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Girlcore band Grenadina isn't just sugar and spice

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Huddled around a large table at Succotash, the girls of Grenadina are clamoring over menus and introductions.

The morning has been a scramble. The band is set to take the stage at the Out in the Crossroads festival at Hamburger Mary's in little more than an hour, and two of the band's four members are managing calls and texts from parents they have invited to the gig. They have all been up since 6 a.m., allotting extra time in their schedule just in case their fickle van failed them somewhere between Lawrence and downtown Kansas City.

"I feel like someone has to get a piece of cake for breakfast," says lead singer Katie Ford, a petite redhead with gold-rimmed green eyes. Her bandmates agree: Someone should definitely order the joint's specialty eight-tiered rainbow cake.

Ford pauses, then volunteers: "Well, I guess I'll take that bullet."

For a band that fits a lot of stereotypes, Grenadina is remarkably at ease and without agenda. The four women — Ford, Steph Castor on guitar, Stef Petrozz (who goes by Rozz) on drums, and Mia Morrow on bass — have been pegged as a queer band (three of the members are gay), a chick-rock band and, to their amusement and consternation, a "girlcore" band. All of these things are somewhat accurate, but for Grenadina, none of them really hit the mark.

"We don't want to just be known as a gay band or just an all-girl band," says Castor, who keeps her blond pixie cut tucked into a knit cap. "We just want to play our music. We want to be that band that you couldn't tell if we were all-female if you just listened to our music."

"Sometimes people are afraid to take us seriously, which is a little disconcerting," Petrozz says. "I love playing music, and I don't want to be that band that's just known because, 'Oh, hey, they're doing the gay thing.'"

"Three-quarters of the band just happens to be gay," Castor adds. "Katie's the only straight one. And it's just funny because some of her lyrics make her sound like she's a raging bisexual."

Castor is referring to songs from the band's recently released Get Shallow EP, an appealing, varied five-track collection that acts as a taste test for Grenadina newbies. (It's streaming and downloadable on Bandcamp.) Ford's crisp singing cuts through the punk-fueled guitar riffs on "Tina Needs a Girlfriend," and the brooding "Locomotion" tries on emo. Get Shallow is loud and emotional — Ford is venting a lot of her frustrations in these songs. Were it not for her tight vocal control and the fast-paced rhythms and drum work, the EP might have been swallowed by its own angst.

Then again, that's kind of the point for Grenadina. On Get Shallow, you hear echoes of bands like Brand New, AFI and Glassjaw. The album is fast-paced and ferocious, with nimble guitar lines that seem to get brasher with every listen. Getting in touch with your anger is encouraged in this kind of music, and Grenadina isn't afraid to be furious.

Enter the term "girlcore," a word that evokes an unwelcome image of powder-puff-tinged rock. It's the kind of shorthand guaranteed to make some listeners and critics recoil.

Grenadina's members take credit for coining the word when they began playing together a year and a half ago.

"We're very lighthearted about it," Castor says. "Anytime we use that term, it's just for social-media hashtags and stuff, just because we think it's funny and it's catchy. 'Girlcore' wasn't really a thing that we knew of. It came up because we all secretly want to be metal musicians. It was just a joke — mostly a joke about there being a huge lack of a female presence in heavy music."

Yet, for a band born out of distaste for gender stereotyping, Grenadina is still surprised at how much of it must be combated in the music industry.

"When you're all girls, a lot of guys will just be like, 'OK, let me see what's going on,' because they don't think you can play music," Petrozz says. She rolls her eyes. "Sometimes they'll be like, 'You know, I heard there was an all-girl band playing, and you guys actually surprised me. You're actually pretty good.'"

Ford cuts in: "I was kind of surprised by how definitive that was, the girl thing. Whenever I first heard about this band, I knew it was going to be a girl band and I was kind of stoked about it. I didn't even consider the fact that it was obviously a gay band [at that point]. It didn't even register in my mind." She shrugs and goes on. "People were like, 'That's so sweet — you're like a queer band' or 'Not bad for a girl band,' and I was like, 'Oh, I always thought we were just a band.'"

Despite those frustrations, and in contrast to Get Shallow's jaded tones, Grenadina's musicians come off as earnest, even a little innocent. It's a stance that works well for a young band still figuring out where it belongs as it slips free of various pigeonholes.

"I think being 'girlcore' makes us hard to assign with other groups," Ford says. "We've ended up playing with all kinds of other people. Last year, we played a gig with Eve 6." She shakes her head and goes on: "We can change our set list according to whatever we're playing that day. We can fit other genre types. I know that sounds crazy."

The food arrives, dishes are auctioned off, and a massive slice of that cake winds up in front of Ford.

"Of course, the only straight one in the group gets a rainbow cake," Petrozz says and laughs.

The dessert is bigger than Ford's face. She takes hold of her fork eagerly.

"It tastes like bubble gum," Ford says, her grin already colored by blue frosting.

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