Meet Leigh Cheri’s Kelsie Hogue!

Leigh Cheri is a Boston-based noise pop band. Vox: Kelsie Hogue, Guitar: Mike Levinsohn, Bass: Chris Centeno, Drums: Billy Nichols

QWIMB gave Kelsie some questions to answer about Boston and queerness. Here’s what she came up with:

What brought you to Boston? 

I came here for Boston University’s BFA Acting program which I just graduated from last Spring.

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

I’m still in the discovery process of that. I’ve experienced great spaces in JP, Somerville, and Allston, and awesome festivals like Smash It Dead and takeover nights like Queeraoke (which we’re playing Halloween week!!). Always on the boi scout for more, never too many queers in one room!!

Leigh-Cheri-bostoncalling

Do you have any sense of a history of a queer scene in the city? 

That’s something I’d like to know more about. Tutors/den mothers welcome!!

What made you decide to join a band? 

Lisa Simpson whispered to me through the television via her saxophone  when I was five.

Leigh-Cheri-cuisineenlocaleAre there any artists that you look up to or who have inspired your own music? 

Yoni Wolf of Why? is my favorite lyricist of all time. I think Gerard Way is my generation’s misunderstood Freddie Mercury and was in retrospect my third femme boy crush (behind Axl Rose and Peter Pan). I bless the satin-lined riffs of kweens like Mariah, Christina and Whitney (RIP queen). Big Boi is the most underrated rapper, Kendrick is just plain important, Mykki Blanco is fucking shit up in the best way, and Missy Elliot is the most powerful bulldyke in the game. Comedians Tim and Eric and Tig Notaro made high school and college better. Queer/Trans activists/artists Darkmatter and Kat Blaque continue to teach me a lot.

 

Leigh-Cheri-lasthausDo think things are getting better for queer female performers or are there still barriers to overcome?

I think in large part to the Riot Grrrl Movement, things have gotten fairly better for white queer girl/genderqueer performers. As one myself, it’s a constant conversation understanding the layers of privilege I benefit from in performance settings. I have easily performed nude/barely clothed in both music and theatre spaces. The degradation I receive is in the form of sexualization or my queerness being written off as a trend/experiment. While those are still things to challenge of course, that’s nothing compared to the every day micro-aggressions towards QPOC to the rapidly rising murders of Trans Women of Color (a matter nearly neglected by mainstream media). I’m interested in listening and supporting Q/TWOC musicians specifically, as I think there is work to be done with creating a safer and more visible space for everyone (both in the music scene and in general). I would love to see the conversation begin with intersectionality, instead of sidelining it as can tend to happen in white-centric queer spaces.

Are you in any other bands?

 I have two queer as hell side projects in the works called Pillow Queen (with Birthing Hips’ Carrie Furniss) and CHOIRBOI (with Anjimile’s Anji Chithambo), Mike (guitarist) and Chris (bassist) play with gRAD pARTy, and our drummer Billy Nichols has a solo project under his name.

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

Playing our first live show this past April; file under “v tender.”

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

Let me know if you need to borrow my bass or guitar!! Find allies in the scene (swipe right on me bb)!! Let’s make this scene too queer for its own good!!

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

I’m gonna give Anjimile and Birthing Hips a #double #shout #out

Wanna get to know Leigh Cheri better? Check out the links.

You also catch them at The Midway on Oct 29, 2015 before Queeraoke and November 19, 2015 at O’Briens. 

An Interview With Kristen Ford

What brought you to Boston?

I had moved back to Western Massachusetts, (where I grew up) to work on an album on Many Doors records. I would commute 2 hours to Boston to go busking, and was dating a girl out there. Eventually it was like, this is ridiculous, let’s pull a U Haul and move in. It didn’t work out with the girl but it did with the city. That was 6 years ago, and I’ve been on the road full time the past year.

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

kristenfordportrait
Photo credit: Menelik Puryear

I think the answer to that is yes and no. There is a really big DJ scene with the weekly dance parties, and I find certain musical genres are really friendly to queers and you’ll find your people at those shows. However having a specific place to go and see queer women play, or a consistently gay ladies live music scene is not something I’ve encountered.

Do you have any sense of a history of a queer scene here?

Boston is the land of history! Depends how far back you dig how far into the closet they may have been, but there are vibes.

 What made you decide to start performing?

kristenford
Photo credit: Menelik Puryear

I didn’t have a choice. Just loved being a ham and getting attention since I was tiny. When I was 16 I saw an Ani Difranco show at the Avalon (now the House of Blues) and something struck me like​ a lightning bolt. That’s it. That’s what I have to do. She wielded so much power over us all with just her voice and a guitar. One of the greats.

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

I was mentored by June Millington; she was in the first all-female band to be signed to a major label called Fanny- absolute bad ass and she has transformed my music and my life. I also am a huge Radiohead fan, and recently as a one woman band I’ve been very inspired by Audrey Ryan and the way she changed the game.

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

kristenford
Photo credit: Menelik Puryear

I was at SXSW recently, and it’s pretty appalling how few women there are onstage or working the technical aspects of the show. It’s not even a queer issue, it’s a women’s rights issue. And I do think there is a lot of external pressure for gay performers to be “pretty” and stereotypically femme in order to get ahead. I mean even Ellen has a makeup sponsorship. Long way to go- but that’s why we must fight for the kind of performers, clubs and scenes we want to have, until the mainstream is ready.

Are you in any other bands/performance acts?

Currently living out of a van and touring full time keeps me busy only playing my own stuff. But in the past I played drums in Tilt-A-Whirl and The Grooves Moons- you can find us on Spotify and iTunes.

What has been your proudest moment as a performer?

Hard to choose just one, so many great experiences. Last summer I played mainstage at National Women’s Music Festival, and that was pretty grand. To have this incredible (all woman) tech staff making us sound and look great, a huge stage to bound across and being given the space to be really appreciated as a rock star from the audience was huge and really fun.

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

Do it! Work hard and make friends with other people out there in Indy bands. I think too many people get caught up in being competitive, how many Facebook likes do you have and such, and come to my show blah blah blah, without going out to support other local acts, nurturing your own scene and giving as much as you hope to get.

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

Bethel Steel, Laura Grill, What time is it Mr Fox, Jonny Blazes, Jade Sylvan and as a promoter, Kristen Porter.

Thanks for the interview!

I also would like to say I’m having a very gay show at Club Passim Sunday August 16th, with Bern & the Brights from NYC and What Time is it Mr Fox. You can get your tickets at http://clubpassim.org/

Call Me Doxy

Call Me Doxy is an angsty, feminist interpretation of classical motifs in a Cabaret coated, rock n’ roll context. Based in Boston, Massachusetts, Call Me Doxy may be better described as the musical equivalent of an unlaced corset, or a cacophonously sultry orchestra of ne’er-do-wells. Prompted to action by misogynists everywhere, Call Me Doxy often explores (and dispels) the concepts of gender roles, sexuality, and empowerment with the combined musical forces of five unlikely partners in crime.

What brought you to Boston?

Initially, college. But good friends, good music, and the warmth of the Boston community have kept us (Call Me Doxy) here.

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

Yes, to a certain extent. Most people in Boston are incredibly welcoming and tolerant. That being said, I don’t personally feel like I have enough of an awareness of/connection with other queer musicians. I would like that to change. Our band has been playing together for a little over a year at this point, but we rarely play shows with fellow members of the queer community. We would love to play a stronger role in advocating for the freedom to express sexuality and gender in less binary ways: it’s a huge part of why we make the music we make.

What made you decide to start performing?

We share the same ideals and the same message: people are people. All of us have been pigeon-holed at one time or another because of our gender or sexuality. All of us (regardless of whether or not we all identify as queer) want to advocate for social change, feminism, and a heightened awareness of the way bigotry has crept into cultural normalcy (and how to stop that.)  And it just so happens that all of us wanted to communicate this through classically influenced, cabaret-rock music.

What has been your proudest moment as a band?

Honestly, every moment we play together is the proudest moment. We rehearse twice a week, we play at least once a month, and yet the novelty of being able to share space with each other has yet to wear off. Just being in the same room as them makes my heart feel all warm and fuzzy, it’s pretty gross.

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

Do it. If you have the slightest inkling to do it, DO IT.  Music should be music, regardless of your gender or sexuality. So do it. Worst case scenario, you’re learning something new. That’s a pretty innocuous worst case scenario.

In Thrust We Trust : Q&A With Thrust Club

Thrust Club is a four piece band hailing from Boston, which band member Sally Bunch describes as:

Thrust Club’s sound is a garage dance party where everyone is invited—a kick-drum that lifts you out of your seat, crunchy guitar chords under a layer of keys that’s sometimes smooth, sometimes ominous, and vocals that coo, scream, and everything in between, warning and complaining about but also celebrating the experience of being a woman. Thrust Club formed in February 2012 at Ladies Rock Camp, a 3-day fundraising event for Girls Rock Campaign Boston where women pick up instruments they have likely never played, form bands, write a song, and perform it live. After rocking the showcase at TT the Bear’s with “In Thrust We Trust,” singer Bethany Leavey, keyboardist Bonnie Joyce, drummer JC Climent, and guitarist Sally Bunch decided they were having too much fun to call it a weekend.

In spring 2012, they began practicing in a JP basement and pulled together a 5-song set to play at their first show, at the Middle East Upstairs in July 2012. Since then, Thrust Club has performed at Great Scott, the Midway, Milky Way, O’Brien’s, Precinct, and elsewhere, and in July 2013 released the EP Greetings from Mt. Thrustmore, available by download at http://thrustclub.bandcamp.com/. All members volunteer at GRCB’s summer sessions for Girls and Ladies Rock Camp, and believe in demonstrating and promoting girls’ and women’s to express themselves through music and other means.

The ladies answered some questions for us about Boston, queerness, women, and rock n’ roll.

What brought you to Boston?

Bethany: I was born and raised in the Boston suburbs and went to college at Northeastern University. With the exception of a short six-month stint in Chicago, I’ve never lived anywhere else. I’m what you’d call a lifer 🙂

Bonnie: My family moved to Ipswich when I was 16 and I bopped around throughout Massachusetts then finally moved to Jamaica Plain when I was 25. My brother’s girlfriend at the time had a room in her apartment that needed subletting, and I had a wad of cash in a tissue box rather than a bank account. I stuck around!

Sally: I came here in the 80s to attend BU and after graduation I made Boston my permanent home. I knew I wanted to attend college in a city, to be near cool radio stations, clubs, and bands, though I didn’t start venturing out to the Rat or TTs and other clubs until I was a senior.

JC: I moved here on a whim with my boyfriend 12 years ago for absolutely no reason other than we had a brief discussion one night where I said, “I’ve always wanted to live in Boston…” and he said, “me too…” and then we just did it! We move here in the middle of a blizzard in February 2003 with $500 savings, no job prospects and no friends here. I think we’ve done pretty well for ourselves.

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

Bethany: Ladies Rock Camp Boston and Girls Rock Campaign Boston have introduced me to the HUGE number of queer women involved in the Boston music community! It seems like I hardly ever go to or play a show where there isn’t at least one queer woman on the bill.

Bonnie: Thrust Club has been living in a bubble of it for the past two years, so I’ll have to say yes, because it’s something we’ve gravitated towards. We’ve been mentored and supported so well by the Girls Rock Boston community. We’ve played exactly one show where there weren’t women in any of the other bands on the bill and I’d like to keep it that way.

Sally: I do, and feel part of this growing community of bands I go see and play on the bill with, including Fur Purse, Weather Weapon, Viva Gina, Sleep Crimes, Kitchenettes, etc.

JC: I hadn’t paid attention until I attended my first Ladies Rock Camp (LRC) in February of 2011 and met the most amazing group of women I have ever known! I have since done LRC twice more and now consider myself a retired camper. I still volunteer for LRC and Girls Rock Campaign Boston (GRCB), where I teach bass and coach bands.

at rock camp officialDo you have any sense of a history of a queer scene here or is the past a faded memory?

Bethany: Like Bonnie said, the queer scene wasn’t something I really knew a whole lot about until I became involved in GRCB/LRCB. I was aware of a handful of queer women in the folk and singer/songwriter scene, but I didn’t really have a sense of a queer presence in the Boston rock scene until the last few years.

Bonnie: I don’t have a sense of it, but I wasn’t so keenly paying attention until a couple years ago.

Sally: I don’t have a sense of it; there may have been stuff going on that I wasn’t aware of, particularly in the nineties and early 2000s when for various reasons I wasn’t paying attention

JC: There is definitely at least a mini queer scene happening here! Bands like Viva Gina and Unstraight are definitely holding it down.

What made you decide to join a band?

Bethany: I joined my first band in high school (Holla, LittleMatchGirl!) I’ve always felt like being in a band was an inevitability for me. I knew that I wanted to make music, but I didn’t know quite how to go about it. I was lucky enough to have a few friends who felt the same way, and we decided we’d figure this whole “writing music” thing out together. We were an all-girl band by default because none of the guys we knew wanted to play with us.

Bonnie: Man! For a while there I was going out to see bands play like every dang night. I knew I wanted to do it but I had this really limited view like all the people who were in bands probably started out when they were wicked young or were so much more talented than I could ever be or whatever. I was hanging around with Radio Control and Streight Angular a lot, both bands with lady drummers–Kristina Otero and Theresa Polk, and was really inspired by them. Kristina blew me away with this story about playing a show on a Brookline Community Access TV show after having only a very brief experience of playing drums. My memory is fuzzy but it was something like a few weeks or months. (NOTE: I have contacted her asking for details but it’s early on a Saturday morning so I haven’t yet heard back)

When I heard about Girls Rock Camp I had a reaction you hear about a lot of women having, like, “Ugh! I wish they’d had this when I was a kid and then I’d be living in this alternate reality where I’m in a band!” And then the next year they ran it for adult ladies but I was too shy to do it. I became friends with Charlotte, Stud, and Tam, who were involved as campers and counselors and they urged me to sign up. I’m so lucky Thrust Club wanted to stay together!

Sally: I had these opportunities through Ladies Rock Camp that I never thought I would have. I just thought I’d come away with some friends to see other bands with. But in 2011 two of my rock camp band mates invited me to join the band they were forming. And then the following year Thrust Club wanted to keep going, and though at the time I didn’t really think of myself as a guitarist in the long term, I’m glad we’re still at it.

JC: After my first LRC, I realized that I wanted to start a band but didn’t really know how or whom to ask. I was already in Adam PC, but I wanted my own thing too. When Thrust Club formed during my second LRC in 2012, I got extremely lucky to join a band where all the members were local, we were making music we were all into, and decided to keep going!

dolled up

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

Bethany: I would not be the vocalist that I am today without Monique Powell of Save Ferris and Beth Ditto of Gossip. Bif Naked, Gwen Stefani, and Carrie Brownstien taught me how to yelp and twist my voice and, of course, Kathleen Hannah showed me how to scream my head off.

In terms of songwriting, I really admire the poetic simplicity of Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers, Kimya Dawson, The Moldy Peaches, The Mountain Goats and The Ramones.

The Ramones and Velvet Underground have served as a general inspiration for me – They didn’t have any special musical training, they just had instruments and a desire to make noise.

Bonnie: Like Sally, a lot of my longtime listening has been to dudes. Whatever, I’ll name them. I love Bruce Springsteen, Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers, The Mountain Goats, The Magnetic Fields, The Kinks. Right now I’m trying to figure out how to make my keyboard to make sounds like The Doors made.

Since becoming a lady in a band I’ve become more lady-centric in my tastes. I’ve loved Tegan and Sara forever and I’m super enjoying this pop turn they’re taking these days. We can sound pretty Riot Grrrl but I’ve only started listening to a lot of those bands once we’d already begun doing it. We just like yelling, so that’s how it turned out. There’s a lot to yell about!

A lot of my idols are Boston women in bands who I’ve actually had the chance to interact with, and who over time have become my peers.

Sally: I must admit that most of the music I listened to when I was younger was created by dudes, with a few exceptions including Tina Weymouth, Chrissy Hynde, and of course Patti Smith. I guess I identify with Patti the most because she’s a writer who stumbled into playing music. Going back now and listening to some of the female bands like Sleater Kinney made me realize how they are influencing me know. And I have guitarist envy every time I see Marisa Paternoster play.

JC: When I was about 6 or 7, I wanted to sing like Debbie Gibson! But I’ve also been into Joan Jett, Cyndi Lauper, Blondie, and Heart for as long as I can remember. Kathleen Hanna has been a huge influence on me ever since I discovered Bikini Kill around the age of 16. Kim Deal is my biggest bass inspiration and Janet Weiss is my biggest drum inspiration! And I’ve had a crush on Carrie Brownstein since high school.

roller derby

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

Bethany: There are always barriers to overcome, I think, but it seems like things are getting better. There is definitely a growing queer female presence in the Boston music scene with performers going out and supporting each other.

Bonnie: I hope so, because it’s something that we’re actively trying to achieve. You’ve got to do a lot of good stuff to edge out the bad stuff. There’s nothing like a shopping trip for your gear to remind you that discrimination still exists, though.

Sally: I imagine they are, though I’ve only been at it for a couple of years and we’re in a progressive city and part of this amazing, supportive community.

JC: Things can ALWAYS get better for females and for queers everywhere! But I think as long as we have each other’s backs and continue to nurture and support our scene, shit is good.

Are you in any other bands?

Bethany: In addition to Thrust Club, I front Boston riot-doom band Sleep Crimes. I also have several ongoing side projects: The Sitcom Moms, my acoustic, punk rock, mashup cover band with my hetero lifemate (and former LittleMatchGirl bassist ) Eve Gravel, Das Oopsie, a ukulele duo with Rainy Logan of Eye Witness/Rotating Strawberry Madonna, and Muscleshucker, Sleep Crimes’ acoustic corporate events alter-ego.

Bonnie: Not right now, but I would be open to it. In 2013 I played bass in a second Ladies Rock Camp band, a hip hop band called Slam Juice. We had a mere 3 days of bliss and sort of tried to stay together after camp, but it didn’t happen. Ladies if you are reading this, know that I still love you and would jump at the chance to reunite.

Sally: Until last summer I played bass in another band, Seamstress, with two other women from my LRC band and another friend on accordion. We had a unique sound and I was proud of what we accomplished those two years we were active.

JC: I am also in Adam PC, where I play bass and some percussion, as well as do back-up vocals.

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

Bethany: Oh my gosh, so many! I don’t think I could ever pick just one. My very first show with my very first band was huge for me. It sort of felt like we were pulling off this huge ruse, like “Oh my God, they actually think we’re a BAND?!?!?” Playing NYC on Thrust Club’s first band-iversary was so amazing. I was standing on stage thinking “…A year ago, we didn’t exist, and now we’re recording and EP and playing Brooklyn!” It is also the most amazing feeling to have people singing the words of your song back to you. I don’t think that will ever get old. AND HOW COULD I FORGET OPENING FOR JD SAMSON & MEN?!?!?!? That might be my biggest fangirl moment.

Bonnie: This is a really tough question, because there have been so many and I always feel so lucky to have them. Sorry, Tina, I can’t pick a single proudest moment so here’s a list. Playing our first show at the Middle East Upstairs was a huge honor. Being asked to open for JD Samson & MEN was another thrill, and I tip my hat to our drummer for having the guts to send them our music when they put out a call. JC is a promotional dynamo. Our first band practice after we got the news, we kicked things off with a group squeal. I was a nervous wreck at the show itself and could barely speak to JD Samson, but I’m proud I managed to eke out a thank you. Playing the TomTom/GRCB Lady Drummer showcase was certainly a highlight, and watching the video that was made at that show makes me so happy. I’m excited we’re booked to be a lunchtime band at Girls Rock Camp in July. Anytime we’re mentioned in print or on blogs, I’m like, “What?! This is happening?! Cool!”

Sally: I’d have to agree with JC about playing that show with JD Samson and Men is up there, as well as earlier that month playing at the Tom Tom/GRCB benefit. In addition, having our first post-LRCB gig at the Middle East, and pulling that together. I could go on…I guess the whole Thrust Club experience has been one proud moment.

JC: I think the biggest “holy shit!” moment for me was Thrust Club being asked to open for JD Samson & MEN for their Boston tour date at Great Scott. The proudest moment is every single second I spend with Thrust Club and being grateful/ astonished at how well the four of us work together.

men and thrust club

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

Bethany: Do it. Just get out there and do it. Don’t worry about whether or not you’re good or bad or not sounding the way you want to. Get involved in GRCB/LRCB. You will meet so many inspiring women, even if you just come to an event. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t, either.

Bonnie: You don’t have to lock yourself in a room until you’re perfect before you start performing. Just get out there. As for the people you form a band with, just go with your gut. Have patience with yourself when you’re struggling on the learning curve. If there is someone at a show you’d like to emulate, go up to them and talk to them. Most people in bands are just regular people and they’ll be friends with you. Blab nonstop about what you’re doing. Write to Thrust Club. We’d love to book a show with you.

Seek out spaces where you truly feel like anything goes. If you can swing it, get your butt to Ladies Rock Camp. It is both the most fun and the most empowering thing I’ve ever done. If you can’t afford it, volunteer for them. They still need volunteers for the Girls’ sessions in June and July. If that’s not possible, go to a GRCB-affiliated event and talk to everyone; we’re a friendly bunch. We got really advice at Rock Camp that I often think of to this day. One of Thrust Club’s band coaches, KJ Parish, was a taskmaster extraordinaire that weekend, and she said, “Being in a band is all about making decisions and moving on.” Just keep at it. Another bit that stuck with me is when Angela Sawyer of Weirdo Records told us something along the lines of, “It is your job as a musician to be as yourself as you can possibly be.” I think back to that one whenever I start to feel inadequate or like I ought to affect more of a persona or look better onstage.

Sally: I would say just go for it. Get involved with Girls Rock Campaign Boston to meet other female musicians and help inspire girls. If that’s not available, go see and support other bands and get to know them. And if there’s some little gremlin on your shoulder saying you’re not good enough at your instrument or you’re too old tell it to shut the fuck up.

JC: JUST GO FOR IT!!! Attend a rock camp session, meet some ladies, go to all the rock shows, meet some more ladies, practice your instrument, sing in the shower or in front of the mirror, and don’t ever be embarrassed or let anyone tell you that you can’t do something

at rock camp

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

Bethany: Well, Sleep Crimes DOES have the Improper Bostonian’s Most Eligible queer woman banging the skins 😉 Viva Gina is a fucking force of nature, I would like to see them featured everywhere.

Bonnie: Sleep Crimes. Haven’t you heard that their drummer Jasmine Hagans is the most eligible lesbian in Boston?!

Sally: Any of the above-mentioned bands who haven’t been featured. Also others we haven’t played with including Unstraight and Wet Dress.

JC: Definitely loved the features on Fur Purse and Shepherdess.

Q & A with Reba of the Kitschenettes

reba
Reba

The Kitschenettes are a 4 piece, “quiet grrrl” band based in Somerville and Jamaica Plain. All four band members are long-time volunteers for Girls Rock Camp Boston and all have been active in the Boston music scene for many years. Band member, Reba Mitchell, was kind enough to answer some questions about Boston and queerness for us.

scene? Has it changed over time?

RebaI’m not really sure how to identify the queer music scene. I mean, I know a lot of local musicians who identify as queer, but I’m hesitant to slap that label on their bands because of it. I’m also not super in touch with local music. I am, however, in touch with cable tv, snacks, and going to bed early on weekends. Is there a Queer Women in Pajamas blog?

What brought you to Boston? Are you local?

RebaI came to Boston because New Hampshire is terrible. Kathleen went to school in Boston, and she is from New York. Ashley is from the area. Slamber has lived in California and Texas, but has been in Boston for some time.

Artists inspired you personally or musically?

RebaWhen I was 15 or so, I was fortunate to have been introduced to a lot of riot grrl/queercore bands. The Internet had a lot to do with that– I was really into Lookout! Records and pop-punk stuff, and somehow that lead me to riot grrl chat rooms on AOL. I met a lot of people that way– some of whom are still my best friends. I was hugely influenced by Team Dresch, The Third Sex, Helium, Bikini Kill, Excuse 17… but at the same time I was also listening to like, Steely Dan. So I can’t pretend that I was ever really that cool.

What do you want people to remember about your band in the years to come?

RebaWe all met as volunteers for Girls Rock Campaign Boston, which –I think it’s safe to say– has inspired all of us to play music. Personally, I had a few years where I stopped playing music… for stupid insecurity reasons. Playing music with Slamber, Ashley, and Kathleen has allowed me to relax a little bit and just have fun. For once I’m not thinking about how I look on stage, or if the audience is dancing or not, or if the audience even exists in the first place. It’s just fun. I hope that people pick up on that and are inspired to start a band of their own, the way that GRCB bands have inspired us.

Why did you join a band and what instruments do you play?

RebaAfter a session of Ladies Rock Camp (a GRCB fund-raiser) had ended, I found myself inspired but also kind of restless. I saw a lot of talent and was given this new energy during Camp, and I wanted to keep it going. So we (our original drummer: Tanya Palit, Ashley, Kathleen, and I) just got together and played some cover songs one evening. We didn’t have any expectations other than to challenge ourselves and maybe build some new friendships. Tanya (<3) had to step away from drums to focus on some other projects, so Slamber joined us just after our first show.

We rotate vocals and instruments in the band. Ashley, Slamber, and I move between guitar/bass/drums– for selfish reasons… so we don’t get bored. Kathleen keeps anchor on keys because she is better at it than any of us. I’ve learned a ton from watching Slamber play drums and guitar. And Ashley is always encouraging us to move around and loosen up on stage. Kathleen has pipes like woah. It’s great to be able to try new things and learn from each other.

female members we should know about?

RebaI’m hesitant to pigeon hole anyone if they don’t feel comfortable with the label. I guess I’d just encourage people to support women in music in general… or just support women in general… and we’ll all benefit from it either way.

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Cuisine en Locale on Highland Ave in Somerville.

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

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