Ironing-Maidens
Ironing-Maidens

It’s time to get the party started with award-winning Australian electronic duo, The Ironing Maidens, whose fresh-pressed single, ‘Party Like A Housewife’ is bangin’ like an unbalanced washing machine!

Known for engineering their electronic instruments from real irons and ironing boards, the track is from their new show, ‘A Soap Opera’.

Fresh pressed house beats meet old school electro trash with samples from 1950s ads, irons and all of your other favourite white goods, ‘Party Like A Housewife’ is about redefining our ideas around housework.

“We’re pressing the conversation around recognising and valuing women’s work ‘cos when it comes to work in the home, it’s time for everyone to do their fair share,” said singer/ songwriter, Melania Jack.

“When you listen to 1950s advertising pushing the concept of housework as ‘women’s work’ and look at our current census data, it is clear that not enough has changed. The unpaid labor that women are doing globally is propping up the economy and they’re suffering in the long run. It’s unsustainable and unfair.

“With Party Like a Housewife, we want to celebrate the work, and invite the guys to the party!”

The dynamo duo recently spent a month in the UK researching electronic music pioneer, Daphne Oram, to inform the development of their new show, ‘A Soap Opera’, which takes audiences on a high energy spin-cycle into a world where irons make music, housewives revolt and daytime drama irons out the wrinkles of the patriarchy, one song at a time!

“Daphne’s work was pivotal in the race to create electronic music during the 1950s,” said Patty Bom, who ingeniously engineers The Ironing Maidens’ electronic instruments and is an Associate Lecturer & Creative Arts Technician at CQUniversity.

“Knowing of her extraordinary career provides younger female electronic musicians a lineage to connect with in an otherwise male celebrated industry.

“The domestic sphere is the final frontier of the gender equality movement and we’re having so much fun putting an ironic spin on it.”

We are sitting down with Melanie and Patty and chat about their new album

This year has started off with a bang with the release of your new single ‘Party Like A Housewife’ and upcoming premiere of your new show, ‘A Soap Opera,’ at Adelaide Fringe. What are the Ironing Maidens all about and what inspired you to start this creative project?

The Ironing Maidens are all about smashing gender stereotypes that keep people stuck in outdated 1950’s roles, particularly when it comes to the housework.

Gender equality has come a long way in so many areas and industries, but when it comes to unpaid domestic labour, women are doing the bulk of the work and propping up a false economy that is unsustainable and unfair.

The Ironing Maidens are bringing this conversation home to the Australian household in a fun, tongue in cheek and entertaining new gig theatre show – ‘A Soap Opera’ which we’ll be premiering at Adelaide Fringe.

We were originally inspired by the work of Daphne Oram, an electronic music pioneer who built one of the worlds first early synthesisers back in 1959. We were interested in why Daphne is not more widely known and recognised for her role in the race to create electronic sounds.

Looking at the social norms of the 1950’s we started drawing parallels between the lack of recognition of women; both in the electronic music production industry, and in the home. We had already started creating electronic instruments using irons and ironing boards, so after discovering Daphne, she almost became the third member of the band and the project really kicked in. Since then we have been on a wild ride of laundromat tours, a pilgrimage to London to research Daphne’s archive and are now totally absorbed in the domestic world from a whole new angle (and sound).

What’s the story behind your new single ‘Party Like A Housewife’?

This song was inspired by a personal experience. One of those usual share house situations many people can probably connect to. I was having a party one night, and woke up one of the flatmates – whoops! The cranky flatmate then confronted me in front of the whole party with, “Melania, when are you going to do the dishes?”.

It stopped the party. So after he left the room, I started on the dishes. I got out all the plates in the kitchen, pots, pans, cutlery, and piled it all in the kitchen sink. Then I covered it in tomato sauce, mayonnaise, chocolate sprinkles and made an amazing dish sculpture, rebellion art piece.

Just as I finished, my cranky flatmate arrived back into the kitchen. You should have seen his face! I thought he would explode. So with tomato sauce bottle in hand I calmly said to him, “Darling, the dishes are done. You just have to put them away.” As you can imagine, I didn’t last much longer in that share house…

I should have gotten over this years ago, but it’s stayed as a bugbear that roars every now and then saying, “Why me? Why as the woman in the share house am I the one that is expected to do the dishes?” So finally I can vent this through this new track. But over the years it’s got a new spin.

Now it’s more about trying to invite the guys to the party, come and join in, let’s do this together. Really, until we value domestic work and recognise (and hopefully compensate) its worth, we can’t expect men to come and join in. Things really need to change. The domestic sphere is the last frontier in the gender conversation.

Your last show was well received at Adelaide Fringe, winning the weekly innovation award. What’s different about your new show, ‘A Soap Opera’?

We have stepped (reluctantly) out of the laundromat and onto the stage. We love performing in laundromats, and will keep doing those shows. They are just so much fun and a complete riot for the audience, especially those that walk in to do their laundry and end up on a dance floor.

But this show needed a bit more room, and we now have more of a story to tell. We also wanted to push ourselves creatively, get out of our comfort zone and step further into our genre of gig theatre.

This new show has new music and sounds, a lot more interactive video elements, props, set, choreography, and that all needs space and good lighting! So we are running our season at Nexus Arts Venue, a beautiful little venue in Adelaide. It will be very different from last year’s show.

How has the experience collaborating with a female creative team been while developing your new Fringe show?

We have worked with some amazingly talented people on this project, in particular, we had Annette Moore write ‘A Soap Opera’. She has so much experience writing for Australian soaps like Home And Away, so she really shaped the narrative with us. Also Yvette Walker is an incredibly talented Indigenous producer who has helped us start conversations about how this story of domestic labour affects sections of the community differently.

It’s actually hasn’t been completely female but it’s been very female led. Patty and I have a priority to create a diverse and inclusive environment when we are working with other creatives. We try to foster a space where we can all work fluidly together, respecting each other and what we each bring to the table.

You’re both very passionate about the inequalities in domestic labour, usually resulting in women carrying the majority of the burden. How does that translate to your relationship involving two women? Are there ever arguments over who has to do the dishes?

Yes, you might be surprised to know that there are! I think this is because these roles are socialised. Families have different attitudes towards these roles, so as we are growing up, we have different baggage and triggers around these topics.

As the oldest female child, I know I have a lot of baggage. I go from wild cleaning sprees where I am possessed by the ghost of all housewives past; moving furniture single handedly and cleaning every single cupboard. The next week, I rebel and leave the house to fester and be taken over by wild animals. Other times I can relax and be in a more normal, balanced flow with the house, my work, our partnership and social life. I think I am doing more of that these days, as developing this show has helped me unpack some of these bags.

We have heard so many stories from women all around the world about their experiences with the housewife role and it’s not a laughing matter. Some women have shared stories about attempting to end their own lives because of the stress, boredom and erosion of their sense of self worth. It’s time to share the load!

It can be hard being creatives, as work always comes home with you. How do you find balance between your relationship and your musical career? 

Patty and I met while working on creative projects, so it’s such a natural part of our relationship. We both work in other fields as well – Patty in education, and me in the film industry – so being able to meet in the music realm is a fun and exciting meeting place. It’s a constant ‘life-imitating-art-imitating-life’ scenario and we love that.

We both are quick to acknowledge that we are aware of our privilege to be able to work in the creative arts in Australia. Especially during these uncertain times for the arts industry and employment in general. So we feel it’s also a responsibility to try and use this opportunity to its fullest and hopefully make a little bit of change. Even if we can inspire a couple of guys to go home after our show and pick up a tea towel, it’s a start.

We want to see equality in the average Australian household, so we need to get our irons plugged in, turned on and bring some heat to the situation.

 

New single, ‘Party Like A Housewife’ by The Ironing Maidens is now available on all digital platforms.

 

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