INTERVIEW: The Hum Kicks Off With Jessica Lea Mayfield & Rachel Housle

Brooklyn will be humming every Wednesday this May with the music of female-identifying artists and their fresh collaborations. Rachael Pazdan, the mesmerizing mind behind Hypnocraft, began curating wildly popular Brooklyn-based pop-up events at venues like Greenpoint’s now-shuttered Manhattan Inn. Arguably her most beloved brainchild, The Hum brings together a varied mix of sounds made by women, and May 2 kicks off its latest residency at the House of Yes in Bushwick.

Now in its third year, The Hum is returning with another run of talented performers, some returning to the residency and others who will become members of this musical family for the first time. Since its inception, The Hum has developed a powerful platform for women to share their talents, voices and artistry, while showcasing Brooklyn’s multi-faceted music scene.

Follow AudioFemme weekly throughout May as we meet up with a variety of artists who will be joining the ranks of Hum performers. This week we shared question and answer sessions with both headliner Jessica Lea Mayfield and Brooklyn-based drummer and second-time Hum collaborator Rachel Housle. Both women discuss the distinct difference between working with women vs. men in an industry that is still very divided by gender.

Jessica Lea Mayfield

Audiofemme: What will you bring to this week’s Hum?

Jessica Lea Mayfield: Two of the things I wanted to do may be happening, but I’m still not sure, so I don’t want to talk about it, in case it doesn’t happen. Whether those things happen or not, I will have Emily Maxwell from Daddy Issues on drums, and Audrey Whiteside on bass, and harmony vocals. Those are some of my favorite bands, one of my favorite lineups, and two of my favorite females to play with. So that alone is gonna be really energetic and fun.

AF: Do you work with them regularly?

JLM: Yea, I used them for a tour a couple months back and it was awesome. Audrey lives in New York and she plays with a ton of people, so she’s always touring. I was really fortunate that she was able to do this, because I really didn’t think she would be. She’s almost always booked.

AF: Have you been involved with The Hum before?

JLM: No. I’m excited to have been asked to be a part of it.

AF: Do you usually get to work with other female artists?

JLM: Over the past year I’ve tried to more. I used to end up working with a lot of men, and I kind of realized I wanted to make an effort to hire females that I respect and female friends and even younger females who I can help give experience to. That has honestly improved my life by like 2,000 percent – having female energy in my workspace. It’s insane how drama-free touring becomes when you get the right personalities together, male or female. Definitely when you have the right type of sensitivities and like mindedness, because you know everyone is trapped in a rolling box together, then they’re backstage, then they’re onstage, then they’re at the hotel. You’re always around each other, so you have to absolutely love the people that you are working with.

AF: Have you been a part of any other female dominated showcases like this?

JLM: I’ve done stuff with She Shreds; I love that magazine.

AF: What kind of impact do you think having those kinds of showcases, and ones like The Hum, has on the music industry at large?

JLM: I have mixed feelings. People will say to me “Oh, I saw your female drummer,” and they’ll name like three female drummers, and go “Well there aren’t that many.” And it’s like no, literally half of all drummers are female. But those aren’t the ones that you see everywhere and hear people talk about, so it’s good when things like this put them out there. But at the same time I think all female musicians strive for a time when things are no longer gendered. We have to fight to just say we exist first, before we even get to that point to where the gender lines don’t exist. Men shouldn’t be the normal thing and women are something different. It’s a weird gender segregation in music that is getting better but its still problematic.

AF: Do you feel inspired in a different or unique way when you are working with other women?

JLM: I think for me, I’ve noticed that playing music with other women that I’m close with, I feel I can be a little more comfortable. You kind of let down your guard, because there is that societal gendered thing in music where when you’re playing with men, whether they realize is or not, they treat you a little differently. So when you’re playing with women there’s none of that weirdness – we’re all the same.  

Rachel Housle

AF: How did you get involved with The Hum?

Rachel Housle: I performed at The Hum in 2016 for the first time. Rachael Pazdan approached me and it was kind of like a musical blind date with me and a few other people. I had a really great experience then, and I got asked back by one of the musicians that I originally performed with at the first one that I did. She sort of hopped on board with the two ladies from Fruit & Flowers, so Rachel Angel had asked me to drum with them. Getting together with them had a total communal feeling pretty instantly. I’d worked with Rachel [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][Angel] before and she is currently playing with Fruit & Flowers, so it’s just a total connection.

AF: What is the approach that you took in creating your performance for The Hum?

RH: We each brought in a song that we had written previously. So it was actually cool to hear it played in this group of musicians. It just kind of adds a different life to it. We are also working on writing a song together.

AF: What is that process like for you, to come together with a group of musicians you haven’t worked with a lot and build a brand new piece together?

RH: I feel like at first there’s that moment where you have to break that threshold a bit, kind of break the ice. I feel like personally this time we gelled really well, the conversation was instantly happening, and the music sort of mirrors that level of interaction. So we just kind of dug in and started playing songs that we had sent each other voice memos or recordings of and then after that we got a sense of each others’ playing and musical personalities. There would be these little interludes where we would be playing through these ideas and we didn’t even realize we were doing it.

AF: What do you feel like The Hum adds to the music community of Brooklyn?

RH: I think something like The Hum adds so much. As somebody who plays in different bands, there are a lot of times where I show up to a gig and I am the only person who is not a man, or specifically not a white man, at the entire gig. I feel like there gets to be this very insular environment of dudes calling other dudes to play in bands. And when you can really showcase this entire network of people, not only do you have this one great guitarist who happens to be female on a gig that you know of, but then that person gets connected to all of these other people, and it becomes this network of musicians.

AF: How is the writing process different for you when you get to work with other female musicians?

RH: There is a different flow to it. I think they are more willing to work within the framework that you bring, as opposed to trying to change things right off the bat, or trying to educate you about something, when you’re trying to work through and idea. Which is not to say that all men do this, but I find that men in the room tend to be very used to taking a leading role. So when a woman comes in with her own composition it’s kind of blurry sometimes who is actually leading that moment. I think that it’s more of an equal footing, and a more collaborative process [when working with women].

AF: Is there a different essence that comes out of your music because of that more open collaborative feeling?

RH: I think there is. I think that energy gets transferred into how that song is played, and I think there’s just a whole different set of ideas that you can then follow through. There’s more of an openness to take it somewhere different and special. Now that I know this network of really great, female musicians, I feel more inclined to hire a woman for something that I’m doing. Now that I have all these people that I know, it makes it much more approachable to say, “Oh I really want to bring this person in.”

AF: How has being a part of The Hum influenced your own music?

RH: One of the greatest things is I developed a really cool musical connection with Rachel Angel and we’ve been performing together ever since. So the musical blind date worked out really well. It’s such a great showcase to be able to meet all these women in the same show as you, and make it accessible for future collaborations. It really brings each person to the forefront and highlights their individual contribution, whereas you might feel like you get lost in the background, especially on the drums. I think each individual person is very appreciated and recognized after the show.

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