tête-à-tête: climates (nyc)

I first heard the new Brooklyn-based band Climates during a showcase at the subterranean venue Berlin (in New York City) a few weeks ago. I couldn’t help but be impressed by Theadora’s (vox) vocals and the overall energy of the group. Besides, I am so thoroughly sick of seeing white men onstage and in friend’s concert photos—inclusivity is so important if we are going to consume less homogenized music. Climates could just be the answer.

So, I did what any feminist journalist did: sat down with Theadora Curtis (vocals & bass), Molly Schoen (lead guitar), Keira Zhou (drums), and Natalie Lew (rhythm guitar) to discuss being a woman in the music scene, the meaning behind their name, and how we can fight patriarchy. Read the interview below.

Kristyn Potter: Welcome to the world Climates! What made you want to start a band? Why this, why now?

Theadora Curtis: I’ve been playing music for a while and more or less always wanted a band. Some past efforts sort of fizzled because the balance just wasn’t there or the timing was off so I got comfortable doing my own thing – I’ve been playing ‘solo’ in the sense that I wrote and recorded the songs and then played live as a three piece with some great musicians. It was in the midst of a bunch of solo work and meeting different artists that synergy for a band popped up.

Natalie Lew: I think being in a band – making a commitment to make music in a group of people – has always been really compelling to me, and in meeting Theadora (and then Keira and Molly) it felt like the right time to get started!

Credit: Abe Poultridge

How did you all meet each other/come together?

Keira Zhou: I met Theadora at a friend’s show. I had been playing drums for a little over a year at that time and I had been wanting to join a band. Our friend introduced us at the show and we started chatting about bands and music. Theadora told me she was starting a band and I was like ‘let me know if you need a drummer!’ she was like ‘yea I do!’.

Theadora: I had played a show with Colatura at Rose Gold and connected with Digo and Jennica Best of that band about recording. We were actually working on an EP of mine when I mentioned by lingering (always) interest in getting away from using my name and having something more collaborative. People are often like your name is great, do that! And he was one of the first people who sort of said hell yah start a band. He put me in touch with Natalie who he’d recently seen playing guitar in a video. Nat and I met up and we liked the idea of working with other women in a four piece. I met Keira at a show at Baby’s All Right really soon after that, we just hit it off and were chatting – she was there taking pictures – and she mentioned that she played some drums. I told her about the band and that was sort of that. A bit more pointed of an effort went into find a lead guitarist but Molly was only the second person I met with and after she joined us at practice it was pretty clear that we had our four.

Is this your first project or have you individually done stuff before this?

Molly Schoen: I’ve been playing in bands since high school! Not that my high school band was any good but we did do a sick cover of the Daria theme song…

Natalie: This is my first project; I’ve always loved playing and writing music but never felt like it was something I could actively and effectively contribute to in a group. I think I let go of some of my fears around contribution and embraced my creative confidence in joining Climates, which has been one of the best decisions I’ve made.

And, why the name?

Theadora: The name was actually one of the first things we established funnily. After Natalie and I met up we made this collaborative playlist that we were really excited about because it was clear that our taste is very similar and then we started throwing around names – which was fun, we’d just text random things back and forth all times of the day. I think she eventually suggested ‘Macroclimate’ (maybe Micro?) and I thought it was a little long, the response being ‘what about just Climates?’.

Natalie: Theadora and I were throwing around band name ideas (a really fun stage of our coming together) and thought about how Climates is such a multifaceted name; there are sunny, bright connotations but also dark, heavy thunderous connotations and sad, grey connotations, much like the music we’re making that tries to not be genre/self limiting.

Credit: Rich Allen

How do you feel about being called a ‘girl band’ and if you don’t like it, what would you prefer to be called?

Molly: It’s tricky. I don’t really mind being called a girl band because it distinguishes us from the overwhelming white male dominance of rock music. That needs to change. As Kurt Cobain said, and I’m paraphrasing, ‘the future of rock is female’. That being said, we’re just a band same as any other. Maybe we should start referring to all male bands as ‘male bands’ instead of making women, lgbtq and non-binary people the automatic ‘others’.

Theadora: I’m always torn on things like that. I think it’s really important that people or groups who feel underrepresented help elevate those voices by standing in that identity but I also think that your gender, or anything else out of your control, being a defining characteristic isn’t my favorite idea. I love working with women and I resonate with women. I loved playing with guys, too, but this has been really easy and comfortable. I think people’s perspective being heavily influenced by their experience of the world goes without saying – and affects the music – I listen to lots of projects with female vocals. But we’re a band – and we all identify as women so hopefully that adds something to the soul of the thing or certainly the sound that people like. And touches on parts of that experience that others can relate to, appreciate or both.

Natalie: I think the act of being in a ‘girl band’ and calling a band a girl band is pretty different. To me, the term ‘girl band’ is kind of infantilizing. Calling a band a ‘boy band’ brings up some very real N*SYNC/One Direction feelings, whereas calling a band a girl band is an attempt to describe any band comprised of all women. This dichotomy feels unfair.

Dream bill that Climates could play on?

Keira: War Paint, Wolf Alice, Silversun Pickups

Theadora: Arctic Monkeys, Wolf Alice & Kitten would be a nice one… or Goat Girl, L.A. Witch and Warpaint (strong ‘girl band’ theme). If were were paired with a sound a little less similar to ours I would be over the moon about Grimes.

Natalie: Oh wow, such a good question. Okay dream bill might look something like us, Our Girl, Boygenius, Wolf Alice. (It’s a long show!) the other act I want to fit in there is Grimes.

What advice would you give to other self-identifying women who are looking to start a band or project?

Keira: Just do it 🙂

Molly: GO FOR IT. Fake it til you make it. Find people that inspire you, from music teachers to local scenes to international icons, and immerse yourself in their work. Always be kind – not just to others but to yourself. You’re going to get frustrated and discouraged at times. That’s okay. As Cardi B says, fall down 9 times, get up 10.

Would love to hear if you are having success comparative to past projects or male friends’ projects in getting booked and getting press (i.e. if you were dudes would this be easier, harder, or the same)?

Molly: I have dealt with misogyny in this industry since I was sixteen f***ing years old, from gropers to stalkers and worse. Friends or mine have quit playing because they couldn’t handle the harassment, men yelling at them to take their top off while they were on stage or mansplaining to them after the show about how they ‘should’ be playing. Since the Me Too movement, things have gotten a little better but not a lot. According to a recent study by Fender, 50% of people buying guitars are female. The local scenes need to reflect that. Brooklyn is doing an awesome job at inclusivity from my experience but go to a smaller town and it’s still the same old status quo. I couldn’t say if femme bands have it easier, but if we do I assure you it’s only in an effort to make things more equitable. There’s room for everyone at the table.

Theadora: I do think we’ve gotten a little extra early attention because of our member setup but I also think we’ve been sharing things in a way that doesn’t focus on that piece too much, especially at first. We’re all on the Instagram now but in the beginning we didn’t have group shots and I was posting a lot of dreamy pictures with quotes from songs underneath and we started to get show offers then. I think there’s something powerful about women in a group, sort of that coven vibe. I don’t think it’s exclusively a shallow or objectifying appeal, though of course it can be. I can’t know what someone else’s motivations or thoughts are, if they’re not focused on the right things that’s their problem really. If people like our setup I’m glad it lends some added excitement – I also like it – and I’m happy to get opportunities to play and share – hopefully they like the music, too.

Natalie: I don’t have much to compare it to as this is my first, but I will say we’ve been on some really terrific bills at some awesome venues, all in thanks to Theadora, our band network, the help of Bloodless Management, and more.

Listen to Climates’ debut single ‘Super 8″ below.

Catch them live this March!

March 1st, Union Pool – release show

March 20th, SXSW – Brooklyn Block Party at Electric Church

March 28th, Our Wicked Lady rooftop

Featured image: Francis McNeill

Originally published on our sister site High Street Disco

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