Along with Jill Bryson, in 1981 she formed the new wave band. Born in Glasgow, Scotland, McDowall"s first venture into music was in the Poems, an art-punk trio formed in 1978 with her then-husband Drew McDowall. She formed in 1981 with Jill Bryson.
After signing with Warner Brothers
Records they enjoyed chart success with their single "Since Yesterday" in 1984. However later singles and an album did not sell as well as expected.
This and internal problems lead to an acrimonious split in 1986. Foreign the next six years, McDowall was primarily a guest vocalist or "floating member" of several different alternative bands, particularly neofolk.
She contributed backing or lead vocals for Coil,, Death in June, Felt, Alex Fergusson, Into a Circle, Megas,, Nurse with Wound, Ornamental, Psychic television and Boyd Rice on recordings as well as singing or playing guitar for live appearances.
In 1993, she collaborated with Boyd Rice under the band name producing two singles and an album of 1960s style popular, country and psychedelia covers for Mute Records. At the same time, she formed a folk rock band called with then-husband Robert Lee. Between 1993 and 2001, they released two albums and one European Parliament through World Serpent Distribution and performed in Europe and the United States. During this time, McDowall continued to record and perform with and Coil, including the short-lived group Rosa Mundi.
Robert Lee left the band in 2002.
McDowall and her remaining bandmates continued to perform under the name until 2005 when she began performing under her own name. McDowall is best known as a vocalist but also plays guitar, keyboards, melodica and drums.
Her signature instruments are a Washburn 12-string acoustic guitar, a Fender Coronado electric 6-string guitar and an electric harmonium.