Female-Fronted Bands from the ’90s (That We Should Still Be Listening To)

My boyfriend, Ian, told me a story a couple weeks ago that made me really sad. He works in a clothing store and it had been really busy with back-to-school shopping and stuff. He was ringing people up non-stop for a couple hours when a teenage boy (he guesstimated between 14-17) dropped a pile of clothes on the counter. Ian proceeded to look at the stuff and ring it up. He said something to the effect of, “Your clothes look like they came from Kurt Cobain’s closet.” At this point, I could totally picture the clothes in my head. The teenager, on the other hand, looked at him blankly and said, “Who?”

I thought, “Steven, you need to do something about this.” So I played some Nirvana for my children. They needed to be educated early. After playing Nirvana, I asked them who their favorite bands or singers were and my youngest (age: 7) immediately said, “Katy Perry and The Wanted.” My mouth went dry. I didn’t say anything because I like Katy Perry too, but … favorite? My 8 year-old told me he was thinking and needed to “think about it some more.” This is when I knew I needed to expose them to more than just what’s on popular radio. Capitalizing on the fact that both of my boys like Katy Perry, I decided to put together a mix of some of my favorite and most important female-fronted bands from the ’90s. These bands, like Kurt Cobain, should not be forgotten and should be listened to often.

I’m going to go ahead and assume everyone that reads this knows who Courtney Love is. Remember when she and her band, Hole, put out an amazing album (Live Through This) just four days after Courtney’s husband (Kurt Cobain) committed suicide? Live Through This is a classic and should be in everyone’s collection.

Additional Reading:
Official Website

Essential Album:
Live Through This

Veruca Salt
Veruca Salt was formed in Chicago in by Nina Gordon and Louise Post. The band had only played a few shows when they were signed to a record label and released what would be their most famous single, “Seether.” On the strength of this single and before even releasing their first full-length record, they were asked to tour with Hole. In 1994, they recorded and released their first record, American Thighs, which eventually went gold.

Additional Reading:
Veruca Salt’s Official Website
Veruca Salt’s Wikipedia

Essential Album:
American Thighs

L7 was an all-female grunge band from Los Angeles. Their third album, Bricks Are Heavy, was released in 1992 and contained their biggest and most well-known hit, “Pretend We’re Dead.” I saw them play live at Lollapalooza in 1994. They were an hour late for their performance and when they came on, they were pretty drunk – but they played such an amazing live show, I felt lucky to have seen them.

Additional Reading:
L7’s Wikipedia
L7’s Website

Essential Album:
Bricks Are Heavy

I am partial to bands from Boston, as this indicates, and this is one of my favorites from the ‘90s. The band was fronted by Mary Timony and was known for their sound as much as their lyrics. I would liken it to an all-female game of Dungeons and Dragons, set to music. Timony is now a member of the band Wild Flag.

Additional Reading:
Helium’s Wikipedia

Essential Album:
The Dirt of Luck

Velocity Girl
Velocity Girl was a Washington, D.C.-based band lead by Sarah Shannon. The band was heavily influenced by pop music and the shoegaze genre. Sarah would often share lead vocals with guitarist Archie Moore. They released three albums and were known for releasing multiple 7” vinyl singles. They broke up in 1996.

Additional Reading:
Velocity Girl’s Wikipedia

Essential Album:

that dog
This L.A.-based rock band were known for their catchy songs and layered harmonies. Fronted by Anna Waronker on guitar and vocals, along with sisters Rachel (bass/vocals) and Petra (violin/vocals) and Tony Maxwell on drums. They released three albums before dissolving in 1997.

Additional Reading:
that dog’s Wikipedia

Essential Album:
Totally Crushed Out

Bikini Kill
Bikini Kill are considered to be the founders of the “riot grrrl” movement. They were formed in Olympia, Washington in 1990 by vocalist and songwriter Kathleen Hanna, guitarist Billy Karren, bassist Kathi Wilcox and drummer Tobi Vail. The band was famous for their radical feminist lyrics as well as their live performances. They disbanded in 1998 and Kathleen Hanna eventually went on to for the band Le Tigre.

Additional Reading:
Bikini Kill’s Wikipedia
Blog Archive

Essential Album:
Pussy Whipped

The Breeders
The Breeders formed as a side project for Kim Deal and Tanya Donelly. At the time, Kim was still in The Pixies and Tanya was in Throwing Muses. Eventually, The Pixies broke up and Kim recruited her twin sister, Kelley, to replace Tanya (who left to form her own band, Belly). The Breeders recorded and released the album Last Splash in 1994. It went platinum.

Additional Reading:
The Breeders Wikipedia

Essential Album:
Last Splash

Belly was formed in 1991 and led by Tanya Donelly. They released only two albums before dissolving in 1996. Tanya has since recorded a bunch of solo albums.

Additional Reading:
Belly’s Wikipedia

Essential Album:

In the ’90s, there was a second British Invasion of sorts with Radiohead, Blur and Oasis leading the way. There were a slew of other bands (especially female-fronted bands from England) that gained popularity during that time period. Elastica was one of those bands. Elastica formed in 1992 and released their first album in 1995. The lead singer of the band also provided tabloid fodder because she dated the lead singer of Blur, Damon Albarn. Elastica broke up in 2001.

Additional Reading:
Elastica’s Wikipedia

Essential Album:

One of my favorite bands from the ’90s (and still a fave) is Tuscadero, an indie rock group from Washington D.C. The band sang nostalgic pop songs about the pop culture of their youths. They had (and I imagine still do) a cult following based on the catchiness of a few of their songs, most notably “Nancy Drew.” They were dropped from their label in 1998 and then broke up in 1999.

Additional Reading:
Tuscadero’s Wikipedia

Essential Album:
The Pink Album

Cibo Matto
Cibo Matto was a band formed by Miho Hatori and Yuka Honda in New York City in 1994. The two women wrote songs about food on the first album, Viva! La Woman. For their second album, Stereo * Type A, they recruited additional members (including Sean Lennon) and expanded their songwriting. They broke up in 2001 and are rumored to be working on a new album.

Additional Reading:
Cibo Matto’s Wikipedia

Essential Album:
Viva! La Woman

What other female-fronted bands from the ’90s do you wish were around and popular?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=289400654 Philippa Claire MacDuff

    love this post! And I never knew the connection between The Pixies->The Breeders->Belly, wow!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=6809266 Giliah Nagar

    i’m hoping that the omission of sleater kinney was nothing but a gross oversight, especially after mentioning Wild Flag. L7 and the dog are worthy of mention but greats like sleater kinney and garbage are given the cold shoulder?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=6809266 Giliah Nagar

    *that dog.

    ps. pirate prude kicks the dirt of luck’s ass, imho. :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=783764854 Steven Folkins

      I really could have added so many more to my list and Sleater Kinney was definitely on the first draft. Pirate’s Prude is a great EP, but I just love so many more songs on Dirt of Luck.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000002953048 Catherine Bruno

    One of my favorite bands from the 90’s was part of the Riot Grrrl movement as well, Bratmobile. They were known for their surf music type sound and lead by Allison Wolfe and Molly Neuman. I love the song Cool Schmool and they also did a cover of Cherry Bomb by The Runaways. I’m also a huge fan of Letters to Cleo, they were the band in 10 Things I Hate About you along with Save Ferris (another great band from the 90’s known for their ska type sound).

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=783764854 Steven Folkins

      I love Letters to Cleo so much and still listen to Aurora Gory Alice often.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000002953048 Catherine Bruno

    How can I forget Garbage! Still one of my favorites and their new album is pretty good. I would love to see them live.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002375284302 Ella Coquine

    Haha Tuscadero!! I LOVED them. My AOL screen name was Tuscader0..the o being a zero because a ‘Happy Days’ fan beat me to the punch!

    I myself would have thrown Babes in Toyland on there, but I know they’re an acquired taste. : )

    Great piece!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000092802193 Magdalena Panas

    Recently I heard Haim and they rock , reminds me the bangles and female bands from late 80s and 90s. Good spirit :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=807430253 Nichole Fransen

    Sleater Kinney!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002375284302 Ella Coquine

      YESSSSSS!! Call the Doctor defined Sophomore year!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=6800972 Jenn Kriscunas

    Ahhh. I bought a guitar with my 8th grade graduation money after seeing Veruca Salt live (opening for Bush. #90s)

    Anyway, I second a lot of the above – Sleater-Kinney and Garbage, for sure, and I would also throw in a little Tragic-Kingdom-era No Doubt?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1240874162 Amber Copeland

      I remember the Bush/Veruca Salt tour. I saw them in El Paso with the Goo Goo Dolls. My husband is still jealous I saw Veruca Salt live. 😀

      I would also add Lush. Underrated band in my opinion. And Bratmobile rocks.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=783764854 Steven Folkins

        I saw Veruca Salt play live two times – once when American Thighs was released and once when the played the main stage in Lollapalooza in 1995 when Hole headlined. Lush was on the first draft of this list, but I had to pare it down.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=38305510 Casey Crawford

    Connect with Facebook to post a comment

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=38305510 Casey Crawford

    No Doubt! They just released a new album. Going to see them tomorrow night in LA! Can’t go wrong with Tragic Kingdom/Return of Saturn/Rock Steady

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=595838883 Aydan Turali

    I’m surprised no one’s mentioned Throwing Muses. They are one of my favorites

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=640317305 Lane Valentine Hunt

    Lunachicks were good as well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=560214810 Dot Heffron

    Sleater Kinney, PJ Harvey, Portishead, Mazzy Star, Liz Phair, Lush, Letters to Cleo, and being a Bostonian, I assume the omission of Juliana Hatfield/Blake Babies was simply an oversight. This list is fresh for me, as my kids are the same ages and I had to put the kabosh on the nonstop Katy Perry/Taylor Swift!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=783764854 Steven Folkins

      Juliana Hatfield 3 was on my first draft of this list, but I had to pair it down.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=172600001 Daniel Waclaw

    No Sleater-Kinney? Or Garbage?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=511560621 Sheldon Lee

    Mazzy Star, Liz Phair & Letters to Cleo are big ones.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=511560621 Sheldon Lee

    Oh I would also like to add Elastica, Julian Hatfield, The Cranberries, and The Cardigans… I know some of these are still around but they are not getting any radio play :(

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1220616849 Anthony Chavarria

    Yeah, what about Garbage, Lush, Letters to Cleo, Liz Phair, Tori Amos, Aqua (if you can count the male or female leads depending on song) and Bjork, to name a few.

    But I am very happy to see the likes of Veruca Salt & Elastica on here!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=22605934 Cherra T. Mitchell

    Yes to all of these, plus The Murmurs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1157225829 Artemio Daniel Arrúa

    The Cranberries?

Need more Giggles?
Like us on Facebook!

Want more Giggles?
Sign up for our newsletter!