Little Trophy by Hyaenas
The 7-song EP Little Trophy is Vancouver band Hyaenas’ first recordingCONTENTS
The band is made up of two couples and comprises Jessie Robertson (bass/vocals), Sophie Heppell (lead vocals/guitar), Jen Foster (drums/vocals) and Luvia Peterson (synth/vocals)
HYAENAS ARE THE NEXT WAVE
They’ve got beat and feminist bloodlines
by CONNIE KUHNS
Vancouver’s Hyaenas are part of the next wave in an invisible pool of Vancouver
women who have been creating powerful and ground-breaking sounds since the
mid-1970s, beginning, perhaps, with the Dishrags and Contagious.
The four-woman group has both the unmistakable 80s female pop band beat
plus bloodlines to the lesbian bands in the US that came out of the women’s
The most obvious comparison is with the Go-Go’s, who Hyaenas revere as one of
their inspirations. I can imagine them in a music video driving around in a vintage
convertible, top down, sun shining, singing one of their original danceable songs.
But I also see them covering Bush Tetras edgy “Too Many Creeps” with lots of
room for drummer Jen Foster to spread out, or Mecca Normal’s raw “I Walk
Alone” – their four voices building from chant to rebel yell. Hyaenas have that
kind of vibe.
The band came together during the pandemic and their work as music mates and
songwriters has developed quickly. Their first EP Little Trophy was released in
February, and lead vocalist and guitarist Sophie Heppell and Jen Foster have
already taken part in a recent song writing panel at the Vancouver Freelance
Symposium. It has been a rapid 14 months since their first performance at the
Rickshaw Theatre in Vancouver at the close of 2021.
“The EP was initially inspired by the five stages of grief,” Heppell says.
“The change of pace and life as we knew it that the pandemic brought, really surfaced
some tough feelings that I hadn’t really had the time (or) willingness to deal with
and could easily bury in the blur of regular everyday busyness. Lockdown also
brought up a sense of urgency and ‘If not now, when?’ and really kickstarted me
back into song writing after taking a hiatus for a few years.
“The songs have already been received better and reached farther than I could’ve
ever imagined and hoped for, and I am so proud of what we’ve created with our
debut EP, but I think our number one “super power” is the chemistry between the four of us.
I so deeply love, admire, and respect Jen, Jessie and Luvia and it is just
my greatest joy of life that I get to create, travel, plan, craft and experience the
wondrous ups and downs of a creative life with these truly amazing people.”
Little Trophy covers a range of issues, including the “whimsical, beloved tales of
the Pied Piper and Alice in Wonderland”, but also the #MeToo and #TIMESUP
movements which puts their politics front and centre. Hyaenas write through “a
queer feminist lens – exploring themes from acceptance to vigilance, celebrating
nature, self-worth, and social justice.”
It’s a declaration worth defining, as a few decades back, the term lesbian feminist
or radical feminist (even lesbian separatist) were the norm among activists, solo
performers, and all-women bands whose members chose to come out.
“I think the term ‘queer‘ has become the most commonly used and most inclusive
umbrella term for the 2SLGBTQIA+ community,” says Heppell.
“We use the term ‘queer feminist’ to identify ourselves as a band that stands for
equality across all gender and sexual identity lines. We are all feminists in the
band – we believe in equality.
“I think being out and defining ourselves upfront makes it a lot easier for us to
find our people and community. For me, music is about connection and the
search for understanding and meaning. Also, a huge part of our story is the fact
that we’re a band of two couples – and that goes hand in hand with us being out.”
Luvia Peterson (synth/vocals) adds “Do I want to hide a part of who I am so that
I’m more palatable for audiences who are afraid of anything different from them?
Defining ourselves up front is how we say, we have nothing to be ashamed about.
In fact, we are proud to be queer.”
The band got their name in lights last month
In February, Hyaenas played Rogers Arena in Vancouver as part of local
lacrosse team Warriors’ Pride Night. Following their performance there were
some disturbing posts on social media.
“It just kind of speaks to our regular experiences,” says Foster. “Just about every
day you can come across some kind of remark that ranges from demeaning and disparaging
to straight up violent just for being queer or a woman and the implication that you are somehow less. It’s just kind of unbelievable that it’s still a thing.”
Hyaenas are a working band. They played 30 shows in 2022 throughout BC and
Alberta. This year they are expanding into the NWT and Ontario.
“Believe it or not,” says Heppell, “it’s the first band I’ve been in where all band members have a
valid driver’s licence – so I get to sit in the back seat and shout out directions from
our hyper detailed tour itinerary duo tang. We love the road, but we always strive
to make sure we’re ‘touring smart’ and not burning ourselves out.”
Already, they have been a welcome addition at festivals, including Pride Festivals
in Salmon Arm, Fernie and Vancouver, the Khatsahlano festival on Vancouver’ 4th
Avenue, the Constellation festival in Squamish, and Coldsnap in Prince George,
B.C. This summer they will be at Folk on the Rocks in Yellowknife and NXNE in
Hyaenas are without a doubt an original, and exciting band with the imagination,
talent, and commitment to go wherever they want. With a sense of history, bass
player Jessie Robertson says, “We all stand on the shoulders of somebody.”
The official release of Little Trophy is on March 25, at the Fox Cabaret in
Vancouver. They will be sharing the stage with Kimmortal and Cardiograms, with
actor and producer Omari Newton as the emcee. In May the band will be back in
the studio to begin working on their LP.
In the meantime, may I suggest that perhaps they can cover Tracey Thorn’s 8-
minute song “Sister” featuring Corinne Bailey Rae? I think it would be a perfect way to
How I Met the Band
Serendipity led me to connecting with Hyaenas.
Liquid Amber Tattoo and Art Collective was recommended to me when I was looking for a place to get my first tattoo. All of the artists are women, but what really sealed it is was that the co-owners were in an all-female band.
Jessie Robertson, bass player for the Hyaenas, was sent a copy of my punk history “Strange Women” and she came down to meet me when I came in. It was a real high. And I knew right away I wanted to write about this band.
Guest writer Connie Kuhns has a 40-year history as an essayist, journalist, photographer and broadcaster. A collection of her essays and interviews, Rubymusic: A Popular History of Women’s Music and Culture published by Caitlin Press will be in bookstores March 31.
For 15 years she was the producer and host of the groundbreaking show Rubymusic on Vancouver Co-op Radio, specializing in music by women. Her essays have been finalists for a National Magazine Award, a Western Magazine Award, Best American Essay Series, Prism International, LA Review Literary Awards, the New York Times Modern Love column, and the Frank McCourt Memoir Prize. Her photographs have appeared in the Washington Post, Globe and Mail, Geist, and in individual exhibitions.
Listen in! Stay tuned!
18 March 2022