On a recent evening at the patio behind Aroma Cafe, three local musicans sat over lots of laughter, frozen lattes and bright green Italian sodas to talk about being female in the music business.
The women in question, Kayla Brown (also known as DJ Lil’ Big Bass,) Jane Boxall and Holly Rushakoff, of the bass and drum duo Triple Whip, are performing this weekend at the Campus Women’s Music Series Kick-off event, along with G. Lee, at the Independent Media Center.
“I don’t mind aligning myself with positive events that are, like, showcasing women in rock,” said Holly Rushakoff, bassist for Triple Whip, when asked about the kick-off event, which will benefit the Center for Women in Transition.
Gloria Roubal, known to the local music community as singer/songwriter G. Lee, did not attend the gab session, but said that she likes playing shows with other women.
“I always feel a real sense of bonding when I play with other women,” Roubal said, adding that it’s not a preference, just a different experience.
Rushakoff said that she rarely thinks about her gender while she works.
“I’m not thinking of my femininity while I’m writing,” she said. “I would say that a plus, or a selling point, for our band is that it’s a drum and bass instrumental duo. I wouldn’t have necessarily have thrown ‘female’ in there.”
“…Although people defiantly notice that. I mean, you can’t get away from that,” said Triple Whip drummer Jane Boxall, giggling.
Brown’s solo CD comes out in August, and she said that being a DJ is a little weird as woman, especially the style of drum and bass that she spins.
“Drum and bass … is like, a really dark and scary kind of music, and it’s really kind of an acquired taste,” Brown said.
Triple Whip recorded three new songs in late March, songs described by Rushkoff as “our ammo to go towards a full-length CD.” They hope to record additional songs soon, to add fuel to the UK press the band has had recently.
“UK domination, more like,” said Boxall, laughing. She believes that a common misconception about a female artist is the Riot Grrl, shouting punk band persona.
Boxall, who grew up in England and Scotland, is currently in the percussion doctorate program at the U of I, with a focus on the marimba. She recently published an article about local female rock musicians for Innocent Words magazine.
“People hearing us on the radio, they’re not going to know if it’s ladies or dudes playing,” Boxall said. “And to some degree I feel like I don’t want to ghettoize myself as a female musician, you know. I just want to play the drums as well as any dude can.
“But it’s also true that being a female musician, as much as it can be a hindrance with people’s perception of you, it’s also a great help because it’s still pretty unusual, and I know that I’ve got gigs that I wouldn’t have got if I was a guy,” Boxall said.
Brown said that, while she doesn’t feel like a “chick with a guitar,” she understands that being a female musician is often seen as unique.
“To other people who don’t play, they would see that it’s kind of a special thing because it’s not something that we’re really taught growing up,” Brown said. “It’s like, you know, the brother got the drum kit and I got, like, I don’t know, a cooking kit or a knitting kit or something.”
“Even my first drum teacher said, ‘I don’t think girls should play kit because I don’t like them sitting with their legs apart,'” Boxall said. “He was an awesome percussionist and a really good teacher, but he was old school and didn’t think it was appropriate for young ladies.”
The Campus Women’s Music Series Kick-off is Saturday, June 24, at the Independent Media Center in downtown Urbana, with a suggested donation of $5 to support the Center for Women in Transition. Kelly Applegate organized the show and hopes it will eventually become a monthly concert series. The show is for all ages, and refreshments will be served at 7 p.m. with a talk from the performers. Live, local music starts at 8 p.m.