Rebel Grrrls of St. Augustine

Since the days of Joan Jett and Kathleen Hanna, “girls to the front” has become a rallying cry in punk music and beyond. But progress, as always, is uneven and incomplete. As punk splinters into several scenes—some unreconstructedly heteromasculine—and as thoughtful folk fight on for womxn’s rights, we need femme-fronted DIY bands more than ever.

St. Augustine’s Bedsweater is one of those bands. The most recent project of songwriter, singer and guitarist Teresa Rose (AC Deathstrike/Curious Markings), Bedsweater melds down-on-your-luck lyricism with garage rock and dashes of erratic, introspective indie. Joining Rose are drummer Kensley Stewart (Kenny & the Jets) and bassist Christiana Patterson (Ghost Tropic).

The band was founded in September 2018. Rose and Stewart had forged an earlier friendship at work. Rose was a server at the Casa Maya restaurant; Stewart regularly performed there.

“We quickly formed a friendship over music, cats and feminism,” Stewart told Folio Weekly. Over the course of four years, the two collaborated on different musical endeavors, as Stewart endeavored to slowly coax Rose onto the stage.

“[Stewart] has always supported my music and encouraged me to play,” said Rose. “She even booked me to play my first show in St. Augustine.”

The goal was to eventually form an all-female band, but—ask any local band—drummers of any gender are hard to find. Taking matters into her own hands, Stewart decided she would be the drummer. She started drilling last spring, using Rose’s new songs as practice material.

“We quickly realized we needed a bass player,” explained Stewart, “and Christiana Patterson, violin player of Ghost Tropic, scientist and pedal welder came to mind first.”

After a few band practices, the three women became close friends. The refinement of their sound followed in short order.

As far as the Bedsweater sound—it’s hard to pin down, and that’s exactly how they want it. One might hear The Breeders, The Cranberries and even some Sleater-Kinney-style thrash. The sonic spread is due largely to the band’s collaborative writing efforts. Though Rose writes the words, Stewart and Patterson help shape the final product.

“I really hope to write songs with Chris and Ken,” Rose said, “but, as of now, I bring my solo songs to practice and we write arrangements around what I’ve already written.”

The process is by no means strict; riffs and poems are strung together until the song’s emotion comes through in the most honest way possible. Patterson’s bass lines harmonize with and accompany vocal melodies and guitar passages, while Stewart’s drumming takes an expressive, creative approach. She may be new behind a drum set, but her dynamics shine through. Patterson described Bedsweater’s music as “an unfinished basement with a heavy supply of Glade PlugIns.”

Bedsweater’s recent digital release, Bitter Demos, was recorded by AC Deathstrike’s Alex Dougherty in December 2018. The three-song set begins with “Sweater.” An overcast beach scene is the first image that comes to mind. Rose’s lyricism wanders from the natural landscape to reflections on a prior relationship or friendship that she acknowledges could’ve gone better. The energy level picks up with “Over It,” which grabs the ear with a catchy guitar riff dancing around a quirky swing drumbeat. The short-but-sweet EP finishes with “North Jersey Mall,” with bass notes creating an alluring dissonance, adding a new dimension to a melancholy tale of a teenager learning to drive.

Attending a Bedsweater show is an experience akin to seeing old friends. Patterson explained, “I would like people to feel they aren’t just in the audience, but new friends joining us in a party.”

The band credits their nonchalant yet well-tailored performances to camaraderie and a shared engagement with the local DIY scene. In addition to being in a band together, Rose and Stewart launched Growth Spurt STA, a song-a-day invitation to all songwriters in St. Augustine. Established on Nov. 1 last year, the group quickly expanded to 132 members, releasing more than 200 songs during the inaugural month-long project. Their commitment to local artists and DIY ethics (screen-printing their own shirts, staging donation-based shows) continues to make music more accessible to young artists.