“My body my choice.” This phrase has resonated throughout rallies, public conversations about bodily autonomy and reproductive health, and now a newly released song by Minneapolis band Fiji-13.
Heidi James (guitar), Hilary James (bass), and Steve Crowley (drums) wrote “MBMC” years ago, around the time of the 2016 presidential election, as an outlet for the rage that they were feeling. The band first performed the song on the day of the Women’s March (Jan. 21, 2017). They have performed the song live for years, but just recently released it on May 16 in response to recent abortion bans that regulate and outlaw abortion in a number of states including Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi and Ohio. Fiji-13 is donating all proceeds from downloads of “MBMC” to the National Network of Abortion Funds.
Fiji-13 are no strangers to using music to open a dialogue about social issues. “Help me baby if you can / I don’t know how things work ’cause I’m not a man,” sisters Heidi and Hilary sing over a sugary chord progression on “Mainsplain It to Me, bb.” “MBMC” includes a “rant” section, where Hilary muses about how people have more choices over the flavor of soda they want than they do over their own bodies.
I caught up with guitarist Heidi James to talk about Fiji-13’s decision to release “MBMC,” battling rage fatigue, and finding momentum in collective action.
I know this was a song that you had written earlier; could you talk about when you wrote this song, and what were some of the factors that pushed you to write it?
A lot of our songs are really based in things that we’re frustrated by or grappling with as far as social issues go. So we were starting to write something around the time that Trump was elected, or Trump was even running for office, I think. We were just feeling so frustrated along with so many people, and just having a really hard time trying to put a song into words, or our rage into words. Especially after he got elected, we were like, “We have to be able to put some words together on it.” It almost felt futile when we would try to sit down and write something out, because nothing we were saying seemed like the right outlet [for] the rage we were feeling.
Something eventually came together in the form of this song. The first day we performed it was actually on the day of the Women’s March, which was pretty cool, and felt really right for the first time to debut that song. We had our signs from the Women’s March that we had onstage with us. It just felt like the right moment for that, and people were really receptive to it in that same way. It felt like it did land on that note of rage being channeled in that way that we wanted it to.
We’ve kept playing it ever since then. It’s frustrating that the rage hasn’t subsided, or that things haven’t changed, but it’s also not surprising. It seems to carry along a lot of the themes that we’re feeling frustrated by, then and now.
What does it feel like to perform this song now; does it still feel like an outlet for that rage? Is it cathartic, and how do you feel like that impacts the audience?
It’s gone through ebbs and flows, and I feel like that’s why we wanted to release the song now. Every time we perform it — sometimes it feels like, “Oh, that was the rage we were feeling then,” and maybe saying something like “My body my choice” felt a lot more rageful or powerful back when the Women’s March was happening. Sometimes that rage ebbs and flows — it’s not that the rage is any less present, it’s just that the words that are said can feel a little less powerful over time. It’s sort of like fatigue — like rage fatigue.
It keeps coming in waves. Especially with all of the abortion legislation that’s been coming, it felt like a really fresh wave. Even performing the song prior to these more recent legislation issues coming up, we’ve sort of been riding a wave as well.
In the middle of the song there is a rant section, where my sister Hilary, who is our bassist, does a really awesome rant about something in the middle. It’s all about how there are so many choices — when you go to the grocery store there are 75 different kinds of cereal to choose from — but when it comes to choices that people get to make about their own bodies, and especially when it comes to reproductive rights, it’s insane that there isn’t that kind of choice when it comes to agencies over our own bodies.
The rant is always different every time; she always kind of makes it up on the spot. In that way, it’s always felt fresh, because the things that she rants about are always fresh, and keeps it alive in different ways, in that sense as well.
Had you recorded the song before, or did you record it recently?
We had recorded it, I guess it was two years ago now, when we recorded our Heavy Breathing EP. We recorded the EP with our friend Jordan Bleau in his house. He just had a little extra time, and we had been playing the song. He was like, “Yeah, why don’t we just see if we can get this song tracked out and get it down,” and we did. It’s a pretty short song. It was pretty lowkey, as far as not having to put together a lot of production on it. So we were able to get it down.
But we wanted to keep the EP pretty short, so we decided to hold back that song. We didn’t really have a good reason for that at the time; we were like, “Oh, let’s keep it a five-track EP.” So it’s kind of funny that we didn’t feel like it was quite the time for it to be released, but then we had it in the bank, and maybe it was going to go on another record, and we weren’t quite sure. But I guess our past selves maybe were saving it for the right moment, which turned out to be now.
And you’re donating the proceeds from this track to the National Network of Abortion Funds?
Yeah. That organization — and there are so many good organizations to donate to — but we really thought that the emphasis on intersectionality was really awesome, and that’s something that’s super awesome for us as a band as we navigate the issues that we’re seeing.
How has releasing this song affected your mood and your momentum going forward?
I think more than anything, it’s been interesting to think about when we wrote that song, and the time that we’re still in now, and just the need and importance of continuing to keep doing the work of supporting rights that people should have over their bodies and need to have over their bodies. That was true two or three years ago, and continues to be true. It’s like I said, that rage fatigue of every day there’s something new that comes up in the news, that it can be hard to keep going, but it’s just one more reason to keep fighting and to keep trying, and to keep feeling the rage in whatever quantity it arrives in.
Is there anything in particular that motivates you when you’re feeling that fatigue — if you’re performing this song over and over again and maybe it starts to lose its meaning to you, or you feel exhausted from channeling all of this — is there anything that motivates you or energizes you to keep going?
I feel like every time we play that song, or even other songs about other social issues we speak about — and we’ve played this song so many times now — but I feel like the audience always reacts to it in different ways, but people engage with it in a really great way. The “My body my choice” line, that’s often heard in protests or other things — people take that up and they recognize it and they hear it. Even though we sing it multiple times, at shows we sing it all the time, it’s great to have that crowd interaction and that crowd reaction.
I think that’s the same thing when it comes to keeping that rage going, or keeping some of that work going, is the way that we interact with others in the community. You can stand there and yell or scream or sing, but it has to do with the community around you as well, and that’s the energy that we get when we perform it. When we put out the track, the response has been really positive, of people really wanting to participate.
I think that ties into donating the proceeds; that the more actions you tie to one another, the more momentum you can build, and the more people you can bring in, the more energy keeps building and building.
People have been so generous when they’ve downloaded the song. We put a $2 suggested download rate on it, but people have paid upwards of $20 and $30 to download one song, because they know that those proceeds are going to go to support the funds for abortion. That’s been really encouraging — and no matter the dollar amount of course — but just that it’s resonating with people in a way that feels big.