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Hearts Under Fire Interview

Hearts Under Fire is an up-and-coming band that just released a new EP, “We’ve Come Too Far To Live In The Past.” With Mary O’Regan on bass and lead vocals, Nicky Day and Kat Upton on guitar, and Lexi Clark on drums, the UK-based group plays a great mix of pop-punk and punk rock. Hearts Under Fire took some time to tell me about how they started their band, the other instruments they play, and weird reactions from audiences at their gigs.

Tessa: Why did you all start playing or singing?
Hearts Under Fire: We all started playing music when we were young (around 13), some of us in bands, some of us just at home for fun. It’s just been something we’ve always wanted to do and always had a passion for.

Tessa: What bands and artists inspire you?
HUF: We’re all influenced by such a huge range of artists, everyone from Underoath to Bruce Springsteen to Alkaline Trio to Prince. We listen to such a wide variety of music.

Tessa: How often do you all practice on your own and as a band?
HUF: I’d say on our own we practice all the time. When it’s something you love doing, it doesn’t feel like practice. It’s just doing what you enjoy. As a band we will generally get together once a week, but it varies depending on how many shows we have.

Tessa: How did you start a band together?
HUF: Lexi’s been in the band since it first started, and Mary joined not long after. Nicky joined about 3 years ago when there was space for a new guitarist, and Kat joined  just over a year ago when Steph [our former guitarist] left.

Tessa: Where was your first gig? What was playing that gig like?
HUF: All our first gigs were different. Lexi, Mary & Kat played in a few bands before HUF so they started young. Nicky’s first ever gig was with Hearts Under Fire in Guildford…nerve wracking to say the least!

Tessa: Do any of you play an instrument besides the one you use in this band?
HUF: Kat plays bass, Mary plays guitar, Nicky & Lexi play the tambourine…

Tessa: It looks like all of your members do backup vocals. Did all of you have experience singing before this band, or is this somebody’s first foray into singing?
HUF: Kat used to front a band called Black Nazarene, so she is a pro singer already. Lexi and Mary both sang backing in previous bands, and for Nicky it’s a first!

Tessa: I asked The Madeline Rust a similar question: why have you chosen not to label yourselves as an “all-female” band?
HUF: We don’t label ourselves “all-female,” as it’s not really important to us. We’re just four people who have come together to write music we love and put it out there, and we just happen to be all girls! We don’t think it’s really an issue to try and sell ourselves as that.

Tessa: Have you ever gotten weird reactions at your gigs as an “all-female” band?
HUF: Definitely. We’ve had people shouting all sorts at us (mainly ‘get your boobs out’), but a lot of people will pre-judge us before even listening to us. It’s always nice to get people come up to us after and say how much they enjoyed it when they didn’t think they would. Ultimately, the people in the crowds giving us abuse for no reason other than the fact we’re girls are the ones sitting at home doing nothing do whilst we’re out there trying to live our dream, so we don’t let it bother us.

Tessa: Okay, this is the last gender-related question, I promise. You’ve already been interviewed by a couple of sites. Do you ever get tired of being asked questions about your “all-female” status? What do you think about people asking questions like these? Do they ever get annoying? (I swear I have an excuse, because this site is centered on female artists. Haha.)
HUF: [We] wouldn’t say it annoys us. Sometimes it may work in our favour being all-female, sometimes it works against us. We just do what we want to do because we love doing it. People can form their own opinions of us, but hopefully our music speaks for itself and people will like what we do!

Tessa: How does the songwriting process work for your group?
HUF: Generally it will start with a guitar riff or some chords or a melody and just grow from there. We are all very much involved in the songwriting process, and any one of us can come up with an initial idea and we just roll with it!

Tessa:What was recording your newest EP like? Any interesting stories?

HUF: Recording the new EP was so much fun. We did it with our good friend Sam Burden at Empire Recording Studios in Guildford and just had the best time. He’s such a great guy to work with and brought so much into our recordings. As for stories, you’ll have to wait and watch the DVD we will be releasing with our EP when it comes out. 😉

You can get more of Hearts Under Fire at their website, Facebook, or YouTube. Check out their new EP as well!

What did you think about the interview? Tell us in the comments!

The White Noise Supremacists Interview

(Trigger warning: this interview contains frank talk about racism.)

The White Noise Supremacists are, thankfully, not white supremacists (look back and note the “noise” part), and only consist of one woman: Iféoluwa Babalola (pronounced eee-FEH-oh-loo-WAH bah-BAH-loh-LAH). Iféoluwa plays and sings all of the parts in her music. She answered a ton of questions from me about topics like racism in the music industry, feminism, producing her music, and recording her new album.

Tessa: Okay, I have a confession to make. When I first saw your artist name, I did a double take. My first thought was, “No way am I interviewing a bunch of racists!” Then I finally noticed the “noise” part of your name. What kind of reactions does your artist name usually get? Are they anything like mine?
Iféoluwa: Yeah, people always skip the ‘noise’ for some reason. I don’t know why. If I had to classify all the responses, I pretty much get fear or excitement. Younger Black people tend to be the most afraid, and then you get racist White people who get angry. I also get “liberal” White people who “don’t see color” trying to preach to me about how inappropriate it is. I think they have the most gall. Like, they’re oblivious to how inappropriate it is for them to tell a Black person how they should view and interpret and respond to racism- something they will never experience in their entire lives. The arrogance in that is astounding. But yeah, it runs the gamut. Either fear or excitement that someone is finally saying these things. I tend to get thanked by older Black men a lot too. It’s interesting to try and analyze the different responses.

Tessa: So, you were born in Brooklyn, New York and are now living in Berlin, Germany. How old were you when you moved? What was the biggest culture shock to you when you moved to another country?
Iféoluwa: I was 27 when I moved to Berlin. There wasn’t a really huge culture shock but I do notice the differences. In my experience, Germans are more reserved. There’s a bit of truth to the stereotype. But I am much more comfortable with that, as I am more reserved by nature. In America I’m stoic, here I’m warm, lol. There also seems to be a difference in the way kids are raised here. At least the people around my age. Americans are raised with so much ego. “You are the best and greatest in the world and you can be anything!!!” (unless you are a woman, poc, queer, non-Christian, etc.), but here, it seems that you are more taught to be a functioning part of a group. Of society. Not that you’re such a special snowflake, which breeds less entitled douchebags, in my opinion. There are some everywhere, but it’s not so rewarded here as it is in the U.S. A lot of White people are more culturally aware here as well. A lot of them are friends with Africans, married or have kids with Africans, and can actually pick out African countries on a map. I’ve never faced that before. Being able to say to someone, “My family is Yoruba,” and they actually know what the hell I’m talking about. That was strange for me. Another shock (and I’m speaking as an outsider who has about a couple years experience in 1 city, so forgive me if I misinterpret, Germans) was how ashamed and apologetic, though I’ve heard some Germans say overly so, [the country is] about Nazi Germany and the holocaust. When you’re a kid in school, you are taught about it, from very young and throughout your school career. It’s really hammered home how horrible it was and that you should never forget. If you go out in the street with a Nazi swastika or any other Nazi symbol, you get arrested. It’s full on illegal. There is even some reservations about flying the German flag for some people, as German nationalism tends to be synonymous with racism. Contrasting that with the U.S. and how it regards [its] history of slavery and Jim Crow, how White Americans pretty much don’t give a sh*t and were raised to not give a sh*t, how the general sentiment is, “Whatever, Black people, stop whining and get over it,” how there are states where I can still drive into and see the Confederate flag waving, even on federal property, it was really a wake up call. It’s like whoa, America really has no respect for Black people. They hate us, blatantly so, and they don’t give a sh*t. It would be amazing to get arrested for flying the Confederate flag. To have the nation actually feel shame for the heinous things it did and teach their White children about it so it stops happening and never happens again. But that won’t happen any time soon. That country hates us too much. That was shocking for me. To just finally realize the country I was born in feels that way about who I am.

Tessa: Who or what inspired you to start making music? What artists do you consider your influences?
Iféoluwa: I’ve always been musical. It was never really a choice. I started singing as a girl and it just snowballed from there. Singing along to tapes, music vids…I grew up listening to everything. I don’t know if it counts as an influence if you don’t sound anything like it—that is kinda the case with most of my influences, but if we’re just talking about artists that made me see musical expression in a different way, it would have to be Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Joy Division, Nina Simone, Bob Dylan, Suede, The Smiths/Morrissey (even though he is a douchebag), Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Radiohead, Sam Cooke, Silverchair (Neon Ballroom and Diorama are amazing records), Fiona Apple, Sade, Fela, Bjork…I think those are the main ones, though I’m probably forgetting some.

Tessa: How does the songwriting process work for you?
Iféoluwa: Currently, I just think of an idea, usually from a news story I read or something I’m dealing with in my life, and I write lyrics. Then I come up with a bassline or drum beat if the melody doesn’t come first. And I lay some guitar on it last. That’s how it’s been working lately though when I first started, it was all words first, melody second, then guitar, drums and finally bass. I like starting songs on different instruments, though. You get a completely different sound.

Tessa: What inspired you to write “Big Strong White Man?”
Iféoluwa: Being pissed the f*ck off at having the people whose hand has been on your throat for centuries pat themselves on the back with the other hand for “saving” you.

Tessa: Is there any intentional symbolism in the video for “Big Strong White Man?” For example, is there any reason why the (presumably) kidnapped girl is tied to a chair with pearls, breaks free with a guitar pick, and drops her blonde wig to the floor at the end?
Iféoluwa: Yes. It’s pretty much an allegorical representation of both my experience with my band and the common experience of being born a Black female in Western society. You’re sort of born bound, gagged and exploited by your surroundings and it’s up to you to free yourself. I won’t explain it any more but if you keep that in mind, the meaning is pretty apparent.

Tessa: There were some pretty ignorant comments on the YouTube video for “Big Strong White Man.” How did you deal with that? What reactions have you gotten from that song besides people being racist to you or giving you the “reverse racism” BS?
Iféoluwa: I don’t deal with it. I refused to respond. Say it to my face or shut the f*ck up. It’s all just fear and ego. This Black woman saying and doing things only WE are supposed to be able to say and do. “Who does she think she is/put her back in her place” kinda thing. So f*cking old. I’m 30. I’m used to it. And I’ve made it this far and will only keep going. People either love it or hate it. I like being polarizing. I love bands that make you feel the extremes. No one wants to hear a song and go “eh.”

Tessa: There are interesting vocal effects in the studio version of “She’s Soft Inside.” What exactly did you do to your voice there?
Iféoluwa: Ha! Well, it’s really just some crappy filters I found in GarageBand. That song was on my 1st EP and it was really the 1st of my more aggressive-sounding songs I ever recorded. There is another one that was the second called “Meant to Be” that has the same effect. It’s pretty much me being self-conscious about my voice. I grew up singing R&B and soul music and that’s still where my voice is even though when I write, soul music doesn’t come out. I thought it was too clean and pretty sounding and felt weird about not sounding more “rock” so I tried to gruff it up with effects. Then I was like, this is lame, my voice and this music are unique. So I ditched the filters and really embraced it. The next song I recorded after those was “How Do You Wish To Go?” and I sort of sang that defiantly sweet and soft and added harmonies. And I was like, this sounds f*cking cool! So the vocal effects were no more after that.

Tessa: What instruments do you play?
Iféoluwa: Well, in order of “damn good” to “kinda crappy but it works”: clarinet (7-year band geek, holla!), drums, guitar, bass, piano.

Tessa: So you do the singing and play all of the instruments in your songs. Do you produce all of your music too? If so, how did you learn how to do that?
Iféoluwa: Yes, I produce and arrange everything. I just learned by doing. I didn’t have money to pay anyone else and when I did get input, I never liked anyone’s ideas more than mine, lol. So I stopped asking. I worked with one “producer,” but all he did was push buttons on really expensive equipment, and he really didn’t give a crap about my music at all. It was really infuriating but also depressing. And most producers are guys and they just take it for granted that because you’re female you’ll let them “mold” you and just be a mouthpiece for their ideas. I have my own ideas. And they’re good ideas. So I decided to use them.

Tessa: I saw some of your live videos on YouTube, and I think your one-woman show is very cool. Do you have any advice for someone who might want to try doing the same thing at live shows?
Iféoluwa: Thank you. Um, just try and get a good idea of the instrumentation you want in a song and figure out the best way to realize that live with only you. It’s a great creative exercise. I have many versions of my songs because the recorded versions can’t be recreated live and solo. But I didn’t want them to be boring acoustic versions so I was like, what riff do I want to keep, can I get rid of this bassline or simplify it so it can be looped through the entire song, etc. It’s actually quite fun. Trying to keep the identity of a song but changing the execution. Or sometimes the identity changes altogether. Sweet songs become rough and harsh, rough songs become melancholic and beautiful. Just read up on gear to see what’s out there. I used to get Tape Op for free for years when I was younger but don’t know if it’s still that way.* Anyway, find something that might possibly do what you want and go to Guitar Center or whatever and play with it all day. But beware. Music store dudes are notorious d*cks. If anyone asks if you are buying for your boyfriend, feel free to kick him in the balls and run. I will testify for you in court. They’ll never take us alive.

Tessa: Who’s the drummer playing with you in your “Madman” video? How often do you play shows with other people?
Iféoluwa: She’s an awesome drummer named Veronica and we met through Craigslist. I put out an ad for someone to play old Motown covers with just for fun and she answered. We met up to jam but spent most of the time just talking about ourselves and music and jamming on my stuff. We never got the Motown covers together but I ended up getting that ROIR [the record label] show and asked her to join me for a few songs. One was a Michael Jackson cover of “Rock With You” that I really wanna put out eventually and the other was Madman. There may have been more but I forgot. After that show, we both left NY so that was the end of that. But it was still fun. Anyway, I’m kinda burnt out on playing with other people. They just don’t respect you unless you act like an asshole, and I’m really not interested in that, so I have more fun playing alone. I’ll probably form a backing band of paid musicians at some point, but I haven’t been getting shows lately that are big enough to warrant that kind of financial commitment, so it’s solo for me. Plus I can do it well alone, so why not?

Tessa: In your interview with Imusicate.com, you mentioned that you used to run a “Black Indie” night in Brooklyn to promote black artists. Do you think the music industry has improved the way it treats black artists, especially since you started on the scene? Does treatment of black artists vary in the different parts of the world that you’ve lived in? What do you think we can do to continue to move forward and improve things more?
Iféoluwa: The music industry is just horrible and desperate in general and no, it’s not getting better for anyone, let alone Black musicians. I only started doing this 6 years ago and solely on an independent basis so the few times I have come in touch with “industry” people it has been enough to warn me away. They really are the worst. Just soulless. It’s not art to them; it’s a paycheck. I feel it can be both. Racism is worldwide so Black artists aren’t treated too differently. But there is more respect and openness in Europe for all kinds of Black music. I find, in the U.S., if you are a Black man who doesn’t rap or a Black woman who doesn’t sing gospel or R&B, people run screaming. It’s like they don’t know what to do with you; your very existence has melted their brains. It’s pretty ridiculous. Whereas here you can pretty much find a place for yourself if you try. There’s an opportunity here for Black underground or alternative artists. That’s really nowhere to be found in the U.S. What can we do to improve this? Young Black artists need to depend on ourselves more. Remember when I said young Black people tend to be the most afraid of my band? That is my #1 reason why things aren’t improving. I did a documentary called “Bluck You!” that I’m still working on completing about my experiences in NY and why there is no Black alternative scene that I know of pretty much anywhere. And I came to the conclusion that it’s because we don’t want one. Too many Black people nowadays need White acceptance to validate their art. And they pretty much feel like without mass White acceptance, they will never be successful. That isn’t true, but they believe it. So they only say, think and express themselves in ways that won’t threaten the predominately White, affluent and shockingly racist and sexist, entitled “indie” audience. There’s no bravery or adventure. Because everyone is “staying in their place” to get in the f*cking indie blogs or on Pitchfork or hang out on Bedford and N. 7th with their Indie White Pals or whatever. It’s sad as f*ck. And I ran screaming. And I am not ashamed in the least.

Tessa: Is there anything you think should be done to help make things easier for black female artists in particular, since you guys have to deal with both racism and sexism?
Iféoluwa: I have no clue. People have been racist and sexist for centuries. I, we, can’t change that. But we can stop taking sh*t. That’s pretty much it. Black women, stop taking sh*t. They only give it to you when they think they can get away with it. We need to support each other too. That always helps. It shouldn’t be based solely on sex and color, though. That’s not helpful. But if you come across a Black woman and you like her art, reach out and tell her so. Collaborate. Write songs together. Organize shows. That will change things. Stop being so afraid of anything that lies outside racist notions of “appropriate” Black behaviour and outlook. It doesn’t exist. Black people can differ from each other yet still work together. We are not a monolith. F*cking hell.

Tessa: Is your “Black Indie” night up and running again? If not, do you plan to start it up again anytime soon?
Iféoluwa: Um, well in Berlin I see about 3 Black people per week so I don’t think it will happen here, lol. But eventually, yes. I don’t see myself living in NY again anytime soon, if I can help it, but who knows where or when it’ll pop up. Maybe in Nigeria or Sierra Leone! Africans are into everything. Who knows. But the night and the concept are far from dead. Just…resting.

Tessa: How is recording “The Scene Is Dead,” your debut album, going? Any idea when it’ll be released?
Iféoluwa: Argh, I dunno! My dad just donated some new recording equipment to me, so since I finally have a decent microphone, I plan to get at least another single and video out before September. It will be the song “Meant To Be.” Then the album by October. But I am really ambitious with it. It will probably be a double album. I just haven’t decided whether I’ll put it out all at once or in 2 parts…we’ll see. But it’s coming! Definitely before the apocalypse. The end of all life as we know it tends to curb procrastination, I’ve found. (I’m kidding. Not an apocalypse psycho, thanks.)

Tessa: I think it’s pretty cool how you post a “face-destroying song of the week” on your Facebook page. You posted a Bikini Kill song a couple of weeks ago, and that group was really feminist. Do you consider yourself a feminist?
Iféoluwa: I’m totally a feminist and very proud to call myself one. I often meet women who don’t want to call themselves that. Like they’re ashamed. I weep for them, to be honest. It must be so sad to feel ashamed of standing up for yourself and demanding to be treated with respect. To be treated like a human. I don’t get women like that. But I’m not out to change minds anymore. I just do me.

Tessa: What are you trying to achieve with your music?
Iféoluwa: I’m a musician and I’m out to make good music that is brave and honest. That’s it.

If you want to see more of Iféoluwa, check out the White Noise Supremacists’ website, Facebook page, or YouTube channel. Please (respectfully) share what you thought about the interview in the comments!

*I would like to note that you can totally still get a free subscription to Tape Op here.

The Madeline Rust Interview

The Madeline Rust are based in Nottingham, England and play music heavily influenced by the ’90s grunge rock scene. Lucy Morrow plays bass and fronts the band, Aly McNab plays guitar, and Martin Syvret plays the drums. The band took some time to tell me about their day jobs, their decision to not promote the band as “female-fronted,” and Aly’s struggles with arthritis. There’s even a bonus question. Learn about their perspectives on music here!

Tessa: Okay, a standard question that I use: why did you all start playing your instruments, singing, or making music?
Martin: We never had a television when I was growing up, so we always had the radio on. My mum was a teddy girl, and I had a diet of rock’n’roll and a little bit of jazz. I just always seemed to be drawn to the drums. My guilty pleasure as a 10-year-old boy was watching the drummers in the military bands that used to come to Jersey every summer. I used to hang out and try and get a go. I joined the school band at the age of 11 and never looked back.
Lucy: Thanks to my parents, there was always music in the house when I was young. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, The Cars and Kate Bush all remind me of my childhood. When I was 12, my uncle won a crappy acoustic guitar at bingo, and so I decided to try and learn songs that I liked. I’ve never been able to read music but learned to play by ear. Inevitably, when I heard Nirvana for the first time, I wanted an electric guitar, and my parents obliged for my 14th birthday. Aly and I went to school together, and we started a band at about this time. In this band, he drummed and I played guitar and sang – though I only sang by default because nobody else in the band wanted to. And actually, that’s the same reason I play bass in The Madeline Rust!
Aly: My parents are folk musicians who play Scottish and Irish stuff, so I grew up in a house with guitars, fiddles, mandolins and stuff all over the place, and my parents would have parties where people would get up and play or sing, and that was important to me. I never really heard pop music as a child, then started to get into punk as a young teenager (of course), and then I heard Nirvana and my life changed.

Tessa: Another standard question: who are your influences? I definitely hear some Nirvana in your music, and some of Lucy’s screaming reminded me of Joan Jett.
Martin: For me it’s classic rock, [Black] Sabbath, Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy and more modern(ish) bands like Clutch and Monster Magnet.
Lucy: This is such a hard question. I enjoy most musical genres to some degree, and I guess I’m influenced by everything I enjoy… I suppose if you listen to The Madeline Rust, the ’90s grunge scene obviously influenced us a lot. Though we have been referred to as “’70s rock,” which may also be a fair reflection of some of our other influences.
Aly: I guess musically relevant influences for me would be Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Tool and ZZ Top. I LOVE ZZ Top.

Tessa: Do you have any musical idols?
Lucy: You mean apart from Lemmy?
Aly: Yep, Lemmy, absolutely. Also Duane Allman and George Harrison.
Martin: Bizarrely for a drummer, Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy.

Tessa: How does the songwriting process work for your group? Does someone bring in lyrics so you can all add instrumentation? Do you write riffs, then lyrics?
Aly: Basically, I sit at home a lot and noodle on my guitar.
Lucy: Aly will come up with some rough ideas, and we all build around that. Vocals-wise, I play around with different things until I find a melody that fits right… Since we don’t have backing vocals, I tend to harmonise in some way with what’s going on with Aly’s guitar playing. Lyrics seem to come naturally to fit the pattern of the vocals.
Martin: Aly will bring a rough idea of a riff to a rehearsal, and we’ll knock it about for about an hour and record it live. Aly then sends it to us via email, Lucy will write some lyrics and the following week we have a song all ready to go. I tend to come up with the endings. (Well, Aly and Lucy have to let me do something…)

Tessa: All musicians have to balance the fun aspects of their music, like performing and writing, versus the business aspects of music, like distributing their merch and making sure they get paid. How do you all balance the fun and business aspects of being a band?
Lucy: Martin basically deals with everything “business”-wise… I just enjoy the creative aspect of designing flyers and posters, so I usually do that. My husband designed the album artwork – he took all of the Monument Valley pictures we used for the sleeve. Our friend Rich Solaini recorded our album in nine hours, and then mixed the whole thing in a few days.
Martin: A few band meetings in the pub and talking constantly on Facebook. We play for fun and are taking a very DIY approach to the business side of things. When I have a bit of time on my hands I sit in front of my laptop and email radio stations and magazines trying to get some coverage. I have found that we get a much better reception from The USA than we do here in the UK. We have had radio play on stations across America; they seem to be much more receptive to unsigned bands and are willing to take a chance on adding bands like ours to their playlists.
Aly: I stay away from the business side, as I’m hopeless at it.

Tessa: Do you have day jobs? If so, where?
Lucy: I have a full-time job in the clinical research industry. I manage a big diverse team, and I travel around a lot. Having such a demanding work life and so much responsibility means I need to do as much creative stuff outside of work as I can.
Martin: I am a full time student doing an animal biology degree at Nottingham Trent University.
Aly: I retired due to ill health last year. I’ve had arthritis since I was 3, and it’s getting worse at the moment. I used to be in banking, so I guess it’s partly my fault for the way the world is…sorry!

Tessa: You chose not to describe your band as female-fronted, which I think was a cool and interesting decision. A lot of bands will put the label “female-fronted” or “all-female” in their descriptions of themselves very quickly. Why did you choose not to?
Lucy: The fact that our singer is female is an incidental fact – it doesn’t bear any relevance to our music. Adding “female-fronted” to a description of a band indicates that this is something people look for (or don’t) in a band. It suggests some sort of “specialty music”; that the gender of our singer has some sort of bearing on whether you will enjoy our band or not. Our band is made up of three very different individuals – and the gender of each member is not relevant to the music we play.
Aly: Plus I think you have to be a female human for it to count. Bazinga.
Martin: I don’t think being female-fronted was an issue that we ever thought about. We are a band. Thinking about it, you never have to describe bands like Metallica or Pink Floyd as male-fronted… I have to admit that there are a lot of fanzines, magazines and internet radio stations that are geared towards female-fronted bands, and I’m glad they are there because they have given us some great coverage, but it’s not something we actively seek out. We are just three people making music and if others like what we are about, that’s a bonus.

Tessa: Why is your Bandcamp description written the way it is? (The Western theme is cool, by the way. “Strangers in a desolate ghost town, here to settle an old and bitter feud.”)
Martin: Over to Lucy on this one.
Lucy: Ahem. I am obsessed with becoming the eponymous rider-in-black from Alejandro Jodorowsky’s amazing movie El Topo. I make all my stage outfits, and everything I make is a nod to El Topo’s style in some way. My husband and I travel to the US regularly and have spent a lot of time wandering round ghost towns in Arizona, California and Nevada. I like to imagine our music playing out of a derelict saloon, into the silence of the desert…
Aly: Not even cowboys listen to us? Ouch…

Tessa: What is your goal as a band? Do you want to make it big, pay your rent, or just make a few bucks and have fun?
Lucy: For me, it’s being part of something I can feel proud of, and having fun in the process.
Martin: Just to make music, play it and have fun, and maybe break even, that would be nice…almost impossible, but you can dream. (Haha.)
Aly: You know, I’ve not even thought about a goal. Being in a band with Lucy has always been an important thing to me, as we’ve been in bands together for over half our lifetimes now, so I guess to continue that would be my goal. And millions of dollars and a 1959 Les Paul would also be cool.

Tessa: So Lucy, I think it’s really cool how you can go from singing very prettily to almost screaming. How do you get that raspy quality about your voice without hurting it? Any tips for someone who might want to try singing that way?
Lucy: Shucks, thanks…but who said it didn’t hurt?! …um, I drink Old Grandad and Pepsi. (Pure class.) I always seem to end up singing like this – it just feels right! I like to hear singers who have different or interesting voices: Lemmy, David Bowie, Roger Waters, Jack White, Anna Calvi. I went through a phase when I was a teenager, listening to extreme vocal stuff like Diamanda Galas. It’s cool hearing what the human voice can do.

Tessa: How did you all meet and start a band?
Martin: I met Lucy at a mutual friend’s wedding, we got talking about music and about a year later she introduced me to Aly.
Lucy: Aly and I went to school together and have always been in bands together… I met Martin at a wedding. I believe that’s the tradition, to meet your future drummer at a wedding.
Aly: Yeah, I was playing the drums to “Breed” by Nirvana in the music room at school, and Lucy asked if I wanted to be in a band in the next lesson. And here we still are…

Tessa: So, what does your band name mean?
Aly: So, first you should know that due to my illness I take a LOT of painkillers, okay? Bear that in mind.

So about a decade ago I had a dream about a monster. Nothing unusual there, as I’m a lifelong Stephen King fan and monsters pop up from time to time. This one was a little Victorian girl in a pinafore dress, but her neck was about 12 feet long and bendy like Mr. Fantastic from the Fantastic Four. She was using this to spy on me through a window, and when I confronted her by saying (in shock), “Who ARE you?” she said “I’m Madeline Rust.” And at this point I woke up nearly screaming.

So from that day on, the name has been rattling round my head, and after being stuck for a band name for what seemed like forever, we decided to use it. It confuses people, but that’s okay; we like doing that.

A bonus question
Tessa: After reading the interview, I want to ask another question. Aly, how does your arthritis affect your playing?
Aly: Playing guitar with arthritis is tricky. Apart from the basic fact that I don’t know if I’ll be able to even play a gig until that day, as I can wake up pretty ill quite randomly, when I play I have to wear Tubigrip bandages on my wrists to stop them from swelling, and I tend to play very light guitars onstage to save my shoulders. Even so, after a half hour gig I’m in lots of pain and I tend to get swollen knuckles and a stiff neck the next day.

I’ll never be a jazz guitarist or a shredder, as my fingers don’t stretch very far; some of the joints have fused and don’t straighten. But I guess it’s become part of my style – lots of basic power chords, or open, ringing drone notes and partial open chords too.

My insecurity about this means I’ve always looked for tricks to keep the sound interesting, and that’s where the pedals come in, I guess. I don’t know if you know the scene in “It Might Get Loud” where The Edge from U2 plays a riff with all his FX and it sounds awesome, and then when he plays without it the riff’s like two notes or something, but it’s very funny and that’s basically how I feel most of the time. My gear is all carefully chosen to cover up the fact that I’m not playing guitar “properly,” basically. Not that there is such a thing as playing properly, of course!

You can get more of The Madeline Rust on their Facebook page, Bandcamp, or Soundcloud. What did you think about the interview? Tell us in the comments!

New Myths Interview

Photo by Jacob Fishel

Hey there! I’m really excited to welcome you to the first website post Queens of Noise has had in a long time. This also happens to be the first interview we’ve ever had, which is really great. New Myths is a band based in New York City, with Britney Boras playing guitar and singing lead vocals, Marina Ross on bass and background vocals, and Rosie Glassman on drums, percussion, and background vocals. I liked their EP, where they mixed together indie rock and electronic dance elements in their music, and they were kind enough to answer some interview questions I sent them via Facebook. Check them out!

Tessa: Did any musicians in particular inspire you all to play your respective instruments? If not, then what made you start playing?
Britney: Honestly, I got a guitar from my mom one year for Christmas. I started playing [and] just really like[d] it, but I did start off on violin so it was easy to pick up.
Marina: When was 13 I really wanted to play the drums, but when my mom’s boyfriend moved out he left his bass (a Gene Simmons Punisher Bass) and a used bass was cheaper than new drums…. it all ended up working out in the end.
Rosie: I was 7, wanted to marry Zac Hanson, and figured we’d need something to talk about so the drums seemed like a good place to start.

Tessa: Who are some of your musical influences?
New Myths: Radiohead, St. Vincent, Dave Grohl, The Beatles, Yeasayer, Incubus, Bjork, Kate Bush, Metric, Florence + The Machine, Led Zeppelin, The Clifford Brown & Max Roach Quintet, Madonna, Joni Mitchell, Michael Jackson, Fleetwood Mac, Tool, Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, and Bat For Lashes.

Tessa: Not only are you an all-female group, but all of your backing musicians on your EP are women too. Did you set out to have an all-female band, or did it just come together that way? Are there any advantages of being in a group of women that weren’t present in previous musical experiences you’ve had with guys?
Britney: I was watching Spinal Tap and thought it’d be fun to start an all-female band – It’s always been me and the boys and I wanted to see how the dynamic of an all-female band might be different.

The dynamic in this band is great, but that doesn’t mean it’s based purely on our gender.

Tessa: Where and how did you all learn to program the electronic parts of your music? I think a lot of people, girls especially, don’t know where to start learning how to create or program electronic music. Do you have any tips for people who might want to learn how to do this?
New Myths: Learning and playing with electronic parts is just part of being a musician today. It adds color and texture to the material and makes the sonic possibilities endless. As far as how we learned to use the equipment, we just bought the gear, read the manuals, and spent a lot of time playing with it – it’s just like learning to play any other kind of instrument, you just have to put in the hours.

Tessa: What equipment do you use? What do you like or dislike about it?
Britney: I play a Fender Strat connected to a pedal board with a Boss Digital Delay, an Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail, an Electro-Harmonix Micro Synth, a Boss Fuzz, a Tube Screamer, and a Boss Super Octave pedal. I’m also using a Micro Korg synthesizer and running that through an Electro-Harmonix Cathedral Petal and a Boss Loop Station. For vocals I’m using a couple of Voice Live pedals.
Marina: I’m going between an Eastwood Airline bass and a Gene Simmons Punisher Bass. I’m also using an Electro-Harmonix Enigma pedal.
Rosie: I’m playing a DW custom set with a 22″ bass drum, 12″ mounted tom, an 18″ floor tom, and a 16″ floor tom made by GMS drums. For cymbals, I’m using a pair of Zildjian Quick-Beat hi-hats, an 18″ Paiste Fast Crash, an 18″ Paiste 505 crash, and a 21″ Sabian Fierce Ride. For electronics, I’m using a Roland HPD-15 Handsonic with a Roland KD-7 Kick trigger.

Tessa: I noticed that you met in jazz school. Where did you go? Why did you decide to pursue other kinds of music? Are you still playing jazz?
Rosie: Brit and I went to NYU’s jazz school. We’ve both always loved a lot of other kinds of music, but jazz was the only academic way to go. We still play jazz, but not as much as when we were in school.

Tessa: From what I understand, you’re active in the NYC music scene, and some people advise moving to a big city like New York in order to make a career out of music. What are your perspectives on that advice? Do you have any tips for somebody who might be thinking about entering the NYC music scene?
New Myths: We all grew up in and around NYC and come from families that were involved in the industry, so this is all we’ve known.

Tessa: So, Rosie Glassman is your drummer, and Seth Glassman mixed and helped to produce your EP. Any relation?
Rosie: Seth is my dad. He’s a studio bass player, and has worked on tons of albums including with Hall and Oates and Carol King. We have a full-blown studio in the house and I’ve grown up watching my dad make albums. This project was really the first time that I’ve gotten to take over the studio with him.

Tessa: What made you decide to do “name your price” for your EP? How is that working out so far?
New Myths: It’s a good way to reach a large audience and not exclude anyone. It’s working out really well. A lot of people are downloading for free and many are paying more than we would’ve asked for it – it’s all appreciated if it means that people are listening and enjoying it.

The “name your price” system is pretty self-explanatory; you can pay anything you want to for New Myths’ EP, even nothing. Check out their Facebook page! I really enjoy them, and I hope you do too.

Bassist of the Month: Jo Bench

Jo Bench is one of the few and the proud, a woman who has been playing death metal since the genre’s inception. A member of classic band Bolt Thrower since 1987, Bench provides a good portion of the dark, heavy tones that lend the band its brutality.

Says Jo Bench about her work in Bolt Thrower, “My main purpose since day one was not to draw attention to the fact I’m a woman, and that has helped me massively. I feel like just another musician in the band, and have been treated as such, and I think that has gained me more respect in the long run. I’m very grateful for that.” This approach certainly worked. I’ve seen Bolt Thrower fans on metal forums who had no idea that the band’s bassist was a woman. Her determination to avoid attention based on gender has led fans to focus on something more important: her music. And what awesome music it is, too.

Here are some great Bolt Thrower songs:

Underrated Band of the Month: Phantom Blue

(Everybody, thanks for bearing with me while I took last month off. Here’s a little something to tide you over.)

I’m not gonna lie; Phantom Blue is one of the reasons why I did my grad project on women in the music industry. I discovered them and thought, “Dude, this band is really awesome. Why haven’t I heard of them before?” Their music sounded so great that the only reason I could see why they weren’t more popular was because they were all-female. That thought made me want to research sexism in the music industry.

Phantom Blue has a great classic metal sound, drawing more on thrash and grunge influences in their later work. Unfortunately, their original guitarist, Michelle Meldrum, died of  “a cystic growth on her brain that had restricted oxygen and blood flow to her brain, rendering her braindead” in 2008. Their most recent lineup is radically different from the original one, and their website appears defunct. I was unable to contact them and ask whether or not they’re still active. While we wait for more news, please check out some of their awesome music.

Underrated Band of the Month: Babes in Toyland

They’ve been described as both a punk and grunge band. However, the only adjective needed to describe this band is awesome. These ladies really deserve some more recognition.

Jumpy, ferocious bass? Fierce, relentless drums? Heavy, stuttering guitar coupled with edgy, screaming vocals? Yes, please. How come when VH1 documentaries discuss alternative rock bands of the 90s, all they talk about is Nirvana this and Smashing Pumpkins that? Babes in Toyland should at least get an honorary mention. After all, their first album Spanking Machine impressed the members of Sonic Youth so much that they were invited to tour with them. (Check out the documentary 1991: The Year Punk Broke to see the results.)

Their names are Kat Bjelland (guitars, vocals), Lori Barbero (drums), and Maureen Herman (bass on albums Fontanelle and Nemesisters; Michelle Leon played bass on Spanking Machine). Check them out; they might impress you just as much as they’ve impressed me.

Musicians’ Corner: September

Recommendations for Musicians by Musicians

This month, Tessa recommends:

The Complete Keyboard Player, by Kenneth Baker

So, my mom has had an electronic keyboard sitting around the house for the longest time, and I started teaching myself to play it last summer with the aid of this book. It’s helped a lot. The book presumes that the reader knows absolutely nothing about keyboards or music theory, so it’s good for beginners. I have a few keyboard-playing friends who say they learned by watching YouTube videos, but I tend to work better with reading music myself. If you want to learn how to play keyboard or just the basics of reading music, this book can help you a lot.  (As I said last month, check to see if your library has this if you can’t or don’t want to spend $10-30 on Amazon.)

Songsterr.com

This site is pretty awesome. Not only does it contain guitar, bass, and drum tablature, but you can actually listen to the tabs. The tabs come up in a player, so you can give them a listen and tell whether they’re accurate or not. (They do tend to be fairly accurate.) If you haven’t discovered this site already, just check it out and try to play some songs. It’s really useful.

Who’s in the Corner?
This month, just Tessa Smith, the creator of the zine. But you can contribute too! Email queensofnoise@gmail.com if you’d like to be in the Corner next issue! If you recommend resources, I’ll be glad to advertise your website, product, or band next month!