It began with Blink-182 and Sixpence None the Richer. On the brink of adolescence, I developed a steady appetite for mix tapes, LPs, and b-sides along with an addiction to emo and post-hardcore music. I consumed it as much as possible, compulsively hoarding mp3s on the hard drive of my family's computer (much to my father's dismay). My weekends were spent at record shops, VFW halls, and in my BFFs' bedrooms where we'd paint our nails and scream along to our favorite songs as if our lives depended on it. Music was everything: community, catharsis, an excuse to hang. It defined who I was and who I wanted to become.
As I grew up, I began to realize that the music scene, despite my love for it, could be a very lonely place for women (even more so for WOC). My naive assumption that it was inherently inclusive began to disintegrate. Every rock venue, festival, and music magazine had something glaringly in common: they were all spaces dominated by men.
Music lovers Anna Bulbrook (a musician in bands like The Bulls, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and Airborne Toxic Event), Adrien Young, and Jasmine Lywen-Dill noticed it too and responded by founding GIRLSCHOOL, a music and arts collective dedicated to celebrating female artists, leaders, and voices. The collective's creation was a direct response to how few women Bulbrook saw onstage at shows and festivals. As a recovering emo kid from suburban PA, I was super excited to talk with the founding mothers of GIRLSCHOOL about their inaugural Field Day Weekend Festival, their experiences in the music scene, and the undeniable magic of being in community with other women.
Spoiler alert: GIRLSCHOOL rocks!
Dianca London : So before I start gushing about how cool GIRLSCHOOL is, could you tell me a bit about how you all got into music?
Adrien Young: I got my first guitar when I was 10 years old and have been jamming out ever since. Having also been involved in other male-dominated industries (skateboarding and snowboarding), I can say that my experiences have been mostly positive, but the magic really happens when you have a band of supportive women around you. I met Anna after hearing of her GIRLSCHOOL residency [at The Satellite] this fall. We became friends and now I am fortunate to be part of this collective of amazing women (and a few men) making more magic happen!
Anna Bulbrook: I've been playing music forever! I started playing violin when I was four, and am a classically trained. I took it pretty seriously all the way until I was 21. One of the things that I learned in classical music is that it's not as gender-divided as rock. A lot of the time, women were in the front leading the orchestra. When you get to the professional level in classical music, there are tons of women. It's at least 50/50 — and the women were leading because they were just better. Maybe twenty years ago, they started auditioning people for orchestras behind screens [because] orchestras were led by older European gentlemen and were primarily male. In the process of doing blind auditions orchestras instantly became 50/50 men and women. So for the most part, the classical music world has kind of handled that issue and I never really confronted it as a kid.
When I moved to California after college, I broke up with being a classical violinist, and had to just kind of destroy that identity. I ended up joining a band. Since then, I've been in a band called Airborne Toxic Event for almost ten years, and also made a record playing strings with a band called Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. More recently, I've started my own solo project, The Bulls, where I sing and play the guitar and write everything — and really drive the boat which is fun and new for me.