Girls Rock Santa Barbara Interviews Elle King

This year, Girls Rock Santa Barbara has developed The Summer of Love Internship, its first ever paid internship for teen girls and gender-expansive youth, which allows the organization to continue to provide a safe, collaborative environment in which to encourage lifelong skills like positive peer bonding and self-confident resilience. The internship, which lasts six weeks and pays each intern $500, offers six exciting and arts-focused disciplines: Record Label, Recording Artist, Social Media, Journalism, Photography, and Podcasting. Audiofemme is pleased to publish the following article, written by Maya Klanfer, Katy Caballero, and Alexandria Stadlinger, three interns from the Journalism program.

Photo Courtesy RCA Records

With a powerful voice and music style that encompasses country, rock, soul and blues, singer/songwriter and television personality Elle King has made a name for herself almost effortlessly. Her 2015 debut album Love Stuff featured hit single “Ex’s and Oh’s” which, with its 300 million Spotify streams, was her outstanding breakthrough into the music industry and even earned her two Grammy nominations. She followed that success with the release of Shake The Spirit (2018) and numerous tours that over the years brought her to share the stage with some of her idols: Train, Ed Sheeran, Dixie Chicks, Miranda Lambert and Heart.

Just last month she released a three-track EP, In Isolation, alongside a raw, at-home video performance of “The Let Go,” filmed in quarantine. This powerful song showcases Elle’s incredible vocals and strong songwriting, supported by just an electric guitar: a stripped-down arrangement that well recalls the isolation in which the song was born.

We recently had the chance to talk with Elle King about her career, early life, sexism in the music industry, and how she has been doing personally and musically during these trying times in quarantine, as well as how she kept grounded despite her meteoric rise to fame.

GRSB: How is your quarantine going? What have you been doing creatively in quarantine? 

EK: Like many others, I’ve had my ups and downs with quarantine but I’ve learned to be very grateful for this quiet time. I’m doing great at home. I was able to have my sister and her kids come visit for a while which was so uplifting. I’m happily in love. I’m cooking, gardening, taking guitar lessons – just trying to be the best version of me that I can be.  

GRSB: How did you find the process of writing In Isolation

EK: I was going insane sitting in my house in LA. I had never been home that long consecutively in forever, if ever. I was scared, if I’m being honest. So I just got to writing – it’s all I knew to do. Pen to paper. I’m a total insomniac too, so once I started writing it was go time. When I first had the idea for “The Let Go” it was fast and raw and I just totally knocked that shit out. In a way it’s almost an homage to when I was first starting – shitty recordings and vulnerable. Well, I’ve always been pretty vulnerable, but this was a different form of that. I struggled with the idea of putting [these songs] out, because I’m used to that studio sound and it’s nice and squeaky clean and polished. This was a nice personal challenge and all about release, a literal “let go.” It was a total DIY process, even the cover. It pushed me to get over wanting perfection and I’m happy with that. And I was stoked to put it out so that I could get that connection with my fans that I’ve been missing in quarantine. 

GRSB: Who were your biggest musical influences and mentors as a child? Who did you grow up listening to?

EK: Oh gosh, that’s a hard one. I was so lucky to be surrounded by amazing music growing up. I was listening to everyone from Aretha Franklin to Johnny Cash to the Beatles to AC/DC. I loved it all – and I definitely have to give credit to the legends for helping me realize my own love of musicianship.

GRSB: Growing up, did you want to be a musician? What else did you consider?

EK:I think I was like 9 years old when my stepdad gave me a record by The Donnas and I just knew – I want to be a musician. After that I just threw myself into studying guitar and singing. Then it evolved into sneaking into NYC clubs to get to sing in front of people and so on. I think I’m really lucky to have learned it so early on and have that clear idea of what I wanted to do from the beginning.

GRSB: How did you start playing the banjo?

EK: I didn’t pick up banjo until later on actually! I know when I was younger I was just so focused on guitar and singing. I was in college in Philly and I remember seeing this band play, and there was this banjo player just going along with it all and I remember falling in love with the sound and that was the inspiration to learn. It didn’t hurt that the guy playing it was super cute too! I think it reminded me a lot of some of the records I was listening to growing up and there was almost this feeling of nostalgia tied to it. And now my banjo is my baby – I look forward to the songs in a live set when I can pull her out!

GRSB: How do you use music in your life? What role does it play?

EK: It’s just such a grounding aspect in my life. I mean, it is my life – at least when we’re not in quarantine! It’s all I know most days because when I’m out on tour I’m fully immersed in it for months on end. And I’m not just talking about my music – I mean I’m always listening to anything, whether it’s for calm when I get a moment alone in the green room, or for a pump up when me and the guys are getting ready to go out on stage. It’s just always present. Music can bring so many emotions, whether it is that feeling of nostalgia or whatever it may be. I think that’s something most people can agree on – that music is healing and grounding. And just as I love and need to listen to music to get out of my own head sometimes, I try to give my fans that same reprieve when they’re listening to mine as well. I’ve had some pretty dark days in the past and I’d just be holed up in my house in LA and I’m just throwing myself into music – sometimes it’s the only thing that got me through, man, I swear.

GRSB: What was your favorite show you performed?

EK: I don’t know if I could choose! Going on tour with Joan Jett and Heart was pretty fucking cool though! Talk about living legends.

GRSB: Where have you faced the most gender inequality in the music industry?

EK: This is definitely something that’s still happening in the industry – I’d be lying if I said I haven’t faced some shit just because I have tits. I’m lucky that I’m always surrounded by a strong support system but at the end of the day the industry is still seemingly fueled by this dynamic. I mean, we’re still fighting for equal radio play and stuff so we have a long way to go. All we can do is our best and pummel through the boundaries that are placed before us. It’s not fair, but when is it ever? We have things that need to be said, songs to sing, people to perform for – we just keep pushing onward and upward.

GRSB: Do you believe that if you were a man it would have been easier to make it?

EK: I actually ended up writing a song about this! It can just get so frustrating sometimes and I was over it. It’s definitely good to be a man these days, is what I’ll say to that.

GRSB: How did you handle the sudden rise in popularity when you released “Ex’s and Oh’s”? Did you manage fame differently?

EK: That was definitely a crazy time – I mean, who fucking knew! I like to think I stay pretty grounded in times like that. I’ve had my crazy days but it always boils down to the fact that I am so grateful and so lucky that this is what I get to wake up and do as my “job.” Having that song take off was huge for me but I’m really just so stoked about the places it took me and all the people I’ve been able to meet as a result. And it pushes me to do even better each time!

GRSB: Were there certain songs that you anticipated to be bigger than others? 

EK: It’s always a toss up. Some songs you just pour your whole soul into and it doesn’t get the love you selfishly envisioned for it and then others just take off. Every song I write or collab on, I just put my whole self into and that’s all you can really do, I think.

GRSB: What has been the biggest change or changes you have made throughout your career? 

EK: Well off the top of my head, I’m sober now! So that’s been crazy different. I used to be a little bit of a party girl, you could say, and this has just been this amazing second chance, seeing life through a new lens. I mean, I’m even juicing now – if you had told younger me that this is what I’d be doing at 31 I would have punched you. But I’m seriously just trying to be the best version of myself and you always have the choice of doing that. I had to change something because what I was doing wasn’t fucking working.

GRSB: Are there any big goals or ambitions you have for your career going into the future?

EK: Well, I’m dying to get back out on the road and tour! But long term goals? If there’s anything I’ve learned in quarantine it’s to take life day by day. So that’s what I’m doing. I’m just going to keep working on me and my music and see what happens!

Follow Elle King on Facebook and Instagram for ongoing updates.

ALBUM REVIEW: L.A. WITCH Play With Fire on Sophomore LP

This year, Girls Rock Santa Barbara has developed The Summer of Love Internship, its first ever paid internship for teen girls and gender-expansive youth, which allows the organization to continue to provide a safe, collaborative environment in which to encourage lifelong skills like positive peer bonding and self-confident resilience. The internship, which lasts six weeks and pays each intern $500, offers six exciting and arts-focused disciplines: Record Label, Recording Artist, Social Media, Journalism, Photography, and Podcasting. Audiofemme is pleased to publish the following review, written by Emelie Sanchez, an intern from the Journalism program.

Photo Credit: Marco Hernandez

L.A. Witch is a rock band from Los Angeles founded by Sade Sanchez and Irita Pai in 2009. With the release of their sophomore record, Play With Fire, the three-piece, composed of Sanchez on vocals and guitar, Pai on bass, and Ellie English on drums, create a sultry and vintage-sounding album with a strong “fuck you” attitude.

Out today via Suicide Squeeze, Play With Fire is red-hot and saturated with reverb, creating an almost drugged out vibe. Even with the heavy reverb, none of the instruments get lost within each other. It is the perfect sophomore record for a band like L.A. Witch, and it shows their growth from the release of their 2017 self-titled debut and their 2018 EP, Octubre.

Bold, fast album opener “Fire Starter,” blazes forward into “Motorcycle Boy”—a feisty love song inspired by classic cinema outlaws like Mickey Rourke, Marlon Brando, and Steve McQueen. But the album doesn’t dwell in the past, with Sanchez issuing a solemn warning to today’s youth on “Gen-Z”: “Generation Z, this world will make you bleed.” The album blends different genres effortlessly; it’s like time traveling through the different eras of music. They go from country influences (“Dark Horse”, “Maybe the Weather”) to the psychedelic ‘60s (“Gen-Z”), into the early punk scene of the ‘70s (“True Believer”), ending with the damaged art-rock of early ‘80s New York City (“Starred”). 

Play With Fire is a suggestion to make things happen,” said Sanchez in a press release. “Say and do what you feel, even if nobody agrees with your ideas.” The record’s seductive, ephemeral style evokes the films of David Lynch: that feeling of being trapped somewhere familiar but everything is slightly off; randomly stopping into a dingy nightclub in the middle of nowhere. You’re completely bewitched by a woman there, and you know full well you’d do whatever she asked of you, but by the end of the night, she’s missing. Play With Fire will leave you under its spell long after the smoke clears.

Follow L.A. Witch on Facebook and Instagram for ongoing updates.

Girls Rock Santa Barbara Interviews Divinity Roxx

This year, Girls Rock Santa Barbara has developed The Summer of Love Internship, its first ever paid internship for teen girls and gender-expansive youth, which allows the organization to continue to provide a safe, collaborative environment in which to encourage lifelong skills like positive peer bonding and self-confident resilience. The internship, which lasts six weeks and pays each intern $500, offers six exciting and arts-focused disciplines: Record Label, Recording Artist, Social Media, Journalism, Photography, and Podcasting. Audiofemme is pleased to publish the following article, written by Alex Stadlinger and Katy Caballero, two interns from the Journalism program.

Photo Credit: Ian Frank Photography

Artist, composer and bassist Divinity Roxx started out her career in 2000 when she attended Victor Wooten’s bass nature camp, where she met both the bass legend and his brothers, and by the end she was asked to tour with them. Appearing on two of Wooten’s albums, (Live in America and Soul Circus), she toured with the band from 2000-2005. But Divinity Roxx is probably best known as the touring bassist for Beyoncé from 2006-2011; having been featured on several of Beyoncé’s albums,she also became the Musical Director on the mega-star’s third and fourth tours.

But Divinity Roxx isn’t just someone else’s bassist. She self-released her first album, Ain’t No Other Way, in 2003 while she was touring with Wooten. Though working with Beyoncé kept her busy, she returned with a solo record in 2012, The Roxx Boxx Experience, fully cementing her sound as an artist who marries blues, rock, and soul in her own right. Her most recent album, Impossible, was released in 2016, and adds more funk to the mix.

Along with her solo career, she is a member of the OGs, an all-female band consisting of original members from Beyoncé’s 2006 touring band. This year, they released a song called “Higher,” recorded in partnership with Women’s Audio Mission in San Francisco and Plug-In Alliance. The song opens a conversation about our world today and how we need to stand up for ourselves and each other. Throughout her career, Divinity Roxx has been a shining light of women’s empowerment, self confidence, and mentorship to girls and women of all ages.

GRSB: The OG’s have been around for a while now, but you haven’t really released any music together up until recently with your new song “Higher.” What brought you together to make this song?

DR: Our percussionist Marci is a band director at a school in Salinas, California, and we were hanging out, having lunch, and we talked about recording – as we always do, except we never really do it, we just talk about it. I had an opportunity to record in a studio in California, and I invited them all out. Nobody had to pay for any recording time – I had hooked up with a woman, Terri, who runs Women’s Audio Mission in San Francisco, so we were able to use her recording studio. I had written this song, “Higher.” I sent the music to everybody and everybody liked it and so we recorded that song, but there are a number of songs that we all have written and we should record but who knows. We’ll take it song by song.

GRSB: “Higher” has a lot of powerful lyrics. What was the inspiration behind writing it?

DR: You know, it’s funny, because I had written that song maybe a year ago, at the end of 2018, maybe early 2019. I always want to write lyrics that are empowering, that are inspirational. I don’t want to just make music for the sake of saying something that sounds cool, that doesn’t have some sort of impact. The groove was so strong and there were so many things going on at the time and it’s so funny that it came out when it did because it was still so relevant. You could tell by the lyrics that I wrote it at a certain time because I referenced a couple of people who had been murdered by the police – I talked about Atatiana Jefferson and that was in 2019, and so we were in 2020 and George Floyd had just happened and the song was already recorded. It was so relevant because these things continue to happen and I wanted to say something powerful. I wanted to – I needed to – say something about it, because I hadn’t and the only way I feel like I can make my voice heard is through music and the lyrics. I want them to smack you in the face and wake you up as to what was happening in the world.

GRSB: Yeah, that’s really important and really inspirational. Will the OG’s be releasing more music together soon?

DR: I hope so, I hope so. It’s really difficult because we all live in different cities, we all have our own careers as individual artists, some of us are moms, some of us are professors at university. Tia Fuller is a professor at Berklee. Nikki Glaspie has her own band called The Nth Power. Marci is a full-time teacher, Katty is a full-time teacher and artist. I’m a full-time artist, so it’s just really difficult to get us together, get us all on the same page, get us into a studio, in a room and make a recording. I felt like I was lucky to get everybody in a room together to get [“Higher”] done, so I really do hope we are able to make some more music together because we are so powerful when we are together.

GRSB: Speaking on your solo career, do you have any new projects coming up that you can talk about?

DR: I’m working on an album and a stage performance  piece called The Ballad of Debbie Walker. It’s sort of the origin story of Divinity Roxx. Debbie Walker is actually my birth name – I changed it to Divinity Roxx and it’s sort of like my superhero name, so I feel like I haven’t really given the world the backstory of Debbie Walker. I went in the studio in California, Zoo Labs, and got with my band and we started writing. I’m really excited about the record because it too is extremely inspirational and kind of talks about how I became who I am as an artist. One of my favorite songs is called “Happy Looks Good on Her,” so I’m really excited about it. I need to work on it more; I hope I’m able to release it next year, 2021.

GRSB: That’s really exciting! Going back a little, you recently re-released “We Are” from your album Impossible. What made you want to record and release that again during quarantine?

DR: Well I did it in partnership with a company called Austrian Audio. They are a microphone company and they are one of my endorsers and it was really their idea – they loved the song and what they wanted to do was remix it with some of their artists and use it as a promo video, not only their microphones but for the message that it was sending to the world at this time. They wanted to bring some positivity to their audience and they thought “We Are” would be a really cool way to do it. So we did a cool licensing deal and I’m really excited about it. I think it came out beautifully. The Impossible album has more jazz and funk and soul I think than The Roxx Boxx Experience record and I feel like it spoke more to the music I grew up listening to than the music I sort of got into once I started playing bass. When I started playing bass I got into rock music because it was just fun and you could just wild out on stage, but the funk and the jazz and the soul was kind of what I grew up on.

GRSB: And the song itself is inspired by a poem by June Jordan, right?

DR: Yes! You’ve been doing your research, I love it! June Jordan was my poetry professor at UC Berkeley; I went to UC Berkeley to be a journalist, and then I became a bass player! But June wrote a poem about South African women, and [“we are”] was the last line in the poem, she read it at the UN. It was a poem to protest Apartheid. I come out of that school of protest and you know, June really taught us. Early on she used to say “If you had two minutes to say anything to the world, what would you say?” And that sort of has been what my whole artistry is about. Every time I have an opportunity, it’s like, those are my two minutes.

GRSB: How do you feel like you use your platform to comment on social and political issues that are happening in the world today?

DR: I feel like music is an incredible vehicle to bring about social change because of its reach. There’s music everywhere. Everywhere we turn, everywhere we go, music is playing. It’s such an intimate and huge part of so many people’s lives. I really do feel like what Nina Simone said is relevant: “As an artist you are supposed to reflect the times. It’s your responsibility to reflect the times.” And for some artists that means something different. For me, as a poet and as somebody who came out of the June Jordan school of poetry where we have an obligation to criticize and to critically think about what it is in the world that’s happening, how it affects our lives, especially as a Black woman in this country, I have always been extremely involved in politics and in social matters and so that finds itself in my music because my music is a reflection of who I am. There are some people for whom that doesn’t happen, and that’s fine, but I feel like I have a duty for the young women who come after me and for the women who came before me to honor them and to continue to fight for the people who don’t have anybody fighting for them, for the powerless. So I really feel like that’s part of the reason why social commentary and political views and different things like that find themselves in my music. It’s just part of how I speak when I’m hanging out with my friends really.

GRSB: What inspired the change in genre between The Roxx Boxx Experience and Impossible?

DR: When I first started performing, I was so aggressive, and I was a lot younger too. I was really mashing up rock and hip-hop. In 2012 I wasn’t planning on releasing The Roxx Boxx Experience – those were old songs. I had moved out to California, hooked up with this guitar player, and he sort of convinced me that those songs needed to be heard. He was like, “You should put this record out.” I was kind of like, “Eh, I don’t know. Maybe put some other type of music out.” And he was like, “Nah man this is killing. We really should. It’s rocked out, it’s hard, it’s aggressive.” I was performing it out there, people were loving it. It’s such an L.A. type of record, you know what I mean?

So we put that record out, and I think those songs that were released on the 2016 album are songs that I had been writing since probably 2010 or something, but they all existed on my hard drive and I was on tour with my band in Europe and I was just letting them hear all these songs, and again they were like, “Why aren’t you putting this music out?” I was like, “Oh you know, it’s not ready…” And they were like, “No, we need to go in the studio and make this album.” So they sort of convinced me to go to the studio and make the Impossible album. The thing about Impossible is that I wanted to explore Divinity Roxx a little more. I wanted it to be more intimate. I wanted to tell some truths that I was avoiding telling on The Roxx Boxx Experience. It’s like The Roxx Boxx Experience was this facade of Divinity; Impossible was this little bit of opening into who I really am inside and what my inner, deeper thoughts are and how I feel. Honestly I said it was going to be my last album because I was frustrated with the music industry and frustrated with art, which happens. But that’s not true, it’s not going to be the last one.

GRSB: Can you talk about your role working with Beyoncé, being her bassist and music director? What does a musical director do?

DR: That was my first time being a musical director, but I was more of an assistant musical director. They gave me the title of musical director but Kim Burse was our boss. She was teaching us and sort of training us on what it meant to be a musical director. Since then I’ve been the musical director for a group called 21 and currently I’m the musical director for Fantasia, but the Beyoncé gig is where I learned what it meant to be a musical director and the job is really tough. You kind of have to get into an artist’s head almost. You help the artist come up with a setlist, you lead the band in creating arrangements. Some musical directors deal with the business of payroll. We hire musicians and identify which musicians would be good to form a band. We are always in communications with the tour manager about different logistical things that the band needs [in terms of] equipment. We are always in contact with the band members to make sure they are given what they need. We kind of help manage the band, make sure everyone is where they are supposed to be. Sometimes we set rehearsal times. We are responsible for making sure that the artist’s songs are cleared for performance a lot of the time. It depends on what organization you’re in, how deep the job can be or how surface it can be. Mostly we’re responsible for what you hear on stage.

GRSB: You’ve definitely played with some really cool people and on some huge stages – how do you feel like that’s shaped your career and your personal music?

DR: Wow! I’ve played on some really tiny stages too! This morning I woke up and somebody, one of my followers, had posted a picture and said, “Four years ago today Divinity Roxx played to a crowd at this place called This Ain’t Hollywood.” Like, there was nobody there, right? But we always play like there’s 20,000 people there, even when there’s nobody there. I think just playing has shaped my career and shaped my performance and how I perform. I have so much experience on stage because I’ve definitely put in my 10,000 hours on stages, whether the gig was filled to the brim with people, or there were three people there; whether it was outside at a music festival doing my solo thing, or on the stage at Glastonbury with Beyoncé when I was extremely nervous and afraid. I get a lot of compliments on my performance because I give it 100%. It’s one of the few times when I’m extremely focused – my brain is always like, “Do this, do this, oh, I should do this, oh you know what, I’ve got to do this.” My brain is usually all over the place, but when I’m on stage I am completely on stage. I am not thinking about anything else, I’m not wanting to be anywhere else, I’m not worried about my problems, I’m not even celebrating my victories. I am just in the moment performing whatever song it is and praying that people are experiencing something. I always pray before the show and ask God that He – or She – shows up and touches somebody’s heart. That is all I want to do when I get on stage. I want to touch somebody’s heart and when I leave and they leave, I want them to feel whole, you know?

GRSB: Are there any other influences that kind of shaped the artist that you are today?

DR: Oh man there are so many people, and they’re not all musicians! Some of my favorite writers are Toni Morrison and Chinua Achebe and Alice Walker. When I was a kid, Alice Walker was one of my biggest influences as a writer. I wanted to be a writer and a journalist so I think that those people really inspire me. Of course, there are musicians – Victor Wooten being one of the most incredible human beings on Earth and me having the opportunities to spend so much time with him and learn from him, he’s a huge influence. My mom is probably one of my hugest influences. Her support is immeasurable, has always been immeasurable. I’m one of those kids whose mom was always at the game embarrassing me, screaming for me and I would just be like, “Shut up. Stop screaming for me.” But you know, that’s what moms do. I was fortunate to have that mom who was always like, “You can be whatever you want to be and you can do whatever you want to do.” So I kind of feel like I’m a reflection of her in that way too with the inspiration. My mom’s ridiculous, she inspires so many people. So many people love her so much it’s crazy, but it’s because of the human being that she is, so I just want to be a good human on this Earth. We need more good humans.

GRSB: Being a woman in the music industry, have you dealt with any inequality or maybe experienced struggles with trying to make it?

DR: I mean, I think that being a woman in this world and doing anything is going to be tough. As a female journalist it’s going to be tough you know? There’s always going to be people that are going to doubt your abilities as a woman and whether or not you got where you are because you’re a woman or because you did something that men can’t do in order to get there. I grew up in a house where my dad never made me feel like as a girl I couldn’t do anything. He always taught me how to do things that he thought I needed to do, like if I needed to fix a car, he’d say, “Okay, here’s how you change a tire. Here’s how you do those things that women don’t traditionally do because I want you to be able to take care of yourself fully.” He taught me how to be myself and never doubt myself because I was a girl. I just never had that thing in me. I don’t even know what that’s like. But I have had people react to me negatively because I was a woman and for me I was just like, “Dude. I could probably beat you at that.” There’s always going to be people who are prodding you and who are competing with you and throwing out negativity about you and talking trash about you like, “Oh you’re never going to be this. You’re never going to do that.” Women are going to do that to you, men are going to do that to you. There’s always going to be obstacles, but don’t let nobody take your shine away, don’t let nobody take your love, your passion. Whatever it is that you want to do, you can do it. This excuse that we can’t do things because we’re women… we’re 51% of the population on the Earth! Are you kidding me? We can do whatever we want to do. We birth babies. We can do that! And we can still work and we can still have jobs and careers and create and flourish, so I just kind of brush it off a lot of times. I think when I was younger it really used to bother me and I felt like I needed to prove something. I wanted to fight against it. I wanted to get angry about it, but I think as I get older I’m just settled with myself. I know who I am and I know what I’m capable of and I know that whatever I’m not capable of, I’m capable of learning. Victor always says, [when] we look at all these incredible bass players and we say, “Oh, they’re so amazing,” [something] his mom used to say: “That person has ten fingers just like you, they have a brain, they have two arms and two legs and they walk this Earth and they can reason and think and they practice, so there’s nothing different about you. You just have to work at it.” So that’s just kind of what I do – I just keep working at it. There’s always going to be somebody better, but there’s nobody who’s going to do it like I do it.

GRSB: How do you want the world to remember you?

DR: Wow! That’s always a tough question. I want people to remember me as being honest and real and inspiring and as somebody who continued to want to evolve. I want to continue to evolve. I want to continue to grow. I want to continue to put goodness out into this world and that’s how I want people to remember me. I want them to remember my songs and my lyrics and think about how they make you feel on the inside. It’s just like doing a show – this life is a show. I think the Red Hot Chili Peppers said that in one of their songs. This life is not a rehearsal, it’s the real thing, so this is my show, this is my stage, this life, this is my outfit, this is my wardrobe, my bass is my weapon of choice and I try to live this life as honest and as real [as I can]. I hope that anybody that comes in contact with me in any way, shape, or form will leave feeling a little bit better than when they first came to me.

Follow Divinity Roxx on Instagram for ongoing updates.

Girls Rock Santa Barbara Interviews Shirley Manson of Garbage

This year, Girls Rock Santa Barbara has developed The Summer of Love Internship, its first ever paid internship for teen girls and gender-expansive youth, which allows the organization to continue to provide a safe, collaborative environment in which to encourage lifelong skills like positive peer bonding and self-confident resilience. The internship, which lasts six weeks and pays each intern $500, offers six exciting and arts-focused disciplines: Record Label, Recording Artist, Social Media, Journalism, Photography, and Podcasting. Audiofemme is pleased to publish the following article, written by Julia Duva and Emma Hogarth, two interns from the Journalism program.

Photo Credit: Joseph Cultice

The second she joined our Zoom meeting, Shirley Manson (the bold and charismatic lead singer of Garbage) was all smiles and laughs. After having done a few interviews with a plethora of different artists for the Girls Rock Santa Barbara Internship, we approached this last one with confidence and ease, but Manson’s energy far surpassed what we had experienced up until that point. She ignored subtle attempts to start the interview off slowly and instead pushed us to genuinely answer her questions, likely a habit she’s picked up as the host of The Jump podcast, in which she interviews musicians about their career-defining songs. Its second season premieres this week, and features interviews with George Clinton, Liz Phair, Angel Olsen, Matt Berninger, and more.

Having been a musician for almost forty years, Shirley Manson has been asked practically everything about her career. However, in the nineties, when Garbage was at its peak popularity, Manson didn’t get to spend much time talking about one of the only passions of hers that might have surpassed music: feminism. So after the introductions and jokes about our current situation, we spent our time discussing sexism in the music industry, feminism in the nineties, her relationship with her bandmates, and changes brought on by the 21st century.

GRSB: When did you first consider yourself a feminist? Was it in the beginning of your career or was it further down the line?

SM: I discovered I was a feminist when I was really young, and I watched my father give my mother housekeeping money, and I was offended by that. My mom was the queen of our household – she basically did every single thing except go out and do a traditional job like my dad did, and that seemed like an imbalance to me and it pissed me off. I think there I realized, “Wow, the playing field is not what I hoped and thought it was.” A feminist was born that day. I think my indignance has developed over the course of a very long career at this point. I am old and I am still outraged!

GRSB: Other outspoken artists of the alternative era, like Alanis Morissette and Liz Phair, have been very open about the struggles of being female in the music industry in the 90s. What was your experience?

SM: I have managed to circumvent a lot of what I consider to be a system that is not necessarily rigged in women’s favor. I’ve had a long career because I am tough, and I have never felt that I am lesser than a dude, so when I am faced with sexism or misogyny, I am well-equipped to deal with it. I have had people ask if I was a prostitute. I was told that I work with three geniuses and I was the face of the “Garbage clock.” The list is endless. That is beginning to change, and I thank your generation for the changes that we are about to see. My generation was pretty quiet. You lot are like ‘Fuck you, you don’t get to touch me.’ In context with what we are seeing in this Civil Rights movement, I was dismayed to see that white feminism had left behind our Black, Brown and Indigenous sisters. The white feminist movement has its hands pretty dirty, and I want to see that change. That’s something I feel really passionate about. I see these changes occur in your generation, so that gives me great hope and makes me feel excited.

GRSB: Would you say that the music industry is becoming less aggressive, and an easier place for women to find a career?

SM: No. It’s a really tough industry, and particularly hard on women. We’ve got centuries of mindset to unpack, so we are all – men, women, and anyone in between the two binary pools – part of a system that does not benefit women, Indigenous peoples, Black peoples, gay peoples, trans peoples. It is changing, but we have got a long, long, long, road ahead of us all, unfortunately.

GRSB: It’s sad to think about all my favorite women artists, and how they maybe going through hardships in the industry due to their gender. One of my favorite artists nowadays is Lauren Mayberry from Chvrches. Is it inspiring to see someone like her carry feminism into the next generation?

SM: Don’t feel sad, get outraged. It’s something that can be tackled. The system wants you to be sad and sit back. Instead, we have to all push. Sadness is a very unhelpful emotion. I never want any young women, or any young people to feel dismay. There is so much out there for you all – this is an opportunity. So to see someone like Lauren Mayberry – who grew up in my country [Scotland], and has been so generous to me in the press – is so touching and I’m so proud of her. I love to see how she touches younger generations. It’s wonderful seeing Lauren setting peoples’ imaginations alight.

GRSB: Along with being an outspoken feminist, and a leader of the feminist movement, you are also often seen as an LGBTQIA+ icon by the queer community. What does it mean to you to garner such support from them?

SM: Our relationship with the LGBTQIA+ community has been enormously valuable to us. This binary system that we have been conditioned into believing is the only way forward for human beings has been incredibly restrictive, and as someone who doesn’t like being restricted – I don’t like rules, I don’t like being told what to do – I always saw that community as really brave, breaking all the boundaries and not allowing themselves to be caught in cages. I just fell in love with that freedom, that ideology of “I will be who I want to be and nobody is gonna tell me who I’m gonna love and how I think.” So I think I have just always felt at home in that community, and still do.

GRSB: Even though your band was sort of outspoken about these issues and in support of you, what was it like being a woman in an all male band? It seems like it could be a little alienating…

SM: (Laughs) As I flop to the floor and burst into tears, once again, I’ve never been asked that question. It has been fraught with some difficulties. I’ve continued to experience some of these difficulties just by the fact I work almost exclusively with men, and I am usually the only [woman] in the room. That can be very tough, very frustrating and it’s just something I’ve learned to live with. I certainly hold my own defenses, but it’s exhausting sometimes. But again, I knew what I was stepping into – the music industry is not for the faint of heart.

GRSB: You are currently in the studio putting the finishing touches on a new Garbage record. Before we go, can you tell us anything about the new record that we are dying to hear?

SM: It’s really good (laughs). Very aggressive, but it’s also much poppier than our last record [Strange Little Birds]. Our last record was kind of esoteric in a weird way and very ambiguous in many ways. This is not ambiguous at all. This is absolutely straight down the line, in your face, and I’m proud of it. I’m one of very few women in their 50s who manages to put out records with a band – I mean, you could count us on our digits at this point – so I want to impress that on every woman I ever speak to, every young woman I speak to: don’t get caught up in the bullshit about how you look. It’s what you do and how you conduct yourself in your life that’s important. Do some good work and when you’re in your 50s, still get to go on stage and have a fantastic life.

And just like that Shirley Manson, the spitfire feminist, vocalist, writer, and activist wishes us goodbye and leaves the call, ending the interview with one last bit of sharp-witted advice: “Stay safe and wear your fucking masks.”

Follow Garbage on Facebook for ongoing updates.

Girls Rock Santa Barbara Interviews Emily Haines of Metric

This year, Girls Rock Santa Barbara has developed The Summer of Love Internship, its first ever paid internship for teen girls and gender-expansive youth, which allows the organization to continue to provide a safe, collaborative environment in which to encourage lifelong skills like positive peer bonding and self-confident resilience. The internship, which lasts six weeks and pays each intern $500, offers six exciting and arts-focused disciplines: Record Label, Recording Artist, Social Media, Journalism, Photography, and Podcasting. Audiofemme is pleased to publish the following article, written by Alexandria Stadlinger and Emelie Sanchez, two interns from the Journalism program.

Over the course of 20+ years, through seven studio albums and countless tours, Metric has effortlessly consolidated a faithful following and, thanks to their easy-to-love, synth-based indie rock, has established itself as one of the most appreciated Canadian bands of the century. In 1998, lead singer Emily Haines and guitarist James Shaw established Metric as a duo, adding bassist Joshua Winstead and drummer Joules Scott-Key two years later to make playing live shows easier. Today, they released a new acoustic version of “Empty” from 2005 album Live it Out, after previously doing the same for “Dark Saturday,” which originally appeared on their most recent album, 2018’s Art of Doubt.

Haines isn’t only Metric’s charismatic front-woman – she released two albums of solo work under the name Emily Haines & the Soft Skeleton, including 2017’s Choir of the Mind. She’s also known for her collaborations with numerous Canadian and international acts, particularly Broken Social Scene. With them, she’s collaborated on six albums since 2002, notably taking the lead on one of BSS’s most cherished songs, “Anthems For A Seventeen Year‐Old Girl,” with lyrics about getting older and entering a world where almost all sense of individualism and rebellion is lost. The tonal difference between Metric and Broken Social Scene shows the talent and musical range that she has.

About 18 years after the release of “Anthems For A Seventeen Year‐Old Girl,” we got the chance to interview Emily Haines and talked with her about COVID-19, her solo work, and some her thoughts on the music industry.

GRSB: How are things going with Metric during these strange times? Has quarantine put a strain on your band and the dynamic of it?

EH: We are doing our best to adapt, but yes, what a strange time! Josh is in New York and Joules is in San Francisco. They cannot enter Canada as the border with the US is still closed to all but essential travel. Obviously all the shows we had planned for this year have been canceled or postponed, so we’re focusing on writing and taking care of family.

GRSB: Are you aware of the huge following you have on TikTok with your song “Black Sheep”?

EH: Ha yes, I love that. Did you know this year is the 10th anniversary of Scott Pilgrim vs The World? I love that Brie Larson sang our song in that movie! “Black Sheep” is so fun to play live, that’s going to be a big moment when concerts are back and we kick in that one with a crowd in attendance.

GRSB: Other artists are using new tools to perform live during this time. Has the band considered doing live streams or something like that? Do you think that it will be challenging to go back to performing in front of an audience or with your band after quarantine?

EH: We did a couple of Instagram Live sessions near the beginning of lockdown. It was really comforting to be able to connect with our fans in some way, we took requests and did dedications. We also performed our song “Cascades” acoustic for a benefit concert in support of Doctors Without Borders, and played “Dark Saturday” for a virtual prom. It felt good to participate and do what we can but for me nothing will ever compare to the feeling of playing live for real.

GRSB: Who did you listen to when you were younger? Who do you listen to now? Has this influenced the music you make?

EH: I’ve always tried to keep an open mind about music. For me, it’s usually more about the feeling I get from the person behind the song than whatever so-called genre it is. My dad was a writer; people referred to him as a “jazz poet.” Throughout his life he worked as a lyricist with many incredible and strange musicians, so I was exposed early to some really interesting sounds and an appreciation for people who aren’t afraid to be true to themselves, even if it interferes with their mainstream accessibility. Right now I’ve got Tokimonsta, Michael Kiwanuka and Khruangbin on repeat. Tomorrow it might be Bill Callahan, Weyes Blood and Mo Kenney. Always listening!

GRSB: What do you guys do for fun while on tour?

EH: Well, over the years our idea of fun has changed. When we were starting out, we would play shows of like, 20 people, and after the show we would just hang out with everyone who was there and stay up late. Then as we became more established and our touring and press obligations increased our behavior changed accordingly. The first priority is always being your best for the show, which for a singer means not going out to loud bars and talking to people, but drinking tea and getting as much sleep as you can. I know it doesn’t sound very glamorous, but believe me, going back to a nice hotel and having a bubble bath after a show is one of the great pleasures of the road for me. The most fun thing in the world is playing music with my friends, so I construct my life around feeling fantastic doing it.

GRSB: How did you come up with the name Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton?

EH: My father had just passed away around that time and I developed a minor obsession with medicine, biology and anatomy. I stumbled upon some description of the various types of skeletal systems that exist and was taken with the idea of soft-bodied animals having these fluid skeletons. I think in my emotional state I liked the idea of that kind of adaptability, and the idea that the musicians in my backing band, my backbone, would not be rigid but soft. Something like that. Grief is weird – a lot of the writing I did and a lot of the decisions I made at that time came out of seemingly nowhere. I love the name though, and while on tour in support of my most recent solo album Choir of the Mind, the band referred to themselves as soft skellies, which I also love.

GRSB: Do you have any new projects coming soon, either with Metric or by yourself?

EH: Writing, writing, always writing.

GRSB: You guys have been around for about 20 years. How have you seen the music industry change over time?

EH: So much has changed! We started our own label to release our music in 2007 and that was a great move until everything went to streaming, which was a really scary time because our main source of income went from being quite good to practically zero. But we have restructured and managed to thrive and embrace the time we live in because what’s the alternative? We are first and foremost a live band, so touring took a step up and we put more resources and energy into that. Then COVID happened. What happens next is anybody’s guess; I just know we will fight through and keep going forward, whatever it is. There’s no other option.

GRSB: If you can change anything about the industry, what would it be and why?

EH: Ha ha.. Well, you could have sent me just this question for our interview and I could have filled many pages just [responding to] that. The simplest way for me to respond is to say this: from the beginning of my career, I have looked for side roads and alternate paths to get me where I want to be, and as a result I have long standing professional relationships that I truly value and have maintained control and ownership of my work and my identity. This was the only way for me. I felt I had to side step the big machinery and build a position for myself from scratch. It certainly wasn’t easy, but from what I’ve seen, the other way isn’t that easy either and can erode your self-respect beyond repair.

GRSB: What do you enjoy most about being a musician? What do you hate most? Would you have said the same thing at the beginning of your career?

EH: It’s such an endlessly engaging profession! There are so many directions that being a musician can take you, so many instruments to play, sonics to explore, song structures and lyrics to study, people to learn from. It’s a lifelong craft. I guess the only thing I could say I hate is the way it gets judged and compartmentalized but even then, hate would be too strong a word, because the best thing about music is that you can incorporate your obstacles into your songs, write a hit and transform the struggle into the solution.

GRSB: If you weren’t a musician what would you be doing right now?

EH: Renovating a run-down roadside motel and turning it into a holiday paradise.

GRSB: How has the idea of setting goals changed for Metric over your career?

EH: I vividly remember a conversation I had with my manager right after we put out our first album, Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?, when he asked me, “What’s your five year plan?” and I was dumbfounded by even the idea of the question, let alone having an answer! Now I’m better at looking ahead, but I remain fundamentally the same. My favorite place to be is writing, recording or playing, and I put faith in my bandmates and my team on the business side to guide me along, wherever we might be headed and whatever comes next.

Follow Metric on Facebook for ongoing updates.

VIDEO REVIEW: Dream Nails “Jillian”

This year, Girls Rock Santa Barbara has developed The Summer of Love Internship, its first ever paid internship for teen girls and gender-expansive youth, which allows the organization to continue to provide a safe, collaborative environment in which to encourage lifelong skills like positive peer bonding and self-confident resilience. The internship, which lasts six weeks and pays each intern $500, offers six exciting and arts-focused disciplines: Record Label, Recording Artist, Social Media, Journalism, Photography, and Podcasting. Audiofemme is pleased to publish the following review, written by Andrea Li, an intern from the Journalism program.

Dream Nails first released “Jillian” as a single from their 2019 album Take Up Space!. Now, the UK pop-punk band has taken the older, more bare-bones version of it and polished it into a groovy song with an equally groovy video directed by Guen Morroni. “Jillian” will be a part of the band’s upcoming album, Dream Nails, set to be released on August 28, 2020.

The song starts with a punchy bassline layered under lead singer Janey Starling’s energetic vocals. Soon, a guitar riff and a fast-paced drumbeat are added, with the video showing people of all sizes doing exercises in various locations as Starling proclaims “I’ve got 500-pound people doing jumping jacks!” 

“‘Jillian’ is a joyous banger about coming out, body positivity & [having a crush on] queer fitness icon Jillian Michaels,” Dream Nails explained in a press release, and the video clearly conveys this message as numerous people, including the band, appear joyfully working out, sometimes in an almost comical fashion. The video also expresses a message of liberation, as Dream Nails makes sure to use clips of people working out as if they don’t care about getting fit and have learned to just love themselves and their bodies for what they are. “Jillian” is a power anthem that inspires and uplifts – and it also doesn’t hurt that it’s perfect to work out to.

Follow Dream Nails on Facebook for ongoing updates.

Girls Rock Santa Barbara Interviews Lauren Mayberry of CHVRCHES

This year, Girls Rock Santa Barbara has developed The Summer of Love Internship, its first ever paid internship for teen girls and gender-expansive youth, which allows the organization to continue to provide a safe, collaborative environment in which to encourage lifelong skills like positive peer bonding and self-confident resilience. The internship, which lasts six weeks and pays each intern $500, offers six exciting and arts-focused disciplines: Record Label, Recording Artist, Social Media, Journalism, Photography, and Podcasting. Audiofemme is pleased to publish the following article, written by Andrea Li and Emelie Sanchez, two interns from the Journalism program.

Electro-pop powerhouse Lauren Mayberry of Scottish band Chvrches embodies Girls Rock Camp’s mission as global movement and an incredible organization for young girls and non-binary youth to tap into their musical side. Not only has she personally been a part of Girls Rock camps in the past, her band partnered with Plus1 to donate $1 from every ticket sold to Girls Rock camps all around the world. She recently sat down to talk with two interns from the Girls Rock Santa Barbara Journalism internship program over Zoom.

Mayberry herself has been an inspiration to many, as she has been very vocal about supporting the feminist movement, even publicly bashing critics who have made misogynistic comments about her and her stage outfits, explaining how the comments have affected her everyday life and mental health.

Chvrches have been together since 2011, and have steadily grown in popularity. Last year they collaborated with Marshmello on their song, “Here With Me”, which has garnered over 39 million views and 29,000 comments on YouTube. Mayberry has been in the process of making a new album with her bandmates Iain Cook and Martin Doherty since February. Over the years, they have learned the ins-and-outs of how they write their music – this makes writing an album while socially distancing is a bit easier for them. In April, they released a “Separate But Together” version of “Forever” (originally from 2018 LP Love Is Dead) which shows how they collaborate from afar. Check out the video and read our interview below.

GRSB: You’ve mentioned on your social media that you’ve been working on a new album. What can we expect from this album, and how does it differ from your 2018 album, Love Is Dead?

LM: We started writing together again in February, so we had about a month together in the same room before everything went into shut-down. But, we’ve been writing [over Zoom at] a set time every day. Iain and Martin have this kind of screen sharing software so they can both be in the session at the same time recording things. I’ll record my vocals separately and send [it to] them. Normally, before when we’ve [made albums] we started writing and then figured out what the concept was. This time around we actually had a concept in mind before we started writing.

GRSB: Have there been any challenges or obstacles you’ve had to overcome while working remotely with your bandmates?

LM: Yeah, it’s been very weird. It’s the longest time we’ve ever gone without seeing each other. Time zones are tricky since Martin and I live in Los Angeles, and Iain lives in Glasgow, Scotland. So we have to be pretty specific about when we work, and I’m not very good with technology. I think it’s going good because it’s made me have to have more ownership over [my vocals] and be more assertive, ‘cause sometimes I think if I’m not going to be very good at [something] then I just don’t do it, which is a bad habit.

GRSB: You’ve been very vocal in calling out sexist and misogynistic comments you’ve received in the past. How do these comments affect your everyday life and your mental health?

LM: I think it’s definitely been a process, like figuring out if you just completely ignore it or not. I think it’s been helpful to try and create a “persona” that is different from real-life me. Real-life me doesn’t dress the way I do on stage – it’s part of a performance. I kinda feel like trying to own your femininity and use it as part of your art is empowering to me, and it’s not for other people to tell me what to do with that. Whether I like it or not I’m still a woman; I can’t change that. It’s brought up to us pretty constantly through our work, so to me, it feels like a positive way to harness that. But also, knowing when to take a step back and take a mental health break is important. I think it’s just about knowing when you need to give yourself some time off.

GRSB: Given everything that you’ve had to go through, what advice would you give to your younger self with the knowledge you have today?

LM: I think I would want to be a little bit more trusting of the people that I can trust. I think I was a little suspicious of everybody at the beginning and at the beginning, it was all men – really great men, but men I didn’t know. We were getting signed to labels that had mostly male bands. One A&R said “We’re gonna make you the next [Pixie Lott]” and I was like, “This is not at all what this is meant to be – this guy does not get it.” I feel like I was quite scared, so I would say make decisions based on positive things, and have more fun – it’s going to be fine. And take more photographs! I feel like I’m always stuck between not being on my phone all the time and being present in the moment. Sometimes I’ll look back and I’m like “Oh yeah, we didn’t take any photos or videos.” Especially now when everyone is inside all the time, I want to reminisce. So collect the memories while you can.

GRSB: Earlier you mentioned how you’ve shifted over to Zoom, but before the shutdown, what was your creative process like when writing and recording music?

LM: Well, normally we don’t really come in with pre-existing ideas. We’ll get in a room and the guys will start playing and we’ll come up with a beat or a riff or something on synths. Then, we’ll write kind of a vocal over the top of it. So, every Chvrches song has a recorded version that’s just me or Martin singing nonsense over it. Once we have that, we write lyrics and put them in afterward. They are the last thing that goes on.

GRSB: How much of your music is inspired by real-life events and situations or just stories?

LM: I would say for us, most of the stuff we have written so far has been purely personal. I think on the new record, we do a little bit more of a narrative style of writing, but using it to tell personal feelings. I feel like everything always starts from a personal place, and I think this time the concept is a bit more theatrical. Then there’s space to tell those personal stories more narratively. Which is why I love artists like Nick Cave and Jenny Lewis because they write like that.

GRSB: Do you have any advice for young girls who are just now starting to deal with the stress and pressures of existing in a male-dominated world?

LM: Yeah, it’s a lot and I get it. Sometimes you’re like, “I don’t wanna do this, I want to just be allowed to go to work or school or perform.” I don’t want to have to deal with [misogyny], because the guys don’t have to deal with it. What’s been super helpful for me is to have a good group of female friends because they understand. I’m really lucky to have friends back home because it can be frustrating. Iain and Martin can be so supportive but they don’t totally get it the same way other women do. You don’t have to explain why it’s so terrible or annoying – they know already.

GRSB: Chvrches has partnered with Plus1 to donate to Girls Rock in the past. How did this collaboration start, and why did you choose Girls Rock?

LM: Growing up I lived in the middle of nowhere and didn’t really know any other kids that played music and it was quite lonely. When I started playing in bands I realized that it was all boys, and it felt kind of scary. I guess I wished that I had camps like Girls Rock growing up, it would have been a different experience for me. And I’m not going to be [making music] forever, one day I’m going to wake up with sore hips and I’m not gonna be able to tour in the same way. So we felt like we wanted to do something [to give back] while we had the chance.

Follow Chvrches on Facebook for ongoing updates.

Patty Schemel in Quarantine

This year, Girls Rock Santa Barbara has developed The Summer of Love Internship, its first ever paid internship for teen girls and gender-expansive youth, which allows the organization to continue to provide a safe, collaborative environment in which to encourage lifelong skills like positive peer bonding and self-confident resilience. The internship, which lasts six weeks and pays each intern $500, offers six exciting and arts-focused disciplines: Record Label, Recording Artist, Social Media, Journalism, Photography, and Podcasting. Audiofemme is pleased to publish the following article, written by Julia Duva and Emelie Sanchez, two interns from the Journalism program.

Photo Credit: Romy Suskin

“Sorry if my audio cuts out,” Patty Schemel apologizes as she joins our scheduled Zoom call from the passenger seat of a moving car. Introducing herself while the world flashes by behind her and the bumpy roads shake the camera, she quickly explains that she’s on her way somewhere and will only have about half an hour to talk. It seems fitting that she’s in her car, doing an interview, while already on the way to some other engagement; Schemel was never the type to sit still. That’s part of the reason why she started drumming when she was just twelve years old – it was a loud, fast, and efficient way to burn energy and work through her stress and anger. She continued with this unique type of therapy for the majority of her teenage and adult life, playing in several different bands and on countless other studio recordings over the years.

Having been in the music industry for a few decades, questioned constantly about the ’90s and her former band Hole, Schemel was excited to take a break from analyzing her tumultuous past to talk to us about her current band, Upset, how she is dealing with quarantine, and her new passion projects.

For the past four months, Schemel has been on a break with Upset, which dropped their third album just last November, after five years of no new releases. Because of the break, she has been working on other music-related ventures. Many artists are having to find new ways to make music without actually being in a room with a band. “You can really record drums so easily today,” she confirms. “Like, just play a beat, record it, put it into your software, and double it a bunch of times. It’s not so organic. You don’t hear a lot of real drums anymore.” While this new way of making music is exciting, it can have its downfalls. “It’s frustrating because I can’t just make a sound come out by…you know,” she says, while making a drumming motion with her hands. “It’s a new way of thinking about making music which is interesting and exciting. And that’s what my focus has been.”

Despite having made music with her computer, Schemel admitted that she hadn’t played the drums in a few months. Drumming has always been her way to de-stress and escape, so four months into the pandemic, she picked it up again. “You know, just on Saturday, I set up my drums and played them for the first time in months. And I forgot how good it makes me feel,” she says. “It grounds me and gets my mind to think in different ways and it’s a good workout. So I am going to start doing that more.”

Since musicians and performers rely on a gig economy, where income is based on one-shot performances or touring, the recent shutdown has affected many independent artists, including Schemel. “Right now is such a fertile time to rethink what we do as musicians and performers,” she suggests. “I think the fact that we can stream [music] and create it in our bedrooms is so great now. So we have to think: will we be able to make a living playing music? And how do we repackage it or rethink performing? Is it screens?” Schemel’s punk-oriented work with Upset doesn’t quite fit into the category of “Bedroom Pop,” but she and other artists might look to the genre which has set an example for producing and releasing music from home.

While taking the time to focus more on herself, her close friends, and her family, Schemel has been working on some more personal projects. As the population began sheltering at home, people became invested in baking bread, playing Animal Crossing, and binging Money Heist. Schemel, instead, started a podcast, still unnamed, which will hopefully be released soon. “It seems like everybody has a podcast,” she jokes. “I have just been thinking about what is gonna make my podcast unique. It is me interviewing women who play music and talking about why they did it and talking about creating their work. And how, in the ’90s, there was that wave of feminism in music and then it just sort of died down. What happened? What can we do today?”

Along with her podcasting, Schemel has been teaching woodworking to children, which she began when she met a woman through her daughter’s school that was hoping to collaborate on classes. “I like the idea of making something, working on it start to finish, making it with my hands. It’s not plastic and it’s not a screen. You don’t plug it in. It’s just a piece of wood and you put it together,” she explains. For her, woodworking was the perfect creative outlet – next to playing the drums. And Schemel loves working with kids – she describes her students as “my own group of friends who are between five and seven [years old].” She is also a drum coach at the Girls Rock Los Angeles summer camp. Though she may not have understood what she was getting herself into, when she realized she’d be able to teach young girls to play the drums, she was able to be the role model that she needed as a child.

“[Girls Rock] spoke to eleven-year-old me – the girl who wanted to play drums, who had a really hard time navigating the world as a girl who wanted to play drums, the girl who had a hard time going into the music store afraid of getting drumsticks because I was always looked down on,” she says.

Now, Patty Schemel has grown comfortable being a role model. “I have had fans say, ‘Thank you for coming out, and being an out gay person in the ’90s.’ When they come up and say that, I feel good,” she says. “And other people who are in recovery like myself – I don’t drink or do drugs and I am pretty open about that, so people come and talk about that being the thing that helped them when I wrote about it in my book.” She paused and thought for a minute. “So it’s really those two things that, when I hear them, it’s a good reason to be in the world, that I did that for people.”