The Revolutionary Marcia Deihl

It is not often that one gets to sit down and talk with an icon of the Women’s Movement, but I had that opportunity last week during my interview with Marcia Deihl. Marcia has been a fixture in the women’s movement in Boston since the late 1960s. It is hard to visualize a time with no women’s centers or GLBT rights. Deihl was part of a generation that gave these and many other things that we often take for granted. This was a time when the words “lesbian” and “feminist” were used with pride and often met with significant cultural resistance. She was at the forefront of the movement that not only normalized these terms, but helped define them. The word “queer” was used at that time to denote those belonging to the counter culture as well as to describe G&L peoples. It later expanded to include LGBT.  The movement in support of queer women began as a lesbian feminist movement and has expanded to include a broader spectrum of folks in the last 2o years. In any event, a view of the lesbian feminists of the 1970s would show Marcia Deihl at the forefront.

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marciadeihl.com

Marcia Deihl has been committed to activism since she came to Boston in the late 1960s to attend BU as a music major. She is a classically trained harpsichord player, but she felt boxed in by the traditional and elitist nature of her training. This led Marcia to pursue more radical alternatives, which she found in the Goddard School of Vermont. The school was offering feminist music courses in Cambridge, MA, influenced by the grassroots nature of the folk movement of the 60s and 70s. Marcia earned a Master’s Degree at the Goddard School in Feminism and Folklore. The school was also offering accredited Master’s programs in film making, left wing organizing, and children in the revolution.  This was a time when much of academia was not offering courses on women’s studies or radicalism and interested parties had to find places to educate themselves. It was only through the hard work and dedication of these activists did the larger academic community finally catch on to the need for an exploration of women’s history, popular culture, race and gender studies, and many other areas.

c. www.marciadeihl.com
c. www.marciadeihl.com

In Cambridge in the 1970s, there were Lesbian Feminist Music Collectives and women’s bars within which to showcase their talents. Bars like the Marquee in Cambridge, Sneakers in Somerville, and Somewhere Else in Boston. Imagine having a bar in the city exclusively dedicated to serving gay women? Boston has not had a women’s bar in over two decades. There would have been a ready -made venue for all of the bands QWIMB features. Women would not have to wait for their one night a month at male establishments and could have Monday-Sunday to plan events!

smash
www.marciadeihl.com

It was in this atmosphere that Marcia founded her band the New Harmony Sisterhood Band. Marcia’s website, www.marciadeihl.com showcases the band history as well as the history of other women’s groups during this time. Her Music in History workshop on the lesbian feminist movement is “Still Aint Satisfied.” She also has a program on gender and the representation of women passing as men throughout history entitled “She Dressed Herself in Sailor’s Clothes.” These workshops are the best place to start an understanding of the history of queer women in music since the 1970s. Please look forward to more features on Deihl and her experiences in the near future.

c. www.marciadeihl.com
c. www.marciadeihl.com

Q & A with Unstraight

Unstraight formed through a blaze of social media and dyke marches and friends of friends. Their music, simultaneously introspective and ringing with clarity, beckons you to connect and wills you to ponder the tenuous nature of relationships and all that you want from life. Unstraight coaxes the wishes out of your imagination and channels them into instruments and amplifiers, pouring sound into your ears until you’re moving your body not knowing why.

Jen on drums, Emily on bass, Katie on guitar, Lizzy on synth, and Madeleine on vocals: together they push the boundaries of alternative rock to the edges, with intertwining ribbons of electronic, punk, and garage. “Clarity” owns the first love song lyrics that Madeleine ever wrote, which pull at you, leaving you wanting more. “Not Close Enough” and “Show Me” tangle with hidden desires, and “Make Up Your Mind” simply wishes certain people would just make up their damn minds and expresses that through a variety of time signatures. And “Words to Seduce You,” well, music is going to save your soul and this song knows it.

The meaning of the band’s name is two-fold; one is blatantly queer and the other that Unstraight does not walk the common path. Walk with them–they already love you for it.

Unstraight is all women, all queer, and all you ever wanted. (bio courtesy the band)

Q&A WITH QWIMB

What brought you to Boston?

Madeleine: I came here for grad school in psych and stayed to pursue music, which is what I’m actually supposed to be doing with my life! Emily came for work as well I believe (she is a post-doc in math at Harvard), and Lizzy and Katie grew up in this general area. Jen has lived all over the country and finally found a home in the Boston area, where two of her siblings also live.

Have you experienced a strong scene for queer women in the city in terms of music/performers etc?

Madeleine: When I first moved to Boston and right up until I formed Unstraight, I was in the punk rock band The Furiousity. In that band I had my first taste of what a sense of community in the music scene could be like. When I put together Unstraight, having had that experience I actively sought out a queer music community. While it does exist in some ways it could always be stronger and more present. That is part of the reason that I put on the Big Queer Show (next one: June 6th—Pride Kickoff Party!) collaborating with Mad Femme Pride; I want there to be events in Boston (and beyond?) where the focus is queer music and musicians.

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Do you have any sense of a history of a queer scene here or is the past a faded memory?

Madeleine: I’ve only been in Boston about 6 years and was just fully coming out when I arrived, so I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer this question. However, I’ve found a really fantastic network of musicians, queers, artists, performers, queer organizations, and other awesome queer people and allies since I’ve been here and I think they and the events they are involved in really make the queer scene what it is.

Beyond dance nights, like many of Dyke Night’s events, Queeroke, and Zuesdays which I love and are absolutely necessary and appreciated, I think there is a need for other queer spaces and performances which many large events like Big Queer Show, The Femme Show, Genrequeer, Traniwreck, and smaller events like book clubs and discussion groups and craft nights try to fill. As far as history goes, event organizers of the past and present have one very formidable enemy: the couch. Come out and do things, queers and friends!

What made you decide to join a band?

Madeleine: I didn’t just want to join a band; I wanted to make one. I wanted to find musicians who could help me take the music that is in my mind and heart and release it to the rest of the world. I wanted my bandmates to be dedicated, passionate, honest and forthright, and more talented than me. And queer. I basically wanted the (nearly) impossible and got it, and I think anyone can, really, with perseverance.

I’m really grateful to now have a talented platonic musicwife in Katie, who basically has the same music brain as me. We write songs collaboratively and we just both kind of know when our parts (and sometimes when the other person’s parts) are right. We agree 98% of the time, and it’s kind of magical. Jen, Emily, and our new synth player, Lizzy, also seem to really understand the music in a way that I’m continuously amazed at; we give feedback openly, but so much of it seems to be instinctive. I’m lucky. Really lucky.

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Katie: I was extremely impressed and inspired when I first heard Madeleine sing. As the lead singer of her previous band The Furiousity, I immediately noticed her talent, technical ability, and the pure quality of her voice—how it stands out and shines.

Perhaps love at first note?

We both spoke about how we are both classically trained and enjoy the opera. I think I asked her “Want to jam sometime?” and she invited me on her conquest to form an all-women all-queer band. Best decision ever.

We began writing music together and we’ve been creating some of my absolute favorite music in existence. Yeah it’s pretty awesome to be a member in one of your favorite bands! Jen, Emily and Lizzy are all such incredible musicians with improvisational skills and natural instincts, so everything just flows nicely. Madeleine continues to impress and inspire me with her beautifully crafted vocal melodies. I am beyond blessed to make music with all of these lovely ladies.

Jen: This is the second “lesbian” or queer band I was “recruited” into. This one, by Madeleine, who knew an acquaintance of mine, who had heard me play drums with the former band. I knew Katie beforehand, but I only knew of her impressive DJ skills – not that she was also a phenomenal guitarist who pulls Santana-esque riffs out of thin air, noodles Nintendo worthy segues and writes songs that Tool would be honored to perform, due to multiple, rapid-fire time signature and tempo changes.

And yet, I have a very hard time answering the questions “Who do you sound like? What is your style?” The first thing I noticed about Madeleine (besides her Harajuku girls style, for lack of a better term), was her Amy Lee of Evanescence style ethereal vocals which float over our much harder (though still not hardcore) music. And Emily – well, Emily impresses constantly. I call her the “band genius”. I learn new things about Emily all the time, and at this point, I’m no longer shocked, though I am continually impressed. Her skills seem to know no bounds, AND, bonus point, she keeps us on point during practices! Lizzy – let’s just say she fills out the band both with music and personality and I’m happy to announce we have decided to be music-wives. Emily will have to decide if she wants a music wife – we may have to have a wife threesome. When I heard Lizzy’s synth with our music – it was the “Aha!” moment – with eyes bugged out, and screaming “YES!”. The way that we practice, the way that we endeavor to perform, the way that we record – it is with the intent to be as professional as we can be. We mean to be taken seriously, but we are also having a lot of fun doing it!

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Are there any artists that you look up to or who have inspired your own music?

Madeleine: For sound influence, I love Sahara Hotnights, Garbage, and Florence and the Machine, among many others. I also really look up to The Shondes, Amanda Palmer, and Melissa Ferrick—they are really making it DIY style and I really admire that.

Katie: I am inspired by many different styles ranging from classical to indie rock to metal to electronic to folk and more. Notable artists for me are Mozart, Tool, Bjork, Arcade Fire, Pantera, Rodrigo y Gabriela, DFRNT, Fleet Foxes, Juana Molina, The XX and Florence and the Machine.

Jen: I’ve never been into names: brands, celebrities or otherwise. But there have been a few artists that really get that sound that tugs at me and compels me to look them up (at different points in my life). I would say Juliette Lewis, MSMR, The White Stripes, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Flyleaf, Bush and Gossip are a short list of bands/musicians that I look up to. I have a lot of respect for any artist that writes his/her own music and sounds great live, though. Shoutout to Kristen Ford and her amazing band, who are writing and performing amazing, original music live right here in the Boston Metro area!

Emily: I’m rarely able to identify an artist I hear on the radio – and this is even if I “know” the song well enough to sing the harmony. When Madeleine recruited me, she included links to music by three artists I’d never heard of. I love it when my bandmates share music with me. I’m learning a lot.

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Do you think things are getting better for queer female performers or are there still barriers to overcome?

Madeleine: It’s better, but I feel like I/we live in a sort of bubble here in Boston. There are still many, many barriers to overcome; when I toured with my last band I got kind of sick of hearing “Oh man, you are pretty good for girls.” In this band we are both all women and all queer; double the chances for some sort of disparaging homophobic or sexist comment. I just like to think of it as double the opportunity to really unexpectedly blow someone away and change their minds and hearts, if just a little, in how they feel about queers and women in general.

Are you in any other bands?

Madeleine: No, but if I could quit my day job and do music exclusively I probably would at least have a side project or two. Or perhaps not be so terribly behind on band promotional work!

What has been your proudest moment as a member of a band?

Madeleine: I have had so many proud moments, but I think my next proudest moment will be when we can finally release our EP to the world this fall. Right now we have some great demo tracks, but to finally have a tangible item that people can purchase and hold in their hand, to finally have something I want to send to everyone I’ve ever met and just say—hey LISTEN, that will be my proudest moment yet.

What advice would you give to a woman thinking about starting a band or learning an instrument?

Madeleine: You want to? Start. Learn the instrument that resonates with you. Learn it and study it and love it. Find others who share your passion, they are out there. I volunteer for Ladies Rock Camp Boston for just that reason—women belong in music and queers do too. There is space for everyone; this is not a competition. Go to shows, say hello, meet people, be part of the world you want to be part of. The only thing stopping you is you.

Listen to some of their Music:

Clarity:

Words to Seduce You:

Show Me

Not Close Enough

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Unstraight Has a Big Show Coming Up:

BIG QUEER SHOW: PRIDE KICKOFF PARTY–6/6/14

It’s all that you ever dreamed of in a show, and now it has come back as a fabulous kick off party to your Pride week! This show/party will not only start with some friendly Mad Femme Pride-led mixing and mingling, but will follow with four fantastic queer bands, dancing between sets and after the last band until 1 a.m.!

Featuring:

GLBTAQ-loving and friendly. 21+, 8 p.m., $10 advance, $12 door, Copperfield’s: 98 Brookline Ave., Boston.

June 6th BIG QUEER SHOW full 2

Want More From Unstraight:

Q and A with Johnny Blazes

So just who is Johnny Blazes? (Bio Courtesy www.johnnyblazes.com)

Named “one of Boston’s rising stars” by Stuff Magazine, Johnny Blazes is known for their  genre-bending, gender-blending, tongue-in-cheek performances.  They draw from their category-defying brand of vaudevillian performance that incorporates drag, burlesque, comedy and clowning.  In recent years, Johnny’s work has moved away from vaudeville and into live music, and their focus has moved to fronting their 12 piece soul band, Johnny Blazes and The Pretty Boys.

Photo by Eowyn Evans 2014
Photo by Eowyn Evans 2014

After graduating from Oberlin College in 2007, where they founded and directed OCircus!, a 95-person student group with whom they created five original shows, Johnny returned to their hometown of Boston and immediately dove into the nascent local circus community.  In 2008, Johnny co-wrote and directed Mischief in the Machine, an evening-length circus theater production, in collaboration with Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band.  This show served as one of the seminal moments for the founding of The Boston Circus Guild.  Johnny served on the board of The Boston Circus Guild for several years, and directed and performed in a number of shows with the BCG, including Reign of Revelry, Threshold, and Vaudevillainy.

From 2007 until 2011, Johnny was a corps cast member of TraniWreck, Boston’s all-gender, all-genre drag cabaret mess.  During that time period, Johnny frequently performed at drag, burlesque and variety shows in Boston and New York City, and emceed for Rogue Burlesque, The Boston Circus Guild, Vadalna Tribal Dance Company, as well as for professional and student drag shows at colleges across the United States. They toured with The Tranny Roadshow, The Femme Show and Gender Queeries and collaborated with Big Moves Boston, The Theater Offensive, The Extra Terrestrial Circus Experiment, and many other performance groups.  They created an experimental cabaret show with collaborator Madge of Honor called Hypothesis, which ran from September 2010 through September 2011.

Photo by Derek Kouyoumijian 2013
Photo by Derek Kouyoumijian 2013

In April of 2010 Johnny forayed into the Boston theater scene to collaborate with The Performance Lab (now Liars & Believers) to curate and host the opening act to Le Cabaret Grimm, a punk rock fairy tale. In July of 2011, Johnny joined the cast of Tonya and Nancy: The Rock Opera in the double role of Tonya’s and Nancy’s mothers.

Johnny is currently on the editorial board of Salacious Magazine, a radical, anti-racist, feminist, queer sex magazine with a focus on art and comics.  Johnny has co-authored several comics with fabulous queer artist Katie Diamond, as well as with long time friend and collaborator David Brown.  Johnny’s work has been published inGender Outlaws 2: The Next Generation (Seal Press, 2010) and Encounters in Contact (Oberlin College Press 2010).

Johnny’s wo(n)man show, a one-person, evening-length vaudevillian performance that incorporates theater, drag, dance, opera and circus arts to explore gender stereotypes and the performance of one’s daily gender, toured intermittently from 2009 until 2012. wo(n)man show has played in small theaters, universities and colleges in Boston, New York City, Hudson Valley, NY, Schenectady, NY, Baltimore, Portland, ME, Philadelphia, Richmond, Washington DC, Vermont and New Hampshire.

QWIMB asked Johnny some questions and here is what transpired:

What brought you to Boston?

I was born here.  I went away for college, but once I was done touring with the circus troupe I had founded, I ended up back in Boston for a summer teaching gig and then just… stayed.  I love to travel, but I always come back to Boston as my home – it’s my favorite city, and my family is here.

Have you experienced a strong scene for queer women in the city in terms of music/performers etc?

Queer community was really important to me when I moved back to Boston.  I was in The Femme Show, TraniWreck, The Tranny Roadshow, doing a lot of identity politics art.  Drag, burlesque, performance art that related to gender and sexuality, and was intended for a queer audience.  Then, as I started to move away from that type of art-making and towards music (or back towards music, I should say) I found that my choice of community was revolving more and more around musicians – musicians of all different sexualities, orientations, and genders.  What unites us is more our relationship with Boston’s cabaret scene, and our weirdo-ness, I suppose.  I also think that these days, in Boston especially, while there is still very much a need for queer community, queer music isn’t just for queer audiences any more.  I can rely on my queer community for support, and while being queer is integral to who I am and the content of my music, I know that it will be received well by other musicians, regardless of their own sexualities and orientations.

Do you have any sense of a history of a queer scene here or is the past a faded memory?

I moved back to Boston in 2007, and while I lived here before college, I was a kid then, so I don’t have a great sense of what was happening in the 90s and early 2000s.  At least in the over 21 scene – let me tell you, those BAGLY dances were killer. 🙂  My dad used to play with Ryan Landry, so I would go to Machine with him when I was a teenager/young adult to see his rock musical send-ups.  And I’ve talked a bunch with drag kings and poets who are 15-20 years older than me about what stuff was like when I was too young to be paying attention.  So yes — I have some sense of Boston queer history, but mostly revolving around drag rather than music.

What made you decide to start performing?

I don’t think it was ever a decision, it’s simply who I am.  I was in school plays, ballet recitals, choir concerts as soon as I could talk – you couldn’t keep me from stealing the spotlight.

Are there any artists that you look up to or who have inspired your own music?

Susan Tedeschi is always the first name on my lips when talking about my inspiration.  Hearing her album Just Won’t Burn in high school had the biggest effect on me of any album I’ve listened to before or since.  Others in the pantheon include: Bonnie Raitt, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Janis Joplin, Sly and the Family Stone.  And of course, They Might Be Giants, Beyoncé, P!nk, Teresa Tudury.

Photo by Eowyn Evans 2014
Photo by Eowyn Evans 2014

I’m also immensely influenced by my dad, J. Johnson. While we don’t have exactly the same taste in music, growing up with a musician dad that I adored made a huge impact on what I do and don’t like, what I’m a little snobbish about, how I think about music.  I’m also spoiled because he has that exasperating, wonderful talent where he can listen to a song once and then play it for you. On any instrument. Some of that is innate, and some of that he had to work for, as I understand it, but I am still constantly in awe of him and wish I had inherited that particular talent.  What I did inherit from him is the mockingbird ear.  He can play any melody or chord progression he hears, but he can also imitate tone quality and feel, particularly with his guitar.  I’ve got that with my voice and inflection.  As a clown I can imitate people’s mannerisms, and I can manipulate my voice to fit a lot of genres and styles.  The challenge has been in finding my own sound that feels genuine.

Do think things are getting better for queer female performers or are there still barriers to overcome?

There are still barriers for queer females to overcome in every industry, certainly.  And disabled females, and females of color, and even rich white females from the suburbs.  Just look at how many more men than women there are in music – especially instrumentalists.

photo by Justin Moore 2010
photo by Justin Moore 2010

The particular issue that comes up often for me is more related to my gender rather than my queerness, but I think it’s relevant, since it’s a problem that my queer community is more equipped to handle.  To wit: I prefer to use the pronouns they and them, rather than she and her, since they fit better with who I am.  This is easy enough to implement in exclusively queer spaces, but in musician communities, there are a lot more straight people who’ve never even thought to ask someone what pronoun they would prefer to use. So I get a lot of lady, girl, sister, she, her, because people simply don’t know better.  This puts the onus on me to either be constantly speaking up and asking people to change their language, or to just be silent and take it.  I’m blessed to have some amazing friends in the Boston music community (of all orientations) who call me by the correct pronouns and set an example for others, but it’s slow going getting everyone on board.

Are you in any other bands/performance acts?

I sing with my project, Johnny Blazes and the Pretty Boys, and with The Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library.  I also sang on John Surette’s Tomorrow the World, and on Mission Creep’s upcoming album, so I’ve played live with both of those groups a couple of times to promote and celebrate those albums.

What has been your proudest moment as a performer?

That’s a really tough one! I take a lot of pride in what I do, and I try to take a moment after each and every performance, no matter how large or small the set or the venue, to truly feel proud of what I have just created and shared.  The most magical moment I’ve ever experienced was when I was singing at my sister’s memorial service.  I was singing a song that my dear friend Bethel Steele wrote, Blue Skies, and I was looking up at the rafters of the church where I grew up singing in the choir, and I realized that my voice had been forever changed by the tragedy of my sister’s death.  It was a feeling of *rightness*, that I was doing the right thing with my life. Tragedy has a way of stripping away everything that is unimportant and leaving you as your purest self – if you let it.

What advice would you give to a queer woman thinking about starting a band or learning an instrument?

Advice that I’d give specifically to a queer woman, as opposed to anyone else?  I would say: you have a unique opportunity, as someone who already does not fit into what society-at-large expects and wants from you, so use the bravery and stamina and fuck-you-ness that you’ve had to learn all your life and apply that to music.  You don’t need to play acoustic guitar and sing like Ani.  (Though of course you can, if that’s what gets your juices juicing.) You can play any instrument you want, in any genre, and write songs about anything you want.

For more info on Johnny Blazes, check out:

Johnny Blazes

Meet: Band Without Hands

Band Without Hands was a plan hatched in Vacationland… which quickly grew from Brien Sweet and Jess Jacobs working with samples and drum machines to a rock monster additionally fueled by Nick Martinelle’s double kicking feet and John McKusick’s guitar wizardry. Brien and Jess have written and performed together off and on for more than a decade, with this recent project being a much needed outlet for strong emotions and responses to our very complicated world. At once political and emotionally vulnerable, the hard rock fabric is interwoven with elements of new wave, industrial, and trip hop, creating a unique sound that blows doors off venues and minds out of skulls. With members influenced by pretty much every genre under the sun, Band Without Hands draws from a vast palette to create cohesive, intriguing, adrenaline-fueled social and emotional commentary. BWH is independent in the sense that they self-record, self-produce, and self-promote, and work damn hard at it. The band loves playing live, loves supporting our brothers and sisters in our beloved music scene, and loves connecting with area musicians and music lovers alike! (Bio Courtesy of the band)

QWIMB asked band member Jess Jacobs to answer some questions for us, and here is what she said:

What brought you to Boston? 

Most of us grew up in the area; Jess and Brien grew up in Merrimack NH, John in Pepperell MA, and Nick on Long Island. It was a natural migration from Southern NH for us art and music (and queer culture!) seekers.

Have you experienced a strong scene for queer women in the city in terms of music/performers etc?

I have met many queer lady performers, but I haven’t yet experienced a solidly organized community in that sense – we perform frequently with Unstraight, an all-queer band, (catch us both June 6th at Copperfield’s for a seriously awesome pride kickoff party) but I would love to start or contribute to a more formal organization of us queer entertainers.

Photo by Lindsey Boyer
Photo by Lindsey Boyer

Do you have any sense of a history of a queer scene here or is the past a faded memory?

It seems to me that there were a lot of scenes here that somehow have dried up after years of corporate takeover and rising property values. Everybody suffers when the art/music scene is starved out of existence, but I think it impacts the queer community heavily because they are typically very intertwined. I also think that the queer community suffers the same plight. I remember going to places like ManRay when I was younger and it was such a great place for everyone to have, and nothing has really come along to replace it. I’m sad to see local venues disappear or get absorbed by national interests, and I’m sad to see places being forced out of business by circumstance and lack of revenue; I guess it’s hard to compete with Netflix. But the people that ARE out seeing shows, buying merch, playing indie bands on their radio shows and car stereos, spreading the word about great art and music, all of us together are building this really vibrant and friendly community and it’s very exciting.

What made you decide to join a band?

I never decided to join a band, per se. I’ve been playing and writing music for more than two decades, so it’s always been a part of my life. This particular band, I came back from living far away for a number of years and really wanted to take the reigns and all of my experience with the industry and see what the hell I could make happen. Brien and I happened to grab a beer very soon after I was back in town and he wanted to do the same thing, so we teamed up.

Are there any artists that you look up to or who have inspired your own music?

Absolutely! I personally really look up to bold artists who aren’t afraid to challenge the norm in terms of musical style or message. Trent Reznor, Zack de la Rocha, Tori Amos, PJ Harvey, Bjork, Karen O. I grew up listening to lots of new wave and electronica, along with 90s rock, Alice in Chains, Smashing Pumpkins, that kind of thing. There’s also a huge chunk of ambient, like Boards of Canada, and classical music, primarily modern classical, from playing in concert bands and orchestras. It’s a widely varied pastiche, for sure. Tegan and Sara are a recent acquisition in my catalog (amazingly, I know, where have I been), and I really look up to them as queer performers and songwriters.

photo by Lindsey Boyer
photo by Lindsey Boyer

Do think things are getting better for queer female performers or are there still barriers to overcome?

I definitely think things have gotten better, and are getting better, but there will always be certain types of harassment – and that’s true regardless of sexual preference. I’ve played shows and been followed around by the – to put it nicely – very typical dude who won’t respect your sexuality for hours, and it gets to a point where you feel unsafe sometimes, so we all have to stick together. I started carrying a pocket knife, for what it’s worth.

Are you in any other bands?

I am not in any other bands at this time; however, I’m working with Unstraight on their upcoming release, doing production and mixing work.

What has been your proudest moment as a member of a band?

I honestly continue to experience my proudest moment every time we step on stage. We put in a lot of effort and the payoff is huge, when I see the audience having a great time – that’s the most proud I’ll ever be, always. It’s not a one sided satisfaction, like “oh, i’m playing my songs on stage” – we’re there to facilitate a great time and hopefully connect with people, remind everyone of the all too oft forgotten universal bonds that hold us all together like loving arms. And maybe, just maybe, inspire questioning of authority and culture.

photo by Lindsey Boyer
photo by Lindsey Boyer

 What advice would you give to a woman thinking about starting a band or  learning an instrument?

Cliche, but don’t be afraid what anyone else thinks, especially not in the beginning, whether of an instrument or of a band. Find your bond with an instrument – find that texture that just draws you in, soothes you. The love you pour into an instrument – or band – like that, it feeds that bond. Then when you go to step on stage, you won’t be terrified and nervous, because you know you can rely on your instrument and/or your band.

 Are there any other current or former bands you would like to see featured by QWIMB?

Unstraight and Petty Morals come to mind!

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Want to hear the band Play Live?

upcoming shows: (2014)

5/24 Opening round of FSA Rompetition at Dover Brick House, Dover NH

6/1 Midway Cafe (matinee show)

6/6 Copperfield’s with Unstraight and Mad Femme Pride – Pride kickoff!

Check them out online:

Get their album here:

bandwithouthands.bandcamp.com

Want another interview?:

recent interview with Vanyaland: http://www.vanyaland.com/2014/04/28/interview-band-without-hands-bands-without-hands-music-make-video-games/

Shepherdess Leads the Pack

Boston’s all female, post 90’s riot grrl, 70’s psych influenced power trio! The band features Emily Arkin on baritone guitar, violin, vocals, Hilken Mancini on guitar and vocals, and Alison Murray on the drums. All the women are also volunteers, founders, activists with Girls Rock Campaign Boston.

QWIMB sent some of the usual questions on Boston, music, and queerness to the band and here is what they had to say:

What brought you to Boston?

shepherdess sweatersEmily: I grew up in Cambridge, and moved back to Somerville soon after college in NY. My mom dreamed of moving to this area her whole life, and it took her a long time to finally settle here, so I feel like I should stick with it! But mostly I agree with her primary reason for wanting to live here: it’s a metro area with great access to art, music, books, and movies. I also feel that Boston is big enough, and has so many schools and general music-lovers, that a 1000 musical flowers can bloom–many parallel scenes and kinds of music flourish side-by-side and cross-pollinate. Yet it’s a nice walkable/bikeable/liveable size.

Alison: I was living in Chicago and long-distance dating a lady in Boston.  Now I live here and we’re married. So… love brought me to Boston.

Hilken:  I came here to go to the Boston Conservatory in 1988 as a dance major

Have you experienced a strong scene for queer women in the city in terms of music/performers etc?

Emily: We’ve met a lot of kindred spirits playing events by/for/about queer women, and similarly with riot grrrl, ladyfest, and other feminist groups or causes. I will say that common politics/orientation doesn’t necessarily equal musical cohesion–sometimes we our music doesn’t really “go” with other bands on a bill just because the theme of the night is ladies or ladies-who-love-ladies. But there’s an upside to that diversity too: I’m not sure I’d want to live in a town with such a well-defined scene that the music or social landscape is too homogenous–that sounds claustrophobic to me.

Alison: Not when I first moved here, but it’s always hard to find your place when you first move somewhere.  I had just come from a pretty rad queer scene in Chicago and was really sorry to be disconnected from that, knowing I’d have to start all over again.  I originally put an ad out on craigslist to find people to play with and used some pretty strong words like “queer” and “feminist” to weed out people who’d waste my time.  It’s really not fun to show up for a ‘jam’ session that turns out to be you watching some dude solo for 45 minutes.  Since joining forces with Girls Rock Campaign Boston I’ve met more women in the music scene, some of them are even queer!  The Ladies Rock Camp volunteers and campers have really created this community of support that lives and breathes on its own here in Boston.

Hilken: I don’t think too much about being queer and whether the city favors you or not in terms of playing music but- one of the first bands I was really into in the early 90’s was Come (that Thalia Zedek fronted) and my band Fuzzy (that I was in the early 90’s) recorded with Tim O’Heir at Fort Apache because of the Come record 11/11 that we loved so much- and that connection really helped us eventually because Fort Apache heard our recording and then ended up managing our career for the next six or seven years after that – so in a way that was a really positive thing that happened in my life and was mainly due to the Come thing so….I guess Yes.

Queerpalooza

What made you decide to join a band?

Emily: I was a classical violinist growing up but also a huge fan of rock, particularly Boston women-led bands like Throwing Muses and The Breeders (later Sleater-Kinney and adjacent DC/Oly riot grrrl bands). I started noodling on guitar, but had terrible stage fright and didn’t like to jam or improvise, so never realistically considered being in a band. (I did come up a list of theoretical band names with my high-school friend Jessie, all of which came to be real bands: “Heavens to Betsy,” “Placebo,” and even our joke name “Klymaxx”…she went on to be an accomplished band-leader and rock-club-owner herself).  Between reading band interviews and talking to my inspiring friends and family-members who were musicians, it dawned on me how much I would enjoy making music myself (both songwriting and performing). I needed to put aside my stage fright and worry of being inexperienced and just embrace the punk rock spirit and go for it! It was terrifying at first, but my friend Lisa who teaches art school very sagely advised me “it’s scary _because_ it’s important to you. You’re on the right track, you’re taking a personal and artistic risk–keep going.”

Alison: I wanted to be in a band since I can remember.  My mom played in a country band in the 70s and 80s called “Sleight of Hand” and I used to play on their drum kit in my basement when I was 4.  My mom plays the piano, guitar, banjo, and sings so I was able to get my hands on other instruments.  I joined concert/marching band in 6th grade and played alto sax until I graduated.  I had also started playing guitar when I was 8 and finally joined a real band in high school as the bass player (only female) and we did Rage Against the Machine, Pantera, and Metallica covers.  I knew I needed to play music and I wasn’t going to let anything get in my way of making that happen.

Hilken: I was dancing (Ballet) and it was really strict and I liked the idea of No Rules and creating your own art. I then became obsessed with Kate Bush because she was a Ballet dancer (like me) and then wrote her own rock music. Then I moved to Boston and saw the Neighborhoods play at Bunratty’s and I wanted to be like David Minehan. Spiky hair and guitar…

Are there any artists that you look up to or who have inspired your own music?

QueerpaloozaAlison: I’m constantly inspired by my amazing and talented friends as well as my favorite artists.  Sometimes all it takes is a simple guitar lick or sick beat and ideas start running through my head.  I have a wide variety of musical interests, so I’m inspired by classical, rock, celtic, folk, punk, disco, etc.  My definite stand outs are The Cure, The Smiths, Interpol, The Chameleons.  Claire Passey of Fur Purse (formerly of Lady Bust) is a killer drummer.  It feels like she kicking me in the chest with every beat and I love it.

Hilken: Kate Bush, J Mascis, Debbie Harry, Joey Ramone, Fred Sonic Smith, The Posies, Mama Cass Eliot … I don’t know. so many

Do think things are getting better for queer female performers or are there still barriers to overcome?

Alison: I feel like there will always be barriers for queer female performers because we have to fight for our space from the start.  If we become complacent or take the work of our predecessors for granted, that space will be filled in again in no time.  Right when I think things are getting better, I get asked if I know how to work a mic stand.  It makes you stay sharp and on your toes, but it’s also exhausting.  One time after a show, this really drunk man in the audience was genuinely attempting to compliment my drumming but it came off as if he was surprised I was capable.  He told me to “keep on drumming” and I’m so glad he did because I rely on male audience member’s approval to feel good about myself.  PFFFF!

Hilken: I don’t think too much about being queer and playing music. I think about getting older and playing rock music is a bigger barrier for people to overcome.

shepherdess flier

Have you been (or are you now) in other bands besides Shepherdess?

Emily: My first band was The Operators (née The Organ Grinders), where I played guitar and sang with Jen Godfrey, Paul Coleman, and Steph Melikian, and then I was in The Quincunx with Steph from the Ops and Slamber Slusser. Both bands reunite occasionally, but many of those bandmates are in other bands/other states/grad school, own their own businesses, or have young kids. Once or twice a year, I join ~40 other musicians in Animal Hospital Ensemble, a surround-sound orchestra of guitars and strings, expanding the solo work of Kevin Micka, who recorded Shepherdess’s album, “I’m Saving Myself for Shepherdess”. I’ve also been in a ridiculous number of one-off cover bands: Guided By Voices, The Ramones, The Runaways, They Might be Giants, Throwing Muses, The Breeders, The Amps, The Shaggs, James Kochalka Superstar, the Star Wars soundtrack, and I’m sure I’m forgetting many (my fave part is making up a bad tribute band names, like “Shocker in Beantown” for GBV).

Alison: I’m currently in Shepherdess and The Clear Deigns.  In Chicago I was primarily in gamine thief, but also played with a band called Funjihad where we performed one gig as Thomas Frampton and the Framptone.  I was the Framptone.  After gamine thief broke up I played with fellow bandmate Heather Lember (the ovens, Lemmy Caution, Cargo May Shift) in a two-piece called Ladycop, but I moved to Boston before that really got off the ground (arrested development?).  Before Chicago I was a solo folk artist, doing mostly instrumentals, in Detroit and Los Angeles.

Hilken: Yes. I was lead singer in a goth band in the 80’s, and then I started Fuzzy, and then I put a record out with Chris Colbourn of Buffalo Tom Fame and now I play in The Monsieurs as well as the SHep!

Queerpalooza

What has been your proudest moment as a member of Shepherdess?

Emily: It’s especially fun to play on bills alongside musicians who I’ve idolized like Mission of Burma, Gordon Gano, Wild Flag, Tanya Donnelly, The Fleshtones, Cotton Candy, Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore, etc. But I think what I’m most proud of is songs we’ve written and/or performed the hell out of, and our relationship to our community and the organization where the three of us volunteer, Girls Rock Campaign Boston, encouraging another generation of rockers.

Alison:  It was pretty incredible to open for WILD FLAG and also Mission of Burma in two separate sold out shows at Brighton Music Hall.  My proudest moments are usually when we’ve all had a rough day or whatnot and we just check in before we start the show to remind ourselves that we’re gonna have some fun – and then we have a kick-ass set!!  We can really turn things around just by getting out there together and playing the songs we love.  We played a show once where Hilken wasn’t feeling well and she practically napped on any surface she could fit on until it was time to play.  Emily and I took care of lugging all the gear so she could chill out for a few and then we rocked!  It was kind of hilarious to be stepping over her on the floor during load out, but it just feels good to know you have each other’s backs when you need it.  I think she was wearing a faux fur or something too because it was wintery out so it really looked like she was a diva.

Hilken: Starting Shepherdess at 35 years old – when I thought noone cared about older women playing rock and roll- and the freaking Phoenix calling me a “warhorse” for continuing to put records out when Shepherdess released it’s first full length on KIMCHEE records back in 2006.

shepheress wild flag flier

What advice would you give to a woman thinking about starting a band or learning an instrument?

Emily: I would say: It’s never too late to start–the fact that you’re thinking about it means you should give it a try. But it’s important to note that the hardest thing about trying something new is getting over your inhibitions–you can always push yourself to be better, but you have to start from somewhere and can’t be afraid of failure. I would also encourage people to be process-oriented in any artistic pursuit…it’s fine to want to be a rock star, and sometimes you set goals for yourself and dream about the future, but the people I know who really enjoy being in bands (including successful bands) love band practice and songwriting and wood-shedding–they don’t just sit around plotting having mad money, gold records, and groupies.

Alison: Stop thinking and start doing!  Make it happen.

Hilken: don’t think about it just do it.

shepherdess record

Want the newest Shepherdess record?? Get it HERE

For more on Shepherdess check out:

FUR PURSE!!

FUR PURSE HAS ARRIVED

So just who or what is a Fur Purse?

Fur Purse is:

  • Eve Belfer-Ahern – vocals, saxaphone, keyboards
  • Amy Tyson – guitar
  • Claire Passey – drums

Bio from Facebook: “Menacing, pubesenct, black hearts.”

QWIMB asked the Fur Purse women some questions about life, love, and the pursuit of fur purses and here is what they had to say:

What brought you to Boston and how long have you lived here?

Eve, Claire and Amy were all summoned to planet Earth at different times, but for the same reason:  to be in Fur Purse.  Eve arrived in Boston first, having appeared to have been born and bred here.  Amy showed up in Boston not long after Eve first appeared, and did a bunch of stuff while biding her time.  Claire is the one who is still the most jet lagged.

Why did you form Fur Purse, what brought you all together?

Destiny cannot be denied, everybody knows this!    Inexorable forces, that’s what.  What more can we tell you?  Do you really expect us to understand these forces?  That is similar to us asking, “Why are you, Tina, so deadpanning-ly funny?”

Do you think there’s a good scene/community in Boston for queer female musicians?

We think it is amazing!!  You go queer female musicians!!!

No seriously, even though we don’t believe in labeling ourselves, we know, enjoy, are amazed  and are grateful for the INCREDIBLY strong female presence in Boston Indie Rock!!!  It gives us strength and courage!

Why do you think it was ordained 1000’s of years ago that the three of us would end up at these very particular coordinates as Fur Purse?  If you don’t believe what we are saying is true, then you probably think Ladies Rock Camp is a hoax too.

Fur Purse has Peeps
Fur Purse has Peeps

Have you noticed any trends in the scene, i.e. is it better or worse now than it used to be?

Based on the analysis of the data we each have been transmitting continuously  from the BostonMA area back to our source originations, there has a steep increase in people of the non-male persuasion playing instruments, singing and thrusting their pelvises on-stage in clubs and halls around town.  Marked increase.  Preliminary analysis points to probable cause/influence as likely being an organization, a camp, if you will, that is for ladies who want to rock.

eve yelling claire drums
Eve and Claire at The Cantab

Are there any artists who have inspired you musically or personally?

Amy: Cindy Wonderfulis someone who really helped light the way for me on this crazy zoom zoom wheee!   Eve sends props to all the great performers, like David Bowie, or Boston’s own Deb Nicholson.  Claire says The Haggard broke all the rules and changed her dna forever.

Have you been in other bands before Fur Purse?

Do you BFP?  What is BFP?  This is an illogical concept.

When and how did you get started playing music?

Amy started on air guitar first, then switched to a material, physical guitar at some point, because it’s louder and therefore sounds better.  Claire first started on the sewing machine at her mother’s behest. Once she mastered that sewing machine, her mother said she had “earned the right to hit things really hard”.  Eve started singing in her dreams, and continues to this day.  Shhhh don’t wake her up.

Claire and Amy at the Milky Way
Claire and Amy at the Milky Way

How did you come up with the name Fur Purse : ) ?

Goddammit!  It is not what you and some other people think!!  How can we ever get that through to you people!  We are going to keep protesting this until you believe us!

No – “Fur Purse” is really just a term for a sort of small-ish container into which people put things, in order to carry them around.   Like if you were a trader in the 1850’s on the Oregon Trail you would likely have a fur purse. or maybe if you were a fancy lady in out on the town in the present day. OK?

…I think that’s it. Again, if there’s a question you’d really like to answer feel free to add it on.

Yeah here are some questions I think we should answer:

What is best thing about being in band?   #1 Groupies  #2 Feelings

What is worst thing about being in band?   Feelings

What advice would you give to people who want to start a band?  Just do it and don’t look back!

Claire and Eve at The Milkyway
Claire and Eve at The Milkyway

For More on Fur Purse, visit their Facebook page.

An Introduction to Anjimile

 thanksgiving-2012Meet local artist and student, Anjimile!

Juxtaposing the subtle warmth of an acoustic guitar and harmonious vocals with biting, sardonic lyrics, Anjimile is a musical force to be reckoned with. She grew up in Richardson, TX but moved to the bustling city of Boston in hopes of becoming a part of its thriving music scene and escaping the pervasive homophobia of the south. Anjimile’s first full-length LP, In the Garden, was produced by Eric Santagada, professional bassist and recent Northeastern graduate, in Santagada Studios. A labour of love, In the Garden touches on the universal themes of lust, loss, love and learning how to grow up. Some of her influences include indie-rock band Born Ruffians, The Jackson 5, Freddie Mercury, Sufjan Stevens, Say Anything and Violent Femmes. She currently attends Northeasern University, her favorite author is William Faulkner and she is Kanye West’s biggest fan.

Something of a tongue twister, Anjimile’s name comes from a little-known language called Chichewa which is spoken in the east-African country of Malawi, where both of her parents were born and raised. The name ‘Anjimile’ means ‘denied a boy’, as her parents desired a son after giving birth to two girls already. Ironically, Anjimile is a full-blown lesbian. (Bio courtesy of artist)

Anjimile Singin'
Anjimile Singin’

QWIMB asked Anjimile to answer the standard questions we love to ask about her views on various aspects of queerness in Boston. She was gracious enough to provide us with the following responses:

Did you grow up in the Boston area? (if so where, if not, why come here?)

No. I was born in West Virginia,  then my family moved to Iowa (where my brother was born), and a few years after that we settled in Richardson, Texas. So I’ve lived the majority of my life in Texas, from about age 4 or 5 to 18.
Baby Anjimile
Baby Anjimile

Do you think there is a strong community of queer women here either performing or supporting a music scene?

I’m just getting into the Boston music scene so I’m not I have enough experience to say, but I suppose from what I’ve seen I’d say not particularly. Then again, maybe I just don’t know where to look.

Are there any artists/performers who have been particularly influential to you?

I’m a big Michael Jackson fan. When I was a kid my parents would blast the Jackson 5 and I grew up imitating the way baby-Michael sang. I also love Freddie Mercury and Stevie Wonder. I’d say my biggest influences by far have been Sufjan Stevens and Born Ruffians. The Born Ruffians kind of catapulted me into the wide, wonderful world of indie rock and Sufjan Stevens is straight-up amazing. Vocally and lyrically he’s just the best.

What has been your experience with the various in venues for music in Boston? Have you played many of them? What was the crowd like?

Boloco Jammin
Boloco Jammin

I’ve had pretty limited experience playing venues in Boston. I like to tell myself it’s because I’m extremely busy with school and don’t have a lot of time to spend trying to book shows, but honestly I know I need to get out there and play. Mostly I frequent the Boloco on Boylston and Mass Ave. They have Open Mics on Wednesdays and performances on Thursday where they have a featured artist a lot. When I have the time I get myself signed up as the featured artist. It’s pretty awesome. The crowd is chill and they pay you with free food.

Why did you get into playing/performing music? Is there anything specific you would like listeners to hear when they connect with your music?

 I’ve been surrounded by good music since I was born. My parents would play the greats: Bob Marley, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson. I grew up in a very musical household. My two older sisters are also great singers and my little brother plays the drums, bass and guitar. I’ve always been surrounded by music and I learned to love it. Now it’s everything I am. My music is a representation of who I am as a person. Generally, I have an extremely difficult time expressing my emotions. Music, I have found, allows me to express myself exactly how I need to. I want listeners to hear the melodies and the harmonies but I also want them to listen closely to the lyrics. I don’t hold anything back when I write and my music is as honest as I get. When I sing I sing with emotion, and I want listeners to feel the music like I feel it. Performing is a really cathartic experience for me.

 

"Groovin"
“Groovin”

Wanna Hear Some More From Anjimile?

Meet Gaetana Brown of Little War Twins

Gaetana Brown is a member of the Boston- based band Little War Twins. She answered some questions for us about queerness, music and Boston: our favorite things.

Q&A:

Did you grow up in the Boston area? (if so where, if not, why come here?)

I grew up in a 3 by 3 mile town called Ayer in Massachusetts. I came  to Boston to change my life and throw myself into my dream of becoming a musician.

Do you think there is a strong community of queer women here either performing or supporting a music scene?

Oh yeah! Amazing bands like Brief Awakening, Trauma Queens and solo  performers like Danielle Lessard and Kristen Ford really helped me grow  as an artist and come out. Also with radio shows like Three Strange  Women on unregularradio.com with Jackie Soriano, I feel that Boston has a supportive group of women who are out and about!

Are there any artists/performers who have been particularly influential to you?

I think my most influential artist this year was Tune-yards. She is a one woman powerhouse weaving innovation with no mercy. I am in love  with her music and warrior spirit.

What has been your experience with the various in venues for  music in Boston? Have you played many of them? What was the crowd like?

I feel like I have played at almost every club in this city and the crowd is forever changing. There are some shows where people stay  for every set, some where people leave when their friends set is done,  but it’s never quite the same. I see local musicians really supporting  eachother in Boston, I find that truly inspirational.

Why did you get into playing/performing  music? Is there anything specific you would like listeners to hear when  they connect with your music?

 I got into playing and performing music because I love poetry. When I  was ten years old I fell in love with words and began writing. After  finding the guitar I thought, music is my poetry. I could freely express myself musically and write.

When it comes to a listener connecting to my music, I hope they can  find their own meaning. To me, art is a matter of perspective.

Now, meet Little War Twins:

Little War Twins
Little War Twins

According to their bio on the Little War Twins website:

We are strength. We are One. We are whole.

Together Little War Twins stands as a tribe, with each member threading together a tapestry of sounds that is as unique as the instrument they sheath.

  • Gaetana Brown: The Voice of the Storm (voice, rhythm guitar)
  • Patrick McConnell: The Bison-Headed-Warbird (drums)
  • Mark Pare: The Magick-Eater (lead guitar)

The words: Shock, Honesty, Freedom, Anticipation and Tempestous Reflection have all been used to describe Little War Twins live performance. In the last year, the band has already seen 3 residencies in Boston and continues to tour regionally across the North East.

Little War Twins is currently played on WNPR 90.5, UnRegularRadio.com and has been featured live on CityWide Blackout, The Boston Local Music Show, and Three Strange Women, in addition to being featured on NECN News Television.

LWT is currently recording their debut album to be released in the Fall of 2012.

HELP OUT THE BAND

“We are rock and roll  mystics and we are about to hit the road for six months. Right now we  have an indiegogo campaign to raise money for our tour van, where we  will eat, sleep and basically live. We are so grateful to go across the country spreading love and our message, our hope is that we can do it in a reasonably safe van!”
www.indiegogo.com/littlewartwins

For More on Little War Twins

Marissa Owens: Scruffy Folk Player/Former Bostonian

Marissa Owens, a self-described “scruffy folk” musician got her start in Boston and, as she moves into new aspects of career, keeps Boston close to her heart.

Listen to One of her Songs:

See, Saw – Marissa Owens

A Brief Bio of Marissa:

“A self-taught, unsigned folk singer-songwriter,Marissa Owens finds her home in Portland, Maine. Currently enrolled at SUNYPurchase for studio composition, she is a barefoot traveling soul, paddingalong the riverbanks of love, hope, sadness, and longing. The deep meaning shefinds in place, and her cherishing of fleeting human interaction, pours throughher rhythmic, powerful, heartbeat-esque finger picking style. Withdiary-confession lyricism, her music exudes a feeling of being suspendedbetween wandering and searching— both lost and found, home and away.”

QWIMB asked Marissa to answer some of our favorite questions about Boston and queerness, as we like to do. Here are her responses.

What brought you to Boston?

I came to Boston to study at Boston University. I was pursuing a degree in human physiology, but instead of studying, I wrote songs and recorded them in my dorm room. Boston was the place where songwriting started for me. Unfortunately for my roommate, I was always practicing tunes. Eventually, I had to pay attention to the fact that I dreaded school and should not be wasting money or time in the wrong place. I withdrew from Boston University and decided to apply to SUNY Purchase’s studio composition program. I had a free year between studying at Boston and SUNY Purchase, and in that time I got to reflect on my experiences in Boston.

What was your experience like in Boston?

While I was in Boston, I met a lot of great people because of my involvement in the queer scene at Boston University. I made a point to go to events outside of Boston University, just to feel more comfortable in the community. Boston allowed me to be open about my queerness as an adult. That was so valuable to me.

I loved wandering around Boston. I liked getting lost in the crowd, and I spent a lot of my time riding the T alone just to think. On my campus, people didn’t smile at others walking by. I wasn’t used to that. On one hand, I wanted strangers to connect, but on the other hand, I liked passing through a crowd where nobody cared about me. It is a confusing way for me to feel, but I explored all of that confusion and angst in my songs.

What’s great about Boston is there are so many young people there. There’s a feel of excitement, inspiration, and open-mindedness.

Did you feel there was a “scene” for queer female musicians? What about queer women of color? Is there a strong Boston scene in that regard? Was it welcoming/unwelcoming?:

There is a scene for female musicians. Although I was not playing shows in Boston, all of the artists I met and respected in Boston were women. I was so lucky to meet Jenny Owen Youngs and Steph Barrak. For big names, and indie musicians alike, I think Boston has a place for all musicians, because of the range of venues available. I was really in tune with the queer musician scene, and I think Boston supports that scene as well. What’s important is for people to create the scene, and a lot of musicians are doing that, with house shows and such, and that is incredible. As far as a scene for queer women of color, I didn’t really experience that. That isn’t to say that it doesn’t exist, but I’m sure the scene could be much stronger. Every place could stand to be more welcoming toward queer women of color who are musicians. Every place could be more welcoming to women in general. For a woman to get up and relate what she really thinks and feels is still shamed by society. That’s the way it is for people who are queer, of color, etc. But, we ignore all of that, and keep putting ourselves out there.

Thanks Marissa for answering our questions and adding to the QWIMB community!

For more info on Marissa and her music here are some links:

Check Out Local Musician: Sierra West

From Horse Farm to Harvard Square: Sierra West’s is Journey to Inspire

Luck Media)

Helping Animals By Day, Inspiring People Through Song By Night…Welcome To The Fascinating World Of Sierra West! The Folk Influenced Pop/Rock Singer Songwriter Is A Veterinary Technician Who Volunteers Her Musical Talent To Support Animal Causes.

We asked Sierra to answer some questions for QWIMB about her thoughts on Boston, Queerness, and Music…our favorite things.

QWIMB QUESTIONARE: 

Did you grow up in the Boston area? (if so where, if not, why come here?)

I grew up in rural CT on a horse farm. I lived in Watertown until I was 8 and moved to Thomaston where I still visit family. I moved to Boston after college because I heard of a historical folk venue called Club 47 (currently Club Passim) where Bob Dylan and Joan Baez started out and I dreamed of doing the same. I wanted to become part of the folk scene and start taking formal lessons (I was self-taught), so between Club Passim and Berklee I thought I couldn’t go wrong!

Do you think there is a strong community of queer women here either performing or supporting a music scene?

I think there is a strong community supporting more liberal artists/slam poets and dj’s. There is a stronger scene for bands than for solo artists, but there are several acoustic musicians working hard to create a stronger community, especially in JP and Somerville.

Are there any artists/performers who have been particularly influential to you?

I am influenced by a wide variety of music…everything from Neil Young to Nine Inch Nails. I grew up listening to James Taylor, Tom Petty, CSN, Steely Dan…any Classic Rock records i could get my hands on. Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin were repeatedly played. My first concert was Little Feat and Melissa Etheridge when I was 4 and I have been particularly influenced by them because of that. I went through stages of listening to U2, REM, & Ani DiFranco in high school and currently listen to The Weepies, Ben Harper, and Patti Griffin. I have to say, of the thousands of artists I have seen and heard, Martin Sexton is my number one all around choice. He has it all…and I aspire for a career much like his.

What has been your experience with the various in venues for music in Boston? Have you played many of them? What was the crowd like?

Sierra WestThe crowds showing up for music venues in Boston are a hit or miss for artists starting out on their own, especially without representation. There is so much music going on all the time that you really have to advance the gigs & do everything you can to promote them on your own. I’ve never performed at Toad (although I’d love to), but it’s a great small place with free music every night.  Most artists looking to book gigs can do so at The All Asia. There is not much of a local draw there, but it is a great way to gain experience. I performed at The Abbey Lounge, Toast (the gay bar in Union Square), and The Sky Bar regularly before they shut down. I’ve performed at The Midway and The Milkyway in JP supporting queer events and loved the crowd there. I’ve performed a lot at The Cantab Lounge, with a great basement band stage called Club Bohemia, again hit or miss for the crowd. I held my first EP release for “Rocks” at The Lizard Lounge, one of the best basement venues – standing room only on a Thursday night. I loved performing there – intimate, funky, and rockin’ at the same time.  I will be holding my EP release for “Hold Your Fire” on August 14th at Club Passim, which is a dream come true. It’s my favorite venue to perform in not only for its history, but for the love of the folk community and the power of a listening room. It’s not just a venue.

Why did you get into playing/performing music? Is there anything specific you would like listeners to hear when they connect with your music?

After my older brother, also a musician, was killed by a hit-and-run drunk driver I bought my first acoustic guitar and started writing privately in my room. Every time I sing it reconnects me with him. It wasn’t until my senior year in high school that I began playing in front of people. My girlfriend at the time was cheating on me with her male best friend. The day before she broke up with me she had insisted she “could never love a man the way she loved a woman”. We made out to The Cure for half an hour in my old Volvo (my brother’s old car). I recorded my first CD “Depleted Oxygen” 3 months later in NYC. It was fuel for a fire that was already there. I hope my listeners hold on to their dreams despite the resistance that arises, that it is possible to get through a struggle despite how different or against the grain it may feel, because life is too short not to.

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Intrigued Yet? Take a Listen to Some of Her Music:

Sierra was kind enough to allow QWIMB to post a link to her NEW EP, which comes out AUGUST 14.

Hold Your Fire

Also check out her earlier EP, Rocks.

Rocks


See Her Live!

Sierra is promoting her upcoming EP, Hold Your Fire, at Club Passim on August 14. You Don’t want to miss this show.

Get Tickets Here.

Want More Info On Sierra:

Sierra on Myspace

Sierra’s Website