Category: Interviews

Prinze George
November 14th, 2016
Prinze George
Interview by Alex Teitz
 
Prinze George is a 3 piece pop band from Maryland. Kenny Grimm, Naomi Almquist and Isabelle De Leon. The group began generating buzz last year. They released their debut album Illiterate Synth Pop this year on Sounds Expensive. They had a headlining tour and festival appearances this summer. Prinze George’s music is an addictive mix of charging drum and guitar synthed into something more. This interview was conducted via e-mail to include all members. For info visit http://www.prinzegeorge.com/
 
FEMMUSIC: Can you describe your songwriting technique; How does a song form within the group?
 
Kenny: It’s different every time, usually I start with a production idea with a beat and bring in to the group. Sometimes, Isabelle lays down keys and we work together on beats. We try to keep it open.
 
Isabelle: A lot of times Kenny and Naomi start an idea, because they are always together. When they start an idea first, it actually makes it easy for me to lay down drum parts separately. It really is different every time; sometimes I lay down a progression and we build a song together from the ground up when we find time to be together in the same place.
 
Naomi : I have my corner for the most part with writing vocals/lyrics, but my role bleeds over a bit too, like Kenny and Isabelle’s. There have been times when I write a hook on the piano and show it to 
 
Kenny, and then he builds a whole sonic landscape around it. Sometimes Isabelle jams on the drum pad while Kenny jams on beats with his production software. We do check in with each other a lot while we are creating, and like to make several strong ideas at a time instead of focusing too much time on one song, mainly because the time the three of us can all create together is limited.
 
FEMMUSIC: What was the biggest challenge making Illiterate Synth Pop?
 
K: I think we tried to evolve sonically with this record from our previous releases; we just really wanted more live elements. It was the first time we were combining electronic drums with acoustic drums, so that took some time to figure out.
 
I: Post production, but also in the sense of perfecting each part and selecting the songs that fit the best together.  It was challenging to remain patient regarding the timeline of release, especially because the time between tracking everything and the album’s actual release was long.
 
N:  The biggest challenge I noticed in making this record was in post production. Kenny and I just agonized over every single song in the mixing process and it took a really long time to get it right.
 
FEMMUSIC: What experience or experiences stood out the most in making Illiterate Synth Pop?
 
K: Entering our manager’s house where we made the record for the first time was really inspiring.  I was exhausted, but we entered this massive house with an Airstream that had a control room inside of it and synths everywhere. It was the first time I had ever gone somewhere just to record an album, so that was really exciting.
 
I: I agree with what Kenny said; it was very much a retreat for us and getting to be in that amazing space with the purpose of recording an album was so inspiring and definitely made for a productive first week. Whenever we are there we relive that week and feel lots of emotions because of how memorable that first week was.
 
N: I was definitely excited about the house, especially the Airstream, because I got to record all of my vocals in there. I think tracking vocals in the Airstream with Evan was the experience that stood out the most for me; not just because of the physical space but also because of the space that existed between Evan and I during that process. He really pushed me to do my best takes; there were all these private moments occurring between us in the studio and we were complete strangers at the beginning of that week. Evan wasn’t uncomfortable asking me what these songs were about and he wasn’t uncomfortable with my answers. He didn’t dwell on shit either, he just asked, listened, and kept telling me to go back there. It was really cathartic for me and our exchanges definitely made the vocal performances what they are on this record.
 
FEMMUSIC: How was it working with Evan Bakke? What did you like?
 
K: We met Evan the first night we got to our manager Nate’s house. Nate had hired Evan to track everything for us while we made the record. Since Evan has a lot of experience recording live rock bands and “Prince”, recording the drums with him was great because he had a very live approach to tracking, opposed to a super produced/studio approach. Evan was also able to get rough mixes together of each song almost immediately after we’d tracked everything, which allowed us to conceptualize what we wanted the final versions to sound like from the beginning.
 
I: The first time we met Evan, we didn’t realize he was the actual engineer. Evan is really young and very laid back, and didn’t make any formal introductions, so we didn’t know he was our guy for the first couple hours. He just started setting stuff up and we just assumed he was a friend of Nate’s, because Nate always has people coming through the house. We didn’t expect the engineer to be so down to earth. What I really liked about working with Evan is that he pushed us to do our very best takes. As a drummer, that was a new experience for me. We would keep going until we had a take that we both liked, instead of just letting OK takes slide by like I have in the past with other engineers.
 
N: I like that he doesn’t waste time in the studio, but he’s also silly and fun. He’s straightforward and professional and ruthless about getting everyone’s best work out of them. Also see above answer.
 
FEMMUSIC: Why did you sign with “Sounds Expensive”? What benefits does it bring?
 
K: “Sounds Expensive” is a label run by our manager; he outsources all the services of a normal label himself. It’s essentially like having everything a label offers, but without having to give away a lot of ownership and gives us the ability to maintain creative control over our music. At the end of the day, were very good friends with Nate and completely trust him to do his job and lead us in a good direction.
 
I: The benefits of signing with “Sounds Expensive” are that we have that credibility to our name that a label gives you, but going the independent route as far as being able to control a lot of aspects in the creative process is invaluable. When we first met Nate, we were impressed not only by his experience, but also by the effort he put into helping us out even before we had officially signed with him. Another benefit of being signed with a label like “Sounds Expensive” is that we have reassurance knowing that Nate and the rest of our team believe in us and are working to promote our music; which allows us to focus on creating.
 
 N: Signing with “Sounds Expensive” was the right fit for us. Its nice to be able to just answer to Nate and not have to deal with a bunch of middlemen when making creative decisions. We’ve also learned that especially when you are a newly signed artist, it’s very common at label’s to encounter a loss of coordination within the same label between one office to another, which can waste a lot of time and jeopardize releases; no matter how “impressive” the label is.  We feel good about “Sounds Expensive” because we feel good about Nate; he’s highly experienced and motivated and never tries to change us or the music; which is everything.
 
FEMMUSIC: I was reading about Naomi & Kenny’s project “Kin Heads” in a prior interview, how has the music changed since then and what changes would you still like to make?
 
K: “Kin Heads” was actually our former band that included Isabelle and two other members. It was a rock band, with only minimal synths on the recordings. The ways I’d like for us to grow sonically in “Prinze George” mainly involve adding instruments while preserving the sound that it is now.
 
I: Yeah I was actually in “Kin Heads too, which is how I met Kenny and Naomi. For me, coming from a primarily rock/pop/jazz background, “Prinze George” brought me a new challenge in that writing drum parts wasn’t just about technicalities, but supporting the production as a whole. The drumming that I do for “Prinze George” seems a lot “simpler”, but its a good way for me to think about composing a piece of work holistically and adding textures and sounds as needed. The three of us have a lot of different influences in our writing and we keep it pretty open, so I wouldn’t particularly say that there are changes I want to make to the music, more of discovering ways we can continue growing and fusing our influences.
 
N: I agree with them. I think we have established a sound on this record that we’d like to keep intact, but I’d also like to keep playing with and adding new instruments to compositions and continue to grow together as a band, which will intrinsically affect the music.
 
FEMMUSIC:  As women in the music industry, have you been discriminated against?
 
N: In subtle ways, yeah. I’ve gotten comments a few times at venues during sound check, when the house engineer can’t figure out how to get the balance right with everything were doing and its always a dude, and he usually says “well, you sing really soft, so thats why the mic is feedbacking and we are having trouble getting the right balance.” Most of the time its a non issue, because the sound engineers are good and they can figure it out like they do for every other band that plays their venue, but I doubt that they say that shit to male singers. Even if they do, I am not a male singer.  We have different anatomy; I can’t smoke and scream night after night and hit the range of notes that I have to hit in a performance. At the end of the day though, I am a white woman who’s business partner is a white man, so I don’t worry about being heard. Besides, all that matters to me is getting shit done. Half the time I go through Kenny to translate or just verbalize to certain men what it is I’m trying to say; which I have found to be highly effective and efficient!
 
I: I wouldn’t say I’ve been discriminated against in the sense of feeling excluded or restricted from something, but I have felt a different set of expectations that I think, if not met, can ultimately lead to discrimination against women in the industry. Being a female drummer, you have to prove that you’re capable of playing in the first place, then you have to be better than average to be acceptable. I’ve encountered people who express disbelief in my ability to play until they see me get up on stage and perform, and I’ve also had people tell me that I’m “not just a good girl drummer, but an actual good drummer.” There are definitely different standards for women musicians on a technical level, and then there’s also pressure to have an image, specifically to be hot, dress sexy, etc. I don’t think my fellow male drummers encounter that type of skepticism regarding their abilities, and you definitely don’t hear people categorizing “male drummers.” I will say that I’ve been extremely lucky with the amazing support system I’ve had with my family and mentors, where those kind of objections don’t really bother me, especially since I’ve dealt with it my whole life, so I’m more than grateful to be where I’m at, doing what I do.
 
FEMMUSIC: Who would you most like to collaborate with?    
                                         
K: Probably The National.    
                                                                          
I: Beyonce.                        
                                                                           
N: Jack White.
 
FEMMUSIC: What would you change about music industry?
 
K: I wish streaming services made artists more money. It’s really tricky because its really good for the consumer, but not as good for the artists. Right now, Spotify is the best way to get people to listen to your music immediately; if you make it on a Spotify playlist its excellent exposure, but you don’t make hardly anything per stream.
 
I: Transparency. I know so many talented musicians and artists who have been at it for so long and have not had the “break” in their career that they deserve. I feel like the music industry is such a nebulous, confusing place where people don’t know how to get the next level and have to figure it out on their own. I wish there were resources that serious artists could access in order to get that information and guidance about how to take the next steps.
 
 
N: I would love to see Top 40 radio not controlled by the gatekeepers that only allow the same shit to play all the time. Its great that we have stations like Sirius XM and others that play alternative music and independent artists, but getting played on Sirius XM doesn’t catapult your career into the next level when you are starting out. It sucks that you ultimately have to go through a major label to get played on the biggest stations, because it makes it so political and not about the quality of the music. It can also stunt musical progress and evolution because Top 40 radio still has the biggest reach/ most clout in effecting tour and album sales, so there are tons of “accomplished” writers stuck in a time warp trying to make a thousand versions of the same song because it pays so well. It’s really depressing.

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Mr. Little Jeans
November 14th, 2016
Mr. Little Jeans

photo credit Nolwen Cifuentes

Interview by Alex Teitz
 
It has been 2 years since PoketKnife was released. Mr Little Jeans is back with a new EP, Fevers, and new tour. Mr Little Jeans is Monica Birkenes, originally from Norway, now in LA. Her music is synth pop with a magic feel. FEMMUSIC was able to have a brief e-mail interview leading up to her Denver show. For info visit http://mrlittlejeansmusic.com/
 
FEMMUSIC: Can you describe your songwriting technique?
 
MLJ: I like to go in the booth and freestyle over a track that we make in the studio that day. Could just be a beat and a bass line. It helps a lot if I like it and also helps if it’s fairly stripped down as it makes it easier to write to for me. Then me and the producer generally spend some time piecing together all the mumblings that I recorded and see if it makes a melody. If it does I take it home and write the lyrics. If it doesn’t then we keep going, make another track and see if I get any ideas from that. I generally like to write the lyrics at home and take my time with it if I have the opportunity to.
 
FEMMUSIC: What was the biggest challenge making the Fevers EP?
 
MLJ: We originally had a different  production of fevers (the song) which we loved, but felt like it didn’t quite fit in with the rest of the songs. So we spent a long time trying to figure out a balance of keeping what we loved and making if flow with the rest of them. Worked out in the end!
 
FEMMUSIC: How was your approach to Fevers different from PocketKnife? What do you think you learned making PocketKnife?
 
MLJ: Well with Pocket Knife I had a whole new world to figure out as I’d never made a record before and I was still figuring out how to write songs. But I think one of the hardest part of making PocketKnife was finding the right people to play the different parts; like producers and mixers and labels for example. With Fevers I already had a great team in place, but the thing that is always a challenge is the songwriting. It’s a hard to control and I never know what’s gonna happen, how I’m gonna feel  or what’s gonna come out so it’s always a little nerve wrecking before you get some actual songs down.
 
FEMMUSIC As a woman in the music industry have you been discriminated against?
 
MLJ: I think I’ve been lucky to be shielded from it as both me and my manager work hard to screen who I’m surrounded by both business-wise and creatively. I would never let anything like that pass as ok, and so far I’ve felt nothing but respected.
 
FEMMUSIC: What one thing would you change about the music industry?
 
 
MLJ: I think there is a lack of long term support for the artists at most record labels these day. It’s less about developing artist and more about throwing a bunch of shit at the wall and seeing what sticks. Most artists/bands need a little more support than what’s given to them and it feels pointless singing so many acts without even the intention of getting behind it properly. Sign less and develop and support more would be my wish to the record labels specifically. It would also be nice if the majority of the money made would go to the artists themselves rather than everyone else but.

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Tristra Newyear Yeager
October 31st, 2016
Tristra Newyear Yeager
Interview by Alex Teitz
 
            World music is a broad term that can include eccentric artists in the US to traditional artists in a home country to genre mixing in the world. Rock Paper Scissors (RPS) is a publicity firm based out of Bloomington, Indiana that specializes in world music. Whenever you see a non-mainstream artist on FEMMUSIC from Africa, Asia and elsewhere there’s a good chance we heard about them from RPS. These artists can be striking for us and change the perspective of the listener. Our preview of WOMEX in the October issue is directly a result of RPS.  
 
            For the November 2016 issue, we wanted to get a different view of artists in the world and Middle East. Meet Tristra Newyear Yeager. FEMMUSIC is honored to have her in this issue. For info visit http://www.rockpaperscissors.biz/
rock paper scissors
 
FEMMUSIC: What is Rock Paper Scissors and what is its mission statement?
 
TY: RPS sprang from our CEO and founder Dmitri Vietze’s love of music and social justice activism. He found working with and promoting artists from other cultures, countries, and musical backgrounds engaged both of those passions. I joined the team more than ten years ago for similar reasons: I wanted to share my love of music with origins outside of my cultural community with others, to let them see the great beauty and appreciate the humanity of people that may appear very different on the surface. Music can help erode long-held assumptions and often hits us where it hurts, in the heart.
 
 FEMMUSIC: How did RPS end up in Bloomington vs NY or LA?
 
TY: Our CEO had family connections here. There’s also Indiana University, which has a large number international students. Bloomington is a small town, which makes it a nice and relaxed place to live, but has some of the cosmopolitan perks of much larger cities.
 
FEMMUSIC:  How did you come to RPS and what attracted you to it?
 
TY: I answered an ad in the local paper for a “world music publicist.” I had a background in the world music business, and I applied, though I had never considered publicity PR as a career option. I originally came to Bloomington for graduate school, but needed to get a job while finishing my dissertation. I finally defended and got the PhD (in Siberian history, for what it’s worth), but liked the work at RPS enough to stay on. I love getting to listen to music from all over, talk to people from across the globe and from all walks of life. I learn something every single day, and that’s a huge gift.
 
FEMMUSIC: How is an artist selected for RPS? What do you look for?
 
TY: There are two elements in marketing and PR: the music itself, which is the final deciding factor for any potential fan or journalist, and the story that surrounds it. If both are strong, and especially if they buck expectations, that can make for a great PR campaign. I listen for technical accomplishment, production quality, artistic vision, and cultural significance or relevance. Sometimes I love the music and really respect the artist, but I know the journalists we work with regularly may not get what they are doing. Good music is essential, but not the only factor.
 
FEMMUSIC: In the wake of 9/11 there is a different perception of world music(especially artists from the Middle East) and politics. Do you see that having any effect on RPS and it’s artists? Has it changed anything on how you work in the past 15 years?
 
TY: There have been some shifts in policies that make it very difficult for artists from Muslim-majority countries to come to the US. The visa process for artists is intense, expensive, and time consuming. Add that to the basic expenses of transporting a group to North America and getting from city to city once here, and you’re looking at a major investment, before a band even plays their first gig. Most world music artists have very limited budgets and often get paid significantly lower fees than rock or other musicians for similar gigs.
 
There are also positive changes. Many artists from the Arab or Muslim world are energized and want to reach people who may feel anxious or fearful about their cultures. They want to use music as a way to inspire positive connections and shift the conversation. More generally, the walls that used to separate genres and non-English-language music from the mainstream are slowly crumbling. I feel like younger music fans are open to new sounds and to exploring the world. I wish they got more information and exposure to the amazing music being made out there, but hopefully that will come with time, as the new streaming-based paradigm of music discovery comes into its own.
 
FEMMUISC: RPS does a unique showcase at SXSW. Tell me about the Pakistan showcase. How did it come about & how did you select artists for it?
 
TY: We worked on producing the showcase with partners in Pakistan, including the US Embassy in Islamabad, which has a really exciting set of initiatives to encourage musicians and musical events. The Pakistani partners chose the artists, which were a mix of pop, rock, and traditional performers. It was such a thrill to see festival goers getting down to qawwali music, or to devotional folk songs from Sindh. I really loved working with these artists and programmers; they are amazing, generous, warm people.
 
FEMMUSIC: What is the biggest challenge working at RPS?
 
TY: Publicity is a peculiar game. You can work really hard at something, and not end up with results that reflect that incredibly investment. Sometimes, on the contrary, a project clicks and coverage seems to build on its own, with you simply arranging the details. That said, I often feel frustrated, as do many music journalists and fans for that matter, that there seems to be so little interest in covering complex, nuanced, or lesser-known music. People in the media are under tremendous pressure to produce rapidly, or to attract a gazillion eyeballs. Yet you’ll never learn how awesome Sudanese hip hop or Bengali jazz can be unless someone tips you off to it, and that will never lead to massive numbers of impressions or clicks. We need some other metrics and we need dedicated gatekeepers, friendly and thoughtful ones, pro and amateur, to spread the word and keep the conversation lively. Otherwise, it feels like one long Drake and Taytay fest, you know?
 
FEMMUSIC: What experience(s) have stood out for you since you’ve worked at RPS?
 
TY: There are so many! The first time I heard a story I pitched on NPR. I love getting to hear artists’ early mixes and watch an album take shape. I have had seriously moving interviews with artists for press releases, when I found myself weeping or laughing so hard my belly ached. I have made true friends thanks to my work and learned more about places like Algeria, Pakistan, and Colombia than I ever imagined. My life is infinitely richer for the people I’ve met and their work.
 
FEMMUSIC: What one thing would you like to change about the music industry? 
 
TY: I am really looking forward to a unified, reasonably transparent and just system of royalties/payments for creators and artists. The fractured and confusing legacy of the pre-digital industry hamstringing independent musicians and smaller labels, the exact people who are doing some of the most creative work out there. There are lots of proposals (block chain, for example, and global databases of various kinds) but artists and those who love them need to push hard for solutions that will actually take their careers into account and thus benefit them. Collective action is key, I think.

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Nataly Dawn
October 21st, 2016
 

Nataly Dawn

Photo by Jeffrey Marini

Interview by Alex Teitz
 
            If you’ve seen Pomplamoose you’ve only scratched the surface of Nataly Dawn. Pomplamoose is Nataly Dawn and her husband Jack Conte. They’ve surged on YouTube with unique videos that have attracted worldwide attention. It makes up a third of what Dawn really is about.
             The second element is My Terrible Friend, a folk duo, that Dawn does with Lauren O’Connell. They released an EP in 2010 and will be releasing another one next year. Look for the video in November.
             Third, Dawn has her solo albums. On October 29 she releases Haze. Dawn has a relaxed style on stage. Her stagechat is humorous and occasionally self deprecating. The music flows easily. Pay attention to “I Won.” The comparisons fit to Dar Williams and Lucy Kaplansky. Dawn is on a limited tour with Lauren O’Connell with the remaining dates of:
 
November 10—Los Angeles, CA—The Hotel Café
November 15—San Francisco, CA—The Chapel
November 18—Portland, OR—The Old Church
November 19—Seattle, WA—Barboza
 
              Nataly Dawn is one of those pure elements in music. She invites the audience in like family. If there is an example for artists to aspire to, it is Nataly Dawn. For information on Dawn, Haze and the tour visit http://www.natalydawnmusic.com/
 
FEMMUSIC:  Can you describe your songwriting technique? How does it change in collaborations?
 
ND: Songwriting begins with what comes most naturally to you, and then you make it harder on yourself. I struggle with both parts of the process. The “easy part” and the “making it harder on myself,” because there’s a lot of beauty and simplicity in what comes naturally, but there can also be a lot of redundancy and you don’t grow if you aren’t challenging yourself. For me, the easy parts are melodies, harmonies and structure. The hard parts are lyrics and production. I often collaborate with people to make up for my weaknesses. I’ll work with someone who’s excellent at lyrics, like Lauren O’Connell, or someone with serious production chops like Jack Conte. For this record, I slapped some duct tape onto my crutches and did it all myself. Am I an amazing producer? Nope. Do I write great lyrics? Maybe after several painstaking hours. Are these songs good despite that? Somehow – miraculously – I think they are.
 
FEMMUSIC: What was the biggest challenge in making Haze?
 
ND: Being left to your own devices for three years is a scary thing. Sitting alone in a room and wondering if anything you’re doing is good enough. I feel like every tiny decision is followed by “Fuck it. It’s fine.” And then you move on. Collaborating is so much easier. It’s so comforting to work with someone else. Agreeing with a person on an artistic choice makes it feel way less arbitrary. But I also feel like necessity is the mother of invention, and working alone pushes you to the limits of what you think you’re capable of. If you don’t have a drummer, you can still make a beat. The good news is, it won’t sound like anyone else’s beat, and most people won’t be able to tell if it’s Matt Chamberlain or just you frantically tapping a launchpad.
 
FEMMUSIC: What one positive experience stuck out making Haze?
 
ND: Half of me will always question what I’m capable of and whether anything I make is “good”, but the other half is really proud of this record. I don’t feel like an “expert” but I do feel like I can write, produce and mix a track from start to finish, and that’s something to be proud of. Three years ago, I switched from Pro Tools to Ableton. Three years ago, I felt like an imposter. I needed to work with other people to make something and was convinced that their efforts were what made it good. And now I can stand on my own two feet, and point proudly at the crayola-drawing on the fridge that I made “all by myself”!
Nataly Dawn
 
FEMMUSIC:  How did you choose Beau Sorrenson to produce Haze? How did you meet him?
 
ND: The record is actually mostly self-produced. I wrote and recorded almost all of it in my home studio in San Francisco. And then, three years later, I wanted to scrap everything. I was so sick of everything. So I called my friend Olivia Lee and asked her if she would help. We’d never worked together, but I knew from her music and her work with my friend Lauren O’Connell that she possessed strengths that I lacked. She came on as assistant producer and introduced me to Beau Sorrenson, who mixed the tracks. Together, they renewed my faith in the album. I am so grateful to them. So many of these songs would’ve never seen the light of day without their fresh perspective.
 
FEMMUSIC:  You & Lauren O’Connell are working on another My Terrible Friend release. What can you tell me about it? How is working with Lauren different vs Haze & Pomplamoose?
 
ND: I am so excited about the songs Lauren and I have written together! There will be two My Terrible Friend music videos coming out in November while we’re on tour, and I’m so proud of these songs. Lauren is an incredible producer, with unflinching musical taste. She is a genius. Everything she makes turns my soul inside-out. Also, she’s one of my closest friends. I can’t believe how lucky I am to have such inspiring friends. When Lauren and I work together, we come to each other with bits of ideas: maybe a chorus, maybe a riff or a lyric. Then we hand it over to the other person, let them mess around with it for a week, and see what they come up with. Once we settle on melody, harmony and basic instrumentation, Lauren takes over the production of the song. She is a killer producer and does everything from her home-studio. Then we hand it over to a mixer (Beau Sorrenson once again! He’s just so good…) For Haze, I relied on myself for most of the production, and would reach out to people for help on things like drums (Louis Cole), string orchestration (Anton Patzner), additional production (Olivia Lee), and mixing (Beau Sorrenson). With Pomplamoose, we start with a melody or a riff. Then Jack does something super funky with the harmonies. Then I add a weird bass line. Then Jack produces the heck out of it, while I write lyrics. We’re like a machine. We’ve gotten so good at communicating over the last decade. It usually takes us three days to make a song, from start to finish. We try stuff, make fast choices, take it apart, rebuild it, and then we put a bow on it and call it done.
 
FEMMUSIC:  You’ve worked with Nonesuch Records in the past. You now fund your work through crowdfunding & Patreon. What benefits do you see to this funding mechanism? Would you sign to a record label? Why or why not?
 
ND: Nonesuch was a great label and I feel lucky that they took me on. When I signed with them, neither the label nor I were quite sure what we were signing up for. In the end, we both agreed that it wasn’t a great fit. I think that my mistake was not knowing what I expected from the label. You can’t just sign with a label and expect things to happen (though that is usually what artists do). I have a much better sense of what I want now. As it turns out, I’m not a big fan of touring, which is not the case for most artists. Live shows are a great way to connect with your fans, but in my experience not a great way to reach more people. Also, touring is such an arduous process. You’re away from loved-ones for extended periods of time, getting no exercise, eating terribly, never getting enough sleep. It’s just not how I want to live my life. Making music is what I love to do. I want to make as much music as possible. Patreon allows me to do that. Every time I release a music video, my patrons give me a certain amount of money. Right now I have 1,280 people contributing around $6,000 toward each video that I make. Which makes it sound like I make a shit ton of money. But really, I’m running a small business. Everything I make gets poured back into the art and the business of making art. It’s not a popular thing to talk about. People have very strong opinions about where art and money should meet. I try to release three videos per month. And part of not having a label is hiring people to handle the business. That means business managers, booking agents, lawyers, mixers, cinematographers, editors, graphic designers, web designers and other musicians. Most of these people take a fee or percentage. This month I hired my first full-time employee, and she is kicking butt. I feel so lucky that I get to work with these people. Without them, I would never find time to make art.
 
FEMMUSIC:  As a woman in the music industry, have you been discriminated against?
 
ND: I think there are two main forms of discrimination that drive me up the wall. The first is the assumption that there’s a guy somewhere doing all the work behind the scenes. People rarely think that I’m the one producing and mixing the music, and directing and editing the videos, but I usually am. Only very recently have I started hiring other people to help me with that stuff. The other frustrating thing is that because I’m in a relationship with Jack (the other member of Pomplamoose), people are always asking about him. There will inevitably be a comment under my solo videos that reads, “Where’s Jack?” or “Are you two still together?” And if – God forbid – there’s another guy in the video – a guy who is not Jack – people are even more vocal. It’s so frustrating. And such a double standard. When Jack releases a video, I feel like more people respect his solo channel, and don’t expect there to be a girl there.
 
FEMMUSIC:  Whom would you like most to tour with or collaborate with?
 
ND: It would be really fun to work with Vampire Weekend, Vulfpeck or Blake Mills. I’d also love to collaborate on a track with Greg Kurstin. His production blows my mind. And while we’re shooting for the moon, a tour with Gillian Welch would be a dream come true. But the truth is, I’ve been repeatedly astonished by how much talent there is in the world. The Bay Area and the internet are full of people who may never win a Grammy, but who are insanely good at what they do. Those are the people I love working with.
 
FEMMUSIC: What one thing would you like to change about the music industry?
 
ND: There are so many myths in the industry, so much false information perpetuated by “common knowledge” and Hollywood. I just want every musician in the world to know that no one will ever discover you. It’s not about writing a hit song, or having a great manager, or working with a famous producer, or getting on the cover of Rolling Stones, or opening for Gillian Welch. It’s about working your ass off, and constantly trying new things, and breaking down walls, because everyone will say “no”. Work hard, be generous, publish your art and move on. You are the only one who can make shit happen.

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Anna Morsett
September 9th, 2016
by Alex Teitz
Anna Morsett
 
            A music scene has many parts from the club owners, the press, the promoters and most importantly the musicians. Anna Morsett is that musician that you always see playing in the next biggest project. She is the stable hand in the chaos. Her main band is The Still Tide which she shares with Jacob “Jake” Miller. She can also be found in Ark Life, Porlolo, the Brent Cowles band, and with Natalie Tate. She can plays guitar & bass. She also does background and lead vocals. This interview was conducted via e-mail as Morsett was on tour with the Tallest Man on Earth as a guitar tech. Below are links to all of the projects:
 
 
FEMMUSIC: How did you first become interested in music as a career? Who fostered your growth in music the most?
 
AM: I’d day dreamed about being a full time musician probably since I was in middle school? Ha! I surely didn’t quite see it as a reality for myself until many many years later of course, probably not until I was in my mid-twenties when I was around people who WERE making it a career. I’d say my close friends were – and are still – the ones who have helped push me along and through all the self-doubt you wrestle with when you’re first starting out. My parents too have always been kind and supportive and that’s certainly helped.
 
FEMMUSIC: You play a number of instruments, Do you have a favorite? Why?
 
AM: Guitar is and has always been my home base and where I do most of my writing. I often use open and alternate tunings, easiest to do on guitar, and found that to be a wonderful writing tool. That’s why it’s been my favorite; I’m always inspired by what I find when I have a chance to sit down and experiment with those different combinations. Bass is a close second though and I’ve definitely been writing more on that lately.
 
FEMMUSIC:  You work in a number of bands. Can you describe your songwriting technique? How does it vary from band to band?
 
AM: I really only write songs for The Still Tide which is a different head space than writing the bass parts and harmonies that I have for the other bands I play with (Ark Life, Brent Cowles, Porlolo, Natalie Tate) so the creative process is quite different. When writing parts for other projects I have to think more in terms of what will best serve and elevate the song and focus on how I should fit into what someone else has already created. Whereas when I’m writing for Still Tide I’m the one creating that landscape and can do whatever I want with that wide-open space until the song evolves into something I feel comfortable bringing other people – usually my bandmate Jake – into.
 
FEMMUSIC:  What is the biggest challenge being involved in multiple projects?
 
AM: Scheduling! Trying to make time for everyone, including my own project, can definitely be a gigantic struggle. I want to be equally present for each project but there is only so much time and energy.  
 
FEMMUSIC: What is your biggest challenge in musical career growth? What are your goals to overcome it?
 
AM: Touring is great and I love it but it’s hard – at this level – to take a band out consistently enough to keep your reputation strong in each of the cities you tour through. I think presently that’s one of the bigger challenges for us in terms of growth. If you only get to those cities you tour through once a year, if even that, it can be really hard to sustain the enthusiasm within that city for the next time you come through. And as we get older and are less excited about crashing on a series of floors and couches (as you often do on the road) it becomes harder to sustain overall even though we all know how important touring is to do. Goals to overcome it? Be smart about how we tour and try to make it and the band itself as sustainable as possible.
 
FEMMUSIC: You’ve toured through a number of music scenes beyond Denver. What, in your opinion, makes a good music scene?
 
AM: For me, and what Jake and I found in Denver and fell in love with immediately, it’s how inclusive and supportive the people involved in the music scene are. In Denver other musicians have definitely made us feel welcome (especially as we only landed here about 3ish years ago) but it’s also so many of the other members of this music community that really do make it a true community and one that we’re proud to be a part of. I’d very much longed for that for many years.
 
FEMMUSIC: As a woman in the music industry, have you been discriminated against? Do you think it has changed over time?
 
AM: Yes, but I do think that’s changed over time just as I too have changed over the last decade of working in music. The more confident and experienced I’ve become the less of that gender barrier I’ve felt, in the larger sense. If you come into a space, a venue, a conversation knowing who you are and what you’re doing people often – not always – respond to that and not so much your gender. At least that’s been my experience so far, I can’t speak for everyone else.
 
FEMMUSIC: What one thing would you like to change about the music industry?
 
AM: I would love to live in an era where musicians just got to be musicians. Where there was less of a concern about finances and climbing any kind of ladder and more just the joy of playing music without the stress of how to carry on when times are thin. I know there’s an argument for the kind of great work that can come from struggle (yeah, sure, I get it) but personally, I would get a lot more done creatively/musically if I didn’t have to worry so much about how to pay the bills. Perhaps that’s something that would need to change culturally and not just within the music industry itself.
 
FEMMUSIC:  If you could tour or collaborate with anyone, whom would it be?
 
Ah, so many people, that’s a tough question. I’ve been really into Wye Oak, Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile for a while now so  . . . that’d be cool?! I’m already so lucky to tour and collaborate with so many of our local gems, for now I’m pretty well satisfied.
 
FEMMUSIC: What advice would you give to an artist just starting out? 
 
AM: Just keep going and be courageous.

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spokesbuzz
September 2nd, 2016
by Alex Teitz
spokesbuzz
SpokesBUZZ ,http://spokesbuzz.org/, is a Fort Collins, Colorado based non-profit that sought to improve the scene, the economy and the artists through a number of programs. On July 15, 2016 the organization sent out an e-mail saying they were ceasing operations on September 1, 2016.
FEMMUSIC has had frequent contact with SpokesBUZZ over the years. Led by Dani Grant, who also runs the music venue The Mishawaka http://www.themishawaka.com , SpokesBUZZ was a band incubator, promoted SXSW showcases, and worked to increase the profile of Fort Collins and Colorado. As SpokesBUZZ approaches its final days, FEMMUSIC was honored to talk with Dani Grant about the ups and downs.
FEMMUSIC: What motivated you to start SpokesBUZZ?
 
DG: Originally (2009) I was asked by some people at Bohemian Foundation http://www.bohemianfoundation.org  to review and experience SXSW and come back and tell them how to make Fort Collins a music City.  I went to SXSW and came back and said, we need to market ourselves there and do a show case of our talent.  I wasn’t able to get them to fund me to do it so I did it myself.  2010 was the first SpokesBUZZ showcase in Austin.
I wanted to create more opportunity for the musicians in Northern CO, amplify the burgeoning scene and develop the talent that was so abundant yet very green industry wise.  Most people in Fort Collins didn’t realize there was a music scene here, it was underground.  I wanted to bring it out and generate more platforms for musicians to experience and grow more support for the local scene
.
FEMMUSIC: What were the biggest challenges in the beginning?
 
DG: Our concept was to market our city’s musical asset outside our city.  No one could get behind that financially, they didn’t get it.  It was a new idea to not just create a local even within the city limits but to take locals to other places and show off what we have.  People didn’t want to fund something they couldn’t attend and they didn’t see the value in it for the city.  Our events that happened all over the country catapulted our notoriety as a music region.  The city of Fort Collins and New Belgium brewery were the only ones brave enough to support us.  We killed it:)
Another challenge was trust.  Everyone thought I was trying to rip them off.  Musicians were wondering when I was going to charge them a hidden fee and others thought I was lining my pockets with donations.  It was unbelievable.  Someone in the industry actually went to a board meeting of the City run organization Beet Street and told the board I was a crook.  They didn’t want me to continue the project.  I did anyway and I did it 100% transparently and I have never in 6 years been compensated by SpokesBUZZ.
FEMMUSIC: How did you find people for SpokesBUZZ (Board, staff, volunteers)? What were you looking for in them?
 
DG: They found me for the most part, except for Julie who I knew was perfect for my partner.  Everyone who worked with us started as a volunteer, including Julie.  Most of our staff have been musicians, past incubator band members, interns from CSU with a passion for music or events.  I looked for people I liked to work with.  Hard workers, in it for the artists and for the love of the industry.  
FEMMUSIC: What programs did you start with? What programs did you develop later and why?
 
DG: First was SXSW, the showcase provided a learning experience for the bands and a marketing platform for our scene.  It grew exponentially each year.  This morphed into the CO Music Party in 2013 to expand our artist profile in Austin and our regional presentation.
Next was the Incubator program that held the educational elements for the artists.  Monthly sessions to identify gaps in their knowledge and help them see their bands as businesses and provide skills to run them that way.  Creating an annual compilation CD was a part of that program.  We also worked on strategic plans and financial plans etc.  This became a really robust program with access to project management software, celebrity speakers, networking opportunities and more.  At the end we had CSU providing us with a shared revenue plan to do 18 on line courses offered in their badge system. It would have been so amazing to provide a low cost 101 curriculum to artists, agents and managers.
Later I developed BandSwap and Convergence.  BandSwap was an incredible multi city import/export program.  It had shared performances, networking and education opportunities that were unprecedented.  The city to city network was innovative as well.  Now Madison’s cultural affairs person could talk with Fort Collins office of economic development, share best practices and more.  Some of the bands that swapped still share the stages on tour with each other and still connect with bands they met through the program.
FEMMUSIC:  What challenges manifested after you’d been doing SpokesBUZZ for 2-3 years? 
 
 DG: Money and resources were always the problem.  It didn’t matter how great everything we were doing was, we never got enough support to do it and not be flat out broke and broken after every program execution.  We kept thinking the money will come, keep working at it and making it great, the money will follow.  We even created the documentation of our success, we quantified our impact, we tracked the data and still, no one wanted to put any real money behind us.  I used to daydream that Jack Johnson sent me 1 million dollars.
FEMMUSIC:  What memorable experiences have stood out with SpokesBUZZ?
 
Speaking at the Brighton Conference for Music Cities at the the Great Escape.   I was speaking with the head music honchos of Canada and Australia and cities like Berlin and Liverpool about our music scene and our organization.  People were blown away by our programs.  In those countries, there are funding sources that would have showered us with funding.
Dinner with The Yawpers http://www.theyawpers.com  when they were signed by Bloodshot (Records) and hadn’t gone public yet.  We were in Austin and it was such a motivating evening for me.  Those kids had made it.  They had done it.  It was all happening and we felt like we had a role in the rise.  It felt wonderful.
FEMMUSIC: What lessons have you learned running SpokesBUZZ?
 
DG: Never give up on your dreams.  When you find there are obstacles in your way, you are on the right track – people get territorial when you are really good and they are nervous you are making them look bad.  Do it for the artists and no one else because no one else fucking cares really.  I wish I was a billionaire and I hate politics.
FEMMUSIC:  If you could rewind to the beginning, what would you do differently?
 
DG:  I’d have made it a for profit thing and work harder on creating a solid sustainable revenue product that would have funded the programming so I didn’t have to spend half my time begging for money.
FEMMUSIC:  What is SpokesBUZZ’s successor? What are you doing next?
 
DG: The Fort Collins Music District  http://www.themusicdistrict.org has taken our proof of concept and rolled out 2.0 with full funding and new ideas:)  Its a great opportunity for musicians.  I’m hopeful it will be a positive influence on the music economy. 
I’m working on Mishawaka and trying with all my might to let my kids and family absorb my newly found free time.  They deserve some undivided attention for a minute:)

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Lion Babe
August 16th, 2016
Lion Babe
By Alex Teitz
Lion Babe is Jillian Hervey and Lucas Goodman. The pair came together in 2011 and have been shooting like a rocket ever since. The pair released their full length album Beginearlier this year featuring production input from Pharrell Williams, among others. They were signed to Interscope Records in 2013 and have released an EP and other digital material.
Lion Babe is a powerhouse of beats and soul. Hervey’s vocals touch the heavens. Goodman’s beats and production are more Motown than pure electronica. FEMMUSIC was able to interview Jillian Hervey via e-mail. For info visit http://lionbabe.com/
Lion Babe is at the Fox Theatre in Boulder tonight, August 16, 2016. Doors are at 8 & show is at 8:30. For tix and info visit http://foxtheatre.com/
FEMMUSIC: Can you describe your songwriting technique?
 
JH: Our techniques vary, but it usually starts with the music first. It could be a sample loop, chord progression or just a vibe and then from there we will record a vocal freestyle and then listen back and pull out moments that stand out, whether it is themes, melodies, or just an ad lib. From there we start figuring out the structure and will fill in whatever is missing.
FEMMUSIC: What was the biggest challenge making Begin?
 
JH: Begin was our biggest learning experience to date. We went into making that record with a label with just one song under our belts so that alone was a challenge. There are a lot of opinions and a lot of songs that were in debate so the biggest challenge was balancing our growth and experiences while also remaining true to what brought us there in the first place.
FEMMUSIC: For Begin, you wrote and produced the entire album with few exceptions. What benefits do you see in doing it yourselves and were there any drawbacks?
 
JH: Lion Babe is what happens when Lucas and myself come together, so the benefit of having the majority of the records done by us means that it was our album. Our authenticity remained and we we’re able to show our span of sound.
The main drawback or reality of it means that it was a lot more work for us. We would of loved to do more collaborations but a lot of factors play into those opportunities and you have to pick your battles.
FEMMUSIC: Are there any producers you would like to work with in the future? Why?
 
JH: We listen to a lot of music on soundcloud, and theres lots of talented producers + beatmakers thatd be cool to get in like Knxwledge and Sango. Also fans of Malay who does a lot with Frank Ocean. Its always cool to collaborate with other producers/writers just because its always a learning experience and you can get something special.
FEMMUSIC:  You’re doing a headlining tour now. If you could, whom would you most like to tour with or collaborate with?
 
JH: We are loving tour and our support Kamau who has great music and vibes but it would be fun to tour with Tame Impala. We are huge fans and think everyone would feel on another planet after all the grooves.
FEMMUSIC:  Jillian, As a woman in the music industry, have you been discriminated against?
 
JH: There hasn’t been blatant discrimination, but there are conversations I get left out of, or assumptions made about me based on that fact that I am a woman. It’s annoying but the only thing I can do to solve it is speak up, assert myself and continue to prove people wrong.
FEMMUSIC: What one thing would you like to change about the music industry?
 
JH: It would be nice to have more diversity in sound on major radio stations. The music is shoved down your throat and even if you like it, you get sick of it quicker. It would be cool to have more opportunities for people to really discover new music in more interesting ways.
FEMMUSIC: What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?
 
JH: Have a dream, even if it’s unclear and you can’t see it hold on to that feeling you want to create because as soon as you start there will be a ton of distractions from that feeling and that is your life boat.
FEMMUSIC: What are your career goals in the next 5 years? What would you like to accomplish next?
 
JH: We want to continue to travel, tour and make more music. Have opportunities to get LION BABE out to the world on a larger platform and to inspire people to follow their own paths and embrace their uniqueness.

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Tsunami Bomb
June 1st, 2016
Tsunami Bomb
By Alex Teitz
In 1998 a new voice emerged in pop punk, Tsunami Bomb (TB). They toured on Vans Warped Tour with a style that was wild and fun. Comparing them to a young No Doubt would not be far-fetched. The group was led by Agent M, Emily Whitehurst, and her distinct vocals. In 2005 the band ended.
In 2016 the band is back on the road with original members of Dominc Davi, Oobliette Sparks, Gabe Lindeman & Brian Pink. They are touring with a compilation album of their EP’s made by Kung Fu Records called Trust No One. They also have a new vocalist, Kate Jacobi. FEMMUSIC was honored to do an e-mail interview with Jacobi before they begin their new Vans Warped Tour dates. For info visit  http://tsunamibomblives.com 
                                                                                            
FEMMUSIC: How did you first hear of Tsunami Bomb (TB) getting back together?
 
KJ: Our original guitarist, Brian, and I worked together and we’re friends before TB reformed. He had been saying for the majority of the time I knew him how much he missed the music scene, specifically with Tsunami Bomb. I met Dominic at a festival that Brian and I went to and that’s where Tsunami Bomb coming back felt like a possibility. The two were still goofy friends even after years apart. So, when Brian told me they were going for it, and that they needed a vocalist, that’s when this all kinda kicked into gear.
FEMMUSIC:  What is the biggest challenge being the new person in the band?
 
 KJ: My initial apprehension was for two reasons:
Aligning expectations with reality. I knew I was about to be thrust into a situation with 4 distinct individuals, most that I had never met. I also knew that they all had their ideas about what to expect from me as a person, a bandmate, a new vocalist. There were a lot of unknowns. I wasn’t sure how I would bond in this group that had been so close for so long or if they’d embrace me. As it turns out, Gabe, Brian, Oobliette, and Dom are 4 of the most incredible people I’ve met and our friendships formed rather instantly.
FEMMUSIC: Have you faced any criticism from fans or others? How do you treat it?
 
KJ: When we announced that Agent M wouldn’t be returning, heads already turned. When it became clear that that new voice would be mine, it sparked a lot of curiosity. I was prepared for criticism, but what I met most was skepticism. My voice hasn’t been out there so there wasn’t a reference point of what to expect. As a fan of Tsunami Bomb growing up, I knew the passion that exists for this music because I had it too. It’s something I’m open about. I looked up to M for most of my life and always will, but I love what the five of us have created as a group. There is a passion, an energy, and a dynamic twist that comes from Oobliette and I together especially, that really makes this a new chapter for this band with the same heart we all love.
 
FEMMUSIC: What is the best part of being in TB?
 
KJ: Is it too cheesy to say it’s like living a dream? Sometimes that’s what it feels like. I get to develop friendships with amazing people who happen to be insanely talented musicians. Not to mention, play songs that were staples of mine growing up, meet bands I admire so much, and meet incredible people that share my love for Tsunami Bomb. It has happened at every show so far, but I remember one fan in particular in Las Vegas that was near tears when we met her outside. She told Gabe and I how Tsunami Bomb had changed her life and given her courage throughout the years. That’s the best part. Bringing that passion back for people to hopefully fall in love with all over again.
Tsunami Bomb - kate
FEMMUSIC: The band is touring with material from the past. Are their plans to make new original music? How has any songwriting progressed?
 
KJ:  I’ll say this: we are 5 creative and driven individuals who inspire each other. We are all having an amazing time. I guarantee, that won’t all stay bottled for long. 
FEMMUSIC: As a woman in the music business, have you been discriminated against?
 
KJ: So far, I’ve been met with 100% support. It’s nice to know that no matter what, I have 4 amazing friends behind me. One badass female included.
FEMMUSIC: What one thing would you like to change about the music industry?
 
KJ: A renewed focus on performing. Starting out as a live musician as opposed to studio has been incredibly beneficial. That experience is driven entirely by the music and the fans and to me, that’s what it’s about.
FEMMUSIC: If you could collaborate with or tour with any artist, who would it be & why?
 
KJ: Frank Turner. I have no idea what a collision of he and Tsunami Bomb would sound like, but his live performances are electric with energy with incredibly emotive albums driving them.
FEMMUSIC: What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?
 
KJ: Never try to fit into a box that anyone else makes for you.

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Mother-Feather
June 1st, 2016
Mother-Feather

Mother-Feather by Shervin Lainez

Interview by Alex Teitz
            Mother Feather is a NYC based rock band. Rock in the core sense of the word. They have established themselves by putting on striking live shows. They are signed to Metal Blade Records. This year they are one of many bands on the Vans Warped Tour.
            Mother Feather is made up of Ann Courtney, Elizabeth Carena, Matt Basile, Chris Foley & Gunnar Olson. They released their self titled full length album in May. FEMMUSIC was honored to have an e-mail interview with Ann Courtney. For info visit http://www.motherfeather.com/
FEMMUSIC: Can you describe your songwriting technique? How does a song develop within the band?
 
AC: I get the best ideas for hooks and melodies jumping on my trampoline, riding my bike, and in the shower. Then I demo at home on guitar (or lately, synth) and bring in a completed song to the band, after which we develop and arrange and it becomes something bigger and better than I could have envisioned on my own.
FEMMUSIC: You’ve had 3 EP’s in the past few years, what was the biggest challenge making a full length album?
 
AC: Actually we’ve only released two Eps and they make up 80% of our album, so I’ll have to tell you after we complete the next LP.
FEMMUSIC:  Were there any experiences that stood out as unique or different during the recording process?
 
AC: After Mother Feather’s very first studio day at Metrosonic in Brooklyn back in in 2010, we listened back to the tracking we’d done of “Beach House” in Chris’ car and I had a moment where I felt supremely exhilarated. I was hearing something I really wanted to listen to.
FEMMUSIC: I noticed you produced the album yourself but also had Steve Wall. How did you meet Wall & why did you choose him for this project?
 
AC: We met Steve Wall at Rockwood Music Hall, which is an epicenter in New York City for people who make music. We chose Steve because he is a punk, a fearless motherfucker, and has sublime taste. He’s not afraid to tell us what is and he makes bold choices, just like Mother Feather.
FEMMUSIC: You’re signed with Metal Blade Records. What made you decide to sign with them? How did they approach you?
 
AC: Brian Slagel found us on Twitter through a hot tip from chef and restaurateur Chris Santos. We signed with them because they’re awesome and have been putting out records for over 30 years. Brian knows what he’s doing. He is a fan first. Plus he’s a big cat lover, which is extra credit in my book.
FEMMUSIC: What are you most looking forward to in doing Vans Warped Tour this summer?
 
AC: I am looking forward to meeting the fans and the opportunity to perform almost every day for seven weeks straight.
FEMMUSIC:  As a woman in the music industry have you been discriminated against?
 
 AC: This is my first record deal so I’ve had fairly limited industry exposure—I was an independent artist for years before signing with Metal Blade. Thus far the sexism has been fairly low grade, nothing I can’t handle or has come close to what I experienced in the bar and nightlife industry!
 
FEMMUSIC:  What is one thing would you like to change about the music industry?
 
AC: It would be great if it wasn’t such a struggle to support ourselves. It’s a goal to be able to do Mother Feather full time and also be able to keep the lights on.
FEMMUSIC: What one artist or band would you most like to collaborate with or tour with?
 
AC: Mother Feather are massive Charli XCX fans.
FEMMUSIC:  What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?
 
AC: Find the thing you want to do and get better at it. Find your people and work smarter, not just harder. Fear is a trap and should be kicked in the face.

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Andrea Smith
March 15th, 2016

Andrea Smith

Name: Andrea Smith

Bands worked with: Hunter Valentine

Link: www.huntervalentine.com

 

FEMMUSIC How did you become a tour manager?

 

AS: From an early age I knew this was the profession that I wanted to be a part of, so in High School I got involved with promoting and managing a couple of local bands. From there, I networked my way through college while studying Arts Management and Economics. I interned with some larger labels and venues in New York City to gain experience and knowledge in the music industry. I was able to secure an internship with So What Management, which manages a few artists such as Cydni Lauper, and got connected to Hunter Valentine through them. The band was looking for a tour manager for their national tour, and I was itching to get myself out on the road. With my experiences working with smaller bands as well as a few labels, they threw me in the van and my career began.

 

FEMMUSIC:  What are the biggest challenges of being a tour manager?

 

AS: There are many challenges that a tour manager faces. The whole job is a challenge. It is the tour manager’s responsibility to keep the entire tour on track and to keep the musicians as happy as possible. The biggest challenge I’ve had to face is learning how to take responsibility for something when it’s not your fault. You work with so many people out on the road, there are so many moving parts. You need to learn how to adapt to situations extremely quickly and not waste time putting the blame on anyone else. You need to keep your ego in check. Even if you plan the schedule out and get everything approved in advance, this industry changes so rapidly. As a tour manager you need to be able to adapt the plans on the fly to keep everyone on track and taken care of. No one wins if the tour manager is too proud.

 

FEMMUSIC: What challenges does being a woman tour manager present?

 

AS: Being a woman in this industry is challenging in itself, but being a woman on the road is even harder. Being a woman tour manager means you have to demand more respect from the people that you work with, where the respect would otherwise just be given to the men. I’ve also had to deal with sexist remarks, passes, and comments from those that I’ve worked with. I think you need to have tough skin in this industry, regardless of gender, but especially when you are a woman. You need to remember why you are there – to do your job to the absolute best of your ability, and to do that regardless of what anyone has to say about you.

 

FEMMUSIC:  As a woman in the music industry, have you been discriminated against?

 

AS: There are many times that I have been told that I couldn’t do something because I am female. I’ve been told not to lift gear because I am presumably too weak, I have been assumed to be emotional and ‘fragile’, and been told many times that I am ‘too young’ or ‘too pretty’ to be doing my job. Men also assume that you cannot be in a relationship because your life is too much to handle. People have also assumed that I sleep around because that is ‘the life of a woman on the road’. In an industry that is primarily dominated by men, it has been assumed that I do not know anything about sound, lighting, or technical aspects of the industry, and that I am just there to sell merchandise or be a groupie. My age and my gender have done nothing to help me get to where I am, but I think that makes me more proud of what I have been able to accomplish so far and more ambitious than I would otherwise be.

 

FEMMUSIC: What one thing would you like to change about the music industry itself?

 

AS: The music industry is constantly growing and changing. In some ways it is progressing and moving forward, but in a lot of ways it is digressing. I think that more of the industry is centered around entertainment now as opposed to music. I have been fortunate enough to work with real musicians who really care about what they do and the message that they are delivering through their sound. However I have also worked with artists whose only concern is their social media presence. If I could change anything, I would want to shift the focus of the industry back to its roots – the music. It sounds like a bizarre statement, to make the music industry focus more on music, but I think we have been shifting away from the souls of the musicians and more towards the number of followers they have on Instagram.

 

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Cardiknox
March 1st, 2016

 

photo-credit-hazel-pine

Photo credit Hazel Pine

by Alex Teitz

Last year we heard of the electronic duo Cardiknox at CMJ. By the time CMJ ended Cardiknox was catching fire. Cardiknox is Lonnie Angle & Thomas Dutton. They met while working on music for theater and have expanded and grown since then. Their debut album, Portrait comes out in March 2016. They are joining Carly Rae Jepsen on tour. We were honored to speak with Lonnie Angle recently. For info visit www.cardiknox.com

FEMMUSIC: Can you describe your songwriting technique?

LA:  We normally begin writing a song around an idea—the main lyrical phrase or concept that often becomes the chorus. Sometimes we’ll build a progression around that lyric or sometimes a beat. Oftentimes, once you work out the heart of the song, the rest of it—verses, bridge—are far easier to create. But this is just a rough example, because songwriting, like any form of creativity is hard to know when it will strike. Sometimes you’ll get an idea while driving or hiking and sing something into your phone’s voice memo app, rush home, scratch out some lyrics, and boom … you have the skeleton of a song.
FEMMUSIC: What was the biggest challenge making Portrait?

LA: To understand our biggest challenge, you also need to note our biggest luxury. We had the gift of time and space in writing this album. We worked with our producer for nearly six months in a world class recording studio. John was so generous with giving us ample time to create a real honest, strong body of work. Within that time, though, we were fairly prolific and so when it came to really honing in on what songs we wanted on the album, and in what order … that became incredibly challenging. You’ve worked so long and so hard on writing so many different stories and songs and they all hold a special meaning. Then you have to chop off your arm to spite your body. That was probably the most challenging part. Walking away from a bunch of songs that meant a lot to us. But who knows, maybe they’ll resurface one day.
FEMMUSIC: How was it working with John Shanks? What did he bring to the project? What did he do for you with the album?

LA: Working with John was remarkable. He is truly a genius and has such a breadth of experience and success, yet such a hunger to continue creating new work and pushing the envelope. He has an incredible ear, and was able to elevate our soundscape in ways that only world-class producers can do. They hear things the normal person doesn’t hear. He’s also an incredible writer and co-wrote on most of the album with us. He would push us to tell stories we weren’t sure we were alright telling, and explore styles we hadn’t yet explored. Through the writing and recording process, he became like family to us. We have a tremendous amount of gratitude and love for him.
FEMMUSIC: I was looking at your early history. I was wondering if you could describe your journey from classical piano to theater to Cardiknox. They seem like such different leaps. 

LA: I grew up playing piano from the age of five. One of my favorite parts of playing was performing at recitals and adjudications. I played until I was about 16 when I became more consumed with other high school activities—school leadership, academics, sports, and most importantly theatre. I loved acting and pursued it through college, where I majored in Theatre Directing. I went on to work professionally at a major regional theatre, but my heart was really missing the artistic side of the business. I met Thomas and began developing a musical with him, Razia’s Shadow. We spent a few years developing the piece, moved to NYC, worked with The Public Theater on it, etc., and eventually needed a break and started writing pop music. That’s how I found my way to Cardiknox.

FEMMUSIC: I was also very curious how has the conversion been of playing an instrument to being primarily a vocalist. Do you want to play an instrument more on stage? Has it been hard taking control of the mic and the show so much?

LA:  I love performing. And it scares the shit out of me. But I live for it. So, moving into the role of a frontwoman on stage took a lot of different parts of my earlier life and brought them together in a unique way. Emoting on stage, telling my stories via song … all of that is pretty magical for me. And I like being untethered while I’m on stage. But as our set evolves and when we move into headlining our own shows, I imagine I’ll hop behind the piano for a song or two and change things up.

FEMMUSIC: When you were in Denver we spoke about the artist for both the album cover and the amazing shirts, Tristan Eaton. How did he become involved in Cardiknox? For info on Tristan Eaton visit www.tristaneaton.net

LA: Thomas and I have been fans of Tristan’s work for quite some time. He has a mural in NYC of Audrey Hepburn that originally turned us on to him, but we’ve become completely entranced with his entire vision and catalog. While recording the album, we spoke to John about him, as John is also a huge lover of art . He suggested we connect with Tristan and see about collaborating. Tristan came into the studio, listened to some songs and hung with us. He was stoked to collaborate and it was like a dream come true for us.
FEMMUSIC: As a woman in the music industry have you been discriminated against?

cardiknox

LA: Of course. I think that goes without saying. As a woman in any industry you face hurdles that men don’t.  And it’s unfair and totally fucked up. But the only way you can combat it is being extra prepared. Extra well-read. Extra thoughtful. Don’t let your worth be determined by how you look and don’t allow people to dismiss your thoughts and ideas, just because they’re yours. I think discrimination is a strong word, because so often … it comes across subtler. More like a bias that you can’t totally put your finger on. And that’s when it’s hardest to stand up against. Because it’s that kind of bias that skirts just under the surface of people’s consciousness. I am fortunate to have a number of very strong women working on the Cardiknox team with me. This has been tremendous in terms of ensuring that my voice is heard—and also in bouncing my thoughts off of other intelligent women. I recommend for any young women in this industry, if they can, to try and surround themselves with like-minded women. This industry certainly needs it.

FEMMUSIC: What one thing would you like to change about the music industry itself?

LA: I think I just answered that. 🙂 I’d love to see more strong female executives across the board in music.

Posted in Interviews Tagged with:

MRK
February 1st, 2016
    MRK
                                              By Alex Teitz
 
            MRK is Madison Renee Knapp. She is a creative force who caught our attention with both the song and video for “River of Blood.” The song is featured this month. She exhibits the risk and daring in songwriting that challenges and provokes. Instead of giving her a long introduction, we invite to read what she has to say.  For info visit http://cargocollective.com/mrklovesyou & https://www.facebook.com/mrklovesyou
 
FEMMUSIC: How did you get into music?
 
MRK: Music has been very much a part of my family life. I have either a great or a great-great grandfather who was a champion yodeler and many church singers and organists on both sides. From my Dad playing guitar to my Mother waking me every morning with a song to family sing-alongs to my brother’s impeccable taste in and knowledge of all tunes, I come from a musically enthused tribe.
 
Apart from being in choir and home movies of me performing songs as a child, it wasn’t until I was 16 and heard Patti Smith that I began doing acapella originals and reciting poetry in various get-ups. At 18 I started recording songs with a friend and became interested in the technical aspects of music production. I taught myself to play guitar, got my certification as an audio engineer and have been actively pursuing sounds ever since.
 
FEMMUSIC Can you describe your songwriting technique?
 
MRK: Improvisation is always invigorating. I am constantly jamming solo and recording into voice memos or GarageBand: I call it hi-tech/Lo-fi. From there I can parse out what I like and build around an idea or expand on it. 
 
The other method I really enjoy for songwriting is piecing together sounds in the magical computer box. There’s so much freedom in technology! I love imagining the sound I want to hear and making it happen with infinite processing tools. When my producer Alex Arias and I co-write, we often toss around adjectives and try to match them with effects or samples.
 
FEMMUSIC: How did you find Records Ad Nauseam and why did you sign with them?
 
MRK: Records Ad Nauseam found me by way of Christina Elaine Vasquez, founder of Shezilla, and Luka Fischer (producer/manager/queen of all trades for Ad Nauseam and other entities). Christina came upon the MadAsHell (Leila Jarman/Mike Leisz) music video for RIVER OF BLOOD and contacted me to get involved with her Shezilla cabaret benefits. She then introduced me to Luka, who got me onto the label. 
 
I put out my EP through them because they were the first to ask and because of Luka’s sincere appreciation and understanding of my work as displayed in the RIVER OF BLOOD video. Luka reinvigorated my confidence in the aesthetic I am building/want to build. The day my packaged CDs showed up at my doorstep all I could do was sob infinite thank you’s to Luka, MadAsHell, my producer, my family, everyone I knew who had helped put my songs into my hands as a physical object.
 
FEMMUSIC: What was the biggest challenge making the Blood EP?
 
MRK: Time, doubt and heartbreak were probably the greatest foes I faced. I had been in abusive relationships, faced a band breakup and 2 abortions; I spiritually and emotionally bottomed out a couple of times over the years it took to manifest these songs. 
 
FEMMUSIC: Are there any experiences that stood out while making the Blood EP?
 
MRK: Writing RIVER OF BLOOD was an absolute turning point. Those words fell out of me like a prayer to myself and every time I see or hear them I remember the larger invisibiles coursing through us all; that no pain exists alone or insignificantly, that there is divinity everywhere. 
 
In the beginning when I debuted SUN PIERCED BRAIN at my first MRK show at Cheetahs Club in Hollywood after 48 hours of writing and recording my songs to perform, I had a very surreal rock n roll experience. I was singing these brand new songs solo on a lit exotic dancer catwalk and my set ended with this gorgeous Latina jaguar-like dancer crawling over me. That was my birth as a solo artist and it was so feminine and powerful. I never knew the lady’s name, never saw her again, but she’ll always be a kind of totem for my journey. I’ll always have that rock n roll moment in the catwalk lights. 
 
FEMMUSIC: The River of Blood video is stunning. How did it come about and how was the vision for it made?
 
MRK: The vision for RIVER OF BLOOD was a co-conception between myself and MadAsHell. We had both recently seen the film Hausu (1977) and knew we wanted to do something fueled by that imagery of the absurd sacred/profane, fear, delight and womanhood. Leila and Mike plotted out the scenes, focused the symbolism and we went for it. Everything in the video was made by our hands with our money and our blood. It was a very ambitious first project to do together, but their mastery and imagination put it all into place. The MadAsHell duo is the most fierce and forward-thinking team I’ve ever met and they weave my sounds into the visual field flawlessly. 
MRK
 
FEMMUSIC: As a woman in the music industry have you been discriminated against?
 
MRK: Absolutely. Although I have been very fortunate in my solo endeavors to work with wonderful people, I have been abused, belittled and shamed many times over other chapters of my musical lifetime. 
 
From questioning my artistic input to undermining my technical advice to being assaulted by a band mate, I have indeed gained a lot of perspective on the treatment of women in music and in the world at large. 
 
The most disheartening part of it all is that my experiences are not unique. I know this can change. I will always choose to work with and support my fellow female creators wherever, whenever, however I can. The latest phrase I’ve conjured in observing and experiencing female oppression is this: I forgive, but I do not accept. I forgive the history that has suppressed our understanding of each other, I forgive the people and systems perpetuating that history and its abuses, but I do not accept the harm it has done and is doing to us. 
 
Even in a recent write up I was not really credited for my own work. I am slated as someone else’s brain child. To be sure, I have had the honor of working with some of the most talented people I’ve ever met and no one accomplishes anything alone–to achieve in a vacuum is no achievement at all. I am infinitely blessed with family and collaborators and friends without whom I would not exist or create as I am now. And thankfully, there’s no such thing as bad press. 
 
There’s also this wonderful Yoko Ono quote on womanhood which helps me sneer back at the difficulties women in any industry face:
 “…It’s so ridiculous, but also astounding – we have to always be apologetic about having created the human race.” 
 
FEMMUSIC: What one thing would you like to change about the music industry?
 
MRK: I would change the colonization and capitalization of all artistic industries. The appreciation and gravity of art and music cannot be quantified, but the hard work that goes into it should be. I could wish for a meritocracy involving the level of dedication and actual progressive contribution of any given artist or piece, but even that is contradictory to the necessity of all expression. 
 
In the current reality we’ve all chosen, I’d say that with the attainment of a certain level of success in music, regardless of genre or level of intellect, an artist should be required to contribute positively to society. This could be in the form of donations, promotion of thoughtful dialogues on important issues, opening schools, being politically active. It could be anything and it would be so fucking simple to do. If an artist has millions of dollars and/or fans, that artist owes the larger human machinery of the world which gave it birth and talent and luck enough to succeed to such heights. That artist owes the world love and compassion and the sharing of knowledge. That artist does not owe anything to the corporate structures which synergize the artist with edgy brand pairings and guest appearances–this relationship is already symbiotic and mutually beneficial if the artist is a scrillionaire. And if the artist speaks or acts in conflict with the “core values” of any of their backers and manages to change minds in a way that is not fiscally beneficial to said backers, well, isn’t that just the nature of the neoclassical economic beast? If corporations are to be considered people then they can fucking adapt. 
 
Wow. Writing that did something to me. 
 
FEMMUSIC:  Whom would you most like to collaborate with or tour with and why?
 
MRK: Bjork, Yoko Ono, Patti Smith, Tori Amos, PJ Harvey, St. Vincent, Gazelle Twin, FKA Twigz, Grimes, Erykah Badu, Warpaint, Die Antwerd, Arca, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Sia, iamamiwhoami and Imogen Heap, if you can hear me, I’m yours! 
 
All the above mentioned acts are deep sources of weirdness and inspiration for me. All of them, even the ones who’ve been around for a while, are artists I hold in the highest regard for originality, style, risk and sincerity. Extra points go to St. Vincent for overall show production quality. She creates a universe for your mind, guts and spirit when she plays. I dream of curating an experience on that level. Extra points also go to Imogen Heap for technological amazement. I would kill to play with her toys! Extra extra points go to Bjork because: Bjork. 
I would also love to tour/collaborate with any of the Animal Collective folks, collectively or with their solo projects. Their music has redefined music for me and I’ve always considered them to be at the forefront of contemporary music. And I would like to add Prince Rama to the list, they are goddess chameleons of style.
 
FEMMUSIC:  What’s coming next? 
 
MRK: I’ve got some very cute covers planned to roll out around Valentine’s Day and an original single release in late March. 
 
Other than that, I’m writing the next album (titled FLOWERS), pushing myself into bigger and bigger curated music/art experiences with the likes of Puro Instinct, doing photo and music video shoots, appearing in a short art film by Leila Jarman and Chelsea Bayouth titled A DREAM OF PAPER FLOWERS,  conversing with mediums and psychics and spirits and animals and ancestors, trying to figure out how to connect my boss’s non-profit organization Women’s Health in Women’s Hands (womenshealthinwomenshands.org) with another non profit effort for women’s health in South America, learning more about flower and herbal magic, opening my heart and circulating and integrating with the universe at large by changing my life a little every day, dreaming, loving, being human and not. 

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