interview: Art School Jocks

The first listens of Art School Jocks' upcoming album have been inspiring and moving. They captured our attention and our hearts, leaving us eagerly awaiting the May 29th release. Until then, the band was kind enough to answer some questions through e-mail, giving us insight into the zine, recording and some of the album tracks. 

The Grey Estates: How important was the message of Just a Gwen to you and how did you broach such a difficult subject but still make it impactful? Is what you mentioned in the song something you've experienced personally? I feel like as women we all have at some point so it really struck a chord with me.

Art School Jocks: The message of the song feels very important. The inspiration behind the lyrical content of Just a Gwen is unfortunately something that is pretty prevalent so it’s likely easy for many women to find those looming reminders running through your mind on your way home or out in public by yourself. How often we (as women and femmes) replay the safety lessons we’ve been raised to memorize also felt like it made sense with the more repetitive structure of the song. Street harassment and sexual assault is never invited by any choice of clothing or activity. It’s frustrating how often you’re reminded (I’m reminded) to be on the defense when you’re trying to have a good time dancing with your (girl)friends or walking to the grocery store or dealing with a customer at work. The message of the song feels like something universal in a lot ways and is encouraging to release as a way to sort of commiserate and be able to point out the way that the current solutions to rape culture aren’t preventative or illuminating the core issues.

What else can we expect from the EP and there are any other personal moments that you used as inspiration? Do you feel like now, especially in current political times, sharing messages like that are especially important?

Just a Gwen is pretty indicative of the overall sound that we tend towards, melodic and structured rock. Lyrically, the songs vary in their themes and messages. Music has of course long been an outlet for all kinds of folks to communicate the trials of living in their particular situations under oppressive/repressive systems, such as the patriarchal systems that uphold rape culture. With a rapist currently occupying the U.S. presidential seat, it does feel somewhat reassuring for this song to be able to circulate and to remind people that rape culture persists. Though it should be noted, this song was written before the current administration and its message never diminishes in importance.

Your material also deals with mental wellness, which is really close to my heart as someone who suffers with anxiety and depression. How did you approach that topic and could you detail a little more about what we can expect?

Being able to work through mental ruts and untangle some of the cloudier moments through music feels immeasurably freeing. Our songs usually allude to whatever one or more of us was dealing with or working through at the time, it’s mostly unavoidable. We sincerely value being able to express those feelings and give notice to them through our creative process.  

You've been a band since 2015, so how did you first come together and what's changed since then? What are your goals going forward?

Deborah and Dianna had been talking about starting a band together for well over a year before they started playing together. Dianna hadn’t really played guitar before that and started learning through youtube videos and then by getting lessons from our friend Rob Gal who recorded and engineered our EP. Independently of that, Deborah and Ali had jammed together a few times… Camille and Dianna had known each other for ages from playing in earlier bands and volunteering at a local bike cooperative called Sopo. We started playing together in the early fall of 2015. We’ve tried and for the most part been successful in playing together twice a week, and for a while Camille, Deborah, and Dianna all lived in the same house. We plan to keep writing together and are experimenting with the ways we create music together in order to challenge ourselves and continue to come up with work we find interesting and fun and fulfilling. We would like to tour!

One of your record editions will also come with a zine. What does that include and how does it feel to be physically releasing this new stuff?

It feels really great to be releasing our material! We’ve been waiting to release this EP for a while, and the people we’re working with to do so couldn’t be a better fit for us, ideologically and musically. The EP will be primarily distributed on tape through Father/Daughter Records. We love their catalog, like especially PWR BTTM and Plush. Ecology Records, a tape label local to Atlanta, will be releasing a DIY-driven alternate version of our EP. We’ve yet to decide the exact kind of zine we’d like to release in tandem, but rest-assured it will be an insightful, mindful project with the input of Hira and Tracy, the folks running Ecology Records. Quote Unquote Records will have our EP available for download for donations of a listener’s choosing! Isn’t that subversive and cool? So excited. We’re really counting our lucky stars here. Being a musician is treacherous and unrewarding a lot, and we happened to get in with great and supportive people.

What was the creation process like for this EP? When did the tracks first start coming together and how does the writing and recording work? Do you work separately and then come together or flush it all out with each other? Are you working on any new songs currently?

A couple of the songs on this EP were written as far back as a couple summers ago. On this EP, foundations for songs, including lyrics, were brought to practice by someone and developed from there. As for the material we’re working on currently, we’ve consciously tried different processes that require more improvisation to push ourselves as writers and musicians.

What's been one of your most memorable moments as a band?

It’s difficult to sort through how many things we’ve been fortunate enough to experience with each other in this capacity! We had a blast working with our friends Eva Nelson and Lucy Kilgore who styled and photographed us a few weeks ago. It was so much fun to get to play dress up and try on each others clothes as well as all the great outfits that Eva and Lucy lent us from their own wardrobes. Part of that day was getting sodas and fries and hotdogs which felt both greasy and essential.