The lyrics to "Just A Gwen," from Atlanta pop band Art School Jocks, may ring familiar to women. As guitarist Dianna Settles sings, over slinky, surf-y guitars and a dead-steady beat:
Carry your keys
Between your knuckles
You never know who's trying to follow you home
Smile back and
Say you're sorry
You shouldn't be out this late alone
They're all part of a litany of reminders that most young women know by heart, a category of precautions we're supposed to take to protect ourselves from harassment or violence.
The boredom is palpable in Settles' tone as she sings the catchy, repetitive melody, as if to imply: How many times have we heard this — and how many times has it failed us? This first single from the band's debut self-titled EP is a great example of why Art School Jocks self-applied the description "existential basement pop," with its hooky melody and weighty subject matter (and its titular reference of another pop tribute to frustrating assumptions about womanhood).
By taking back the familiar, frustrating language of these safety tips, the band aims to expose their hypocrisy.
"'Just a Gwen' is one reminder in a long lineage of reminders that we live in a society that places the responsibility for harassment and rape prevention on the women affected by it," the band says in an email to NPR Music. "Campus organizations, articles and pamphlets suggest ways to avoid becoming a target ranging from self-defense pointers to more conservative fashion recommendations, rather than educating men on consent and the harm of sexual harassment."
More than just an eyeroll, "Just a Gwen" is a rallying cry against the assumption that avoiding harassment ought to be the job of those at risk of being harassed.
Art School Jocks comes out June 2 on Father/Daughter.