Quirky, Catchy, Disco Spaghetti-Pop Ridge in all her glory
Who and what is this? I thought as I tabbed back across to Spotify one day at work.
You’re a Fucking Joke / BEC SANDRIDGE read the information panel on Spotify.
I tabbed back across to my web browser and typed those exact words back in to the google machine and up popped…
Shit, this girl is cool. And those guys look fucking fabulous in their Bec Sandridge make up.
Cue more google stalking and I discover that 1) she is from across the bloody ditch in Straya, mate. 2) She was headlining BIGSOUND.
Fuck yeah. Let’s meet her!
Bec was so lovely to chat to, and I couldn’t wait to catch her live set. Both herself and another artist that I wanted to see at BIGSOUND were playing at the same time, so I had to bolt half way through the other set to make it 5 minutes down the road in Fortitude Valley to get to her show half-way through.
This girl is outrageous live.
Picture this; a 6 foot tall woman towering over the crowd – luminous in her personal style; dressed in an eccentric yet refined aesthetic of select primary and secondary colours, teased platinum blonde hair glowing under the brightly coloured lighting production, strong painted on eyebrows drawing you to her stare out in to the crowd demanding your attention, wielding an absolutely gorgeous white fender telecaster, mixing up a dynamic and effortless physical flow to her performance from undulating sways to tippy-toe skips on the spot, backed up by a live band of 3 dudes slaying on their instruments, pulling together to form an incredibly tight and engaging musical performance topped with pitch-perfect quirky vocals like you’ve never heard in your life.
That was Bec Sandridge’s set (and also my attempt at a pretentious over-described live performance review).
NOW YOU BEST WATCH MY INTERVIEW WITH BEC SANDRIDGE!
Bec released a new track at the end of last month called ‘High Tide’ and it’s dreamy as fuck.
So if you like what you hear (of course you do…), check Bec Sandridge out online!
Emma: So you have quite a lot of women influences?
Bec Sandridge: Oh yeah, for sure.
Emma: See that’s quite different from me because I… it wasn’t til after I started doing this blog I was like ‘well now I’m interested in finding other women musicians.’ And I was like ‘I don’t think I’ve ever had women influences growing up!’ and getting in to rock music. So were you conscious of that ever? Did you seek out women influences or was it just natural?
Bec Sandridge: I think I’m drawn to female voices which is really interesting because guitar’s my main instrument – I’m not actually a singer, I don’t think. So for me I found it hard.. there was a lot more men playing guitar. So I would people like BB King, George Benson, Bruce Springsteen, and they would kinda be like my ‘guitar dudes’ which kinda sucks.
Emma: Did you ever start getting in to women that play guitar?
Bec Sandridge: Yeah! I think one of my favourite musicians is someone like Leslie Feist – she’s an amazing guitarist.
Emma: Is she just ‘Feist’ ?
Bec Sandridge: Yeah, Feist. But a lot of her earlier stuff is folky, singer-songwriter-y stuff but she’s actually an amazing guitarist. So people like her, I love. I just think it’s really cool when someone has mad guitar chips and they manage to just simplify it down to a singer-songwriter kind of thing.. and it’s like.. you’re sneaky! You know what you’re doing.
Emma: (laughs). So with the style of guitar you play, cuz your music’s quite rhythmic and jaunty.. did you have any influences on guitar that played music like you? Or was it just more like.. you saw dudes playing guitar and were like ‘oh yeah i can do that too’ or ‘i’m gunna do my own style’ or… when I think of you I think of St Vincent as well.. kinda doing your own style.
Bec Sandridge: Yeah. I only recently got in to St Vincent. Um, but originally I learnt the whole Blink 182 discography. (laughs)
Emma: Yeah me too (laughs)
Bec Sandridge: So Blink, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Buckley is kinda where I started on. Wipeout and What’s My Age Again were the first two songs that I Iearned. Then after that I wanted to learn more jazz kinda stuff but I didn’t fully delve in to it. Someone said to me ‘if you want to do jazz, you need to do jazz’
Emma: Yeah, like proper!
Bec Sandridge: Yeah, I’m not that committed, so.. so then I learned a bit of classical guitar. But recently I’ve really looked in to St Vincent stuff, and really you know… dig in to guitar. Like when you’re like eurgh that sounds.. horribly… great.
Bec Sandridge: Yeah, so i guess that’s something that I like. I like pretty gross sounding sounds.
Emma: Like gross but interesting
Bec Sandridge: Yeah. I think it’s really interesting when something really aggressive but really intricate or something. I write a lot on Garageband and use guitar midi things. And this synthesizer that’s called Massive Trance Pad.. which is awful. But fun! Check it out!
Emma: But fun? (laughs) So when did you start doing your own music? Was it in high school?
Bec Sandridge: I played guitar in year 9 and I was too scared to sing. And I just played guitar in a band.
Emma: What kind of band was it?
Bec Sandridge: It was like a blues and roots thing..
Bec Sandridge: Yeah! And the singer went overseas for 6 months and then our booking agent called us up with a really cool gig and I wanted to do it. My family were like ‘you don’t have the guts to do it!’ so they placed money bets on me. I wanted to do it at the time, so I wrote 3 songs and then.. yeah. Kinda just went overseas and tried to play as much in front of strangers. So that’s kinda how it happened!
Emma: Cool. Have you found, cuz this blog talks about being a women in this industry, have you found that you’ve experienced any sort of personal controversies or things that have come at you that you know it’s cuz you’re a girl?
Bec Sandridge: Oh, of course. Yeah of course. Especially – I’ve just released my new single… I dunno if I’m allowed to say it
Bec Sandridge: “You’re a Fucking Joke” and like, every single interview’s been like ‘so what’s it like as a woman in the music industry’ and it’s like.. how many dudes are asked that?
Emma: ‘Well what’s it like being a dude in the industry?’
Bec Sandridge: Yeah! What’s it like having privilege in the industry? Which I think is really interesting. And it sucks because you want someone to consider your song first but at the same time it’s important that there’s inequality.
Emma: We wanna get to a point where we don’t need to be asked that.
Bec Sandridge: Yeah and sometimes you need to make a note of like, ‘yes, I am a guitarist and yes I am a female’ – just to point out that there’s an inequality. But at the same time it sucks because I would consider myself a ‘guitarist’
Emma: Yeah, me too. I’m like well I’m just a musician. But it crops up so much.
Bec Sandridge: And just day-to-day things like people asking ‘oh, are you playing?’ or ‘do you need a hand plugging it in?’ ‘Do you know what you’re doing?’
Emma: ‘Do you know how to tune your guitar? Do you need help tuning your guitar??’
Bec Sandridge: When I used to play folky stuff I had this parlor guitar and everyone would be like ‘oh so is there a pick up? can you play it live?’ and I’d be like ‘yeah! of course I can!’
Emma: (laughs) yeah uh I know my own instrument…
Bec Sandridge: Yeah.
Emma: Did you find that you were more accepted as a girl when you were doing folky stuff? Cuz I feel like with folk and country that kind of genre there are a lot more women there so it’s kinda just accepted. Whereas… cuz what sort of genre would you describe your music now?
Bec Sandridge: Um, well I’ve coined it as Disco Spaghetti Pop..
Bec Sandridge: I find it really interesting because I feel like a folk singer-songwriter, you’re very much like.. you stand there and you don’t take up much space. Whereas my new stuff is a lot more rocky.
Emma: In your face
Bec Sandridge: And I’m like a 5’11” / 6′ woman taking up space on the stage. So it’s kind of maybe somewhat confronting as opposed to a dainty..
Emma: Folk singer-songwriter..
Bec Sandridge: Yeah. And i think folk music is beautiful, its one of my favourite things. But i think of maybe taking up space and not being afraid to whilst being a woman on the stage.
Emma: Own you space!
Bec Sandridge: Yeah. Whereas dudes maybe don’t even have to consider that it’s just expected. Which is kind of interesting.. maybe?
Emma: (laughs) I reckon. So what’s next for you with your music? You got more releases coming out?
Bec Sandridge: Yeah, releasing my next single in a couple of weeks. Then we’re going on Montaigne’s national tour. And then a couple of festivals, and hopefully writing an album! It’s in the works.
Princess Chelsea being magical and angelic in space
She was speaking on a Going Global panel called ‘How to Make a World Class Record’; having released 3 albums, 1 EP and a string of independent singles since 2009 – girls knows what’s up.
As we were all leaving the panel room, I talked myself in to approaching her impromptu-style for my first ever GFAG interview before I rolled in to a couple ones I had pre-scheduled for the day. I definitely freaked her out a bit with my 5 second elevator pitch which included a very creepy invite down in to the dungeon-like space I was filming in, but to my surprise and delight, she agreed to join me.
Princess Chelsea is an experimental ‘space pop’ (I love it when we make up genres) artist from Auckland, but you may also remember her from indie pop/rock band The Brunettes, or from the band Teenwolf.
She has an online reputation with her music videos and musical style for marching to the beat of her own drum, and after chatting to her for 10 minutes I discovered that this translates in to who she is as a person, and what kind of music she was brought up with has had a big influence.
I kinda got lost on Youtube for a good hour or so watching all of her music videos; amused, impressed, entertained, and at times creeped-out. I love her!
NOW YOU SHOULD WATCH MY INTERVIEW WITH PRINCESS CHELSEA.
For a full transcript, scroll to the bottom of this post.
Chelsea just released a brand new album, ‘Aftertouch‘ last week, comprising of covers she’s recorded over the past few years. She puts her unique musical touch on a huge range of songs, including the cover of ‘Come As You Are’ by Nirvana which is featured in the interview above.
LISTEN TO IT:
Check out Princess Chelsea anywhere you please on the interwebz:
GOOD FOR A GIRL: PRINCESS CHELSEA (INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT)
Emma: What got you in to music growing up?
Princess Chelsea: Well, ah, I started like.. my family was given a little key-tar when I was 5. And I started just playing all the songs I heard on the TV ads and at church on the key-tar. And I guess that’s what got me in to music; this Yamaha key-tar!
Emma: Cool! So did you have any artists that, while you were jamming on the key-tar, not just at church or on TV but were their any artists growing up that made you go “what can I do with this key-tar. what can I create?”
Well at 5, I think I listened to a bit of classical music so I was really in to Grieg, like the Peer Gynt Suite, which has got In The Hall Of The Mountain King and a bunch of other really great orchestral pieces. I think at that age you’re pretty much exposed to the music your parents have around that you hear on the radio ‘cuz like you’re not going to go to the record store when you’re 5.
Emma: Definitely (laughs) so what kind of stuff did your parents listen to?
Um, they had one Simply Red CD, one classical compilation, and they didn’t really listen to a lot music but they had a really good 80s pop compilation. So after you’ve heard my music knowing that there was a Grieg classical composer compilation CD, an 80s pop CD, it will make a lot of sense to you.
Emma: (laughs) Okay I better go home and listen to it and make sure I get it.
Yeah you’ll be like “okay yeah of course”
Emma: “It makes total sense now I get what’s going on.” So did you have any women influences growing up at all that you felt were role models to get in to music? Or do you feel like they were absent?
Well actually that’s a really good question. I think, it’s funny, I guess I never really thought about music in terms of gender until I was older and was a musician. And then I realised the challenges that it can bring being a female musician. So when I was younger I got in to Patti Smith in my formative years. Thought she was pretty rad. I thought Gwen Stefani was really rad. Hole. Courtney Love was given a really unnecessarily hard time.
So was this around your teenage years?
Emma: Were you conscious of like “oh these are women artists”?
I don’t think I was. Because I guess at that time I was kind of “middle class Shore girl”. Didn’t really realise… I didn’t kind of notice sexism.
Emma: Me either. And that’s what I like to explore now, being older and being like “okay there is a thing happening here.” I’ve had some weird stuff happen to me and I actually didn’t have many women role models growing up. And like I saw Fur Patrol for the first time a few weeks ago when they went back on tour and I was watching Julia Deans play and I went “holy. fuck. I have never seen a woman fronting a rock band, playing a guitar, live in front of my eyes.” Like growing up I never did. Like there are some bigger bands that have come over but the women are singers or.. whatever. And it’s interesting that you’re kind of similar that you didn’t really have women role models growing up. And even when you started getting in to women in music as a teenager..
I didn’t really think about the context of it. And it wasn’t something, like I said, until I started getting a bit older and realising “that shouldn’t really be happening” I started thinking about that stuff more.
Emma: And because of your genre – have you found that it is a male dominated genre? Or have you found quite a lot of women that you can kinda push out to sideways?
Well I think, I make kinda electronic-y pop and there are quite a lot of female artists doing that. And that’s becoming a lot more common. I do think that, I’ve had for instance, things reviewed by male music reviewers that lump all of your female electronic music like.. that’s a genre. But they would never do that with someone like… who’s a male in electronic… I wanna say Moby (laughs)
That was just the first one that I thought of. Like Moby and Boards of Canadalike they’re both male electronic artists – but they’re totally different – but if they were female would people just be like “oh yeah that’s the same.” Maybe they would be? Not smart people. Bigoted people.
Emma: Have you ever had any kind of ridiculous scenarios and experiences thrown your way that were swayed, like you felt like they were negative because you’re a woman?
Yep! Well when I was in a touring band, I was playing in The Brunettes. And I was operating a midi keyboard that was controlled at that time by a protools session. And it was all very tech-y. And we played about 150 shows over 160 days. So I’d done this every single day, Id set up.
Emma: You were very experienced. You knew what the fuck you were doing.
I knew what I was doing! And there was one particular night that a sound man asked me if I wanted a mono or stereo input and I said “stereo” and he was like “i think you want mono” and I was like “no I want stereo.” And he’s like [full body gesticulation] “are there sounds going from left to right?” and I was like “…yeah. It’s stereo, bro.”
Emma: Like having to physically explain it. “Do you know how stereo works?!”
And he still wouldn’t believe me and ended up throwing the extra D.I. required at me! and I was like 23.
Really! Like he was throwing a tantrum that you knew what you were doing? Like it pissed him off?
Well he just didn’t believe that I knew what I was doing. And I’m just like “why don’t you believe me?”
Emma: I’ve had that experience before with a fucking microphone. I bought my own mic to the gig and the sound guy goes “ohhh no you don’t want to use that one. You want to use this SM-58” And I was like “no. I don’t want to use an SM-58. I have my beautiful Audix microphone here that I’ve tested against other ones. this is my microphone.” And he was kinda just a cunt to me for the rest of the night. It’s annoying because I should’ve – no I shouldn’t have just use the microphone that he wanted me to. But the whole gig would’ve been a lot easier and stress-free for everyone if I’d just used his stupid microphone because he didn’t like that I had my own and I knew why it was better for me – not him.
There is like an interesting, for instance one of my friends is a sound person who is a male but whatever type of person or whatever their gender identity or whatever, he would always tell them if he thought they needed to do something else. If they needed to turn their amp down, or if they needed to do something. So there is a fine line sometimes between… how do I put this without sounding really dodgy?
Emma: Just sound dodgy.
Well not everyone is a terrible person, so like maybe someone is telling you someone is telling you something because that’s the right thing to do – not because you’re a woman.
Emma: Exactly. And it can go either way.
But there are certainly a lot of assholes out there!
“BIGSOUND Friends?” was the subject of the email I received from a gal named Chloe Turner from an organisation named LISTEN just a couple weeks out from my trip to Brisbane.
“Hilarious bio. Wanna grab a drink at BIGSOUND? I think we’d have a lot in common :)” Well, she had me at “hilarious bio” – but I was really intrigued to find out what LISTEN was. It was a familiar name to me, and I’d seen the logo somewhere on the ‘webz prior. After some really quick googling and a good old fashioned stalk of Chloe’s bio on the BIGSOUND website, I replied “ABSOLUTELY” and asked her if she would be keen for an interview as well!
Chloe herself is a hugely talented human. A super human and just 22 years old, Chloe is a musician, co-founder of a record label, involved in operations for Music Victoria, and of course hugely involved in LISTEN. I’m sure she’s got a whole lot more talent up those sleeves, as well!
Chloe Turner just being casually badass.
So what is LISTEN, exactly? Well it all started with the artist Evelyn Morris – also known as Pikelet – sharing her frustrations online with the lack of inclusion in the music industry for women and gender-non-conforming people.
“So tired of male back-patting and exclusion of anything vaguely ‘feminine’ in subculture. We get it. You think you’re all awesome and we’re all just kinda average. Unless we sound like you. Ladies of Melbourne… Let’s please reject this culture.”
(Yaaaaaaaassss!) Naturally, this caused quite a stir, and after the ground swell of support she received, she went on to create the LISTEN organisation as a space for women and gender-non-conforming people in the Melbourne and Australia-wide music community to share their stories and experiences. With the purpose of historical documentation, visibility, and inclusion.
“We want to become visible – historically and in the present day – in our own words, on our own terms.”
I had a great time chatting to Chloe about LISTEN and further on from that, her own personal experiences working in the music industry in fields other than just the artistry!
CHECK OUT MY INTERVIEW WITH CHLOE TURNER FROM LISTEN ORGANISATION!
IN MELBOURNE THIS WEEKEND? Well you should absolutely head along to the annual LISTEN Conference!
This year it is titled Feminist Futures, and is a three day feminist music conference featuring keynote presentations, panel discussions, workshops and live performances. Writer and feminist activist Clementine Fordand performer and activist Alok Vaid-Menon ofDarkmatter(USA) will serve as keynotes!
What the heck are u waiting for?! Buy your tickets HERE immediately.
Intrigued to learn more about LISTEN or find out how you can get involved?
GOOD FOR A GIRL: CHLOE TURNER OF LISTEN (INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT)
Emma: Well it’s kind of different talking to you from the other artists I’m talking to because.. well i dunno! I don’t even know your background, by the way! So the first thing I wanna talk about with you is what do you do, what’s your background in the industry?
Okay! In high school I used to play music. So when I was in my first year of uni I released an EP and used to gig. Played folk music and stuff. Pretty chill, folk music cutesy stuff! And then kinda grew out of that. I think everyone kinda goes through a folk music phase (laughs)
Emma: Yeah (laughs)
Grew out of that and then graduated uni and started interning at Chapter Music with Guy and Ben. And they introduced me to heaps of stuff. They introduced me to Pikelet and Evelyn Morris who is one of the co-founders of LISTEN. And the conversations we’d have around the office about queer people and representation in the music industry and females and stuff. Just kinda opened my eyes to stuff that I hadn’t really thought about in music before. Because at uni we talked about misogyny but it was like how women are represented in pop and hip hop music videos. It was a different kind of thing. And I was about to go in to this real world working in the music industry and I was like “eh it doesn’t exist. What’s the gender pay gap?” and now here I am! (laughs)
Yeah! Started interning with Guy and Ben and was working at a record label then too called Deaf Ambitions which was my friend Aaron’s label.
Emma: What was your role there?
I was kind of like the assistant manager I guess. So he would do, he’s sign the acts and do most of it but I’d help out with publicity and I was managing one of the acts, too. And then from there just was also working for a music festival called Inca Roads – which got cancelled – then through that I started working for Paradise Music Festival and I’m there now. So I work one night a week as an artist coordinator for Paradise. And then full time I work for Music Victoria which is the state peak body for contemporary music. And then… LISTEN! In all the other time! (laughs)
Emma: Yes! So tell me about LISTEN. Give me the full elevator pitch. Like obviously I’ve been to the website, I’ve read about it, but let’s tell the people what LISTEN do because I think it’s awesome.
Cool. So LISTEN started maybe just over 2 years ago now. It was co-founded by 3 musicians Erica Lewis, Evelyn Morris and Antonia Sellbach. Evelyn – Pikelet – she’s been playing in heaps of punk and hardcore bands her entire life. Pikelet is her most easy-listening pop project. She was written about in a book called “Noise in my Head – The Stories of the Ugly Australian Underground” and it was very… I guess her response to it was she was written about in a way that she wasn’t happy with that being documented. Like in a really masculine, men-dominated way. The book was quite male dominated, didn’t have much queer representation. So she just wrote this Facebook post that went viral. And it was kind of like, her action was like to start documenting our own history as women and queer people in the Victorian and Australian music industry. Particularly the underground and independent part. So from there they started running LISTENing Parties which are a monthly gig that we have, and they started publishing articles on the website. And then it just kinda grew. There was this big Facebook group where everyone would chat about stuff, post articles and generate discussion. But as Facebook’s do, they got a bit controversial and out of hand. It was hard to manage, it was like a full time job. It was just so stressful trying to moderate it and then people would get pissed off with you personally, because it was something someone else said but because you work for LISTEN it was your fault. Classic. So we kind of closed down the Facebook forum and had a real-life LISTEN Conference with the idea to have these discussions from online where people may not understand the emotion or tone or stuff like that – we wanted to have those discussions face-to-face. so the LISTEN Conference started! There’s also a record label which I run, LISTEN Records, which is separate to LISTEN but still affiliated obviously.
Emma: And you guys have that big roster of artists? Like you were saying on the panel yesteday…
Yeah! So as part of that Facebook group there was a big resource generated which people could just add their bands to these huge lists in each state. And we’re in the process of updating the website so you are able to be like “okay I’m a festival booker maybe I should check this list out and make sure I’m being diverse at this festival”
Emma: That’s fantastic!
So by the end of the year that will be up on the website. It’s just a long process with busy… stuff.
Emma: (laughs) Lots of busy stuff.
Emma: So you personally, because you’ve worked obviously in the music industry from quite a young age it seems..
Yeah, I guess, yeah!
Emma: Have you ever personally experienced direct sexism towards yourself personally or is it more just the conversation interests you?
A couple of subtle things like working in an office with men. And you know, working – I’m young, I’m 22 so a lot of people don’t take me seriously they just think I’m like the “Facebook Youth” who just sits on the computer and does social media. And it’s like actually, I run the entire awards and I do all this other stuff with Music Victoria, I do lots of things and it’s hard to be taken seriously. So there’s that kind of subtle misogyny I guess where people don’t shake my hand they shake my bosses hand. And they don’t bother introducing themselves to me because I might just be an assistant or that kind of thing. I get a lot. But then also I remember once I was booking a music festival and I called this booker, it was like a Sunday as well. No he called me – that’s right. Cuz I was trying to talk him down on a price for a band because it was a very tiny music festival and he was like “$4000!” and I was like… “$400…”
And he called me and he was so condescending, and was like “you don’t know how it works in this industry sweetheart” like just real jerky. But then turns out the band really wanted to play and by him doing that he kinda fucked it up for them. And he sent me an email later like “happy to accept the offer!” Cuz I was pretty firm on the phone but I was still really upset about the fact he would speak to me like that – but stayed firm. But then he ended up groveling back cuz he was texting me like “Hey Chloe did you get my email? We’re happy to do it!” And I was like.. I’m going to reply to you tomorrow.
Emma: (laughs) I’ll let you wait until you sweat. Yeah I found that a lot too. I actually wrote a blog post about it because Moses is a musician as well and he’s quite well known in the scene in CHCH and NZ at large and people will come up and talk to him like how’s your music going blah blah blah and I’m just standing there. Or there will be a group of us and we’re all musicians and if I’m the only girl standing there it’s just kind of assumed I’m just his girlfriend. Like “oh it’s just his girlfriend who kinda just follows him round all the time” and stuff. So it’s just.. like the things like “people assume I’m the assistant” or that kind of stuff.
It is interesting. I haven’t really had direct experience with any harassment or anything. It’s just the subtle misogyny and even – like yesterday I was talking about on the panel – the internalised misogyny of older women in the music industry where it’s competitive for them. Which is interesting and annoying to deal with (laughs).
Emma: Yeah I kinda get it too because they really had to struggle to get there and we’ve come up with a bit more of an accepting society so we’ve had it a little bit easier but it feels like a threat to them. Whereas we’re like “no but, we’re all –”
“We’re in this together!”
Emma: “We’re embracing women now and we’re trying to do this thing!” I understand that a lot of them would feel that way but they obviously are not trying to be that way. It’s just that ingrained thing. And it’s the same with that guy on the phone calling you sweetheart and condescendingly talking to you. It’s like I don’t think they’re actively trying to be cunts – it’s that subconscious setting.
Yep! And then if you call them out and it can go one of two ways. They’ll either be like “Oh yeah sorry, I get that… my bad” or they’ll be like “oohh you’re a drama queen aren’t you? You’re getting a bit emotional. Calm down!” and it’s like… fuck you…
Yeah it’s hard.
Emma: So what are the goals for LISTEN – the big overall umbrella goals?
So I guess one of the main actions from starting out was to publish a book in response to that other book. So documenting female and GNC, queer and marginalised groups in the Australian music industry. Their stories, interviews. Documenting our own history. But at the moment it’s just heaps publishing heaps of stuff on the website; essays, articles, interviews, anything. Anything to do with music and feminism… gender. And I guess once we get enough we’ll apply for some grants and try and get a book thing happening. That’s going to be Evelyn’s thing.
The Conference is going well. So that’s another project that’s sprung up. We’ve got some grant funding this year. We’ve got two keynote speakers! We’ve got Clem Ford.
Chloe (Listen): And Darkmatter. Have you heard of Darkmatter?
Chloe (Listen): So they are a trans duo from the US. We’re bringing one of them out and they’re just amazing. They do poetry performances. And just work a lot on discussing issues of trans people and people of colour and feminism and gender and stuff. So it’s not specific to music but it’s good to bring that in to the arts for a lot of people who may not have come across that before. And then we’ve announce 51 speakers a few weeks ago! So there’s going to be lots of panels on things like call-out culture and confidence, and race and sexism within music. There’s a lot!
Emma: Yeah it sounds awesome – sounds massive!
Then there’s 3 nights of entertainment as well. So it’s 3 days of panels, keynotes and… it’s like a mini BIGSOUND but with no clashes!
Emma: Okay good!
So instead of 3 things happening at once there is just one thing happening all the time.
Emma: Ahh we have a music conference in New Zealand, it happens the weekend before this. They do they too – they try to make nothing clash with the showcase.
Same with us! It’s not competitive then, it’s just chill.
DROWN THIS CITY ARE A POST-HARDCORE BAND FROM MELBOURNE
Image: Drown This City / Alex Reade (Centre… lol u know)
I first came across the existence of Drown This City through a mate of mine who does their PR/Media – who did a great bloody job, by the way, as everywhere I turned I was seeing their sheeeit. Knowing that women screamers are rare-as-fuck, I immediately checked them out, and died from love for front-woman, Alexandra Reade’s amazing voice.
I completely assumed Drown this City were showcasing at BIGSOUND 2016, so got in touch with Alex to organise a GFAG interview, to find out… she wasn’t attending at all. But the epic thing was she was super keen to meet up and chat with me that she booked her BIGSOUND tickets and travel right then and there and bob’s your uncle, it was ON. What a G.B.
I loved chatting to and meeting Alex, her perspective on being a woman in a male-dominated music genre is really interesting and she is strong in who she is and what she does. I won’t say much more, but I loved transcribing our chat.
Image: Drown This City / Alex Reade
So, Drown This City are a 5-piece post-hardcore band from Melbourne who launched on to the scene just under a year ago with heavy audiences across Australia welcoming them with enthusiastic open arms.
According to their official bio that I just officially read for the first time: they started the project as an electronic act aimed at an EDM audience! What da fuck. I was not expecting to read that haha. But listening to their music, you can hear that electronic influence coming through in the production with lush synths laid up over the slick guitar riffs and under Alex’s brutal screams (and beautiful clean vocals). And result: it is real good, mane.
Drown This City released their kick-ass debut EP, False Idols, in June this year, and you can listen to it in all of it’s glory in their links below!
BUT FIRST: WATCH MY INTERVIEW WITH ALEX READE FROM DROWN THIS CITY!
If you’re in the Melbourne area, you can CATCH THE BAND LIVE NEXT WEEK supporting Lacuna Coil on October 13th at Max Watt’s. Pick up your tickets here.
So if you like what you hear, check Alex and Drown This City out online!
GOOD FOR A GIRL: ALEX READE FROM DROWN THIS CITY (INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT)
Alex (Drown This City): Tell me if I’m doing weird facials. I always get real intense in my face!
Emma: Just do it on purpose! Be like pulls serious face at the camera (laughs) OK, so, first thing I wanna talk about is your influences and inspirations from a little young age, or teenager, who were they or what was it?
Alex (Drown This City): My Dad was a really big music lover. Listened to Kiwi music – Split Enz! My first love, Split Enz. Neil Finn, Tim Finn, obsessed just love their music. Crowded House. But the first band that really inspired me was actually Muse. Just listened toAbsolution and completely fell in love. And that was the first time I thought “maybe I could be in a band. Maybe I could do this.” And I just listened to it on repeat.
Alex (Drown This City):
And that’s before I’d discovered anything heavy – never listened to heavy music. I didn’t even hear any screaming until I was 18. I had no idea. Really got in to Alexisonfire. Heard them for the first time and completely fell in love with heavy music. Parkway Drive! Those two are probably my biggest influences. They really inspired me to go “yeah fuck: that!” I’m going to be in a band and I wanna do that! Just in love with it.
Emma: So were you singing? Or were you playing an instrument before you discovered heavy music?
Alex (Drown This City): I was actually classically trained.
Emma: Really?! (laughs)
Alex (Drown This City): (laughs) Yes I was! So my parents had big dreams for me to be an opera singer! So from about the age of 5 until I was 19 I had classical music lessons.
Emma: Right, so you’re still making just as much noise, really, vocally.
Alex (Drown This City): Exactly! Same amount of intensity but just for a different tone.
Emma: Metal’s an interesting scene because there aren’t many women in metal, at all. Did you have any influences or inspiration, are there any role models for you to look up to? Or even women to look to sideways from your career?
Alex (Drown This City): That’s a really good question! My role models were men growing up because there weren’t any women. And I didn’t really get the memo that that was a problem. For me, it wasn’t about the fact they were a man, it was like “I can do that too. They’re doing it. I can do that.” But the first female screamer I really identified with was Alissa White-Gluz, originally fromThe Agonist, but now she’s the vocalist for Arch Enemy. She is just incredible and she was the first woman I ever heard scream. And I was like “alright. that’s amazing.”
Emma: Did that change your approach at all to screaming? Cuz I got in to trying to do screaming when I was late teens too; I started getting in to August Burns Red and Architects, and love lots of bands from that scene. And was like “oh, maybe I want to go in more of that direction” because I was playing guitar as well and I was copying, doing what they do. But I only got in to screaming a little bit and I was like “nah I think singing is more for me” but I use screaming as an influence to how I deliver more yelling sort of screaming.
Alex (Drown This City): Yeah
Emma: But is there a difference in the way men scream to women scream? Like when you first discovered that woman screamer that was an influence to you – did you change your approach at all?
Alex (Drown This City): Yeah that’s a good question – and when people say to me “how do you scream as a female?” I want my response to be “there’s no difference” because we both have the exact same vocal chords. But it does sound different, so you can’t deny there is a difference. But no, it never really changed my mind. I was just pretty set on “I will scream.” It took me many years to learn how to scream, and maybe because I’m a girl and it didn’t come naturally – that aggression didn’t come naturally.
Alex (Drown This City):
And I was like “how do I do this?” and I spent many many years of learning the technicalities of how to do it. Because I don’t scream from just aggression like “I’m just gunna scream now.” I learnt it as a technique. So perhaps that plays in to the gender thing? I know a lot of guys when you ask them how they scream they’re like “I just do it. I just get out there and I just do it.” But for me I had to really treat it like an extra skill set. Learn how I am going to do this because it’s not natural to have that.
Emma: Or sometimes I wonder if it’s because women are quite a lot more… we kinda think before we act. We want to know the best way to do something.
Alex (Drown This City): That’s so true!
Emma: And we’re quite conscious of our health, and guys aren’t. A lot of them are like “I SCREAM” like “I don’t care if I blow out my voice” cuz they’re not thinking that. Do you find you had that approach? You wanted to do it without damage?
Alex (Drown This City): Yeah! Definitely.
Emma: So I wonder if that’s a woman thing as well? Cuz even with me when I meet other guy singers – i mean there are more experienced ones for sure – but ones that were kinda at my level when I was getting in to music, I was interested in looking up vocal warm-up techniques and vocal health online and learning what i need to do everyday to keep it healthy and what i need to do before and after a show. Whereas other guys that were at my same level are like “I just go out there and do it” and then they get off stage and they can’t talk anymore! I wonder if that’s a female trait that we look in to protecting and developing our craft.
Alex (Drown This City): That’s a really good point. Because for me, it’s definitely analytical. And so much control around, and I gotta have routines before I go on stage. Like.. 3 days before hand “don’t talk to me! I can’t go anywhere. I gotta stay home and I gotta drink my tea.” Yeah it’s a really good point.. I don’t know!
Emma: It just makes me think about how traditionally… I don’t know if it’s a gender role that’s been fostered or whether it is actually just genetic. Women, we want security, we do want protection, and even just in our lives we think about the future a lot. We’re quite an anxious gender. So that’s why I wonder if it all ties in to that, because we want the security of “well I know I like music. So I want the security and the best practise so I know I can do it for the rest of my life, and I know it will be a secure skill that I have.” I’ve never thought about that before, but that just made me think about that.
Alex (Drown This City): Yeah I’ve never really thought about that either! Like when I compare the way I learnt to scream and how to harness that compared to singing, singing came really naturally. And I still sing in a sorta really clean way in Drown This City, but, so I never really put a lot of thought in to how I would do that.
Alex (Drown This City):
But so much anxiety came with screaming for me. It took me years to learn. I felt a lot of anxiety and shame about how it sounded. Because it sounded like a girl screaming, it’s not a man. I’m never going to sound like my idols and people I love, and I was really embarrassed for a really long time learning how to scream. And I had to overcome so many obstacles in my mind. I would scream and it would squeak. I’d develop weird squeaks before playing shows. Like “Oh my god I’m losing it! Where’s it gone? Oh my god why can’t I scream?”
Emma: Yeah and you’re doing it to yourself, eh?
Alex (Drown This City): Exactly. It’s purely mental. And I actually had my singing teacher examine my vocal chords one day. He said “oh let’s have a look.” Had a look at them and he’s like “nah, listen. they’re the same vocal chords you sing with, Alex. If you can sing with them you can scream with them. there’s absolutely nothing wrong.” I’m like.. the mind is a very powerful tool! (laughs)
Emma: Yeah and I think that women musicians take over a lot more than guys minds. I’m the same with my vocals! Like even when we were recording our album last year all of a sudden when it got to vocal week I felt so precious like “fuck…” and I actually made myself sick and then I couldn’t sing! I got like.. I don’t even know what I had the doctor couldn’t diagnose it but another guy in the studio ended up getting strep throat so we think it was that?
Alex (Drown This City): Wow
But like who would I have caught that off? I was just so anxious about “oh my god what if my vocals do this?” or “ohh it’s sounding scratchy before I even started” “when I warm up it doesn’t feel like it’s getting loose” and all this stuff that I actually did it at the detriment of my actual recording session and I couldn’t get the vocals done!
Alex (Drown This City): Maybe we’re just so in tune with our bodies.. like we wake up in the morning like “something’s wrong something’s wrong what is it I need to find out, i need to protect” – and you’re right it must be instinctual because I wouldn’t think men do that?
Emma: Yeah wouldn’t think many of them would. There’s probably men out there that do, like anxious men. But I still think it’s probably like the default thing in women. Like most of us do that?
Alex (Drown This City): It’s a really good point (laughs).
Emma: And you said before that you’ve had in the past, guys being like “how do chicks scream?” and you’ve just been like “how do guys..it’s just the same.” Have you had many experiences being a woman in metal where not just with your artistry, but with general fuckery coming at you for being a chick?
Alex (Drown This City): (laughs) Yep! On my way here this morning I was just having a quick read through Facebook I’m like “I’m just gunna go–” cuz I know it’s there – but I decided to go back and pick out a few instances. And it’s – people are obsessed with gender. So they can’t critique me as a musician. They have to critique me as a female musician. And so I was reading a few comments on Facebook. One we got was “another excellent band ruined by a terrible female vocalist” and I’m like well I’m not a “female vocalist” I’m a “vocalist.” There’s not difference.
Emma: Yeah that’s interesting because they judge your terrible-ness on being a woman. Where as if they didn’t think about your gender they’d be like “she’s pretty fucking good.”
Alex (Drown This City): Exactly. We had a guy ask us once, sent us a message, “oh I love your music, it’s so wonderful. Great vocalist, Alex, but any chance one of the guys in the band are going to do any vocals?” And I thought “well I’m the vocalist?”
Emma: Yeah we’ll just get the drummer to hop off of the kit and start…
Alex (Drown This City): Yeah! And it was an assumption that apparently they’ve got these skills that… and mine aren’t good enough. “Are you gunna get male vocals in there?” So I am a vocalist at the end of the day I don’t breathe any different, I don’t walk any different, I don’t do anything different. I don’t sing or scream any different to any guy. And so it’s just this obsession with being female! And another few instances, we were looking for a guitarist, and we were advertising publicly on Facebook and a few people were responding back going… and I don’t wanna be crude and you can cut this out if I’m not allowed to say this?
Emma: Always be crude
Alex (Drown This City): Alright! Basically it was, “nah shit band. I’d fuck the girl though” those comments. Um. When I was playing a gig last week, a guy walked up to me and said “hi. I was paid $5 to come get your name. How you going?”
Emma: What?! Paid $5?!
Alex (Drown This City): Yeah. So he was paid to come over and talk to me. And felt like it was appropriate to come over to me while I was on stage and basically try and… whatever it was.
Emma: Holy shit.
Alex (Drown This City): Yeah and I was like.. you’re not taking me seriously! I’m a performer. I’m here, I’m trying to perform. Like fuck off.
Emma: And you don’t see them doing that to any of your guys.
Alex (Drown This City): And I was really thinking a lot more about this. And another thing I’ve found quite interesting is the use of saying you’re a “female-fronted band.” So that’s quite a hot topic at the moment. And the thing I can’t get my head around is… I can’t do anything about the fact that I’m female.
Alex (Drown This City):
But, aside from that, it’s one word. It’s the word female. So putting it in a tagline “female-fronted” – it doesn’t actually change anything. There’s an assumption that that’s giving me an advantage. And that’s not fair. “That’s not fair that you put female-fronted in there stop doing that.”What’s unfair about that?
Emma: Yeah I agree.
Alex (Drown This City): I think you’re over sexualising the whole thing. What am I hoping to achieve? You know, it’s purely because there’s not many female screamers, not many females in bands. The same people criticising are the ones going “where are the females? Why aren’t they there? More chicks should be in bands. But don’t you dare say you’re a female-fronted band!” So I’ve always thought that was really weird as well.
Emma: Really odd!
Alex (Drown This City): I just don’t understand the obsession and it wasn’t something that I was prepared for coming in. I just put my head down. I’m just like anyone else. These guys are my best friends. You know you’re in a band with guys and you’re just one of the crew.
Emma: Yeah you’re just mates playing music together. I was kinda the same like that. I never really knew there was sexism in the industry, it didn’t come in to my sphere of influence. I never thought about it really until a couple of years ago – I mean this blog’s only started this year – when we started releasing a lot more and yeah, it did crop up a lot more. I was like “what? I just thought we were playing music? I didn’t realise this was a thing that I have to deal with. What?”
Alex (Drown This City): Yeah!
Emma: So what are you wanting to do moving forward? What are Drown This City up to?
Alex (Drown This City): Ooooh! Quite a lot of things. We’re quite new, actually. So we withheld a lot of our online presence. We’ve been writing music together for a couple of years, sorta preparing our release. So since December last year we came out. And we’ve just tried to push it as hard as we can. But we’re just focussing on writing as much music as we can because I think that’s a downfall for a lot of bands.
Alex (Drown This City):
They come out with this product and then they tour it, and then they have to take a break. They don’t have anything to put out there. And unfortunately content is key. If you don’t have the content people are just going to move on to another band and it’s quite crushing actually!
Alex (Drown This City):
You’ve got these highs and these lows of people coming in and being so interested in what you’re doing – even in our short amount of time we’ve had ups and downs in interest as well. So we’re just writing as much as we can as often as we can. Always prepared for any opportunity coming up. But we’re playing some pretty good gigs for the rest of the year, we’ll announce some soon! We haven’t unleashed them yet. But we’re playing a really good festival next year which I think is the highlight, which is a Unify festival called Unified. And yeah, that’s another interesting point as well because there’s only two females playing that festival..
Emma: Yeah! Right.
Alex (Drown This City): There’s myself and another band called Savior who have got a female vocalist as well. A vocalist. (laughts) Not a female vocalist – just a vocalist.
Emma: (laughs) Just a vocalist, yeah! Happens to have a vagina.
Alex (Drown This City): Yeah so out of 220 musicians playing there are only two females playing.
Alex (Drown This City): So that received a lot of… that sort of sparked a big debate in the last couple months of “where are they.”
Emma: Yeah well there’s been all those things of people removing all the male bands off festival posters and just leaving women ones on there and being like shrugs the posters are completely bare essentially. But I suppose that’s kinda like dominant in the metal scene, especially. There’s quite a lack of women.
Alex (Drown This City): There definitely is.
Emma: Like you go to the country scene and it’s quite even or even like rock.. i mean rock’s not even but it’s way more women there… metal’s kinda like… even hip hop! Drum and bass. There are some specific genres that are massive genres. Like huge followings.. electronic, drum and bass and the metal scene have very loyal fanbases and huge followings and it’s like “where are the women at?” and there’s a lot of women fans, so?
Alex (Drown This City): Yeah!
Emma: It’d be interesting – I don’t know how we’d ever find out – but women fans… whether they are in to women vocalists as well? Whether there is actual bias within audiences? but..
Alex (Drown This City): Well when I was growing up I didn’t really like a lot of female vocalists. But it wasn’t because they were female. I didn’t go searching for it.
Emma: No me either. I didn’t know that I should. Or I didn’t have influences that were women. But since starting this blog it’s like.. there are so many women artists out there!