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.”

VIDEO PREMIERE: Anna Vogelzang “Beacon”

Photo by Carla Richmond Coffing

Los Angeles isn’t the never-ending traffic slog that people may imagine when they visualize the City of Angels. It’s a breathtaking metropolis surrounded by mountains, hugged by the ocean on one side and the desert on the other. Originally from Madison, Wisconsin, Anna Vogelzang embraces the wild and weird terrain of LA in her latest video for the title track to her forthcoming LP Beacon.

“This video was a love letter to LA, ” Vogelzang explains. “Abby beautifully caught these glimpses of moving through my neighborhood, the night sky, the feeling of driving with the windows down in Highland Park. This whole album was written to the backdrop of the city, and I wanted something that created a visual testament to that.” Vogelzang beautifully captures the feeling of creating a nest, a quiet space in the middle of a chaos. While watching the video, I paused and leaned in at times to see if she had added nature sounds: rustling leaves, a chickens burr, a child’s footsteps. The sounds weren’t there, but the music perfectly captured the magic on screen.

“Beacon” is a song for those brave enough to move to Los Angeles, but even more so, it’s a song for those who are willing to dig a little deeper into the soul of the city, to find those secret streets and hidden highways that lead out into the lush beauty that is California.

Watch AudioFemme’s exclusive premiere of “Beacon” and read our full interview with Anna below.

AF: You can play guitar, ukulele, baritone ukulele, banjo, and kalimba…When did you first take an interest in music and what led you to these instruments in particular?

AV: I grew up in a house full of music; my parents both sing and play – my mom professionally – and almost all of my extended family members are musical, too. So I don’t really remember first taking an interest – I’ve always loved to sing, and started playing piano when I was four. I switched to guitar when I was a teenager since it seemed like the songs I liked were all played on guitar, and that it was an easier instrument to teach myself (hah!). Really, the instruments were always just ways to support my writing, and singing – I wanted something to accompany my words and melodies, and so whatever worked, stuck. Now I’ve moved through that and have really been learning more about guitar, appreciating the different avenues you can take with it, trying to become a better instrumentalist. I’d say at this point it’s my main instrument for sure.

AF: Beacon is your 7th studio release. Has your writing process changed at all from your first EP?

AV: I’m so glad that it has – if I was still writing the way I was when I was 18, I’d be worried for myself! So many things have changed over those years – learning about the studio, learning what I want from different sounds, my taste in music, which directly affects the music I make… the list goes on. I’m at a point now where writing is an exercise, a muscle that I try to keep in shape, and the best songs are the ones that make it to the album. When I was starting out, every song was a diary entry, and each one got equal attention at shows and in the studio – every song was a precious gem and needed its moment in the sun. Now, the ones that I share are from the top of a mountain of songs that most people won’t really get to hear. I’m much more selective, because there are so many more songs now – because I’m not just waiting for the muse to strike. I’m putting in the work.

AF: When you initially moved to Los Angeles, you started a Salon series with your friend and guitarist Adam Levy; that series ended up moving to The Bootleg Theatre. What an incredible venue to perform at! Can you tell us a bit about the process of bootstrapping the series and how it landed at The Bootleg?

AV: Yes! So Salon actually began as a songwriting group that met at my house. Adam Levy and I co-hosted other songwriters once a week and we all tried to bring a new piece of writing to be workshopped. It was great for our output – once we got in a groove, a song a week became the norm. Bringing those songs to our friends at Salon helped us to figure out if it was just an idea, or something worth working on further, and helped us to dive into the editing process. Every song on this new album went through that group of people, which feels extraordinarily lucky.

We decided to bring it to the public and pitched our idea to the Bootleg, who were happy to host us for a month long residency – the team at the Bootleg is amazing, and we wouldn’t have wanted to do it anywhere else in town. Adam and I featured four different songwriters every week, and then had surprise guests each play a song in the middle of the evening. Some weeks there were 11 songwriters on stage by the end of the night. We shared new songs and talked about the writing process with each other on stage – it was really a dream show. We had so much fun.

AF: You’re a mom now (as am I). Living with a toddler has many unique challenges. How do you carve out time for music? And has your writing process changed dramatically?

AV: Ohhhh yes. GO TEAM MOM! It’s pretty crazy, isn’t it?! I cannot do it without help. Usually, if I’m not momming, I’m working on my business while my fella or family members or sitters watch my kiddo. Unfortunately “working on my business” usually means emails and promotion and merch fulfillment instead of creative work. What’s worked for me in the last two years is carving out time for my creative work the same way I do for the rest of my work. So if I have a sitter for four hours, I work for three and write for one. The days of waiting for the muse to hit are long gone – so in that sense, yes, my writing process was forced to change. But thanks to the accountability and routine of Salon, it had already gotten into that new rhythm before I had a baby, so it wasn’t too much of a shift.

AF: What currently gets you up in the morning (other than your little)? Books, music, food?

AV: Right now it feels like I am just barreling through this season of transition as the album comes out. I wish I’d been reading more. I feel like my version of books right now are my favorite newsletters: my friend Marlee Grace; my friend Sarah at Modern Women; I am obsessed with empowerment/magic/horoscope newsletters. They give me a little oomph in the morning. I’m loving my friend Madison Cunningham’s new record, and my friend Rosie Tucker just dropped a single called “Ambrosia” that I’ve loved hearing live forever – I’m so glad it’s out. Jamie Drake’s new album is gorgeous. I can’t wait to hear AO Gerber’s new album whenever that comes out down the line, and this month I’ve been going back into the Mirah archives, who is a forever-favorite of mine and listening to all of my old favorite songs over again.

AF: You work with Girls Rock LA Camp, an institution we’re big fans of here at AudioFemme. You yourself struggled with guitar at first (hand strength is the bane of my existence). How do you encourage girls who get frustrated at the plateau?

AV: I love Rock Camp so much. The thing about camp is that we don’t usually hit that plateau stage, luckily. You’re all so focused on the goal of the showcase at the end of the week, that it’s really just figuring out how to empower the camper with whatever tools they need to feel great about the getting on stage in four days and play something that works for that song, that moment. With longer term students I’ve had (who are mostly at the college level), I use that same camp framework and create short term goals. If they’ve gotten to a point where they can pass but can’t progress, if you will, a lot of times we’ll find one thing that’s really challenging (a new time signature, fingerpicking versus strumming, playing a specific lick) and just work on that, one foot in front of the other. I try to give myself the same assignment, too – a lot of times the best way to achieve that is through covers, which makes it a funner process for everyone.

AF: You’re going on tour in October. What should fans expect from an Anna Vogelzang show?

AV: My album release show in LA on the 4th is going to be full band, which I can’t wait for. We’re going to play the whole album front to back – so it will sound like the album, I hope! I tend to chat a lot at shows… not too much, but you can’t avoid catching some feelings, you know? On my Midwest and East Coast runs, I’m going to be solo, which I’m also super excited for – bringing these songs to folks the way they were written, in their most vulnerable state. Plus, that way I get to experiment with pedals, textures, an affected vocal mic – in order to recreate some of the ambiance of the album. I can’t wait to hit the road… I guess people should expect a good hang and honest songwriting. And lots of La Croix.

Anna Vogelzang’s new LP Beacon is out October 4th. For a full list of tour dates, check her website and follow her on Facebook.


INTERVIEW: Jen Baron of Girls Rock Helps Young Women Find Their Voices

It’s hard for a guy to interrupt you if you’ve got your amp turned up to 11. Many women know the feeling of being mansplained to or interrupted mid-thought with the words “just to piggyback on that.” Girls Rock Santa Barbara is all about getting girls in charge and on stage.

The Girls Rock mission is definitely one AudioFemme can get down with: “To provide a safe, diverse and inclusive space to female identified youth through music and arts education, mentorship, and community building. Our vision is to help shift girl culture to one where girls collaborate and support each other. We see a future where girls lift each other up instead of tear each other down. We see a future where girls and women lead.” #GirlPower much?

We sat down with Executive Director Jen Baron to talk about how she went from being an environmental science major to heading up an organization that has served over 4,000 girls aged 6–17 in the Santa Barbara area.

AF: Tell us about Girls Rock Santa Barbara. How did you first get involved?

JEN BARON: In 2011, I was finishing up my BA at Antioch University, single parenting and as a final project for one of my classes we had an assignment to create a blueprint of a dream job. When I presented this idea to my class, everyone was so excited and was like, “You have to totally do that!” I was an environmental science major, but had played music since I was four. It’s funny sometimes the things that you’re meant to do have been right in front of you the whole time. So I had this idea, but knew nothing about running a non-profit. I googled “rock camp for girls” and ended up finding Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp For Girls in PDX; I immediately contacted them to find out more information. They introduced me to the entire Girls Rock broader community. Seven years later, we’re the largest Girls Rock program in the world.

AF: Why is it important in 2018 to have girls only camp?

JB: Because…. equity, right? It’s so important for girls to have positive role models who show them that they are powerful. Statistics tell us that 70% of 10 year old girls don’t feel like they are good enough. This program exists to help change that statistic . Women have been conditioned throughout history to not take up space in the world, to be silenced, to feel like there is a competition between each other even.

We’re teaching them music and the creative arts, but really music is just the vehicle for building their confidence, showing them their power, acknowledging their most authentic self, teaching them to empower each other and support each other, and giving them the space to be loud and be heard and be seen.

AF: Do you feel like the learning atmosphere is more supportive when women are collaborating with one another?

JB: Not always. I think women (especially young women) are taught that there is a competition of who’s the best and that leads to these feelings of scarcity. So initially I think learning with all women can feel stressful and there’s loads of feelings, there’s a lot of working through these conditioned responses and helping shift the girls’ mindsets to one where we are being true supports to each other. When that shift happens and they see how powerful women are when they are working together, there is just nothing in the world like that, not only for our girls but also our staff.

AF: The school has five different “tracks” – Rockband, Film & Photography, Journalism & Creative Writing, Music Production & Engineering, DJ. How did the creative team at Girls Rock narrow it down to those subjects?

JB: We started with Rockband, which is the bread and butter program of all the Girls Rock programs world wide. Then a few years ago we added Photography and Filmmaking. This summer we added Journalism, DJ, and Music Production and Engineering to our sleep away camp with our teens. I only see us adding more creative tracks as time goes on. Next year I already want to add Live Sound Engineering and Slam Poetry.

AF: So exciting! I love how many technical aspects of music you’re tackling. Any synthesizer building? My husband’s been into them the last year or so.

JB: That’s so awesome! One day! Though we do partner with an amazing non-profit called Techne. The first year they came they taught the girls how to build contact microphones, another year they had them building hydrophones (so mics that can be submerged in water). It was pretty awesome – you’d have the submersible mic running though a guitar amp and the girls would put pop rocks in the water and make all these cool sound beds during their performance. This year Techne did a flashlight orchestra with the girls. They made oscillators that were triggered by different color light. At the end of the week we hid all the instruments they had made and gave the kids flashlights to go find and play each others’ instruments, like  a super rad rock camp scavenger hunt.

It was even more amazing because the very first time Techne was here, I was having dinner with [Techne founders] Suzanne and Bonnie and Suzanne was telling me her ultimate dream was to build this flashlight orchestra with the kids and I was like “Yes! I’m so in, when can we make that happen?” Then this year was the year. It’s so cool to see all those things pan out. Music Production was another thing that I wanted to be a part of our program from the beginning.

AF: This year, Girls Rock Santa Barbara also partnered with the largest Syrian Refugee non-profit in the US, Syrian Community Network. 15 Syrian Refugee girls were able to come to camp. What was that experience like?

JB: It’s hard to describe what an impactful week it was. The stories of hardship that these girls have faced and are still facing is heart wrenching, but their resiliency and kindness and bravery – fuck! I’ve never been so moved in my life. What a gift they all are. Last week we had so many kids from all over the world: Denmark, Brazil, Japan, Russia, China, Mexico, Syria. The girls were all so supportive of each other and so many friendships were made. There were so many brave kids and risks taken and the creativity that came from these girls feeling safe and loved and free to create without boundaries… it was mind blowing what they created. We just had this microcosm of how I wish the world truly was.

AF: How wonderful for all these girls to meet each other! I didn’t realize the program was so international – or was this a special event?

JB: Our sleep away kids come from all over the world (and our staff too); we are bringing 65 women from nine different countries to teach this summer. It’s so awesome! We’re always looking for rad female identified teachers every summer and workshop leaders and bands! 

AF: You’re a songwriter yourself, with pieces like “Vespertine” and “Gypsy Heart” even making it into a Sharon Stone film! How did you go from being an eight year old writing songs in her bedroom to a writer / producer working with artists in a professional setting?

JB: Music has always been my whole heart. I think growing up I mostly thought that being a musician (for a living) was almost like saying unicorns exist. I was really scared for a very long time to share my music. I would just create and create and the songs would come and go over the years. When I was recording my first record, Beautiful Mistake, which is the one those two songs are on, my engineer helped build my confidence so much as an artist. He taught me my way around the studio and engineering and my brain started to expand. One day I just walked into the studio and was like, “I think I want to write a bunch of pop songs!” I’d never written pop before and once I started, I’ve been super hooked ever since. This is the first pop song I wrote and produced:

I’ve got a new song coming out this year called “Glass Heart” that I recorded at 137 Productions. I’m really proud of it!

AF: It’s great that the girls get to work with so many talented women in the industry!

JB: Our teachers are so so creative! They are the coolest. Every summer I end up falling in love with all these new bands.

AF: Who are a few of the bands you’ve become a fan of through the camp?

JB: So I am a super diehard fan of Ramonda Hammer and Spare Parts For Broken Hearts. Lauren Kop’s project Mini Bear is just insane. Blush is probably one of my favorites right now and for sure and Marley Ferguson’s project Fade will blow your mind.

AF: In January, Neil Portnow, the president of the Recording Academy, received a great deal of backlash when he said that women in the music industry need to “step up.” It led to the hashtag #GrammysSoMale and may have convinced Portnow to step down. What do you think actually needs to happen within the industry for women to be seen and heard more clearly?

JB: So, it’s really hard for young girls to dream up what they can’t see. So number one, dismantle the boys club. Hire women. Everyone hire women. Hire so many women that men start complaining that women are getting all the jobs. Then young girls will see what’s possible for them and the cycle will shift. A movement creates visibility which is always great, but actions have to follow. Women are so smart and powerful and talented. The future is female!

AF: What words of advice do you have for the next generation of female musicians who are currently dreaming, writing, and noodling in their bedrooms?

JB: Let people see you when you’re ready. Support your friends in their dreams. Don’t gossip about other women (even if you think they deserve it) – be a part of the solution. Be as honest as you can be with your music, and when you think you’re being as vulnerable as you can, try to push yourself even further. Focus on being brave and not perfect. See the world and get to know all kinds of people from all walks of life; our differences are beautiful and what connects us as woman is so powerful. Women together are unstoppable. Rock On!

Are you interested in joining the team at Girls Rock Santa Barbara? Check out the volunteer & teaching opportunities on! If you know someone who’d like to attend camp, Girls Rock is already taking registrations for next year and for their after-school program.