musicians regularly playing shows, and Sydney’s inner-west, where she now lives. “[In the earlier days], I felt like I was a bit of a laughing stock,” she says. “Now, it’s not as hard to find amazing, talented women. It feels so good to be in a position where I once wished one of my friends would ask me to play in a band with them, to now be out there and doing it.”
This drive to elevate and spotlight women - not just in music, but across a range of roles adjacent to the band - is something that’s core to The Buoys, and a record like All This Talking Gets Us Nowhere proves that complaints of it “being too difficult” to hire women or that they “were all booked out” is a farce. For this EP campaign, for example, not only do The Buoys and sit front and centre of the record, but it’s aided by women in a variety of roles: recording engineers, photographers, publicists, video directors, managers and so on.
“I hope that when I ask other women to join us, that they’re stoked to work with other women who are trying to do the same thing, which is lift each other up.”
The Buoys' new EP All This Talking Gets Us Nowhere is out now via Spunk Records.
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