interview: The She's
In 2017, The She's released all female rock and roll quartet, an album just as memorable as its name. In the year that's followed we've continued to listen closely to the release, soaking up every bit of this new sound and direction for the band. The band just released an incredible new video for album single "Ashes," and as a means of celebration, Hannah and Sinclair of the group joined TGE for an email interview about middle school, making music, the term "all female," and more.
The Grey Estates: In celebration of your new video release for "Ashes", please advise what you were like in middle school. I was awkward and shy and quiet. I also freakin loved body glitter.
Hannah: Oh middle school, what a weird time to be a human! We were all really shy and awkward too. We actually started this band in 7th grade, so at least we had music and each other to get us through middle school. Here is one moment that I think sums up my middle school experience was: In 7th grade i had a huge crush on Stephen (not his real name) and at the end of the year he signed my year book and i was so happy. When he walked away I looked at what he wrote, expecting the same "HAGS" i wrote him only to find this instead, "I know you have a crush on me but it's never going to happen..." I was so embarrassed but looking back, that is just mean!
Sinclair: Wow I forgot about that, so mean!!! Middle schoolers are pretty ruthless. I had a lot of energy in middle school, kind of feel like I was moving too fast to remember much. But it was definitely awkward and uncomfortable, very glad it's in the past.
I'd like to congratulate you on the perfect name for an album All Female Rock and Roll Quartet. What inspired the decision to name it that? In the past I've expressed my frustration with labels such as "all female." Do you think that's something that's helping or hurting the way we describe and define music?
Hannah: Thank you! I think what is hard is that a lot of people think "all female" is a genre of music. It is certainly not. When we were recording this album, we actually saw a write up in a local paper advertising one of our next shows, and they literally wrote something like "local favorite girl band," or something like that. Why not just write, local favorite band... you know? Right now, even in 2018, the word musician is gendered. It's actually like a lot of fields of work, for example, the words "woman doctor" are way more likely to be said than "man doctor." When people hear doctor they often just think of a male doctor. Ok now I just feel like I'm rambling. But the point is, The She's have constantly been defined by our gender, in a way I don't see our male counterparts being defined. We just call all-men bands, bands. All Female Rock and Roll Quartet was our way of taking ownership of the label; reducing us to that is just plain lazy.
How do you think this album differs from what you last released? What do you think you've learned as band in between these last two record releases? Was there anything you had in mind to do differently going forward from Then It Starts to this record?
Hannah: In my mind, the two albums basically came from two different bands, that is how much time past and experience was gained between the two releases. Then It Starts has songs from about three years on it, so as you listen you can literally hear our music changing over the years. We recorded that album with Women's Audio Mission, an amazing non-profit in San Francisco focused on teaching women and girls audio engineering and music production. This was the first time we actually got to learn about recording and engineering as the record was being made. With this new album, we really wanted to push ourselves to go out of our comfort zones. I feel like each song has classic She's elements, but then something goes perfectly wrong. We also self produced this record, which gave us unlimited creative control, and that was very exciting and rewarding.
Sinclair: Also this was the first time we went into recording without all the songs finished and polished. Songs on previous releases had been written, played live, and rewritten before we felt ready to record them, but this time we wanted to put the pressure on ourselves to get this record out. "Heartache", "Holly", "Local Favorite", and "Sick" were all born during that week of recording. We actually had to relearn them from the recording afterwards because we had never played them all together!
You self produced AFRaRQ. So what was the process like as far as writing + producing + releasing? Do you work separately and then together? Walk us through what it was like as far as making this record.
Hannah: For this record, we really wanted to try writing more of the songs in the studio. This time we had a few finished ones, but also just a bunch of little pieces waiting to be weaved together. In general, the song writing process is very collaborative. No one ever comes in and tells everyone else what to do. Most of the times, Sami or Eva will have a good chunk of a song done, and then we will sit down together to finish it all up. What was also special about this record was our great friend Grace Coleman engineered it. I cannot stress how crucial I think it is to be comfortable in the studio, and having Grace there really made it possible for us to spread our musical wings and try all our craziest ideas.
What is one of your favorite tracks from the record or is there a track that's really significant to you or holds a special meaning?
Hannah: My favorite track on the record is "Holly"". I didn't really have a lot of writing input on this one, so I feel like I can really gush over it without pumping my own ego too much. The words, melody, and chords come together in a way that just melt me. My favorite kinds of songs are the ones you just want to sit in the dark and listen to, and this is the track for that.
Sinclair: "Holly"'s definitely one of my favorites. I also really love "Sick". I think the time pressure on these new songs forced rawer lyrics that really just cut straight to the heart.
You've been making music together since you were teenagers. What have been some of the artists + books + food + music + etc that have inspired you throughout your career? How has your vision for the band changed since you were teenagers?
Hannah: We have been friend since 6 years old actually! I don't even really know how to keep track of all the change that has happened the last 18 years, and I am so grateful we have had the band the last 11 years to hold us all together. Girls, Dominant Legs, Magic Bullets, Magic Kids, Smith Westerns, and Dum Dum girls were definitely some of our favorite bands in high school. Sushi and burritos and foggy days at ocean beach, that basically sums up our youth in SF.
What was it like to work with Merrill on this? What mentors did you have growing up?
Hannah: Merrill is amazing! When we came to her asking for help she basically laughed and said, you guys know exactly what you're doing. It was so helpful to have her input along the way. When we were in middle school and thought we had to make punk music to be cool we used to write songs about how our parents sucked, but they have always been really supportive. Now I think we really lean on all our friends and their bands here in the bay!
What are you working on now and what can we expect in the future?
Hannah: In 2019 I see a new record being recorded, and lots of touring! We'll see what actually happens haha.
Since you took inspiration from Freaks and Geeks for this video, are there any other entertainment-related happenings you'd wanna recreate in the future? Also, if you could cast anyone to play you in a video, who would it be?
Hannah: I hope we do, but I can't think of any off the top of my head right now. 1990s Drew Barrymore.
Sinclair: I'm watching The X-Files for maybe the fourth time, something creature feature / mystery related could be super fun. And wow I would love to be portrayed by Gillian Anderson, not that we look anything alike, but at least she's tiny too!