The Yeastie Girlz Story
The Yeastie Girlz are Joyce, Jane, Kate and Cammie. We started writing and singing songs back in 1987 at the Gilman Street Project in Berkeley, California in response to our male-dominated punk scene and the misogyny that we found everywhere in the culture and popular music.
A Little History
In 1987, a group of punks, along with Tim Yohannan of MAXIMUMROCKNROLL Magazine (MRR), started an all-ages punk club on Gilman Street in Berkeley, California. The club became known as the Gilman Street Project and continues on to this day.
The rules of the club plainly stated there would be no tolerance of racism, sexism, homophobia,violence, drugs or alcohol and there were membership meetings every month to discuss issues and make decisions by consensus.
Many bands were formed out of friendships started at Gilman street, and the Yeastie Girlz was one of them. Cammie, Joyce and Jane were regulars at the club, going to shows every weekend and volunteering to work the door, in the store or work security or cleanup.
A lot of the bands (OK, most of the bands) were made up of young men, with a smattering of women here and there, and even though one of the stated missions of the club was to combat sexism, there was still a lot of it about.
We started to notice that all-female bands were only being booked on shows with other all-female bands. Also, during the shows that would have a pit of aggressive males shoving and circling in front of the stage, you'd find a lot of the women in the back of the club, excluded from the fun of the mosh pit due to overly-aggressive behavior.
Photo © Cammie Toloui
At the time, the Beastie Boys had become wildly popular. Their album Licensed to Ill was full of misogynist attitudes (their song Girls being just one example) and could be heard everywhere, even at Gilman Street.
It was during the all-day show on the Fourth of July, 1987 that the Yeastie Girlz were born. The all-male bands Mr T Experience, Isocracy, Crimpshrine, Sweet Baby Jesus and Operation Ivy were performing that day. Jane and Cammie were there hanging out, talking about our yeast infections and the lack of female bands when Jane said “Let’s start a band called the Yeastie Girlz”. We laughed.
A little while later that day Cammie and Joyce were talking when Jane returned with a song she had just written called Yeast Power. She said “Let’s jump on stage and sing this!” We practiced a bit and right before Crimpshrine started their set, we jumped on stage clutching the lyrics with shaking hands and rapped Yeast Power to the unsuspecting audience. It was terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.
After that Tim Yohannan was putting together a compilation 7” of bands called Turn it Around. When we pointed out to him that there weren’t any women slated to be on it, the Yeastiez were chosen as the only women despite there being women-led bands Bitch Fight and Kamala and the Karnivores, both made up of regular volunteers at Gilman.
From that point we started doing shows, mostly at Gilman street but also around at a few other venues, including a particularly volatile show in a bar in Fresno, California (see the Press page for the full story in our MRR interview). It was at this show that Cammie invented the Tampbone.
The show was in a 21+ bar and since she was 19 at the time, Cammie had to wait outside until it was time to perform. She had brought a package of tampons to throw out at the audience, and while she waited, she played around with a tampon and the cardboard applicator.
Because she played the flute in elementary school, it was natural to try and play the applicator like a wind instrument. She soon figured out that if you put your finger in the narrow end and blow down the top like a flute, the applicator becomes like a trombone and she could play songs on it! The Tampbone was born.
After we had performed and recorded a few live shows, we made a demo tape and put an ad in MRR. Its eye-catching headline said Suck My Smelly Vagina!
For $2 you’d get a tape plus a “special yukky prize” Usually, the yukky prize was a tampon and the cassette tape soaking together in red goo, forcing the receiver to interact with a “bloody” tampon - a taboo but also a monthly reality faced by half of the population of the earth.
We started to get tons of fan and hate mail along with lots of orders for our demo tape. The letters were fantastically creative, outrageous, heart-felt or obnoxious and we often wrote back.
Cammie started making a scrapbook out of them all and 30 years later offered them up to the Schlesinger Library women’s archive for safekeeping along with lots of other Yeastie Girlz ephemera. Researchers are already using it to understand radical feminist history, which we find very exciting!
In December 1987, Jane left for Central America for a few months, and Kate stepped in. During Kate’s audition, we didn’t ask her to sing but instead sat her down to help us make special yukky prizes for all of our demo tape orders. We figured if she was into doing that, she’d be a great Yeastie Girl, and we were right!
In April 1988, Joyce had moved to Amsterdam and Jane returned to San Francisco. That's when Cammie, Kate, and Jane recorded Ovary Action, the Yeastie Girlz 7” EP for Lookout! Records.
The record contains most of our songs with the exception of Yeast Power, which was on the Turn It Around compilation, and Get Yer Hands Off, which was recorded live that same spring of 1988 for the Komotion International compilation LP.
In late 1988, Joyce contacted Cammie from Amsterdam saying “Get your butt over here, we’re going on tour in Europe” - or something to that effect. She had convinced the band Loveslug to let us go on tour with them. As there was only one extra seat in the van, this meant that one of us always had to sit on the lap of one of the Loveslug guys. Fun.
So Cammie flew to Amsterdam and lived with Joyce in the Van Hall squat, going out for a week or two to various countries to do shows opening for Loveslug and other touring bands like Fugazi and MDC. Then we’d return to Amsterdam for a while and go back out on another leg of the tour after a week or two of rest.
After a few months of this, Cammie went back home to San Francisco and Kate flew out to Amsterdam to continue the tour with Joyce.
In 1989, Jane had moved to New York, but Kate and Cammie–and sometimes Joyce–continued to perform occasional shows. That same year, Cammie and Kate collaborated with Lily Braindrop on a Yeastie Girlz Christmas song called Jingle Balls, which appeared on a compilation album called We Three Bings.
In 1992, we collaborated on a song with industrial dance band Consolidated, finally putting You Suck to music. At that time it was only Kate and Cammie at the Yeastie helm, so they invited spoken word artist Wendy-O Matik to join them for the recording. The song went on to become an alternative dance club hit all over the world.
The Yeastiez performed the song live with Consolidated only once. It was a benefit show in San Francisco called Rock for Choice. Kate, Cammie and Wendy jumped on stage to perform You Suck to a huge, appreciative crowd. What fun!