by Alex Teitz
Photo by Nate Lemuel.
FEMMUSIC: Can you describe your songwriting technique?
RJ: We usually have stuff that we work on at home and bring it to practice. From there, we work together to make it a song.
FEMMUSIC What is your vision of Nizhoni Girls vs your other projects? Tell me how the band came together?
RJ: Our vision for Nizhoni Girls is to bring representation to Indigenous folx so that they can start femme bands too! My other indigenous project is Weedrat and this band is my loud in your face punk band. I’ve always wanted to be in a punk band and Weedrat has really helped me develop my guitar and singing skills, also the dudes that i play with are very good musicians. The first band that I played in and still apart of is Litter Brain. It consist of 5 womx, and our genre is bratty-hardcore punk. Litter Brain helped me with my confidence and self esteem that doesn’t always come easy when playing in front of folx. My last band is Cat Teeth, and this band is my jam band, I’m in it with two other womxn who are in other awesome bands as well. Cat Teeth is fun, and I can really get creative with the other womxn in that band.
FEMMUSIC: What challenges did you face making all women Native American bands?
RJ: We haven’t had any challenges yet, and have received a lot of support. We’re still quite a new band and haven’t played very much shows. Personally, being a WoC in a band, I have experienced a lot of microaggression with non PoC and PoC as well. The scene is very much still run by hetero patriarchal folx and spaces are still predominately white. That’s why I feel it’s important to have representation for other POC folx, so that they can start bands and fuck up more shit!
RJ: Yes, the fest was in June and it was very successful. We were motivated by not seeing enough representation around Native womxn and the LGBTQ2+ community. We wanted to have a fest where we could empower our womxn and youth in the community, so that they could also start bands.
FEMMUSIC: I see you are involved in teaching music. How important to you in teaching young women about music and the arts? Why?
RJ: I did do a music workshop with my other band Weedrat. It was in Window Rock, AZ at the Navajo Nation Museum. We were in charge of handling the little kids and it was so much fun! I got to show the kids how to hold a guitar and how to strum. They really caught on and enjoyed playing. Weedrat got to play a set in front of the youth and I had one little girl come up to me and she said “I didn’t know you’re a rockstar. Is it ok if I sit by you?” She was so proud to sit next to me. I told her to keep up the music and she could become a rockstar too.
FEMMUSIC: What resources that are unique to your community have benefited you as an artist?
RJ: I do a lot of work with community organizations, so if I’m part of a planning committee for an event, I can usually help with the music portion. I do Sexual Health Education with Planned Parenthood, so I am definitely involved with a lot local community orgs.
FEMMUSIC: As a woman in the music industry have you been discriminated againt?
RJ: Yes, definitely, especially as a WOC. I get mansplained to a lot and told I’m pretty cool for a girl. When I was playing a benefit show, I remember a dude coming up to me and and started messing with my pedal settings while I was in the middle of playing a song. I stopped and told him to stop, he said he knew what he was doing because he was a sound technician. As far as being a WOC, some people will avoid talking to me and talk to my other non-PoC band mates. It’s uncomfortable, but I’m glad I have amazing band mates who are great allies and comrades.
FEMMUSIC: If you could collaborate with, or tour with anybody, whom would it be & why?
RJ: I think it would be rad to tour with Downtown Boys because they are folx of color and they sing about all the things I care about, social justice!
FEMMUSIC: What one thing would you like to change about the music industry?
RJ: Don’t be a sell out or a poser.