Supercute! is a band from Brooklyn, NY composed of members Rachel Trachtenburg, Julia Cumming, Olivia Ferrer, and Jacqueline Russo. Supercute! started in 2009 and have since released an EP and toured twice with singer-songwriter Kate Nash. I’ve had the honor of playing tons of shows with Supercute! over the past few years and was so excited to meet Rachel and Julia for milkshakes a few weeks ago to ask them some questions.
How did you meet and start playing together?
Julia: My dad used to play bass for Rachel’s dad so we used to hang out when we were younger. Then when Rachel was fifteen, she asked me if I wanted to play in a band with her. So I asked my friend June if she wanted to join and we all started playing music together. And it’s been like that since 2009!
How would you describe your music?
Rachel: We call it psychedelic-indie-bubblegum.
You have such a unique sound. What are your influences?
Rachel: Julia and I are both very influenced by our parents’ tastes, we both grew up with a lot of classic rock, psychedelic, and glam. So we’re definitely inspired by stuff from the past. But we’re also really influenced by things that are happening in New York with local artists.
Julia: I think we’ve really stuck with the original idea of the band while letting it grow, too. Like, we’ve kept the ukuleles, but turned them into a more respected instrument and tool for songwriting. All of that adds to the sound we’ve created.
What is the response generally like to your music?
Julia: It really depends, it’s very mixed.
Rachel: Yeah, like we have super fans and then people who think we’re a joke.
Are there any trends you’ve noticed?
Julia: Well it can be a lot of…
Rachel: Don’t say 50 year old men.
Julia: Yeah, I was going to say creepy old dudes (laughing).
Rachel: It has a wide range, from 2 year olds to like, 80 year olds. But mostly I think it’s stoned out college kids, those are the real fans.
Julia: Yeah, cause they can kind of get into the weirdness and understand all the different levels.
Rachel: And they get the dorkiness.
What’s been your favorite experience as a band?
Rachel: I think the Kate Nash tour was my favorite. We toured twelve countries in Europe with her on a double-decker tour bus. That was a total dream. We played for anywhere from 500 to 3000 people.
Julia: Whenever we get articles that’s really great too, cause you know you’re reaching a lot of cool people.
Rachel: Yeah, we’ve had big features in Bust, Nylon, and the Times, and those are really exciting.
Julia: But every show is really just great. We’ve played a lot of different kinds of shows. For a while we were in the comedy circuit, when we were writing more theatrical songs. We became friends with Jeff Garlin and some really cool comedians that were doing shows here.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a band?
Rachel: Being in a band (laughs). You know, being in a band as a teenage girl can be tough sometimes.
Julia: Yeah. When June left the band, that was really hard. There were just so many layers of confusion and sadness. But Rachel and I really pulled it together to stick with our dreams for the band. But it was hard, losing a friend like that, who we haven’t been able to stay in touch with. And also just balancing life can be hard. But we get better at that as time goes on.
Rachel: We’ve had some big bumps in the road but I think that’s a struggle that every band goes through where you just become like a family. You know, you’re pursuing creative career paths and growing different ways but you’re still best friends. You get so emotionally invested.
Julia: It’s like, the love is unconditional, but you have to keep figuring out how to grow and work with it.
You said before that it’s hard to be a teenage girl in a band, why is that?
Rachel: Well, it’s just hard to be a teenage girl. (laughs).
Julia: That’s how I felt when I saw the teenage girls in the Olympics and they have all these cameras in their faces and every moment is on them and it’s just hard enough to be 17 and then to be in front of the whole world… to make yourself an object of ridicule…
Rachel: Or like when you write a song and by the time it comes out you’re so beyond that. Like our song, “Not to Write About Boys”– songs that we put so much love into but then you hear it a few months later and you’re just like, “ew”.
Julia: It’s like, everyone says that kids should stop being so lazy and then you put something out there and get ridiculed for it. But at the same time you know you’re doing something really special and cool.
Rachel: Yeah, it always pays off once you’re onstage. All the booking shows and dealing with all that stuff, being on stage makes everything worth it.
Why don’t you like your song “Not To Write About Boys” anymore?
Rachel: I wish that song had never been written.
Julia: It got us a lot of things, put us on the map in a lot of different ways. And I guess it’s not a bad song…
Rachel: It captures that moment.
Julia: Yeah, that’s what’s important. It’s just about realizing like, this is what was going on then and now that’s not going on anymore, and that’s ok. Making peace with your silliness.
What are the goals of your band?
Rachel: To be touring a lot. Just to travel and see the world and show our art to people, that’s the goal. But there’s school and there’s parents, there are things that hold us back in certain ways. We just want to grow as artists and develop a fan base that’ll stick with us as individuals as we move forward.
Julia: To be able to make cool art together and live a cool life of doing amazing things for yourself and for the world.
Would you identify your band as feminist?
Rachel: That’s a very complicated question.
Julia: We consider ourselves a politically active band and we think about a lot of different causes.
Rachel: We want every song to have a deeper message, whether it’s about society or animal rights. Feminism is definitely something we think about a lot which comes up a lot for us.
It’s something I’ve thought a lot about for myself, whether to identify as a feminist musician or not, or if that takes away from what you’re doing in a certain way.
Rachel: Yeah, like I say that we’re a teen girl band every day, but does that detract from it? It shouldn’t matter.
Julia: Just by being a chick and putting yourself out there, people are going to expect certain things of you. It’s like, either you’re a feminist musician or you’re not. But it’s not just black and white.
Rachel: But we have played some really cool shows with feminist organizations, like Permanent Wave, and every time we get involved it’s really amazing and inspiring.
What are you guys working on right now?
Julia: Well, we recorded our first album last October, so a long time ago. We’ve been working on mixing it and getting it done as soon as possible, which has been delayed by a film project we’re working on.
Rachel: We’re also working on writing for our second album, which we’ll hopefully be working on with Stevie Moore whose like this low-fi veteran god. We’re huge fans.
Do you have any advice for young musicians?
Rachel: Just do it, and don’t look back. One of my favorite quotes is, “It’s better to be a has been than to be a never was.” So you just have to do it and have fun and know that it’s what you want to do.
Julia: Don’t apologize for it, or regret anything that’s made you the way that you are. Just take it, and make great art out of it.
By Carter Davis
August 20th, 1991, was the opening night of the inaugural International Pop Underground Convention in Olympia, Washington. Once called “the culmination of years of alternative fandom united,” the event was conceived by local Calvin Johnson. What made this particular night special, besides being the first of a music festival that would set the standard for similar indie rock events to come, was that Johnson declared it a “Girls Night”. At this event, the Riot Grrrls, a recently established group of musicians who discussed political and social issues and feminist philosophy, took the stage. Acts such as Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, and Heavens to Betsy graced the largest stage of any of their careers thus far on this night. Many of these young bands requested early spots so that they could return home by the curfews set by their unsuspecting parents.
While the women themselves were the driving force behind the unforgiving political assertiveness behind their songs, Johnson used his influence as an indie culture hero to spread the word that these women were making incredible music, as well. He also crossed into their scene more directly: Johnson was in a short-lived band called The Go Team with a 15-year-old Tobi Vail (who would go on to drum in Bikini Kill). In addition to his promotion of these groundbreaking up-and-coming musicians, though, he was also creating a brand of music all his own that was just as revolutionary.
Speaking about his emergence in the Olympia punk scene as a young college student at the Evergreen State College, Johnson declared that his favorite music was made by those who had “love in their hearts, that beautiful teenage spirit. No matter how young or old they actually are”. If there is one constant factor throughout Johnson’s 30-year output, it would be this particular “teenage spirit”. When Beat Happening (Johnson’s band with fellow Olympians Bret Lunsford and Heather Lewis) released its eponymous debut album in 1985 on Johnson’s homespun K Records label, it was a jolt to the punk culture they deemed themselves a part of. Consisting of sparse instrumentation, dirt-cheap recording, and Johnson’s unmistakable baritone wail, the record was far from any “punk rock” that had been made prior. And yet, it achieved the same level of angst, aggression, and desperation present on the classic hardcore records that came before it.
Rather than achieve radicalism through instrumentation and pace, Beat Happening did it through lyrics and subject matter that portrayed a gritty, authentic, and heartbreaking yearning for affection. Lyrics such as “grab your favorite book and read your favorite part, and I’ll lay my head upon your lap” seem overtly childish at first, but when sung by the melancholic Johnson, pleas for romance turn into statements about the powerful simplicity of intimacy. A certain cynicism pervades his songs as well: “I had sex on Christmas, I had sex three times today, three different women taught me how to be bored in their own separate, sweet little ways”. When listening to Beat Happening, one thing is clear: they are not putting on a show. They are not making music that aims to be sensitive, emotional, or affecting in profound ways. Rather, they are brutally honest in describing the feelings associated with falling in or out of love. While most bands before would find this sickeningly coy, Beat Happening broke new ground by being the band with nothing to hide. Music made by real, humble people who go through the same cyclical and often mundane feelings of love, lust, and emptiness as their audience.
The abrasive moaning of Johnson is complimented by the more gentle Heather Lewis. However, her songs carry just as much bite: “you like the kinds of people I’d never need, like the foggy eyes walking down the street”. Guitarist Bret Lunsford has spoken at length about his stage fright simply playing his instrument, and so he never took a turn at vocals. Beat Happening’s discography evolved significantly with each album, although they never lost their remarkable innocence in the face of additional instrumentation and more complex arrangements. 1989’s Black Candy was thematically tied to some kind of perverse teenage slasher flick with songs such as “Gravedigger Blues” and “Pajama Party in a Haunted Hive”. Johnson’s contrasting lyrics of innocence and sex reached an extreme in “Playhouse”: “I got a playhouse so let’s stop, we won’t argue and we won’t talk, we’ll just take off all our clothes, in my playhouse that’s how it goes”. With each subsequent release, Beat Happening gained new followers as well as critical acclaim. However, they were never aiming for the mainstream recognition that so many indie bands like them achieved. After all, K Record’s motto was “exploding the teenage underground into passionate revolt against the corporate ogre”.
By the time of 1992’s You Turn Me On, Beat Happening was still playing small clubs and college towns. But, they had decided that this would be their last album as a group. Johnson found himself busier than ever at K Records (newcomer Beck Hansen was working on his seminal One Foot in the Grave there) while Heather and Bret desired to pursue other careers, exhausted from touring. With You Turn Me On, the band ended its career on the highest and most poignant note possible. Shimmering guitar textures are just as high in the mix as Calvin and Heather’s vocals, and the album also features the duo’s first vocal interplay (it was well worth the wait). The lyrical content is extremely melancholic: “so many locks and keys and chains shield you, two hearts crash inside against, when the suffering does commence”. With the addition of more traditional rock instrumentation, Beat Happening is able to create something they never have before: anthems. What were once sparse songs of one man’s sorrow now feel more like exuberant sing-alongs. The suppressed grittiness of the first albums is long gone. The band has been validated, and recognizes that their audience has been so able to connect with the emotional rawness all along. Now they are able to sing louder and more confidently than ever. What we are left with is truly a masterpiece.
It is important to keep in mind how much resistance Beat Happening faced over the course of its career. On a night they were sharing the bill with Black Flag, famously temperamental frontman Henry Rollins found himself very put off and confused by the innocence of a band which he had thought was just another punk group. Agitated at Johnson and his childlike demeanor, Rollins tried to provoke him by reaching for his crotch. Johnson replied: “didn’t your mother teach you any manners?”. Beat Happening proved that physical intimidation and a threatening presence were not necessary to be an affecting punk band. Rather, they achieved their edge by being extremely vulnerable and true to their “teenage hearts”. While the band itself may be long gone, their legacy still stands. And to a stumbling teenager of any age, the songs feel as fresh, relevant, and necessary as ever.
Those interested in reading more about the history of Beat Happening or Johnson’s influential K Records should turn to Michael Azerrad’s Our Band Could Be Your Life or Mark Baumgarten’s Love Rock Revolution: K Records and the Rise of Independent Music.
Carter Davis is an artist based in NYC. Check out his art here
By Sophie Rae
This weekend, Permanent Wave, a grassroots feminist arts and activist group, is holding its first ever Permanent Wave Festival in Brooklyn, NY. As those of you who follow Grrrl Beat know, I think that Permanent Wave is a really cool, really exciting organization, and I guarantee that this weekend will be awesome. Yesterday, to find out more about the festival, I called up Kiri Oliver, a Permanent Wave founder and organizer, who also happens to be my bandmate and friend! Here’s what she had to say:
How did you guys come up with the idea to do a Permanent Wave festival?
We’ve been talking about it in abstract for a long time, pretty much since Permanent Wave started, but we had no idea how we would actually do it. But eventually we got to the point where we realized we could do it because we’d been booking all these shows, so we had venue and band contacts. And we realized that it was something we really had to do because Permanent Wave has grown so much and has chapters all over the country and people from all over on our listserv and we felt that we needed to do something to celebrate the Permanent Wave community and to get people from all over to come together. We also want people who don’t have chapters yet in their city to feel empowered to start one and to feel connected to what we’re doing. Permanent Wave isn’t just a small group of people in New York, we want it to be something that anyone can be involved in, in any way they choose.
How did you choose the bands and put together the workshops?
We wanted to get bands that have been really involved in Permanent Wave over the past year and a half or people who have worked with us as organizers. We also wanted to book a lot of out-of-town bands like Doll Fight! from Vermont, they’re coming the farthest and they’re so good, really original Riot Grrrl.
What are you most excited about this weekend?
I’m really excited for the workshops. All the bands that are playing are amazing, but the workshops are something we’ve never tried to do before. They should be really great.
Check out the full schedule below and hopefully I’ll see you there!
:::::Leda – http://leda.bandcamp.com/
+ The Daily Acts of Feminism Project’s 1st Exhibit
Death by Audio (42 S. 2nd St., Brooklyn)
All ages, 8pm, $7
http://www.facebook.com/events/374748922591438/SATURDAY, AUGUST 18
::Mindtroll – http://mindtroll.bandcamp.com/
:::Kate Ferencz (Philly) – http://kateferencz.bandcamp.com/
:::::Priests (DC) – http://priests.bandcamp.com/
::::::Gifts for Burning – https://www.facebook.com/GiftsForBurning
Big Snow Buffalo Lodge (89 Varet St., Brooklyn)
All ages, 8pm, $7
+ The Daily Acts of Feminism Project’s 1st Exhibit
http://www.facebook.com/events/427140704002899/Plus workshops at Big Snow from 1-6pm:
::1pm: Guitar Pedals 101 / Punk Drumming Techniques & Patterns
:::2:15pm: How to Succeed in Show Booking Without Really Crying
::::3:30pm: Feminist Action (and Reaction)
:::::4:45pm: DIY: Art as Activism (for Everyone!)
SUNDAY, AUGUST 19
::Attia Taylor (Philly) – http://attiataylor.bandcamp.com/
:::Erica Russo (Boston) – http://ericarusso.bandcamp.com/
::::Mal Blum – http://malblum.bandcamp.com/
:::::Kelly Montoya – http://kellymontoya.bandcamp.com/
The Ho_se, 28 Lawton St #1, Brooklyn
All ages, 2pm, $5 donation for out-of-town musicians
By Sophie Rae
Jordannah Elizabeth is a music journalist and founder of The Process Records Media Group, a record label, marketing, and publicity firm. She is also a professional singer and songwriter.
How did you start working in the music industry?
I took music classes throughout my life, I’m a classically trained singer. I was always into rock n’ roll, my mom turned me on to bands like Elton John and 3 Dog Night. My dad was always into folk and country. When I was 17 I started managing a band and learned how to play guitar. I went on to record other bands and play shows myself.
You started your first music promotion company, Jordan’s River Promotions, when you were 17. What was it like working in the music industry at such a young age?
I started it with my boyfriend in a small town called Trinidad, Colorado with a company called Raging Beasts Productions. I started out booking one band that I met on my college campus. I went on google and I searched “how do you book a tour?” We got their music on myspace and I started emailing clubs in Colorado and we’d drive and show up and I’d wear a ton of makeup to get into 21+ shows at 17. Why so young? I just had ideas. It’s just my personality to kind of go for it.
I’ve been playing in bands since I was 9 and I’ve faced some challenges as a young, female musician. Have you faced any challenges as a young woman in the music industry?
Yeah, it was hard. Now that I’m 25, I’m finally getting a little respect after doing a lot of hard work. But you know, I’m a black female in rock n’ roll starting at age 17. I was playing acoustic guitar and I had dreadlocks and I’d be on stage and people would just be like, “I don’t understand, what’s happening?” And my music is very experimental, sort of psychedelic. It was a terrible struggle. A lot of disrespect, a lot of abuse, a lot of boundaries being crossed. Major labels wanted to sign me and the big managers were very intrusive and very physical with me at times. I tried to start The Process Records as a Riot Grrrl Record label, but in 2010 I was ahead of my time. The labels wanted me to put out another record, so I made this really weird record that the labels didn’t know what to do with. After all the abuse, I ended up homeless and I had to do a lot of therapy to get back on my feet.
You said you started The Process Records as a Riot Grrrl record label. Why did you want to start a Riot Grrrl label?
I wanted to protect girls from what I had been through. I got into the Riot Grrrl scene when I was around 14 years old, just at the end of it. There’s a huge influx of Riot Grrrl now– Riot Grrrl Berlin is doing really well, Riot Grrrl New York just popped up. I was a few years too early for the resurgence and people just didn’t get it. But back in the day I had safety pins in my clothes, and pink dreadlocks, and I was a feminist and all that. I still am.
How do you choose the bands that your label releases?
When I first started out, I just went for whatever I was excited about, but now I’m a lot more choosy. I have to like their live sound, they have to have a great attitude and be mature. So right now I’m dealing with older, more seasoned bands. Like, I just signed Apollo Heights, they were in this band in the 80s and 90s called the Veldt, they toured with Jesus and Mary Chain and all those guys. I just don’t want drama, I want good bands with good attitudes and good personalities.
Other than The Process Records and your own music, what other projects are you currently involved in?
I have my own radio show called The Process Records’ Psych Nights. I do big interviews with artists like Jason Sebastian Russo of Mercury Rev and Hopewell, Jason Simon of Dead Meadow. I have a blog called TPR-Mag. I am also the editor of thinklikealabel.com where we give resources to DIY bands that want to become professional. We promote education– I’m really big on promoting music education because it’s the one thing that’s really changed my life.
What are you listening to right now?
I was just listening to Galaxie 500. The Flying Eyes are a great band out of Baltimore City. I listen to a lot of jazz and folk. I like a lot of underground bands like Crystal Ships and Black Market Karma. And a lot of Latin American underground music too.
What’s next for you? What are you going to be working on in the next few months?
We have a big album release party coming up for Hopewell, September 8th at the Cameo Gallery in Brooklyn. I’m going to be moving to Baltimore, so I’ll be extending The Process Records from New York down to Baltimore and Philadelphia.
Anything else you want to add?
I just want to encourage young women to follow their dreams and protect themselves. You don’t have to demean yourself, you don’t have to use your body– use your mind. There’s nothing wrong with being sexy, being beautiful, but use your mind, practice your instrument. Be loving, be kind, but don’t take any crap. Never be so angry that you hate men. It’s a male-dominated industry and it’s going to be unfair but never get so angry that you can’t love your friends and respect men. Not everyone is out to get you. If you’re strong and smart, you can have a great experience as a musician for the rest of your life.
By Sophie Rae via Tom Tom Magazine
When most musicians say they have been playing their instrument “forever,” they are exaggerating. But for Chloe Saavedra, now seventeen and in her twelfth year playing drums in her band, Smoosh, this statement would not be too far from the truth.
Originally from Seattle with a two-year stint in Sweden, Smoosh has recently returned to the States, choosing New York City as its home. When I meet Chloe near her school in Manhattan on a sunny afternoon, she tells me how excited she is to be in New York City and how much more of the city she has yet to explore. As we walk towards Madison Square Park, a few blocks away, she offers me a Haribo gummy candy which she has been happily munching since I met her. “They’re not as good as they were in Sweden,” she says disappointedly, going on to inform me of the various differences in ingredient restrictions between Sweden and New York that might account for the discrepancy. We enter the park and come upon one of the few empty benches in site. But before we sit down, Chloe looks up at the sky and puts her hands in the air and, apparently, calculates the sun’s position and trajectory. After determining that this bench will remain in the shade for the next hour or so, she sits down and we begin our interview.
When did you start playing the drums?
I was five and I went with my family to a music store called the Trader Musician in Seattle. We were trying to get a violin strung that I had broken by accident. I wandered upstairs and saw all the drum sets, and I thought they were so amazing and huge and sparkly. I’d never played drums before, but my sister Asy played piano and wrote some songs. We met Jason McGerr, now the drummer for Death Cab for Cutie, who was working there at the time, and he said that if I bought a kit he would give me free drum lessons. We got the kit, but we never got the violin fixed.
When did Smoosh start?
Pretty soon after that. Asy and I started playing at the Seattle Drum School and Jason recorded our first demos for us. Our first album was called “Tomato Mistakes.” That was when I was six. Jason really helped us get our start— we didn’t know how to do anything. We started playing cafes and open mics and then got some shows at the Vera Project in Seattle, which we got a lot of attention for. Sassquatch was also a really big show for us.
Do you like playing with your sisters?
I hate it. Just kidding, I love playing with my sisters! It’s good because we can be really critical with each other, but we don’t take it personally because we’re like that all the time. I think that helps to make sure that all of the songs are the best they can be. For the album we’re working on now, our fourth album, I’m helping a lot more with Asy and her writing. Before I let Asy do that stuff and now I’m much more involved.
Smoosh opened for Sleater-Kinney. What was that like?
Sleater-Kinney is a huge inspiration for us. My drumming is really inspired by Janet Weiss. She uses a lot of toms so that’s how I started doing tom-only beats; on some of the songs, like on our song Massive Cure, I would just do this big tom beat on the whole song.
You also opened for Pearl Jam. How was that?
That was great. Eddie Vedder was awesome, but I actually didn’t really know who he was at the time. So somehow I asked him ‘are you Eddie Vedder or Eddie Murphy?’ And then he taught us yoga backstage which I probably wouldn’t be able to do that now, I’d be so intimidated. All the tours were so awesome, each one was its own really inspiring thing. We were going through different phases during each of them and we would always be really inspired by the bands we toured with, both by their music and their clothes and style.
In terms of fashion, how do you think your bands’ style has changed?
Now we are much more conscious of our clothes and overall style. We want this album to have a theme that our outfits work with. We tried it out at South by South West this past spring. We called the theme ‘Swevil’ which is a combination of sweet and evil. So we’d sing in a sweet voice but say something that contrasts with it and is kind of evil. We’d wear long flow-y things that would be sweet if they were white but we wore them in black. I don’t know if anyone noticed but it was a lot of fun.
How has Smoosh’s songwriting changed over the past twelve years that you’ve been playing together?
Our songwriting has changed so much. It has gone from total randomness to actually being conscious of what we are writing about. Right now we are also doing some more electronic drums and percussion and we’re trying to be more poppy and catchy. We always corrupt our songs by adding way too much, so we’re trying to keep things simple. For me as a drummer, my new style that I’m really obsessed with is sort of made up: African electronic. So it’s electronic drums mixed with big Djembe sounds. I love Columbian percussion too.
You’ve been traveling between New York, Seattle, and Sweden for most of your life, how has traveling around so much influenced your music?
When we moved to Sweden and wrote Withershins the album was really about Sweden and influenced by the countryside of Sweden where we wrote it— very isolated in a cabin. The songs are kind of dreamy and you need a lot of patience to listen to it. We are going in a different direction for this album because living in Stockholm was much more upbeat and the people lead a more simple lifestyle, in a good way. And then here in New York things are just so crazy with all the different cultures that are here, we’re hearing so much African and jazz music. Sometimes we go to Puppets Jazz Bar in Park Slope and just listen to jazz music all night which inspired us to play with a violinist and upright bassist. I feel like if we were still in Seattle we wouldn’t have changed much musically. As a musician you need to have a dynamic, sort of mixed-up life in order to keep things interesting so you don’t write the same thing over an over again. Location is everything when your writing.
Are there any challenges you’ve faced as a young female musician?
I’m a little conflicted when it comes to the girl drummer topic because obviously there are girl drummers and obviously there are male drummers and we’re all drummers, but I think that labeling yourself as a girl drummer or a feminist girl drummer puts you in a separate category. Instead of just trying to be an awesome drummer, you’re distracting the attention from yourself musically and you’re just drawing attention to a fact. I’m a feminist because I believe in women’s rights, but as a drummer, I just believe in good drummers. So I don’t think I’ve encountered any issues because of being a girl drummer but there have been some issues because we’re young. Like when were setting up and doing sound check, people don’t always take us seriously. Hopefully that changes when they see us play and realize that we’re not just some kid rock band that’s going to break up in the next week, you know, that we’ve been playing together for longer than the band we’re opening for. But I think it’s a good thing because it challenges us to break away from that pack and be noticed as good musicians.
Do you have any advice for young female drummers?
Find your own style. Be influenced by not just one person but by a lot of different people. Don’t get big-headed. I’m teaching my little sister how to play drums and just because she’s better than all the kids her age she’s getting too confident and that’s stopped her from trying hard when she’s practicing. So you should always have someone to look up to who’s way better than you. For me when I was growing up that was Tony Royster. Having him to look up to really encouraged me to try to be as good as him. I never was, but it made me want to keep it up.
Do you have a favorite part about being a drummer?
Just rocking out and going crazy! Drummers can get so into it and go so crazy and the more into it you get the more people appreciate you as a musician because they see that you’re really attached to your instrument and that your really feeling it. Starting out I didn’t want to rock out because I thought people would think I looked stupid. But just going crazy and not caring at all about what anyone else thinks, that’s what I love.
Least favorite part?
I don’t like the set up, the general set up where drummers are in the back. There’s this band that has the drums and keyboard facing each other and I think it would be so cool if we did that. It would bring a whole new attention to drummers because people don’t even know what’s going on back there but they would miss the drums so much if they were gone. Drums make a song.
You said Smoosh is in the process of making its fourth record. When is that going to come out?
Later this month we want to go to a cabin somewhere to write. It’s too distracting here. We’re totally influenced by the city but we have to get out just to write. We’re going to release it ourselves so the release will probably be sooner than usual, but we don’t know when that’s going to be yet. I’m so excited to be a part of the writing process for this album. I’m also getting into writing my own stuff on Logic. I’ve been doing a lot of percussion and bass stuff and I feel like I could really contribute to the new direction we want to go in with Smoosh.
Do you have any particular topics you want to write about for this album?
Revolution. I went to a lot of the Wall Street protests and I was so inspired there and I really want to write about that. Also Wikileaks, which would be hard to write a whole song about other than if you wrote about how good-looking Julian Assange is (laughing). Also the digital matrix, you know, all the digital devices and how it’s kind of changed people. A lot of people just think that we overuse computers and that people should be going out and doing real things or reading a book but there’s so much more to it than that. Using a computer is basically the same things as reading a book; they’re both virtual realities and I probably learn more online than I do in books. But it is sad that we’re getting used to writing in twitter-style and that people now have really short attention spans and need instant entertainment. But that’s just the way it is and musicians can’t be stragglers—there are ways we can use all of this to our advantage, like releasing your album online for free or using YouTube and Twitter. We just need to go with the flow.
By Attia Taylor
Growing up was a little difficult for me. We all go through two million stages before we settle with something that seems about right. Some of mine were trying to be a “tomboy,” getting into art, making everyone laugh, just to name a few. Somehow, trying to figure that out was a serious challenge during my younger years.
Music in my house growing up was pretty much hip-hop, 90’s girl groups and whatever was on the radio. I also got a nice taste of 60’s and 70’s soul music from time to time but that was far and few in between. I had a very narrow scope of what music was and all I knew then was that it was a definite obsession. I knew I wanted to sing, but sing what? Pop music? I loved the Spice Girls.
I wondered if I was missing something in the music world. The answer was so obviously, yes! I was on a long journey of discovery. Music was my shoulder and my friend and because I went to boarding school and was probably the most introverted 7 year old ever, I used music to feel.
I think our tough experiences as children are bottled up and explode in slow motion when we get old enough to realize what happened to us. It could be called our teenage angst! I was the queen of angst, however where most girls take their angst out on their families and society, I had to take that angst out on myself and hated who I was “taught to be”. Afraid of my own shadow, I spent all of my years as a teenager fearful of the world and hating my true personal expression. Although I wrote a lot of music as a child, I never felt courageous enough to share it. I never felt courageous enough to share hardly anything.
I was also afraid that people would think my “weird” voice, just wasn’t good enough. I found musicians like Imogen Heap and PJ Harvey to be so interesting when I was 16 because I had never seen women who did
exactly what they wanted to do with their very own music. It was mind-blowing at the time– mind-blowing and inspiring. I think a light bulb went off or a switch was flicked on in my head and I thought, “I can actually do this.” I had finally grown out of being so afraid of the thoughts and opinions of others.
My biggest fear, now as I get older, is seeing young girls with so much to offer and not enough courage to follow through. It is so easy to become sucked into being someone you’re not but the even harder part in high school and even college is staying true to the person you are. Everyday there is something or someone telling you who to dress like and how your skin needs to feel. The question is, has listening to any of this stuff ever made me feel better about my body or just more worried and self conscious that I will get spots on my face like a Dalmatian if I don’t use the proper skin cream?
What I learned just this year is that you have to force yourself, force yourself to do the things you want to do and force yourself to be who you are. It’s a secondary thought that doesn’t come naturally just yet for me but I am really forcing myself to be in love with what I have going on and luckily for me, I was able to discover my hidden
power in my music when I attended Girls Rock Philly (an empowering music camp for young girls) when I was 17. Programs like GRP really do make a huge difference! I went from not singing at all in front of anyone to playing shows every month and sharing my music with the world. My dream is that one day young girls and women won’t need to look outside of themselves or on a TV for encouragement and confidence in their abilities. I guess this came from being someone who saw every female friend or family member afraid to speak up or have and lose their own voice on account of a man, media or peers. I also don’t believe that anyone or thing can give you a voice, it’s a misconception. We have every capability inside of us and there are countless ways that we can use our voices as a way to change the way we look at ourselves and the way we look at others. I have a genuine need for girls to live in a society like the one we have during our camp week at Girls Rock; positive, encouraging, and life-changing.
By Sophie Rae via Sadie Magazine
The Bambi Killers play music, but don’t call them a band. They’re artists, musicians, activists, magicians, pyrotechnicians, dimensional travelers, and vaudeville circus performers– the list goes on. But what’s more important than what you call these three women is their message: anti-brainwashing, pro-individual freedom, and tapping into the human potential. Whether they’re drinking fake blood out of coke cans, smashing TV sets, or singing about UFOs and quantum physics, the Bambi Killers aren’t afraid to say what they think, even if you’re afraid of hearing it.
How did you all start playing music and performing?
Tanya: The universe brought us together, and it became really clear that we had to make a show. From very theatrical backgrounds and training, we came together to spread a general message of individual freedom and human potential. So there was plenty of material available, and it was just sort of an unusual thing that came about. It was very natural. Upon meeting each other for the first time we sort of knew that we had to do it.
How did you all meet?
Meghan: Being dimensional travelers we decided to manifest here in the third dimension, and it just happened that we all took shape in the same place and time, which was sort of a non-coincidental thing because there are no coincidences. Basically, we were all working in the Meatpacking District, so that’s where we met in the third dimension. We actually wrote a script about blowing the place up . . . breaking free and all that kind of stuff. Eventually, we transitioned into performance art, which we performed at different art galleries and performance spaces. We had one song, and we decided that music was translating the most, and people were really receptive to it, so we went down that path and became more like a band. But we’re not a band. We’re a traveling vaudeville circus family.
How did you come up with the name Bambi Killers?
Dawn: We came up with the name Bambi Killers in response to a few different things. One obviously was referring to the Sex Pistols’ “Who Killed Bambi?” But a lot of it is in response to large corporations, like Disney. Also on another note, ten years ago I met an Austrian wrestler called the Bambi Killer, and I really liked that name, and it always stuck in my head.
Tanya: The wrestler she is talking about made a point to be a little more theatrical and dress up in costume, which we do in our shows too. We all just took our various talents and applied them to these acts. Dawn is a designer, so she does costumes. We taught each other how to play instruments. Meghan and Dawn are both modern dancers, so they do choreography. Everything is do it yourself. It’s a solid unit in that way. Like I said, it all just came together, and we each feel equally passionate about being alive and being in this world, and it is a priority and a duty to use these powers to communicate these very organic feelings we have about freedom.
Meghan: Also, to the Bambi Killers name question, there’s sort of the loss of innocence that Bambi represents, and obviously there’s the irony with the Disney thing, but it still has a very earnest quality to it. One of our first acts was about female victimization and showgirls and Hollywood, so that especially at that time was pretty significant, and still is because we’re all women.
Do you feel like you’ve encountered a lot of sexism during your shows?
Dawn: I think it depends on the venue and the circumstance in which we’re performing. It’s a lot more embracing, and people seem to analyze and understand what we do a lot more if it’s at an art space or art gallery or in more of an artistic environment. I think it’s harder for us, and we may face that sort of thing more [sexism] at a standard music venue or a rock club or a rock festival because those shows are very male dominated. We do take off some clothes, and people definitely try to make that the point of our show. But I think we contradict that by being so destructive and using fake blood. That element of our show kind of puts it where it’s supposed to be.
Tanya: We don’t really fit in. We have costume removals, and we’ve played at burlesque events, but we don’t really fit in their because we play rock and roll. We don’t really fit into the music community because we get interrupted by various sirens that we’ve created and then act out theatrical skits. Our final outfits are sparkly brassieres and beautiful stockings, but we’re also covered in blood that comes out of coke cans after we march to a Black Sabbath song and destroy a television set with a chainsaw and then sing a song about UFOs. So an art gallery or theatrical environment is our favorite place to perform, because they’re supportive, and they want to think about something. Most of our shows are kind of an experiment for us, seeing the effect we have on people. Since we’ve started people have either loved it or hated it. I think that’s a good thing.
Meghan: A lot of people break up at our shows, like couples.
Dawn: Or we’ve broken up with our own boyfriends at our shows!
You mentioned the use of fake blood and violence in your performances. What’s the significance of that, or is it just for the show?
Tanya: It’s absolutely a part of the storytelling, because we don’t start off that way. For example, the act we’re doing now, the Human Condition, we build and collect props that we destroy throughout the act as part of telling the story. We start out completely clean, and then we transition after hearing the Twilight Zone music or a bomb siren, and then we break free from that, so it’s sort of a destructive but rebuilding process that we express. It’s definitely necessary; it’s just a part of the way we tell the story.
Dawn: Pretty much in all of our shows we start out in a place where we have to break through something or break free of something in order to be free again and spread the message of freedom and anti-brainwashing. It’s sort of a challenge that we have to overcome in every show, and that’s the point in the show when we start breaking shit, when we’re not brainwashed anymore and we’re free and we can translate this message that we’re trying to tell to everyone.
Meghan: I mean, there’s a slight self-indulgence, because it is totally fun, I’m not going to lie, but it brings me back to an animalistic quality that I hope translates to the audience because inherently we’re all animals, and we’re always fighting something even if we’re doing it intellectually or we’re just wishing we could and sitting at home. This is sort of an active way to represent that. Also, there’s a comedic element to everything we do. Not like comedians or like “ha-ha” funny but with a sense of humor about the world and the way we see it and society and how we relate to it.
You mentioned freedom and anti-brainwashing as some themes you deal with in your shows. What are some other themes that you’ve addressed in your shows?
Dawn: We have different themes like the ones you mentioned, but it’s kind of all-encompassing. Government conspiracies, whether they be anti-government or just political commentary and also things like aliens, inception, government cover-ups, secret programs. Basically it’s things that are happening that the government or media fail to recognize and that people are too brainwashed to think about. Or just, like, current news and social issues that we feel like responding to.
Tanya: Also things like plastic surgery and consumerism and just, like, how these things are vacant, disposable ideals that are put on a pedestal for no reason and that have no worth except making you feel less capable of creating your own reality. If everyone was aware of their own human potential it would be an incredible revolution.
Meghan: We also have a song called “Quantum Physics.”
Tanya: Quantum physics is a big theme for us. It’s a scientific variable that’s based on the idea that energy is everything and through thought you can manifest your reality. You can make your dreams come true by having simple faith in yourself and not allowing fear to infect you.
What are some of your influences, musically or otherwise?
Dawn: Musically, for me anyway, a lot of the early ’70s punk bands like the Freeze and even early Black Sabbath, stuff like that. Otherwise, my biggest influence is the Coast to Coast AM radio show. Basically it’s about the occult and the supernatural. I’ve been listening to it since I was twelve. They have these ex-NASA scientists and engineers talking about crazy shit that’s going on that nobody wants to recognize or that people are afraid to talk about because people will think they’re nuts. It’s awesome information, and it’s super inspiring for me.
Tanya: Any music that’s simple and tells the truth. Like Johnny Cash or Woody Guthrie. These people had really simple chords, but they talked a lot of shit and they were able to because they put it to a sweet, simple song. There’s also this band called the Avengers with a female lead who sings a lot about the end of the world and waking up from a zombie-like state. There are influences everywhere.
Dawn: A big inspiration is just old punk music in general. We aren’t the best musicians, and it’s not really about how good or how produced our sound is; it’s more about the politics and lyrics and the message behind it, which is what punk is.
I noticed that the “about” section on your Facebook page describes your live shows as controversial, and you talked about the destructiveness of your shows. What would you say is the most controversial thing you’ve ever done at a show?
Dawn: I’d say probably our Wall Street show was one of our most controversial. We played at a Halloween party for . . . what banker was it, guys?
Meghan: Morgan Stanley.
Dawn: Yeah, Morgan Stanley. Randomly I met this guy in a suit at a bar; we were playing downstairs. He obviously had no idea about our show or what we did, but he was trying to invite me to this fancy banker Halloween party, and I was like,“Oh yeah, no thanks,” but I was like, “I’m in this band. Here’s a sticker.” The next day he contacted us and was like, I want to book these girls for my party. Obviously he didn’t take the time to look into us or research us at all. He just thought we were some chicks that looked OK and would be good at his party.
Meghan: Yeah, so he asked us to play and they’re paying us, and it’s at Terminal 5, a giant place we’d never be able to play otherwise. And it’s literally just packed with guys in suits and their girlfriends in the slutty French maid outfits, and they’re wearing masks and getting wasted and partying. So we kind of altered our show to cater to this event. We came out wearing suits and old-man, Bernie Madoff-style masks, throwing fake money to the track from Cabaret, you know, “Money, Money, Money, Money” [singing].
Tanya: Yeah, so we’re like tearing the money and throwing it in their faces. And then we took off the suits, and underneath we’re wearing bloody hospital dresses. They didn’t clap, and they were yelling at us that they’re Republican. And it was right after the Wall Street crash, and I have family back home who lost their jobs, and I wanted to attack them, but all I did was call them robots. So we got chased out, and they were yelling at us outside of our dressing room. They were not happy that we were there.
Meghan: Is that the show where someone naked ran into our dressing room, trying to fight us?
Tanya: I think that was somewhere else.
Meghan. Yeah, that was somewhere else.
Tanya: The content of our show just kind of naturally takes on a controversial shape. A lot of times people say, like, “Why are these girls doing this?” We’ve done an array of things that have made people uncomfortable.
Meghan: We did have a show, a fourth of July show, where we ate hotdogs out of our underwear. We’re all vegan . . .
How do you develop your shows? Is there one part of the show that comes first? How does that process happen?
Meghan: We’ve got a lot of ideas that we’re kicking around all the time while we’re doing other shows, and then when we’re ready to develop a new show we brainstorm back and forth and develop music at the same time. Usually we come up with a story first and decide what our message is, what we want to say.
Tanya: Then we figure out the other parts of the show. We do magic tricks; we have pyrotechnics; we use heavy machinery, and we even dance. So we try to incorporate as many different elements from as many different places as possible to provide a sense of surprise. If you come to our show once you’re not going to see everything we prepare, and that’s part of the fun I think.
Do you all contribute to every part of the show equally, or does one of you do more of one thing?
Tanya: After doing this for a few years or so we’ve kind of gotten into a groove where we know which person is best at what. Dawn is the only one who knows how to use a sewing machine and design clothes—she had her own line before this. Meghan does a lot of the writing. I get the audio together. We each introduce something constantly to the show. Come showtime we are each collecting props, whether it be glitter, which we throw at people in our spacesuits . . . A lot of people will take pictures of the stage after our show, and it’s covered in glitter, broken computers, zombie limbs, and fake money. We need all those things. And we need baby wipes to clean ourselves up after.
Meghan: We actually signed a contract in blood, blood being the life force that we use in our show, and one of the main things in that contract is equal creative control. So, no matter who has what responsibility, we all believe in what we’re saying and we all share equally in the value of it.
You were talking about the costumes that you wear for the shows. What’s you’re favorite costume you’ve worn?
Meghan: I like these questions!
Tanya: I like them too.
Sophie: I’m glad!
Tanya: I would have to say the green fairy dresses, these beautiful, sequined showgirl dresses. We started off onstage like a ’60s girl group singing the song “A Girl Can’t Help It,” and I was singing and Dawn and Meghan had tape over their mouths and were smiling like plastic dolls. Then it turned into this Willy Wonka scary hallucinogenic story, but it started out really pretty, like a David Lynch movie when you see the shot of the beautiful suburban street, and the grass is green but there’s this underlying tone of “something’s not right; something’s going to happen,” and those dresses sort of define that feeling for me.
Meghan: I also loved the final costume in that act, the green feather bra and underwear. Anything that Dawn makes is thoughtful and thought-provoking and definitely special and unique.
Dawn: I liked our marching band hats with the feathers. Those were really cool.
Tanya: I really liked those jumpsuits too.
Meghan: Do you mean the green army jumpsuits? We wore those in the show I’m Not Convinced, and then we started wearing them to shows. They became like our uniform.
How many different acts have you done?
Meghan: We have a repertoire of different acts. This year we’ve mostly been doing the Human Condition, but if we think that one audience would benefit more from something different we might go back and do one of our other ones.
Tanya: To break it down for you, we have Springtime, Green Fairy, The Patry Act, Human Condition, and I’m Not Convinced. So we have five and we’re working on our sixth act.
You talked about a new act you’re working on; what else is on the horizons for the Bambi Killers?
Meghan: We just did a mini-series of five or six shows in a row in NYC, which is where we’re from, so that was really awesome. And coming up we’ve got our series of short films, which is the Bambi Killers Vs. series. We’ve done the “Bambi Killers Vs. Zombies,” so we’re going to do “Bambi Killers Vs. Suits” and “Bambi Killers Vs. Bigfoot.” We’re also working on an LP that’s going to be completed with artwork and different stuff. We have some shows on the West Coast coming up too.
Dawn: Yeah, we don’t have any studio recorded music. The only recordings we have are very low-fi, live footage. We’ve gotten to a place where our songs are good enough to record them, probably on a little pink vinyl record. We have these really rad T-shirts, and we’re going to continue to make more of them that spread the message. We want to make a shirt to speak out against something, like the fact that insurance doesn’t cover mammograms unless you’re over fifty-five. That doesn’t make any fucking sense. There could be potential for a pro-choice T-shirt with a wire hanger . . .
Meghan: We have plans to do a benefit and also tour in Europe and go back to Edinburgh and try to generate some producer interest to get a larger show going, which would just be what we do now but more of it and with more behind it.
Tanya: The most immediate shift is going to be to the West Coast. That’s where I live right now, and I miss everyone with all my heart. I’ve been out here for about a year, and there’s nothing like it. I’m really excited to see the response to us. The people I have told are excited, and there’s a lot of potential for the particular energy that we create. I’ve been meeting with these people, it’s called TM, Transcendental Meditation, it’s involved with quantum physics. It’s this whole practice of mind power, and they have a center here in Beverly Hills, and I told them about our “Quantum Physics” song, and they were really excited and open and wanted us to be a part of their projects. We’re finding home in very unique places, whether it’s UFO conventions or quantum physics conferences. So if we just keep trying and keep making this thing we can collaborate with like-minded thinkers. That’s all we want to do, just keep making things with people who want the same thing and want to actually say something. There’s a lot of shit, and we’re something else. Some people may not like what we do, but they can’t deny that we’re making a solid effort at just doing something else.