Alice Bag (born Alicia Armendariz on November 7, 1958, in Los Angeles, California) 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 has remained active in music since the late 1970s and will release her second book in 2015.
Alice Bag was born and raised in East Los Angeles, California. As a child, Alice 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. She 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 spunky gals we came to know as 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.
Throughout her years of gaining her education, Alice 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.
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. As a part of the Hollywood 70s punk scene, Bag helped to create a music that was originally open to artists of color. The Bags’ influence was thus, even more important for Chicanas and women in general. Her screams became her signature sound, and characterized the Hollywood/L.A. punk scene, and later inspired some in the East L.A. punk scene. In the 1990s she began collaborating with one of East L.A.'s favorite punk singer, songwriter, and musician Teresa Covarrubias of the Brat.
Alice Bag seemed to be influenced by her family’s history. More of the way her father was. He was an abusive man towards her mother. She found this connection between the way he was and Lucha Libre. She had a love/hate relationship towards him. She knew he could be a villain, but could also be a good man. “It was as much part of the Mexican culture as eating a sweet apple with salt of chili.” (Alice Bag) Although some memories of her father were negative, she still enjoyed and stated that some of her happiest memories were going on trips to Tijuana to visit her father’s family in Mexico. Out of her culture, she was influenced by the performances of Lucha Villa, Pedro Infante and Jose Alfredo Jimenez. They influenced her feel for music, and caused her to develop her own style of singing.
A cause Alice Bag has been passionate about is education, especially bilingualism. In a home that chastised her for speaking anything other than Spanish with her family, Alice has first-hand experience to the difficulties of going to school without knowing English. 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.
Alice 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”.
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.
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Alice Bag has done more than just write and sing songs; she has contributed to building community. Through the processes of improvising, hosting events, and just communicating with other people, Alice has built bridges. As Quetzal Flores said in a lecture at the University of Washington, “There are all these histories that are connected with Alice Bag that are more telling than her story alone.” Alice Bag’s persona and history is multi-dynamic. Her trajectory has encompassed a mixture of style, ideas, perspectives, connections and activities that have allowed Alice to continue breaking down borders. In her co-interview with Chola con Chello conducted by Quetzal, the concept of remembering and redefining history came up. The connection between these three artists and other would not have come to light if it not for this interview. As Chola con Chello (Maria Elena Gaitan) said, “There are a lot of stories that need to be told.”[ For example, Alice, as a member of Las Tres, helped create a safe space, where artists could feel free to express themselves by improvising: building community and sharing space is more important than the product itself. The shared space also reflects a shared history and the intertwining of their personas. They are currently located in East Los Angeles, specifically at the Troy Café Los Angeles during the 1990s.
It was this environment that connects the art of improvising to Amalia Mesa-Brian’s concept of “cultural transformation required an expansion of aesthetic language”. This space opens the doors to the authentic freedom of expression, which is not meant only for individuals but for communities of artist as a whole. It’s a new space where new sounds are mixed together in ways that would not have occurred while reading a music sheet. These spaces have transformed what it means to play music and expanded the pathways for other to express themselves or connect to their music. As Maria Elena explains in the interview, improvising with Las Tres is the space she found a “freedom that is indescribable to me…. I Re-discovered my instrument and myself, in this act of opening up.” It is through spaces like these that healing, empowerment and mobilization of the community happen.
Alice Bag began singing professionally at the age of 8 recording theme songs for cartoons. She recorded cartoon theme songs in English and in Spanish. Through that she was able to showcase bilingual ability and cultural diversity at a very young age. She didn't gain exposure until after forming the Bags. Alice originally collaborated with Bags members Patricia Bag and Margo Reyes in a band they first called Mascara then Femme Fatale, which 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:
- Survive (single)
- Babylonian Gorgon (single)
- TV Dinner
- Why Tomorrow?
- We Don't Need the English
- Animal Call
- We Will Bury You
- Violent Girl
- Disco’s Dead
- Sanyo Theme
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.
Feminist activism and Violence Girl
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.
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."
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.
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.
Alice Bag is a Twitter enthusiast keeping all her followers up to date with current resistance events. Her daily tweets include information about her most current interviews, new work, and personal thoughts. Alice keeps her audience updated on current rallies, protests, and conferences that defend and promote the Chicanismo movement. Through her tweets you will be able to find references to other great, status quo defiant artists. As of June 5, 2014 Alice Bag only has 2,781 followers. She also has links to her daily blogs about the her Chicana, feminist, punk rock life.
Here are some examples of Alice Bag’s tweets:
- May 20 9:31 A.M - “A favorite @KembraPfahler quote: “I don’t think being an artist requires talent. I think it require courage and audacity and discipline.”’
- April 7 1:46 P.M - “You can be the person making the change happen, not just someone who is along for the ride.”
In addition to her Twitter account, Alice Bag has her own Tumblr account in which the punk rock artist talks about her early life stories and experiences as a punk rock artist during her career initiation. In her account she writes about the different encounters she faced with other artists whom she met along the way. She uses this space to touch on her experiences in the past, how they shaped her life and career and how they made her the person she is today. She references many artists who made an impact in her musical career and recalls the moments when she first met them, outlining their first encounter detail by detail. "Tomata was the first Screamer I met. I met him at a party but like so many of the parties that I attended during that time, I have little idea who my host or hostess was. The same night I met Tomata, I also met the flashy, tough looking Cherie The Penguin and her tan, buffed-out faithful companion Tony The Tiger."[this quote needs a citation] Alice Bag -Tumblr. She mentions the Tupperwares and Screamers, Cherie The Penguin and Tony The Tiger as well as other shows such the East Side Kids who inspired her career while during her early stages as a punk rock artist. In one of her entries she talks about her first encounter with the group, as she recalls meeting the band's co-conspirators; Tomata du Plenty and Tommy Gear. She utilizes this space to blog about important dates when she will be making an appearance in public or performing as means to share memories relating to her earlier years as a punk rock artist and other important moments today. In addition to sharing stories about her early life, Alice Bag also blogs about her feelings, music, interviews, book excerpts and about other artists who have made an impact in her life.
Alice Bag is active in her blog account and has many fans and supporters who follow her on her blog. She is constantly working to engage other young artists and motivates them to keep on striving and not give up. "During my 20’s and 30’s at some point I started to think, “I have to give it up and I have to grow up.” But the truth is that I can never give it up and that’s another thing that I always tell people, especially young people: don’t even bother thinking that you’re going to give up whatever your art or your creative thing is. It’s always there for you."— Interview with New Books in Popular Music. In addition to sharing stories about her early life, Alice Bag also blogs about her feelings and about other artists who have made an impact in her life, along with music, interviews, and images both of herself and of others who have inspired her. Her other blog, pipebombforthesoul.blogspot.com/, is dedicated to her book Pipe Bomb for the Soul, which was released on May 1, 2015.
Alice Bag also uses her social media sites to encourage an expansion of the punk rock music scene to include more female artists. “More women need to tell their stories, otherwise rock history will remain as it always has been - a place where only men are present. Those who have had the power to shape the story of rock have been white men, and they have focused on what they are most easily able to relate to - other white men. But if you only hear a story from one perspective you will never get the whole truth.” ( "Alice Bag." "More Women Need to Tell Their Stories, Otherwise... May 31, 2015. Accessed June 4, 2015. )
Alice is constant engaged and active with her Facebook page currently having more the 4,200 followers. As Alice stated in a Post article published on April 30th 2015, “I made the decision to self-publish my next book because I wanted to experience the process.” ( Bag, Alice. "Alice Bag." Facebook. Accessed June 4, 2015.) Therefore, since May 1, 2015 she has been releasing daily segments of her new book, Pipe Bomb for The Soul on Facebook by sharing links to her blog. In each segment she included short quotes or phrases that reflect the main point of that days post. Besides this exciting new daily posts, she shares her music, pictures, events and interesting articles. As Alice states her Facebook, this page is a way in to “Educate yourself. Empower yourself. Change your world.”
Pipe Bomb for the Soul
Alice Bag released the book Pipe Bomb for the Soul on May 1, 2015. Pipe Bomb For the Soul is a book containing diary entries that she wrote when she traveled to Nicaragua as part of a work study program and worked in a school in the village of Esteli for one month during the Sandinista revolution in 1986. Bag had previously mentioned her trip to Nicaragua in her book, Violence Girl. When asked about her motivation to write the book, Bag said: “I had the book written because I had the journal. When people would ask me about that portion of Violence Girl, I looked through my journal and gave them more answers. I realized I had more stories to tell.”[this quote needs a citation]
Before the book was released, she published one chapter excerpts on her blog, pipebombforthesoul.blogspot.com. The first excerpt was published on May 26, 2014. The released excerpt, titled Meeting The Comandante, (which translates to Meeting the Commander) is dated Sunday April 6, 1986. The excerpt describes her introduction to a short woman with braided hair and indigenous features, Comandante Gladys Báez. At first she was surprised to imagine this lady as the leader of a revolutionary group consisting of both women and men, but she quickly checked herself and realized the narrowness of her thoughts. The passage continues with her Nicaraguan host mother telling Alice about her experiences with Gladys in Luisa Amanda Espinoza Association of Nicaraguan Women, or in Spanish AMNLAE (Asociación de Mujeres Nicaragüenes Luisa Amanda Espinoza).The diary entries in her book are often about encounters that she has with other people, particularly women, which inspired her and changed her worldview. Of her time in Nicaragua, Bag says: “I remember going home and thinking I'd never feel the same about living in the United States, I would never feel like I could ever complain about anything because I had seen real strength, I had seen people make do with so much less than I ever had at my poorest. Beyond that, I learned a lot from the process of living with the all-female family that I was lucky enough to stay with led by an amazing, strong matriarch. Where I really learned was in just opening myself up to other people's experiences.” Bag is scheduled to attend many events at libraries, universities, and other public venues to perform, read excerpts from her two books, and discuss Chicana culture, LGBTQ rights, feminism, the origins of the “riot grrrl” movement and the role of punk rock music and art in enacting social change today.
An oral history with Alice Bag is housed at the University of Washington's Libraries's Women Who Rock: Making Scenes, Building Communities Oral History Archive.
- Alice Bag (2016)
- Survive (1978)
- Disco's Dead (2003)
- All Bagged Up: The Collected Works 1977-1980 (2007)
- Cromelin, Richard (1983-06-08). "POP MUSIC REVIEW Benefit Reunites Punkers for (Mostly) Acoustic Sets". Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles Times). pp. 4–.
- Bag, Alice. "Biography". Alice Bag Official Website. Retrieved 2 June 2014.
- Vielma, Cory. "An Interview with Alice Bag". Network Awesome. Retrieved 2 June 2014.
- bublitz, Dana. "Women Who Rock 2014 Poster". Retrieved 4 June 2014.
- "East L.A. Punk". americansabor.org. Retrieved June 23, 2015.
- Seggel H. VIOLENCE GIRL: EAST L.A. RAGE TO HOLLYWOOD STAGE, A CHICANA PUNK STORY. Bitch Magazine: Feminist Response To Pop Culture [serial online]. Spring2012 2012;(54):65. Available from: Academic Search Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed June 1, 2014
- Ziegler, Chris (2003-08-14). "Alice’s Got a Brand New Bag". OC Weekly. Retrieved 2008-04-27.
- Habell-Pallán, Michelle (2012) “Death to Racism and Punk Revisionism”
- Habell-Pallan, Michelle (2008). ""'Vexed on the Eastside': Chicana Roots and Routes of L.A. Punk" : pages 25-29.". Vexing: Female Voices from East L.A. Punk. Museum of Art. Exhibit Catalogue.
- Habell-Pallán, Michelle. Vexed on the Eastside: Chicana Roots and Routes of L.A. Punk.
- "Razorcake Punk Music Magazine - Punk Band Interviews - - Alice Bag Interview - Photos by Kat Jetson, Originally ran in Razorcake #24". razorcake.org. Retrieved June 23, 2015.
- "Women Who Rock Oral History Archive :: Alice Bag". content.lib.washington.edu. Retrieved 2015-09-26.
- Mesa-Bains, Amalia. "El Mundo Femenino: Chicana Artists of the Movement-A Commentary on Development and Production." In Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation, 1965-1985, 131–140. Wright Art Gallery, UCLA, 1991.
- Bag, Alice. "Alice Bag Blog". Retrieved 2014-06-06.
- "Bags Biography". artifixrecords.com. Retrieved June 23, 2015.
- "Survive: Alice Bag's "Violence Girl" - The Los Angeles Review of Books". The Los Angeles Review of Books. Retrieved June 23, 2015.
- Women Who Rock Archive
- "Women Who Rock Oral History Archive :: Alice Bag". washington.edu. Retrieved June 23, 2015.
- Alice Bag and Chola Con Cello, Interview, 2011
- Q & A With Alice Bag and Elona Jones, Interview, 2012
- "Women of Color For Systemic Change to facilitate the WWR 2015 (un)Conference Intergenerational Roundtable!". Women Who Rock. Retrieved June 23, 2015.
- "2014 SPIKING THE HONEY Saturday APRIL 26". Women Who Rock. Retrieved June 23, 2015.
- "Alice Bag". tumblr.com. Retrieved June 23, 2015.
- Bag, Alice. "Pipe Bomb For The Soul." Pipe Bomb For The Soul. Accessed June 4, 2015.
- San Roman, Gabriel. "Alice Bag Reflects on Her Nicaraguan Revolution in 'Pipe Bomb For The Soul'" Heard Mentality. May 15, 2015. Accessed June 4, 2015.
- "Events." Alice Bag. Accessed June 4, 2015.
- Official website (incl. Twitter)
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- Bag's Diary of A Bad Housewife
- Bag's online archives of punk photos