Alice Bag and the Januariez, No. 6, Women Who Rock 2012 Conference, Washington Hall, March 2-3, 2012
November 7, 1958|
Los Angeles, California U.S.
|Origin||East Los Angeles, California U.S.|
Punk rock singer|
Alicia "Alice" Armendariz, (born November 7, 1958) known professionally as Alice Bag, is a punk rock singer, musician, author, educator and feminist archivist. She is the lead singer and co-founder of the Bags, one of the first wave of punk bands to form in the mid-1970s in LA. Her first book Violence Girl, From East LA Rage to Hollywood Stage is the story of her upbringing in East Los Angeles, her eventual migration to Hollywood and the euphoria and aftermath of the first punk wave. This former bilingual elementary school teacher continues as an author, outspoken activist, feminist and a self-proclaimed troublemaker.
Bag was born and raised in East Los Angeles, California. Her father, Manuel Armendariz, was a self-employed carpenter who worked for a time in the Bracero program, and her mother, Candelaria "Candy" Armendariz, was a homemaker. Both of her parents were from Mexico. Candy had five children from her first marriage, which ended after the death of her first husband. She had an older half-sister, Yolanda.
As a child, Bag was influenced by the music played by her family, including her father's ranchera music and sister's soul music collections. As a member of the punk rock band the Bags, Alice was at the forefront of the L.A. punk rock scene in the late 1970s. Though punk rock is seen as a predominantly white male genre in the mainstream light; Bag describes the early movement as an extremely welcoming community being open to everyone, especially to women.
Throughout her years of gaining her education, Bag experienced not so friendly encounters and was picked on. During her middle school and high school years, she was picked on for her weight, her teeth, and her physical appearance. "And her painful middle school experiences as an overweight girl with buck teeth and glasses." So she found that she was alone a lot of the time. That took a big part in her music tastes. It drew her to develop a certain liking in music such as Queen, David Bowie and Elton John. She became so into those artists that when she transferred high schools, people called her, "Ziggy" after David Bowie's persona. This stage in her life guided her to transform into a rebellious, yet attentive teenager.
Teachers ridiculed her for not knowing English, long stints with no friends followed by a brief foray into cheerleading, close calls with law enforcement and a firsthand view of police mistreatment of Chicano rights activists, its clear to the reader how each experience contributes to the evolution of a stage persona. Alice began working at inner-city LA schools, teaching English, after she received her bachelor's degree in Philosophy from California State University- Los Angeles.
Bag is most famous for being a member of the Bags, one of the first bands on the L.A. punk scene. The Bags were notable for having two female lead musicians (Patricia Morrison co-founded the group with her school friend, Bag) and for pioneering an aggressive sound and style which has been cited as an early influence on what would become the hardcore punk sound. The aggressive sound that the band had was later noted to have a Mexican/Chicano influence that Alice unintentionally brought along from her childhood. Members of the Bags appeared as the Alice Bag Band in director Penelope Spheeris's landmark 1981 documentary on the Southern California punk scene, The Decline of Western Civilization. As a lead singer of the Bags, she cocreated the first wave of California punk alongside the likes of Black Flag, X, the Germs, Phranc (then in Catholic Discipline), and the five musicians who would go onto form the Go-Go's. Bag went on to appear and perform in other Los Angeles-based rock bands including Castration Squad, The Boneheads, Alarma, Cambridge Apostles, Swing Set, Cholita - the Female Menudo (with her friend and collaborator, performance artist Vaginal Davis), Las Tres, Goddess 13 (the subject of a KCET/PBS produced documentary, "Chicanas In Tune") and Stay At Home Bomb.
Later on in Bag's life when she made the connection between punk performances and ranchera ones, she created the genre "punk-chera," which she performed by mixing aspects of each separate genre.
Bag defied all odds and became a creator of what would eventually become known as punk despite many setbacks and family and social pressures. The article "Vexed on the Eastside: Chicana Roots and Routes of L.A. Punk," captures Alice Bag's energy and enthusiasm by quoting Los Angeles Times which stated, "When Alice, lead singer for the Bags rock group, takes the stage in torn fishnet hose and micro mini leopard-skin tunic, she explodes into convulsive, unintelligible vocals." Still today Alice shares her music with her followers. In addition to her musical talents she also inspires other women musicians and remains involved with her community through her biography titled "Violence Girl".
Alice Bag began singing professionally at the age of 8 recording theme songs for cartoons in both English and Spanish. She didn't gain exposure until after forming the Bags. Alice originally collaborated with Patricia Morrison and Margo Reyes in what they first called Mascara then Femme Fatale and ultimately evolved into the Bags. The Bags were active from year 1977-1981. They released a single "Survive" along with "Babylonian Gorgon". The band was later added onto a compilation album, which is an album of mixed artist with the same genre.
The Bags Songs included:
The Bags broke up by the year of 1981, which then led Alice Bag to join another band in the late 80's called Cholita! The Bags were renamed the Alice Bag Band for the release of The Decline of Western Civilization. Alice Bag and partner Patricia Morrison had a dispute about who had the right to use the name, and "Alice Bag Band" was created. Following the birth of her daughter in the mid-90s, Alice Bag made the choice to take a break from the music industry and become a stay-at-home mother. Soon after, though, she came to realize that she wanted something else in life in addition to motherhood. As a result, she started her current project, At Home Bomb. At Home Bomb is an all-female community centered around punk rock that exists to address social constraints that are put on women both domestically as well as musically. Bag keeps her music alive using sound cloud website. She has her full album of Stay at Home Bomb, Cholita!, and all songs she has previously recorded.
Bag's memoir, Violence Girl, From East LA Rage to Hollywood Stage - A Chicana Punk Story, was published by Feral House in fall 2011. In 2008, Bag attended a comic-con with her daughter, and that is where her initial inspiration to create Violence Girl came from. Her memoir is a compilation of short stories that sets the stage for her desire to be a punk artist. Her book contains stories of entering the punk rock scene at a time that was more inviting for women musicians. As a musician at the forefront of punk rock, Alice Bag's story can be inspiring for future generations of female punk artists. Violence Girl reveals how domestic abuse fueled her desire for female empowerment and sheds a new perspective on the origin of hardcore, a style most often associated with white suburban males. The confrontational style of Alice Bag's performances take direction from witnessing domestic abuse as a child. Alice channeled deeply rooted personal trauma into power on stage, refusing to be victimized or oppressed by men. Through punk music, Alice realized the extent to which she had internalized witnessing violence as a child, and she worked to overcome using violence as a mode of releasing rage. Music became both a process of healing her wounds and a way to extend power and support to her community.
Since 2004, Bag has also maintained a digital archive of interviews with women who were involved in the first wave of the Southern California punk scene in the 1970s, including musicians, writers, and photographers. The archive also includes newspaper and magazine clippings, photos, and postcards relating to LA punk.
Continuing her movement in empowering women, Bag was the keynote speaker at the 2012 Women Who Rock: Making Scenes Building Communities unConference in Seattle, Washington. A collection of various speakers and activities meant to empower and inspire not only Latina women, but women of every ethnicity, Alice Bag discussed her rough childhood and touched on points from her biography, "Violence Girl". She sang alongside both The Januariez, a local band, and Medusa, a well-known emcee and hip hop artist. When asked about how she channels her femininity into her angry performances on stage, Alice says she is defined not by gender, but by strength. Bag explained at the 2014 Women Who Rock [un]Conference that the place for punk in the feminist movement is to continue to challenge; punk is meant to draw attention to things that are wrong in society: "We don't live in a post racism, post feminism, post anything; punk allows us to speak our minds."
Not only was she involved in the 2012 Women Who Rock Conference, but also was a part of the panel in the 2014 Women Who Rock Conference.
Bag currently maintains part-time residency in Los Angeles, California and Phoenix, Arizona. She remains musically active and collaborates with artists including Teresa Covarrubias, Lysa Flores, Martin Sorrondeguy, Allison Wolfe and others. She has recently begun exhibiting her oil paintings in gallery showings.