The Shiverettes continue to kick against the status quo with Dead Men Can’t Cat Call

“Anger,” current Trump devotee John Lydon once sang, “is an energy.”

It can also be a beginning, a big bang for something better.

It certainly was for Calgary quartet The Shiverettes.

It was the start of, well, The Shiverettes.

For while they’d been a band for a good two years or so, it wasn’t until anger, or rather a particular source of anger, inspired them did they then become the self-proclaimed “snotty feminist punks” and local linchpins that they now are.

“I think for most of us it was when we wrote the song Stephen Harper, Suck My Dick,” says guitarist Kaely Cormack of the late 2015 song that coalesced them, that would go on to define their musical and principled direction. “It was a real political song, we were very angry and we wrote it very quickly. It just hit a nerve with all of us, where it was like, ‘That’s the sound we want. It’s perfect. That’s exactly where we want to go.’ …

“It’s been different ever since then for me, for sure. It was like a before and after: Pre-Harper and post-Harper.”

Frontwoman Hayley Muir agrees. “It was just this moment, I remember when Kaely played that riff, it was like, ‘Whooaa!’ ” she says, sitting in a booth of the crowded Den on the U of C campus after a live session on CJSW.

“Musically it was so gnarly and warped and kind of weird, and so different from the stuff we had been writing.”

Again, it would become something of their mission statement, a launching pad and a guiding point for what they would become — one of the scene’s most talked about, influential and admittedly divisive acts of this time in its history.

They up the ante this Friday with the release of their exceptional debut full-length Dead Men Can’t Cat Call — a garagey, fist-to-the-face blast of Oh Bondage bombast, performed with power, passion, precision and an Up Yours purpose.

It certainly is a long way from where The Shiverettes began, as a blues-rock act started by Cormack, whose previous musical experience was banging out cover songs on an acoustic guitar in her living room, and Muir, with whom she was distant friends.

“She was like, ‘I’ve got some stuff, let’s write some music,” recalls Cormack.

They did, brought onboard a rhythm section, played their first show a year after forming and banged around for a little bit, before bringing on their current bass and drum combo, Cecilia Schlemm and Steve Richter respectively.

Actually, Richter thinks that his and his thick-stringed counterpart’s addition also helped set the band off on its current direction, giving them the guts to take things where they needed to go.

“A lot of confidence was built from that to explore different ways to go about the songwriting and just to have a reliable rhythm section to take it to that point,” he says. “(Before that) we could play some shuffle stuff, it was simple, easy, but then it started to branch out to what it’s become.

“I think that instilled some confidence to be able to experiment.”

Still, though, he thinks Dick meet Harper was the “catalyst to everything.”

“It definitely made me realize that we could write those kind of songs and I could say those kind of things and people were down with it,” Muir agrees.

“People accepted it and they thought it was funny and great and really cool, so then it was like, ‘OK, I can write these songs about current events and things that are happening and be up front and honest when I’m on stage.’ ”

That honesty and their politics have now become the defining features of The Shiverettes, with the nine-track Cat Call only furthering that agenda — tracks such as the title cut and the angry and defiant Shout Your Assault slapping down the should be seen not heard status quo.

“We’re socially aware people and we write based on what we know and the world that we live in and the experiences that we have,” Muir says.

“And especially as women we have very specific experiences and are eternally lucky enough to have a microphone and a platform to say things that people listen to and ask questions about. “So as much as I want to write fun, little, silly breakup songs we don’t — I can’t, because that’s not my only experience in life.”

And, as well as being true to their hearts and heads, Cormack says they’re canny enough to know that it certainly sets them apart from what else is going on in the scene.

“We realized that it was also a good marketing tactic, too, people are going to pay attention when you’re doing something that’s different,” she says.

Not surprisingly, some of that attention has been less than kind, with The Shiverettes also becoming something of a lightning rod for some of the stances they’ve taken, some of the fights they’ve picked, including calling out venues for what they view as non-inclusive policies or bookings or calling out specific individuals.

Some of that has also been the result of the festival Cormack and Muir founded, the woman-centric Femme Wave, which has also taken some stances that have rubbed some noses the wrong way and seen them — what they view as — being “ostracized” in some quarters.

“They paint the band with that brush, which isn’t entirely incorrect,” Muir says. “But I think that because we’re loud and pushy and remind people of bad behaviour or, ‘Hey, maybe be a little bit better than that,’ people tend to not like that, actually, and there’s a lot of push back on that.

“And I think unfortunately the band has been on the shit end of the stick with that. Sometimes our reputation proceeds us.”

As to whether or not the other two members feel that it overshadows the music that they’re making or that it’s held them back at all or limited their options or opportunities in this city, specifically, Schlemm immediately dismisses that notion.

“Oh, absolutely not; I think it feeds into it,” she says. “If we’re going to get cut off from certain venues, that’s showcasing why Femme Wave is there … I’m here because we’re doing more than just getting up there and singing a few songs. Obviously I stand behind everything that we’re saying.”

She laughs. “No, it doesn’t bother me at all, I think it’s great, I kind of love it.”

Richter agrees. “Everything that is being put out from us has some sort of meaning behind it,” he says. “And if that’s going to rub people the wrong way then I could give a shit. I don’t have a reputation to ruin anyways, so what do I care.”

And while Muir admits she does feel a little bad for the other members of the band when there is some reaction to her, Cormack’s or Femme Waves’ stand on something, she also says that it’s not enough to make her back down and there will be “no pull back” in the near future.

“It’s like, ‘Fuck you anyway,’ ” she says pointing to all of the good things they’ve accomplished despite or perhaps in spite of any criticism.

“We’re still putting out a record, we’re still playing shows, we’re still going to call you out on your bullshit, we’re still going to write a song about your old boys’ club, we’re still going to do all this shit. It doesn’t matter how many times you tell us to shut up, apparently we just don’t know how to do that.”

In fact, Cormack calls the negativity and anger directed their way “motivating.”

“For sure we’re going to get attention for our politics, for sure we’re going to get attention for calling venues out for not having safe spaces and for having shitty bookers, but then it just makes me want to write better songs, better riffs, have better lyrics and just be a really fucking good band,” she says with a smile.

“So that even if you hate us, you’d put on our record and be like, ‘Damn, but it’s so good.’ I just want people to be like, ‘Ahhh, I want to hate them, but it’s just so good.’ It makes all us of us work harder.”

The Shiverettes release their album Dead Men Can’t Cat Call with a show Friday night at Wine-Ohs.

Mike Bell has been covering the Calgary music scene for the past 25 years with publications such as VOX, Fast Forward, the Calgary Sun and, most recently, the Calgary Herald. He is currently the music writer and content editor for, and the co-host of the show Saved By the Bell, which airs Wednesdays from 4-6 p.m. on CJSW 90.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter/@mrbell_23 or email him at He likes beer. Buy him one.