Broke and compromised: We Are Lady Parts reflects the “nitty gritty” of life in a band

We Are Lady Parts reflects the “nitty gritty” of life in a band”>

Photo by Laura Radford/Peacock

The second season of We Are Lady Parts, the riotously enjoyable all-female U.K. Muslim punk sitcom begins with the band at the show’s heart on a sold-out tour and fighting off affectionate fans. Things have changed for Lady Parts, whose rise from scrappy DIY beginnings to something approaching success formed the arc of the first season when it debuted in 2021. Writer-director-lead songwriter Nida Manzoor takes inspiration from films such as This Is Spinal Tap and The Commitments to show the transformation of lead character Amina as she diverges from her path of studying microbiology and seeking a husband to play guitar with her friends.

In season one, Amina was torn between her fast-rising band and a more traditional life. Backed by her bandmates — lead singer Saira, bassist Bisma, drummer Ayesha, and band manager Momtaz — she overcame societal expectations and stage fright to become an integral part of a band on the rise. Season two (streaming now on Peacock) finds Amina fully committed and confronting the realities of the music industry, including a serious ethical dilemma presented by a life-changing record deal. The episodes are as bold and fearless as ever, with Manzoor’s distinctive visual style making every scene pop.

We Are Lady Parts colors trusty music movie tropes with a fresh perspective. What happens, for example, when a band whose drummer wears a head scarf performs in a venue full of racist punk fans? The complexities and tensions of the Black Muslim experience, as well as gentrification and interracial relationships, are explored in the show, with the music acting as an important storytelling device.

The songs (co-written with Nida’s siblings Shez and Sanya) can be simultaneously urgent and wrly humorous: in the first season the band sang “Ain’t No One Gonna Honour Kill My Sister But Me” and this time around there is a song titled “Malala Made Me Do It,” a Western-style epic that includes a cameo from the Nobel winner herself. Manzoor’s songs stand on their own merits beyond the show’s narrative, but also give punk a much-needed decolonizing.

Speaking from Los Angeles earlier this month, Manzoor discussed the themes of the upcoming season, as well as her own punk influences, and the current health of the TV sitcom.

The FADER: What is it like working on the songs with your siblings? Does it feel like you’re in a band yourself?

Nida Manzoor: One of the main reasons I wanted to make We Are Lady Parts a musical comedy is that I wanted to make music with them specifically. We grew up as a very musical household and have always written music together. I just wanted that excuse to hang out with them so it was very intentional. It feels so organic. We got to the studio together, get our snacks together, and get to writing. We tend to start with a song title – I knew, for example, that I wanted a song called “Malala Made Me Do It.” From there we start brainstorming lyrics and my brother will pick up the guitar. It all goes from there, just as it would have done when we were kids in our bedroom.

Did you take influence from any real bands when you were developing the show?

One of the big influences for me is The Kominas who are a Muslim punk band. They have such a fun, tongue-in-cheek style. It’s all very DIY. They’re an all-male band and I wanted to see a female band being playful and taking up space like them. I was also inspired by artists in the DIY creative scene, too. They’re not all punk but there are a lot of artists involved in Makrooh, a non-profit organization for British Muslim creatives, that was a safe space for people to come together and express their art. It’s a very underground but warm environment. They had such a unique point of view and seeing different kinds of Muslim voices being represented in that space was inspiring for me.

The new season touches on the financial realities for workers in the creative arts. How important is it to you to reflect the harsher side of the punk rock lifestyle?

The authenticity of the band is really important to me. Brushing up against the major label system was something I really wanted to write about this time around. I spoke to Big Joanie, who are an incredible Black feminist band who have been on a real rise in the last few years. They’re operating between the lines of DIY and mainstream spaces and it was really joyful to get their perspective on that. I also spoke to managers and executives to really understand that world of major labels and how they work. Getting into the nitty gritty of these things really matters to me.

Lady Parts are in their “villain era” this time around. Can you explain a little what that entails and how the band’s world has expanded, too?

The band being in their “villain era” and Amina in particular, is about them no longer wanting to people-please. It was important to explore that evolution of doing what is right for her and not being bound by the expectations of others. I know that is something women, minority women, and south Asian women in particular have brushed up against. There are also a lot of questions about what success looks like. Is it the major label deal? Or is it in the safe spaces that they have already cultivated?

Are these ethical hurdles something you have had to tackle in your own career as a filmmaker?

Certainly early on in my career I was being asked to compromise my integrity just to get my foot in the door. I was being asked to write about honor killings or work with a white writer because they needed South Asian women for representation. Feeling the pressure of that for me, and many of my peers, made me want to explore that in season two.

As someone who has made a successful sitcom that is funny while also challenging expectations and taking risks, what do you make of the ongoing discussion about TV comedy being killed by fear of causing offense?

I have to disagree. I feel so free in my comedy because I’m not looking to punch down. My north star is expressing different ways of being. It’s that simple. Really thinking about what characters are experiencing is so important to me and I have only ever had an uplifting and collaborative time making comedy. This is the only time that a show like We Are Lady Parts could exist as there is a call for more different points of view.