Shoegaze’s Pioneering Women Are Still Going Strong

Shoegaze’s Pioneering Women Are Still Going Strong

Emma Anderson, Deb Googe, and Rachel Goswell on the revival of the genre, making music in middle age, and hot flashes

There’s no question that shoegaze is currently going through a revival. Even before kids on TikTok discovered it, the genre was resurgent thanks to a wave of exciting young bands and reunions by some of its pioneering legends. Luckily for shoegaze fans both new and old, some of the women from the original ’90s era are either still in active bands or making music on their own. We checked in with three of them.


Jeff Pitcher

When Emma Anderson was working on her first solo album Pearlies, she originally refused to sing on it. “I just believed I couldn’t really do it,” she says over coffee in Brighton. “It might even have been something from my childhood. I remember I tried to get into the choir at school and I was always rejected.” Not the words you’d expect from the co-founder of Lush – one of the biggest ’90s-era shoegaze bands signed to 4AD – who not only wrote beloved songs like “Sweetness & Light” and “Deluxe” but sang backing vocals on them.

It was only when she approached Cocteau Twins’ Robin Guthrie (he’d produced Lush’s 1992 album Spooky) about potentially producing the record and his insistence that she sing or he would decline that she finally relented. “I just thought, ‘What’s the worst that can happen for God’s sake, and maybe it is time I sang my own songs,'” she says. Anderson had also considered having others sing and realized it would make the whole project easier if she just did it. “At this point in my life, I should just take the plunge,” says the 56-year-old. “And here we are, I did it.” (Even better, her fears of reviews saying she couldn’t sing did not come to fruition.)

Released last October on Sonic Cathedral, Pearlies was produced in the end by James Chapman (known as Maps) and features some guitar playing by Suede’s Richard Oakes, but it’s the first time the focus has solely been on Anderson. It’s a new thing for her that she’s still wrestling with; she didn’t even want her name on the record (SC label boss Nat Cramp insisted it was), and she still finds it weird having her face on the sleeve. “I’m getting used to it,” she says. “But you forget about the internet and how much you’re gonna actually keep seeing that record!”

Things have obviously changed immensely since the ’90s now that Anderson is back on the music scene: There is a noticeable decline in ageism, with Anderson citing other women over 50 also putting out records like Beth Gibbons, Alison Goldfrapp, and PJ Harvey. “And that is a really good thing,” she says. Also, “the sexist, horrible ass-grabby crew – they seem to have gone as well,” she adds. She noticed it during Lush’s brief reunion in 2016; the tour’s crew had all been to college, and there were more women. “We had a woman on monitors,” she says.

Anderson does find the current shoegaze revival a bit strange at times – especially when 22-year-olds are showing up at her in-store appearances – but she’s pleased by it nonetheless. “I think it’s great that the music has stood the test of time,” she says. But despite having been part of shoegaze the first time around, she feels the way Lush is viewed now is not quite what the reality was. “I think the passage of time has made Lush look a bit bigger than we actually were,” she says. “I’ve never made a lot of money from Lush.” But she also admits that her time away from music as a single mum might have affected her perspective. “Maybe my brain hasn’t quite caught up with it because life has got in the way,” she says. “I’m shopping, cooking and cleaning. I lead a really normal life.”


Deb Googe

If it wasn’t for Jem Doulton, the drummer and her bandmate in Thurston Moore Group, Deb Googe wouldn’t be making music on her own at 61. First, Doulton convinced the bass player to get on stage and “make some noise” on a night he organizes at a club called Servant Jazz Quarters in London. That was followed by a few more gigs, a brief tour in Europe last November, and then finally a split 12″ record. “I don’t know if I’d have done it without Jem either, you know?” says Googe. “He’s just been very encouraging and supportive.”

Known primarily as the bassist for pioneering shoegaze band My Bloody Valentine — whose 1991 album Loveless was unquestionably groundbreaking — Googe has a solo project for the first time in her life called da Googie. Venturing out on her own wasn’t just due to Doulton’s prodding; she’s reached a point in her life where she’s less self-conscious. “I understand that not everybody’s gonna like what I do,” she says. “I don’t take it as personally. It just doesn’t concern me in quite the way it would’ve 30 or 40 years ago.”

The process of making music has also changed: it’s easier and more affordable. Though Googe has access to a small studio once a week, she can do quite a lot at home. “I’m a little happier about the quality I can actually get on pretty much nothing,” she says. When she plays live, it’s her with a looper, as well as backing tracks and “a shitload of pedals.”

Prior to da Googie, Googe – who is still very much a member of MBV while Kevin Shields takes his time finishing the next album – has also played with Primal Scream, Brix Smith of the Fall, and, of course, Thurston Moore, which is a very big deal given she’s a massive Sonic Youth fan. Integrating into new bands is a seamless endeavor for her. “I’m just very adaptable and I’ve got a really keen sense of adventure,” she says. “I love playing live. And I enjoy the camaraderie and ridiculousness of being on tour.”

As for that next My Bloody Valentine record, Googe believes it’s coming. “It’s Kev, you know, and I’m used to it,” she says. “And there’s no point in forcing these things.” The fact that 2013’s m b v actually got released is what keeps her optimistic. “There were points where I thought, ‘I don’t know,’ so that [album] actually coming out still fills me with hope,” she says. “I one hundred percent think it’s coming.” (Googe sees MBV bandmate Bilinda Butcher pretty regularly since they both live in London; she says they’re “ladies who lunch.”)

In the meantime, Googe is aware that being in one of the most revered shoegaze bands means people will take an interest in her solo stuff. “It obviously gets your foot in the door,” she says. “The gigs I get and things like that – if I was starting off fresh as somebody in their early sixties? I’m not silly enough to not know that they book me hoping that people will make that connection.”


Geoff Shaw

During one of Slowdive’s gigs on their recent tour of Asia in support of their 2023 album everything is alive, singer and guitarist Rachel Goswell found herself having an extreme coughing fit in the middle of “Slomo,” brought on by a hot flash. Goswell was playing keyboard but could no longer sing. “At the end of that song, I literally had to go off stage,” she says. “For the first time ever, I just left. I went to the bathroom and thought, ‘What the hell am I going to do?'” Her coughing was so intense she was almost vomiting. The rest of the band had no idea what was going on and started “Sugar For The Pill” without her. Goswell, 52, returned halfway through the song and joined in on keys. Her bandmates – Neil Halstead, Christian Savill, Nick Chaplin and Simon Scott – obviously had no clue why she ran off but they are definitely aware of what Goswell is going through (she keeps a small fan on stage to keep her cool). “The guys know, they’re all well aware of menopause,” she says. “I’m educating them as well. They should know!”

Formed in 1989, Slowdive were signed to Creation and enjoyed modest success in the ’90s. Their initial run ended in 1995, but in 2014 the band returned to the road as conquering heroes. Their 2017 self-titled comeback album was just as rapturously received.

In 2024, Slowdive are revered as one of the most beloved shoegaze bands by fans both original and new, who are young. This has been revealed in the audiences at their gigs, a phenomenon Goswell thoroughly enjoys; you can see it in the way she’s always smiling from ear to ear when looking out at the crowds. “It’s like my youth reflecting back at me because I used to be down the front at gigs when I was younger,” she says. “And it’s quite life affirming in that way. It gives me hope for the future. It’s just that thing of, like, ‘Oh, not everybody’s an idiot.'”

Touring around the world in her early fifties is a vastly different experience than in her twenties. “When I was younger, touring meant everything to me,” she says. “And it was just all-encompassing. And coming home, adjusting was very difficult.” After being on such a high, she’d hit a low and feel depressed. “The difference for me now is that I’m settled and happy in my home life. So when I come home, I’m really happy to come home to my son and my cats.” There’s also just the peace and quiet she finds when she goes out her front door; she’s met by verdant English fields, not a bustling metropolitan city with fans waiting to get her signature.

What’s not changed is her love of assembling outfits for gigs; in the ’90s she would fashion dresses out of 70s curtains. “I just love dressing up and am lucky to have the odd item of clothing made for me by various designers, which is such a treat.” Putting together gig looks allows her to access the most authentic iteration of herself. “I would say stage Rachel is possibly the most extreme version of Rachel,” she says. “I’ve always said me on stage is me being the most myself.”

And she’s always trying to get more female energy around her on tour – especially given she’s the sole woman in Slowdive – consciously choosing bands that have a woman in the band to ensure that the bill isn’t what she calls “cock heavy.” “And that was initially me right at the start.” If there are middle aged women around, even better. “What I particularly like on tour is if there’s a woman at the venue who is the same sort of age [as me]. We just end up chatting about menopause!”

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