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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 Babes Interview

The Babes are a group with four members: Izera as the frontman, Donna D on lead guitar, Danger Dave on bass, and Moni Lashes, a Hit Like a Girl contestant, on drums. Being able to do this interview was really exciting for me because not only is this a great band, but The Babes are based in Australia, while I’m a US resident. Having this international musical exchange happen was very awesome. I sent the band some interview questions and got great responses from all four members. Check them out!

Tessa: Okay, let’s get the obvious question out of the way first. Your drummer and lead guitarist are sisters, if I hear correctly. Bands with siblings, like Heart and AC/DC, really fascinate me because I can’t imagine being in a band with my siblings. What’s it like for Moni and Donna to work together in a band? Do you guys ever have any conflicts?
Moni: For me, being in a band with my sis is the best duo I’ve ever musically been involved in. We grew up on the same old school gutsy rock, and it shows when we jam…you can’t beat that sisterhood of rock ya know…As far as conflicts, haha, it’s just the usual stuff sisters do, like who borrowed whose leather stage pants without the other’s permission, never anything too serious. 😀
Donna: It’s weird because even though we are siblings, we are more like best friends. Sure, we have our moments where we want to strangle each other (haha), but in reality I think being sisters is conducive to a more honest creative process, because as a band we aren’t afraid to experiment, put in our opinions and collaborate. It also helps having two of the most awesome down-to-earth dudes in the band too!

Tessa: Why did each of you start singing or playing your respective instruments?
Izera: I grew up listening to the greats of rock’n’roll back in its hey day. I watched rock’n’roll die as Guns’N’Roses’ “Illusions” faded from the charts. I knew that I wanted to pick up where they left off… to be in the next band to let rock’n’roll off the chain again in all its raw, untamed fury.
Moni: I think I was born to drum…my dad was a rocker drummer, so I grew up listening to the greats. Once I got behind a kit and felt that boom of the kick drum I haven’t been able to shake the drumming habit.
Danger: I’ve always jammed with mates in the garage and we were always without a bassist, so I put my hand up. It fell into place for me to play the bass from there, and it’s grown on me since.
Donna: It all started when I turned 11 and Dad asked which instrument I wanted to play! We grew up listening to rock music, and always said it’d be rad to play in a band together when we were older! I’ve always loved watching guitarists in action – and once I saw Lita Ford, that was it!

Tessa: How long have each of you been playing/singing?
Danger: When I bought my first guitar, I was so keen that it wasn’t til later that I realised I forgot to pay my rent. Oops. I have been playing bass for about 10 years.
Donna: I got my first guitar when I was younger, learning more theory-based classical styles, but began jamming and rocking out with Moni for about a year prior to the start of The Babes.
Moni: I started to play the drums when I was about 16 or so, so about 7 years now.
Izera: Began playing music at age 5.

Tessa: What players and vocalists have influenced your individual styles?
Donna: Band-wise, definitely Vixen and Madam X. I have always loved Slash, Ace Frehley and Lita Ford. There’s something very hypnotic about their style and ownership on stage. I’ve always aspired to have that same quality when playing live.
Izera: So many artists have influenced me. However, for The Babes, its all about the music, so I bring nothing with me. I choose to hang up my influences. leaving me free to get on with what the song wants….not what “I” want.
Moni: Well my drumming gods are Tommy Lee (Motley Crue), Jon Bonham (Led Zeppelin), Roxy Petrucci (Madam X), Ian Paice (Deep Purple), and Eric Singer (Alice Cooper).
Danger: I liked the sound of Nirvana initially, and at first that was the main influence driving me musically. I appreciate all different genres, i.e. Elvis, Motown, KISS, etc.

Tessa: How did you all meet and end up starting a band together?
Izera: The long story short, the band needed a singer and I needed a band. What many would describe as fate.
Danger: I was looking to find a musical outlet and just happened to come across a flyer. I thought it was going to be a band of guys, and to my surprise when I called, a girl answered. Before meeting the girls, I didn’t know what to expect. When I rocked up, I thought, hey…there’s something in this. Then when Izera rocked up for the audition, we kinda all knew we were onto a winner.
Moni: Donna and I had been jamming to Sweet, Skid Row and KISS covers for a while, and decided we needed to shake things up in today’s music environment by auditioning for male only bass players and singers. To our surprise we found the perfect fellow gang members Dave and Izera…It’s been a real natural and awesome experience already. I can’t wait to show the world our gang.
Donna: Well, I had to audition for Moni…just kidding! Moni and I always messed around playing our favourite covers, and we eventually wanted to get out there and get a band together. We put out flyers for band members and to our amazement Dave showed up on our doorstep. We admired Izera from afar because of his amazing skills on the keyboard and were stoked to discover he was keen on fronting a band! And then we had our little gang. 🙂

Tessa: Why did you choose your band name?
Izera: I will leave that one for the Founding Femmes of the band to answer. 😉
Moni: After watching 70’s movies like “The Warriors” and “The Wanderers,” Donna and I decided a gang-like name would be rad for our band. The Babes isn’t necessarily implying that the guy or chick members of our band are babes, but more so, that we are a gang of rockers who love sexy music. The Babes refers to the attractive, gutsy, sexy music we like to make.
Donna: We were tossing up between a few names, but The Babes seemed to fit. We were looking for a name that represented the gang aspect of the band. We have always loved cult-classic movies like “The Warriors” and “The Wanderers” and wanted to emulate that kinda vibe with our name.
Danger: It seemed like a good contrast, because when you think of ‘The Babes,’ you wouldn’t think of a rock band.

Tessa: Where was The Babes’ first gig?
Izera: Our main focus up until this point has been the recording of our CD. Now that the CD has been completed, we are in the process of finalizing details for our debut live set. We aren’t giving away dates just yet, but this will be a must see show. We will keep you posted.

Tessa: Another thing I find interesting about this band is your “sexy” image and how it comes out in your songs. “Wolfman” is like a horror movie version of AC/DC’s “TNT,” at least in that your lead singer is claiming to be dangerous and super-good with women. Yet you guys are different from the typical rock band that talks about women sexually while excluding them as musicians and (serious, non-groupie) fans, because you have two women playing instruments. I think “Harley Girl” is interesting too because it’s about an attractive girl who rides a motorcycle. It’s talking about a woman sexually, but unlike similar songs such as Aerosmith’s “Ragdoll,” there’s more to the subject of the song than her looks, even if it’s only that she owns a motorcycle. This is a really long-winded way for me to ask: do you guys feel like you’re challenging traditional notions of what “sexy” is? Have you had to reconcile talking about women like this while having two women in the band?
Donna: I think everyone interprets ‘sexy’ differently. In our eyes, guys and girls are totally equal, so when we come up with songs we aren’t intentionally thinking about challenging people’s perspectives on what is ‘normal’; we are just ourselves and want people to enjoy The Babes experience!
Moni: I think for me when I write songs I’m writing about how I perceive things in the world. So for me, I love riding motorbikes, which most people wouldn’t expect from a girl, but at the same time I think I’m quite girly. So when I wrote “Harley Girl,” it was written in a way that I wish fellas would see a chick riding a mean lookin’ Harley, as an awesome sight…
Izera: Are we challenging the traditional notions?
Yes.
Have ever we needed to compromise?
No.
Its all about the music. Period.

Tessa: While I’m at it, why don’t you tell me something about your song “Working Sucker?” Is it based off of a real experience with a terrible job?
Danger: Moni should definitely answer this one! But I think everyone can relate to the ol’ crappy 9 -5er at some stage or another! Haha.
Izera: Yeah, I’ll leave this to Moni.
Moni: I used to be a cop. I was a cop for about 3 years, from when I was 20-23. It had its cool times, but in the end I became everything I hated, I became the man…I couldn’t play drums coz of shift work, I couldn’t play gigs coz of weekend shifts…it killed me…so in the end I wrote “Working Sucker” and a week later left the force to start The Babes, and here we are being interviewed by your awesome magazine.

Tessa: Yes, I’m bringing up the siblings thing again. Has it ever been awkward for Moni and Donna to be in a band with a “sexy” image together?
Donna: Hahah, nahhh, definitely not awkward. I think as a group we don’t necessarily think we are being ‘sexy’ – we are just rocking out and playing the music we love! Moni is my sister and I think she’s a babe whether she’s doing groceries or smashing it out on her kit!
Moni: Nah, not for me at all, I know Donna’s a total babe-a-rella, but she’s a classy rocker chick, so it’s never at the point where I feel awkward or anything…in the end, the sexy image isn’t something we relate to our physical appearance, it’s more about the gutsy ol’fashioned rock’n’roll that makes us feel sexy playing it.

Tessa: Alright, your description on your Facebook page made me want to ask this: What does being a babe mean to each of you?
Izera: I think Moni says it best…. “Rocking out, sexing it up, being tuff, skateboarding, cruising in muscle cars, being Babes.”
Moni: Well the Facebook description is honestly the truth. We rock out, we sex up the music to the max, the boys are tuff, we legitimately skate, and we own old school cruiser American and Australian muscle cars. Being a Babe is just my life, hehe.
Danger: Simply enjoying the music.
Donna: Being a Babe to me means living and breathing what you love, and not caring about any haters along the way – it’s all about letting loose and enjoying the ride.

Check out The Babes at their Facebook or their ReverbNation, and tell us what you thought about the interview in the comments!

Payton Taylor Interview

Welcome to our second interview! This week I interviewed Payton Taylor, who plays drums, bass, piano and keyboard. She even sings! The part that makes her even more impressive is that she’s 10 years old. Payton’s already playing with multiple bands and tackling Led Zeppelin drum solos:

I was fortunate enough to have Payton answer a few questions for me. Check her out!

Tessa: So Payton, you play a lot of instruments. Which one was your first, and when did you start playing it? Why did you start playing it?
Payton: I started playing piano first when I was six years old. I started with classical lessons in my house. I switched to playing Rock music when I was eight years old. It is much more fun!!!

Tessa: Do you have a favorite instrument to play? If so, which one?
Payton: Drums are my favorite but I really like the bass too!!

Tessa: What made you want to start playing music?
Payton: As far back as I can remember, my parents always had Rock music playing in our house and in the car. They took me to see concerts and live bands play. I also had a lot of musical toys when I was very little. And my dad plays guitar. So music has always been a part of my life. I can’t imagine my life without music.

Tessa: What music do you like playing the most?
Payton: I love to play and listen to rock music! But I am starting to explore more types of music like blues, punk and grunge.

Tessa: How often do you practice?
Payton: I practice everyday! We have a music room in our home where I practice piano, bass, singing and drums. But I also practice drums everywhere!! In the car, at restaurants, at school! I bang with pencils, straws or just with my hands!!

Tessa: Are there any musicians that inspire you? If so, what do you like about them?
Payton: There are so many, but if I have to pick one for each of my instruments I would say:

1. John Bonham on drums
2. Flea on bass
3. Paul McCartney singing
4. Freddy Mercury on piano

Tessa: How many bands have you been in so far? Did you like one more or less than the others?
Payton: I have been very lucky to have played with several different bands of kids. I like each one of them for different reasons. Right now I am in a band with some older and very talented kids that inspire me to work hard so I can be a better musician.

Tessa: Do you want to be a musician when you grow up? If not, is there anything you want to be instead?
Payton: Yes – I want to be a Rock Star!!! I love performing and want to start writing my own music.

Tessa: What’s some of your favorite music to listen to?
Payton: My favorite bands are: AC/DC, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters, Led Zeppelin, Beatles and Queen.

Tessa: What’s a musical goal or dream that you have?
Payton: I saw a Foo Fighters concert on TV where Dave Grohl got to perform Rock n’ Roll on drums with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones – I want to do that at Madison Square Garden!!!

You can get more of Payton at her YouTube channel or her Facebook page. She really deserves your support!

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.

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.

Drummer of the Month: Meg White

Meg White may have faced criticism for her minimalist drumming style, but as Jack White, her ex-husband and frontman of The White Stripes, put it in a Rolling Stone interview:

“It’s kind of funny: When people critique hip-hop, they’re scared to open up, for fear of being called racist. But they’re not scared to open up on female musicians, out of pure sexism. Meg is the best part of this band. It never would have worked with anybody else, because it would have been too complicated. When she started to play drums with me, just on a lark, it felt liberating and refreshing. There was something in it that opened me up. It was my doorway to playing the blues.”

With that being said, Meg White plays some of the most understated drum parts I’ve ever heard. They drive high-energy songs like “Fell in Love With a Girl” and “Icky Thump” without distracting from the heartrending emotion in songs like “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself.” Her skills are quite remarkable when one considers that she picked up the drums in her early twenties; her first gig was with Jack White in 1997, two months after she started playing. Learning an instrument is easiest when you’re young, but Meg was brave enough to begin drumming well into adulthood and play in public after only two months of practice. Let’s see her critics do that.

Recommended listening:

Rock ‘N’ Roll Pioneer: Big Mama Thornton

While she’s probably best known for singing the original version of “Hound Dog,” Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton played harmonica and drums and sang in many rhythm and blues bands throughout her career, starting in the 1940s (Gaar 1). She was completely self taught; in her own words, “My singing comes with experience. I never had no one to teach me nothing. I taught myself to sing and to blow the harmonica and even to play drums, by watching other people” (Gaar 2). Her legacy inspired Janis Joplin, who covered Thornton’s song “Ball and Chain.” She must have inspired other legends too; the part at the 4:10 mark of “Ball and Chain” reminds me of Robert Plant’s singing at the 6:10 mark in Led Zeppelin’s “You Shook Me.”

Big Mama Thornton’s version of “Hound Dog” hit number 1 on the 1953 R&B charts, but Elvis Presley’s cover definitely overtook it in popularity. It’s tragic that Thornton never achieved the fame or money she deserved for her hard work; royalties from “Hound Dog” went to songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, not her (O’Neil 1). “Ball and Chain,” which Thornton composed herself, was copyrighted to her record company, so no royalties from that song went to her either (O’Dair 16). She died in 1984 of heart and liver failure, most likely due to extensive alcohol abuse that reduced her from a hefty 350 pounds to a tiny 95 pounds (Gaar 1). For whatever reason, she has yet to be inducted into the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame, an egregious oversight. The Blues Foundation Hall of Fame recognized her achievements as far back as 1984, though. The Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls, based in New York, is named after her.


After listening to Big Mama’s version of this song, Elvis’ doesn’t sound quite as awesome, does it?


There’s some really beautiful guitar in this one.

Watch Big Mama play harmonica.

Sources used for this article:

Gaar, Gillian. She’s a Rebel: The History of Women in Rock & Roll. 2nd ed.New York: Seal Press, 2002. Print.

O’Dair, Barbara, ed. Trouble Girls: The Rolling Stone Book of Women in Rock. New York: Rolling Stone Press, 1997. Print.

O’Neil, Jim. “Big Mama Thornton.” The Blues Foundation Hall of Fame. Web. 27 September 2011.

^ (Find this source here.)

Quotes of the Month: Musicians (September)

“The biggest challenge [of being a female guitarist] is that people tend to assume a guy is doing all the cool stuff that is exciting and the girl must be doing the background stuff. To change that we need female guitarists taking the spotlight every chance they get, playing their hearts out, having their own style, setting new standards.”
–Anita Robinson of Viva Voce in an interview on ultimate-guitar.com

“When I saw that [Led Zeppelin opening for The Who], believe it or not, an eleven-year-old girl said to herself at that point, ‘This is what I want to do.’ That was it, it changed everything for me, everything. We went to see them at Meriweather Post Pavilion, and among one of the most memorable, biggest thrills of my life is that, eleven or twelve years later, I actually got to play on that stage.”

–Gina Schock of The Go-Go’s

“I don’t think [what I’ve done for women in metal is] only my achievement, though. I think it’s the achievement of a band called Arch Enemy — four guys deciding to get a female singer. I think they did the ground-breaking work; they obviously had to get me in the band. They didn’t see any difference in male or female, they just wanted a good singer. It’s cool to be open-minded nowadays.”

–Angela Gossow of Arch Enemy

“Do it for yourself. Don’t do it because it seems cool. And don’t do it to get confirmation. It’s hard because you either have people who like you because they think you’re hot or you have people who hate you because you’re a girl. But if you’re doing it because you love it and it’s what you love to do, then it’s not hard.”
–Haley Williams of Paramore in The Girl’s Guide to Rocking