Grrl Friday

Local girl-rock showcase puts a tangible face on the music industry's "Women in Rock" hysteria

NT: Who, or what, inspires you to write songs and continue pursuing musical careers?

Manas: Are we supposed to say Maya Angelou?
Espinoza: Friends, definitely. And guys--relationships, heartache, emotional things--we're a pretty emotional band as far as our writing goes. We write about really personal things--in fact, one of the songs on the seven-inch will be about my guitarist's new baby, who arrives in March. A lot of my songs stem from just personal failures and heartaches and mistakes and good times with friends.

Smith: I think my songs are really inspired by listening to other music. I get inspired by the bands I listen to, by listening to their albums.

Joanne Piccioli (vocalist--Mad At 'Em): Lyrically, it's stuff like heartache, y'know, everyday things like that.

Espinoza: I think that's where the best writing comes from, when you're angry or sad.

Manas: For me it's more like, when I'm sad or angry or depressed, that's not my most productive time in general, 'cause I'm in my pajamas on the couch. The happier, more productive stages in my life are when the songs come. And then some are reflections of those emotional times, but I never really do the writing when I'm in the deep, dark ick.

Piccioli: You know what, I don't either. Even if it's a year after, when you can put some humor into it, 'cause when you're right in it, you can't do anything.

Espinoza: My best writing comes from being in the middle of that period. It's the best release for me. If I can't get it out myself, then putting it in a song is my only vehicle for getting it out, for letting it go. I don't write good songs when I'm happy.

NT: Is it part of your agenda to encourage other female musicians?
Manas: I wouldn't say it's my agenda, but it's an opportunity to do that. When you're playing live and you see a bunch of young girls watching you, you do feel a responsibility. It's like, wow, these girls are looking up to me, and here I am swilling beer. There's a certain kind of cool role-model thing that goes along with it.

Espinoza: It's nice if you can be able to do that. It's nice to hear someone say, "Hey, I started playing the guitar 'cause I saw you playing the guitar." I think that's a really incredible thing to hear, that you can influence someone to pick up an instrument. Regardless of if it's a girl or a guy, anything like that is really wonderful.

Rogers: I don't think I've ever really thought about it. I enjoy watching girls play, and I think they set more of an example for me. But as far as me being an example, I don't know. I set an example for my sister. She plays now, plays drums, and now she's learning guitar. A lot of girls come up after shows and say, "Hey, that's really cool you play drums, we thought you'd be the singer." I guess it's kind of stereotypes--when you see a girl, you don't think she's gonna be the drummer.

Kim Bradford (manager--Mad At 'Em): One thing I've noticed when I'm doing merchandise at the Mad At 'Em shows is that at all-ages shows, there'll be girls up front and girls talking to us, but at 21-and-over shows, it's mostly guys; they just assume you're girlfriends of one of the bands. I think there's more of a focus on inspiring younger girls, because you have more access to them.

NT: Are you thinking about that while you're playing?
Smith: Yeah, definitely. I have a friend whose 13-year-old daughter plays guitar and is gonna do a song with us at one of our shows, so she can see what it's like, and hopefully that will inspire her. We want anyone who hears us, any female, to know she could be in a band, she could be doing the same thing. And any female musicians who are in bands, we always want to get involved with them somehow.

Bradford: That's why we're doing this show; we were just like, "Fuck it, we need to do something for ourselves and other girl bands." We get tired of playing with all the four-average-guys bands.

Espinoza: I feel a bit responsible because our band is different from all the other girl bands. We're doing the emo indie-rock thing, which is very complex guitar, complex song structure. It's hard for people to listen to, I think, just 'cause it's not something most people can bounce around to or dance or whatever. So there's pressure to make sure you're hitting the right notes and things like that, that's what I feel responsible for. I'm not out to recruit girl musicians, but I'm responsible for showing them that I can do it well.

NT: What advice would you offer aspiring young female musicians?
Manas: Be patient. And wear your seat belt. If there's a boy in the band, don't have sex with him, unless you really want to, but it's probably not a good idea. Don't do smack, and it's better not to play with people who do smack because then you're always worrying about your equipment disappearing.

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