She Rose rises out of Bard College this week to grace the Bowery Electric with some mellow music on the past, the present and today. Lore has is that the band formed one raging night (Hurricane Irene to be exact) when Bard College band friendly venue The Black Swan was low on entertainment and low on customers. As Lola Kirke, singer and ukulele player of the band puts it, “We hijacked a guitar, me Marianne, Audrey and Lily, and sat out on the porch and started playing ‘Angel from Montgomery,’ by Bonnie Raitt.” Which happened to be the bartender’s favorite song. “She asked us to come inside and play. Then it was something out of a really strange movie. She was like, “I just lost my Monday night act. Be here tomorrow at 8 o’clock tomorrow to play.” That bartenders name happened to be Rose, the lady the band is named for (aside from the rhyme scheme on heroes).
Their brand of music is slow, sad, rhythm, blues, country and folk. So when I found out that the band members were from Manhattan, New Rochelle, Santa Monica, Brooklyn and Massachusetts I had to ask Lola and Marianne Rendon (baritone ukulele and vocals):
Where does all the country and blues come from? You guys sound like you’ve been working in the field and have come in for some whiskey.
L: That’s just the music we’ve always liked. We live in an age where that music is accessible to everyone.
Yeah, but a lot of people don’t take it upon themselves to access it.
L: That’s been the music I connect to. Mostly blues, rock ‘n roll and country music. My dad is a big fan of country music and we grew up with it. I always thought the treatment of women in country music is really interesting.
M: Always crying about he left me. The themes are about really destructive things that have happened to them because of heartbreak.
Isn’t that really all country music though? Men too?
M: All music is about love.
L: I just think that country music handles it in this really interesting way. How simply it puts it. It has this very straightforward feel. My dad always says it’s three chords of the truth and I just love the simplicity of it all. I haven’t been playing guitar or any instrument for that long, and that three-chord mentality blows me away.
M: A lot of what our generation is putting out is a lot of electronic sound art, at least at Bard. It’s very experimental. There’s this venue at Bard called Smog, it’s a lot of dance music. To me that wasn’t fulfilling to make. I wasn’t interested in that. I was always drawn to folk and Bob Dylan and Mexican folk songs. For some reason I just connected more emotionally with that. I think they’ve called us a folk band before they’ve called us a country band.
L: Exploring traditional American music and reviving it is an interesting way of thinking about the history of men, women, love and the country.
It’s interesting because the genre of folk is essentially folkloric. It’s about telling songs of the past.
M: Yeah, and it interests me why people keep coming back to the genre, especially in a time where everything is ruled by technology. It’s all about fast-pacing. I’m writing about Lorca right now. He came to NYC in the early 20th century and he was incredibly dissatisfied with his society’s view of modern life. He was disgusted by it, and returned to folklore. I’m just curious why people wanted to return to story telling rather than natural aesthetic, even in the 60’s. I was at a talk with Bill T. Jones and he was talking to conservatory students who play classical music, and he was saying, “You guys are conservatives.” And the students all were shaking their heads. “You’re conservatory students, so you must be conservatives.” I think about that a lot with making music and why we choose to go that direction.
L: We’re always referring to something. Maybe that constant reference is what makes our generation interesting. What we choose to pull from is what makes us interesting. It gives us something to root ourselves in.
What is She Rose referring to?
L: To strong women who were strong before women were allowed to be strong in a lot of ways. Patsy Klein is a huge example of that for me. She refused to go with any notion of what a woman should be. Or women like Nina Simone, not that we make music that sounds similar to her, but what she stood for. Referring to a fantastic story in country about really strong women.
It’s ironic then that the formation of She Rose came from an all-male jam band night at the Black Swan.
L: I’ve always been interested in how women can take power right now.
M: I don’t think our intention was ever to make a feminist statement with the band. I think by doing what we’re doing, it’s creating a feminist argument, but it’s not something we’re fully aware of. I feel grateful that I don’t feel like I have to fight to be heard.
L: I do think I’ve had to fight for my right to be heard as a girl. Even at a liberal arts school there’s rampant and blind misogyny.
Can you give an example?
L: Some friends of ours play at The Black Swan every Thursday night, and they had posters made for the event called, “Bitches Over Easy,” and they’re, I would say, fairly evolved men. But the posters they made were these cartoons of women with eggs being made sunny side up on their tits. And it was a joke; they don’t believe in that stuff, it was a joke about that culture. Regardless, they were using that kind of culture to get people to come and participate in their event. I know they were satirizing it, but at the same time they were buying into it. It’s the same thing as this new wave of feminism, where women are showing more tits and showing how female they are, which I don’t disagree with, but they’re exploiting themselves to be exemplary of a very masculine culture. I think it definitely exists in a liberal arts school.
How have the live shows been going?
M: It’s great having a staple weekly performance. It’s been exponential how much we’ve grown as musicians having to play live every week. We’re fortunate that we’ve been invited to different venues in New York as well. I think people appreciate the music. We play Monday, which is fitting for us. On a Thursday night it’s a different vibe they’re setting for the space, people want to get f-cked up and have sex that night. They want to party. The mood we provide on a Monday night is very laid back, people come by after a long day of work; they have a whiskey and relax. It’s acoustic so people can have a conversation. But they listen. It’s a very different feel.
What can someone coming to your show expect to see?
L: We’ve been playing more upbeat stuff lately. More rock ‘n roll and blues than the folk we’ve been playing.
What are your plans post graduation?
L: Going on tour! We’re going south. Charlottesville, Nashville, Arkansas, Mississippi, everywhere we can. We have enough material for a full length, so we’re working on putting that together. The transition from playing covers to making original songs has been such an amazing experience.
Catch SHE ROSE at Bowery Electric April 16th. For more info on the band check out their bandcamp at http://thesquaws.bandcamp.com
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