Grrrls in the Five Boroughs – Desert Sharks Harness the Divine Power of Medusa

Photo by Julia Durr

Since moving to New York, I’ve been introduced to a ton of local artists, both organically and at the hands of friends who’ve already been living here. In this series of interviews, Grrrls in the Five Boroughs, I sit down with inspiring womxn and queer femme musicians based in New York City to discuss their personal connections to music, their communities, and their favorite local hotspots scattered across their neighborhoods in New York.

The representation of women in Greek mythology has always been a point of contention for me. When I first read tragedies like The Odyssey and Aeschylus, I never identified with Athena, because she was the token goddess — the “pick-me” girl who reinforced the status quo, rather than challenging it. Instead, I always identified with the tragic heroines; the Medeas, the Clytemnestras, and the Antigones whose survival depended on their pliancy. There was something to be admired about their headstrong defiance and conviction, knowing that they would choose death over compromising their moral codes.

But there is no figure more exalted than Medusa, an icon of power, sensuality, and monstrosity who could turn onlookers to stone with a single glance. Since her origins as a maiden-turned-monster in Greek mythology, Medusa has been reappropriated in modern feminism as a positive symbol of feminine rage and reclamation of power.

Earlier this month, Desert Sharks, a Brooklyn-based garage punk band, released a new single called “Medusa.” The song tells Medusa’s story from her own perspective (“He wanted to show me the glow of her temple/He forced me and fought me and left me to bleed”) and is part of their upcoming EP, The Tower, which will be released tomorrow.

A Grrrl’s Two Sound Cents caught up with Desert Sharks to discuss the liberation of writing from the perspectives of maligned women, being active in the Brooklyn DIY punk scene for over a decade, and why guitar music will never die.

To start, would you mind telling me a little about yourself? 

We’re Desert Sharks! We’re an all-female gloom-punk/grunge band from NYC.

How and why did you start creating music? 

Any form of art helps people to channel and process experiences and emotions. For us, music was and still is the common way we do that. All of us found a passion for music as kids. We all took music lessons with various instruments – piano, violin, guitar, voice coaching, and drums. We experimented with writing songs throughout the years by ourselves, with our friends, or in bands we were a part of. Several of us played in bands in high school and college. At the time, it was much less common for girls and femmes to be shredding guitars and starting bands, so it’s a nice shared experience for us in adulthood.

I love your fuzzy garage punk sound. Who would you say are your main musical influences?

We have such a broad variety of bands and styles that influence our sound, but if we had to choose a small list, it would most likely include L7, Veruca Salt, Sleater Kinney, Black Sabbath, and The Ramones.

You’ve been active in the music community in Brooklyn for the better part of a decade. How do you feel Brooklyn’s music scene has evolved over the past few years?

The biggest change we’ve seen is venues coming and going. Covid closed a lot of places down and rents went up for some of the smaller DIY spaces. Despite all that, the Brooklyn scene most definitely has persevered. The community feels incredibly supportive. A positive thing we’ve noticed is that we’re definitely hearing more and more diverse voices and seeing more representation of marginalized people. That being said, no scene is squeaky clean perfect, and there’s always room for improvement. 

Would you tell me a little about the new single “Medusa,” and how it came about?

Medusa is a Greek mythological icon of power, sensuality, and strength in the face of assault and trauma. Growing up, we only saw her referred to as a monster – something to be feared and destroyed. She represents the squashing of the feminine throughout history under patriarchy. We wanted to write a song about her experience told from her own perspective that also pointed out and celebrated her indefinite power – something not even death can destroy. It’s an anthem of feminine rage and reclamation of power. 

Where are your favorite places to perform in the country, and why? 

We gotta shout out our home, Brooklyn, because we always have such an incredible time playing music here with all our friends. Some other great places we’ve played are Boston, Richmond, Chicago, and Detroit. There’s always been great energy at those shows and in those cities. Strangers who’ve had no clue who we are crowd surfed and bounced off the walls. We loved it! We are really looking forward to our fall tour that’s hitting some states we’ve never played before (stay tuned for announcements!) and are hoping to get to the west coast as soon as we can. 

As a music listener who cannot live without guitar music, I would love to get your perspective on this: why does guitar music still matter in this day and age?

There’s something about the heaviness guitars can bring to a sound that just never gets old. We tend to explore darker themes and feelings sonically and lyrically which lends itself to us liking lower tones and grittier instruments. Guitar music will never die.

Are there any upcoming bands or artists you would recommend people check out? 

Check out some of our Brooklyn buds – Frida Kill, Nihiloceros, Kissed By An Animal, No Kill, [and] A Very Special Episode. 

What does the rest of the year have in store for Desert Sharks? 

We have an exciting cover song coming out at the end of April 2023. Stay tuned for more on that. We also have a couple little tours lined up. We’ll be announcing dates shortly so follow us on IG: @desertsharks.




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