Stronger Together : Celebrating Women in Music
Lux & Ivy's roots are laden with music herstory.
The very name of this shop comes from punk rock power couple Lux Interior and Poison Ivy of The Cramps, an American punk/psychobilly band that formed in 1976 and were part of the early CBGB scene. The Cramps played a huge role in the development of "psychobilly". Poison Ivy's impact has often times been overshadowed by that of her husband's, although she has been called "The Queen of Psychobilly". Poison Ivy's music style, stage presence and incredible fashion sense have influenced me since my teen years and continue to inspire the shop's aesthetic.
Poison Ivy & Lux Interior in 1982
Shop Background & Involvement with Girls Rock! Indy:
Lux & Ivy (the shop) first popped up at Vibes Music in 2013. This now-defunct record store in Broad Ripple was not only home to L&I's first brick and mortar space, but it is where the punk rock aesthetic of L&I was embraced. It is also where I met Sharon Rickson, founder of Girls Rock! Indianapolis, a nonprofit organization that hosts a summer camp for girls (including female-identified and trans youth), teaching young women positive self-esteem and self-expression through music. I fell in love with this organization and knew I had to get involved.
My first Record Store Day at Vibes, supporting Girls Rock! Indy.
My first big pop-up event at Vibes was Record Store Day of 2013, and I chose to give a % of profits to Girls Rock without knowing too much about the organization. That summer, I taught my first class on DIY Fashion at GRI camp, and my world was rocked by the impact that music was having on these kids. I knew I had to stay involved. Every year since, I've tried to make some kind of monetary contribution to this organization. This year, I decided to get more creative...
Stronger Together : Collaborating with Abby Hart
Abby Hart, lead singer and bassist of Mr. Clit & The Pink Cigarettes, is the real flippin deal. She's a talented artist and musician, huge supporter of other women in music, and she has one of the most unique styles I've ever seen. Yet her aesthetic reminds me in so many ways of Poison Ivy - both musically and sartorially.
Abby & Ayesha of Mr. Clit & The Pink Cigarettes
I also met Abby when Lux & Ivy rented a space inside of Vibes Music. Abby worked at the record store, and I was so drawn to energy and style. She's one of the sweetest people I've ever met. She has been a big supporter of Lux & Ivy from the beginning, and has participated in group shows at L&I's former Murphy Arts Center location.
I love Abby's unique artistic style and powerful creative force, so she was the very first person I thought of when I had the idea to create a feminist t-shirt that could be sold in support of Girls Rock! Indy.
I reached out to Abby simply with the idea to create a t-shirt with the proceeds going to GRI. She responded with the "stronger together" concept, inspired by growing up as a female in the punk music scene.
About the design:
Abby Hart: When you mentioned Girls Rock, I thought about going to punk shows as a young girl and I really wanted to represent the diversity of it. I tried to represent diverse punk female bands, artists, and gender fluid and disabled babes. I wanted the girls to be able to research the bands that I represented on the shirts as well. Lastly, it was inspired by Now and Then when they would play Red Rover against the boys. I almost put "Red Rover, Red Rover send Patriarchy Right Over" but landed on just the simple "Stronger Together".
Abby in the "Stronger Together" tee, in front of PRN Graphics, where they were printed by a female-run local business.
In my DIY Fashion class at Girls Rock! Indy, I teach the campers about repurposing clothing we no longer love, and show simple t-shirt alterations. I also talk about Fashion as Self-Expression & Activism, and Sustainable Fashion. We learn about the impact of the fashion industry on the environment and local economy. Therefore, it was important to me to find a local company that would print on sustainably-made shirts. PRN Graphics is managed by Kristin Leep, who got her start in the Indianapolis punk scene as a photographer for The Historic Melody Inn's Punk Rock Night.
The shirts are printed on USA-made Cotton-Bamboo blend. Cotton is one of the most environmentally-friendly fabrics due to its sustainable, renewable and biodegradable properties, as well as its ability to withstand a lot of wear. Bamboo is a renewable resource that can be grown and harvested with very little environmental impact.
Getting the Message Out : Interviews with Local Female Musicians
So why is this t-shirt important? Why is supporting other females (regardless of race/sexuality/ability) in your music scene a big deal? Simply put, because we are a minority made up of minorities, and together our voice and our presence becomes stronger. I spoke with several female musicians to find out about their experiences growing up playing music and/or going to shows.
• Nicole O'Neal •
Nicole O'Neal plays bass in alt rock band Wife Patrol. She has been involved with Girls Rock! Indy for a year now, as a camp volunteer and on the Diversity & Inclusions Committee (she is now committee chair for D&I). Nicole talks about being both a woman and a minority in music.
Lux & Ivy: When did you start playing music?
Nicole O'Neal: My first instrument was the recorder in fourth grade. Somewhere in the middle of high school I saw a bass guitar for the first time and decided it was what I wanted to play. I taught myself to play from a book and began playing in the high school intramural jazz band.
My first ‘band’ existed in Bloomington between 2012-2013 with Mike Notaro and Danny McKinley. Few people know it existed as we never played any shows, but we recorded a few tracks that are buried somewhere in Notaro’s infamous archives.
L&I: Describe your experience as a female musician, or someone who grew up attending shows. What makes the female experience unique?
NO: I didn’t really start being a part of a music scene until I got to college (IU Bloomington). I still remember the first show I went to for a local pop-punk band at Rhino’s All Ages Club. It was extremely eye-opening for me to be able to see shows in an open environment, especial as a minor. Something about realizing many of the performers were not only close to me in age, but also often my peers and community neighbors awoke something inside me. Musicians were no longer these far away, larger than life rock stars; they were just people and often students just like me. The female experience is interesting in that in less diverse settings, your presence is often dismissed until you prove that you belong. As both a female and person of color, I’ve been tested many times in this. Also there are those people (male and female) who see females as eye candy before even considering them as talented individuals. You have to work twice as hard to gain respect. On the flip side in more diverse settings your presence is questioned less based on gender and you get to prove yourself by your talent and character alone. It’s more of ‘you’re welcome until you break that trust’. Those environments are often more supportive from the start, which is encouraging and uplifting. When females see themselves included, they feel more welcome and more able to participate rather than be a spectator.
L&I: You play bass and sing in the band Wife Patrol -- can you tell us more about that?
NO: It’s a three piece band of friends - myself, Natasha and Greg. It’s a blend of punk, metal, and grunge influences. Some songs are about 1:30 some a more full 3-4 minute experience. Greg & Natasha are married and their last name happens to be O’Neill (mine is O’Neal). We were introduced by our friend Andy D (another local musician), when he invited us to join he and his wife Victoria on a New Year's Eve trip to play the Michael Jackson slot machine at the Hoosier Park Casino. Wife Patrol started in 2015 with Greg & Natasha. We put together our first E.P. in March of 2016 called Electric Blizzard.
L&I: How do you think an all-female-identifying youth music camp strengthens the female community here in Indianapolis?
NO: Being in a creative environment that is entirely female is empowering on so many levels. Seeing female adults and youths lead, teach, try new things, work together, and express themselves creatively is a game changer. I’ve seen campers feel more confident and comfortable with themselves because those gender stereotypes that haunt schools are broken down and challenged. Having females to look up to and see in a creative space inspires young females to see that THEY belong in this space.
• Leilah Smith •
Leilah is an accomplished cellist who started playing at the age of 6. She is now a full-time cello & piano instructor, as well as a concert cellist, at times playing 3-4 gigs per week. Leilah talks about what its like to be a full-time professional musician in 2017.
Lux & Ivy: When did you start playing music?
Leilah Smith: When I was 6 years old.
L&I:What age range do you teach?
Leilah Smith: 3 & up!
L&I: How do your experiences as a female musician shape the way you teach music?
LS: My experience as a female musician has helped me realize that there are so many false mindsets out there, and people who want to limit your abilities and tell you that certain things are impossible, so don't even "waste your time trying". I still have yet to figure out why, although I have a feeling it has something to do with the ego and/or jealousy. I have heard "isn't it your job to just sit there and look pretty?", "Women can never be as good as men, because their hands aren't big enough to span the intervals needed on a piano", etc, etc. The obstacles women face are indeed true, but that doesn't mean we aren't capable of finding ways around those obstacles. This has shaped my teaching, because I will never try to limit a student and tell them that they can't do something. I simply say "maybe not yet... but we'll get there" or I find a way to make it possible for them. I tell them the process will be incredibly slow, so they must dig deep to find the self-patience needed to accomplish what they are wanting.
L&I: What was your experience as a female musician?
LS: Being a musician is challenging in and of itself, no matter what the gender. You now have to be really good at not only music, but at marketing, graphic design, social media, studio management, teaching, and performing and somehow balance all of that with trying to maintain real life and your adult responsibilities. You don't get a stipend, you don't get bonuses, you don't get your retirement automatically invested, or your taxes.
People think "oh what fun it must be to be a musician" and then look at me with some distant, daydreaming wish for themselves. I mean, it definitely has it's moments, or I wouldn't still be doing it, but the road is so much tougher than anyone can imagine, unless they have been there themselves. There are massive, crippling, self-doubts constantly, no matter what gender you are.
L&I:What makes the female experience unique?
LS: The experience for females is unique I suppose because of this phenomena, but also because there are still societal norms that tell us, we need to be in the kitchen cooking, and cleaning the house. I see it happen constantly where women are trying SO hard to be independent and have successful careers. They end up having kids, and now not only are they juggling their careers and their kids, but what about home life too? Sometimes (not all the time) they are still having to cook and clean and those responsibilities are not always divided up evenly. I have definitely had my fair share of relationships with men who had the mentality of "I work twice as hard as you", just because they can't quantify or understand the results of my work.
I don't know where they are getting that idea from, because if you include my practice time, then I have been working on average 50-70 hours a week since I was 15, with very minimal breaks in between. Maybe I haven't been getting paid anywhere near my worth, but again, that's incredibly difficult to get as a musician in 2017 and that's obviously not why I do it, or I would have given up many years ago!
• Melanie Rau •
Melanie has been a drummer for 20 years, starting at the age of 11. She has played in several Indianapolis bands since age 15, including S.M. Wolf. She also battles Endometriosis, a disease that only affects women and unfortunately limits her ability to play drums.
MR: I love being in a band with Rachel (Enneking). We have developed a sisterhood, especially on tour. When I'd be too sick to play a show, she was willing to forgo playing as well in order to stay back and take care of me. Often times during shows she will look back and check on me to make sure I'm okay. She's always been looking out for me. It's really comforting.
• Sarah Krause •
Sarah came of age in the Florida punk/hardcore scene. Her childhood was spent in Indianapolis, learning drums around the same time as her childhood best friend Melanie Rau. She moved to Florida the summer before 6th grade, then landed back in Indy as an adult. Today, she is raising her kids to have her same strength and confidence through music.
• Riley Krause •
Riley is Sarah Krause's daughter, and a second year Girls Rock! Indy camper. She talks about her love for Adventure Time and playing bass.
Sarah, Riley & Melanie support one another in their musical interests and endeavors.
Thanks for reading this super long post!! Please continue to support one another through music, and help out Girls Rock! Indy if you can! Let's link arms and stand together to **SMASH THE PATRIARCHY**