WomenROCK, the Bay Area’s all-female musician, artist, and activist collective, continues to get bigger, better and more visible. On June 16, WomenRock stages its fourth year anniversary concert at The Independent, featuring a stellar line-up of Bay Are acts. *bernadette*, Stripmall Architecture, Ziva, and Conspiracy of Venus along with some burlesque and comedy for good measure. Expect some of the best rock, pop, indie and vocals the accomplished community has to offer. Which is saying a lot. I asked several of the acts about their work and what audiences can expect on the 16th.
A true original, Israeli born and classically trained Ziva draws on her adventurous, globe-trotting past to compose passionate piano and vocal driven tunes that merge rock, pop and jazz. Backed by a band that includes strings and elements of good old rock and roll, Ziva is currently working on her debut full-length CD.
Q: How has WomenROCK influenced you as a musician in the SF music scene?
Z: WomenROCK has played a key role in my life ever since joining the group in January 2009. The support and resources have been invaluable to my progression in the SF music scene. The community driven ideology has been an ongoing inspiration for producing and taking part in meaningful events, giving back and nurturing this community, and also led to wonderful collaborations.
Q: How has, or is, the San Francisco music scene influenced your sound?
Yes, it’s an all-women’s spin-off of the all-men’s a’capella choir, Conspiracy of Beards, who popularly pay homage to the work of songwriter Leonard Cohen, but it’s a disservice to CoV to leave the comparison at that. Boasting 50 members and a songbook that covers a range of material from Hildegard von Bingen to Tom Waits, CoV has its very own serious musical business to do. Directed by Joyce Todd McBride, CoV will wow you with its own brand of a’capella awesomeness.
It is great to work with a diverse group of vocalists, because everyone brings something unique and valuable to the table. With each new member and season the choir is recharged with new energy and enthusiasm, allowing us to grow and adapt in a challenging industry. It is also nice to have a diverse range of vocalists, because they produce a rich and textured mix that would be more difficult to achieve with a less diverse group.*bernadette*One of the flag bearers of the Mission arts scene, *bernadette*’s musical evolution knows no bounds (see Interview here). Collaborative, community-centric, individually questing and generous of heart, count on *bernadette* to continue expanding her sound from folk to rock to funk, to…?Q: Talk about your writing process?
b:Q: How do you work together as a band?Who are your musical heroes?
b: Thom Yorke is currently my biggest hero. I got to meet him and spend a good amount of time backstage with him for his Atoms for Peace show this past April. We talked as if we’d been friends for years and could just drink a glass of wine and discuss music, wheat grass and important things like the environment—something that I truly admire in him. For me, doing something great with your art is the most important power we possess as we have the power to positively impact, influence and change the lives of others for the better—it’s our responsibility. Thom is doing it and it was so great to laugh with him and share his intellect and humour—he’s just a great guy and a great performer… charming, authentic, energized and personal. …I [also] listen to the music of my immediate peers: the folks that I play music with who have album after album under their belts already. I’m listening a lot to my own music and really paying attention so that I really know what sounds I want for my upcoming record. I’m really excited to be in the studio and record my first album!Featuring Halou members Ryan and Rebecca Coseboom, guitarist Tim Hingston and drummer Patrick Harte, Stripmall Architecture boasts both a great band name and impeccable musicianship. Critics have compared the quartet to the Cocteau Twins and Siguir Ross. Stripmall Architecture captivates audiences with evocative vocals and lush and slightly urgent musical soundscapes.
Q: What is it like to be a DIY, entrepreneurial band and what does that entail?
SA: In the past we’ve been on a really, really big label, as well as a couple of small indie labels and we never really thrived under either of those kinds of relationships. When we started Stripmall Architecture, we decided to do absolutely everything ourselves. It certainly removes ambiguity around who is responsible for what; it’s always us! I imagine this kind of setup could be a bit lonely – we were a little afraid we’d be working in a vacuum. We decided to actually involve our fans in a lot of the things we do.
Often times we will incorporate non-traditional instruments such as typewriters, crystal glasses, and choirs into our live shows. This past winter, we did an entire performance of the music of This Mortal Coil, which involved a 10-piece ensemble, which included a string quartet and three vocalists. The show sold out quickly and generated one of the most emotional responses I’ve ever seen to a live performance I’ve done. People were coming up to us with tears in their eyes saying they never thought they’d hear that material live. It was a lot of work, but really rewarding.
Q: Where did you get the inspiration for your latest record release? Artwork?
SA: The songs on Feathersongs For Factory Girls are some of the most eclectic we’ve recorded to date. With the production, Ryan tried to conjure all sorts of atmospherics around the songs, which, at their core, were really quite stark and simple. Once we recorded the basic guitar tracks, for example, we would spend most of our studio time turning knobs on effects pedals and loopers until we got some unique textures going. In the past, I would have mostly used synthesizers or samplers for this, but it’s much more exciting and chaotic to do on the fly.
[as far as inspiration for the songs] “Pripyat” is about Chernobyl. The story of Chernobyl has always amazed and terrified me (Rebecca) because I lived through the end of the cold war and so am still jumpy about all things nuclear. (I think all of us cold war kids are.) So, when I saw pictures of the town of Pripyat, I became obsessed, as I do, and just wanted to learn all about it. “Radium Girls”… In 1917, Orange, NJ, there was a factory that produced glow-in-the-dark watch dials. The people who painted the dials were young local women and they painted with these teeny tiny camel hair brushes which lost their point after a few strokes. So, the management (which, of course, this being 1917, was all men) encouraged the women to point the brushes with their lips and tongues to keep them sharp. The male owners, managers, and scientists knew the effects of radium and used lead screens, masks and tongs to avoid contact. To the girls they said “If you swallow any radium, it’ll make your cheeks rosy.” This is a classic tale of the man trying to keep you down. It has all the elements, evil corporation, conspiracy, sexism. All the great stuff. And honestly, this is classic Howard Zinn-esque material. The US Radium Corporation is now a Superfund site, number NJD980654172.
Women Rock! Wednesday, June 16, 2010 8:00p at The Independent, San Francisco, CA