Massachusetts is home to many vibrant music scenes. From our beautiful valley, to the fast-paced entertainment hub of Boston; there is no lack of unique and original projects deserving of fresh ears. On January 18th, Boston-based "alternative-rock but not exactly" band Jakals brings their haunting sounds to Gateway City Arts- they are joined by Ex-Temper and The Greys. All three bands are interesting in their own rights, and this whole bill is made up of bands that either completely or heavily feature women. Recently they each took some time to chat with us about their projects and what we can expect from their show here in early 2019.
Hi Jakals, Ex-Temper, and Greys! Gateway City Arts is super excited to have you all on the bill, and I personally am thrilled to have a chance to share a bill with you! Can you each start by telling me a bit about your band and how long you have been playing together?
JAKALS: We are a 5 piece alternative rock band based in Boston, MA. We have been together as a full band for about a year and a half. Prior to the full band, we were a duo for a couple of years.
EX-TEMPER:Kaliis, Kate, and Lynn started the band 3 1/2 years ago, working with several different drummers before we finally found Dana. This final incarnation has been together for a about 2 years. We play loud, angular, dynamic rock with intricate vocal harmonies. Kaliis and Lynn are the primary songwriters (although we’re eager to get Kate, our bassist, into the mix as she is also a powerhouse songwriter for her own band The True Jacqueline)
GREYS: Chris and I have been playing together since the beginning of college in 2010 or 2011, but we started our duo in late 2015. In 2017 Mara and Josh joined us and we never looked back! Most of us play in other projects as well, but this band is my heart and soul.
Can you describe your sound for us? What are some of your influences?
J:We have a somewhat 90s inspired sound (we've been told). We fuse together melodic, driving instrumental with passionate vocals and personal/honest lyrics. We all have pretty distinct influences, which we think helps to create (what we hope) is a unique sound!
E: Somebody recently described us as "Fugazi meets the Andrew Sisters", and we felt that was a great description. We’re influenced by a lot of pioneering women in music especially those of the 90’s: Kristen Hersh, Sleater Kinney, Tuscadero, Liz Phair, PJ Harvey, Bjork, Erykah Badu. But we have a lot of influence from “classic” songwriters as well, such as Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell.
G: I tend to describe us as poetry driven indie rock with jazz roots. I think the fact that we all met studying jazz shines through- but so does my theater-kid background and Chris's love for rock music. I love that we all have different preferences and inspirations that we can bring into the room.
Ex-Temper and The Greys are from The Valley and Jakals is from Boston, can you each talk a bit about something that you feel makes your music scene or community unique to others you have experienced? Is there a defining feature of your community that comes to mind?
J: We started out in the singer-songwriter scene in Boston because we were a duo and the singer-songwriter community in Boston is pretty incredible. Everyone is so supportive of each other's music. Musicians are always attending fellow musicians shows and sharing their music. It's amazing. We are much louder than most of the bands we know in Boston at this point so we don't totally fit in the scene we are in but we feel very lucky to be a part of it still.
E: The Valley indie music scene tends to overlap upon itself, in a way that can be very creative and expressive. Each of our band members has other bands and other projects in the works. This is not unusual for bands in the valley! The cool thing is that the music itself varies greatly in each project and allows us to explore other interests and passions. There is also a very active DIY queer/punk scene with a lot of house shows and a Noise music scene that has some nationwide attention in an underground sort of way. Although there isn’t a lot of cross-pollination between scenes, legendary figures have arisen from each of them (see Sonic Youth, the Pixies, and Dinosaur Jr/Sebadoh) which is inspiring in its own right.
G: I think that the valley's music community is really special. I do wish that people didn't solely stick to their own 'scene' which is pretty common out here, but I think that musicians tend to support each other and that the area is full of artists making really unique art. I also think there are a lot of musicians that are committed to using their art for change, and I am always moved and pushed by that.
What have your experiences been as femme bandleaders, performers, and writers in this industry?
E:We have generally had very positive experiences being in an all women rock band. There are sometimes folks (most often men) who underestimate or misjudge our abilities. And there are occasionally people who fail to recognize our space. There are certain assumptions that are made about women making music and therefore also making space/time for the people that listen to us that we just don’t adhere to. We believe in our own agency and we’ve been lucky enough to be a part of a scene that encourages that. But sometimes we get folks who aren’t used to that sort of autonomy, especially in women run spaces/groups and it’s like a reminder. A wake up call. We had *one* experience with a total misogynist sound guy, and it was so surprising we couldn't even believe it was happening. We all had this moment where we looked at each other and realized this dude didn't think we knew anything about sound because we had vaginas. We were stunned. We’d nearly forgotten that could happen. It was upsetting.
G: There are venues we no longer play because of the treatment I have received versus my male band mates. I think there are also just unchecked assumptions that we sometimes come into contact with as well as unwanted attention about the wrong things that can make our experiences at shows uncomfortable and even infuriating. I have stopped being so polite about these things, and I know everyone in the band is on the same page when it comes to this which is important.
What are you most excited for involving this show and this line up?
J: We are so excited to play at Gateway City Arts because we have only heard amazing things. We are also SO pumped to play with The Greys and Ex-Temper. We've heard from multiple different people how incredible they both are and I'm so excited to have a full line-up with all female/ female fronted bands.
E: We have been wanting to play at Gateway City Arts for a long time! The sound system is great and it is always exciting to play a place you know has great sound and maybe the audience will actually hear your lyrics. We have also been trying to plan a show with Jakals for some time, so it will be great to finally share a show with them.
G: I love both bands' sounds! I have seen members of Ex-Temper perform with other projects and I'm a fan, so I'm looking forward to hearing this band. I also have been digging into Jakal's recorded music, and I'm looking forward to hearing it all live. Of course, I'm also just hyped to kick off our year sharing the bill with two kick-ass groups.
How does community impact your art and how do you feel your art interacts with community?
J: Generally what I write about tends to be pretty personal, but it's influenced by and in response to societal pressures and frustrations, that I hope other people can relate to.
E: We recently played a Liz Phair tribute show that was a great community building experience! The night was entirely comprised of women musicians, which was truly inspiring. The event was volunteer coordinated and driven which helps keeps the spirit of the DIY/indie/punk music scene alive. Performing a tribute show is also a great way to get people out to see local music and hopefully get them interested in seeing a band they haven't seen before, building interest for folks to come out to see local original music.
G: A lot of the music we write is about my experiences with mental health and illness. Because of that, we also feel that it is important to speak about those things if we are able to, and to participate in community building through our music or donating performances when we can.
Are there any main themes that you feel you write to?
J: I definitely tend to write about personal experiences in order to get at larger issues. I find that I relate most to lyricists who are super open about their own emotional state and life in general. Writing poetry and lyrics are my way of understanding what I'm experiencing and expressing myself. I tend to write about my fears and frustrations and sadness living in this world and my anger about this world more generally.
E: We play mostly angry political songs and a few break up songs. The alchemy of songwriting helps us to transform our anger, anxiety, disgust, worry, etc. into music; creating something beautiful and powerful in reaction to injustice.
G: I write a lot about my mental health and anger. This next album is very much about taking control, ownership, and existing in two realms- which I think can mean something to anyone.
Who has the biggest influence been regarding your art? Are there any non-music influences or inspirations that are prevalent in your work?
J: There have been so many people and artists who have influenced me and they have changed a lot over the years. When I was young, I listened to a lot of singer-songwriters and a lot of Broadway music so I think that had a big impact on my music. Also, in the last few years, Father John Misty, PJ Harvey, and The National have all been very influential for me.
E: We build songs around a sound or structure that interests us. We’re also very influenced by the world around us, especially the injustices that we witness toward and within our various communities. We speak to this often in song. (We believe firmly in smash white supremacist capitalist patriarchy songs!) Other forms of art inspire us as well, dance performances, visual art, theater, etc. The world is a pretty inspiring place.
For instance, we wanted to write a song that was heavily distorted and slow. Then the Pulse shooting happened while we were working on it and it ended up shaping the feel of the music, organically weaving together a chaos and intensity into the timing.
G: I think just the world and learning to cope with it in the past four years has been a big influence. In terms of bands, Consider the Source has been a big influence for our writing as a whole. Other influences include Jimi Hendrix, Lake Street Dive, and Rage Against The Machine. I know Mara love Sufjan Stevens. We all have pretty diverse personal influences, so I think that's a big part of how our sound ends up coming out.
What's your favorite tour or rehearsal memory with your band?
J: Probably my favorite memory of a rehearsal is when we decided to really try writing together as a full band. Our first album, "Keep Mother Sane" was written mostly by myself and Jack and when we started to work on new songs following that, it was so exciting to include the whole band. We all have such distinct influences and seeing the songs come together in such a new way was pretty awesome.
E: We haven't toured yet, BUT we played a game called "Fiasco" (Kaliis is obsessed with board games and has tons of really fun collaborative games). In the game you improvise a situation with characters you make up, and we had this whole elaborate tour scenario with a stalker fan and a barn on fire and all kinds of mayhem. That counts, doesn't it?
G: I loved our first year performing at Wormtown. I think that performance and experience was magical because the festival already meant so much to me and Chris- we had already written songs about it. I also think anytime we have to have time away, and then I just get to be in a room with them again rehearsing is one of my favorite things.
I know none of these projects have worked together before, but are there any songs from either of the other bands that are currently in your rotation or that you are looking forward to hopefully hearing live?
J: The Grey's new song "Rabbit Hole" sounds incredible and I can't wait to hear Cait's voice live. I hope to hear Ex-Temper play "Transplant." There is so much energy in the song it would be so fun to hear live.
E: We are looking forward to seeing The Greys jazzy/ambient/sultry vocal sound and finally see Jakals do their alternate rock thang. "Trauma Hoarding" by Jackals has an interesting melodic build to it and some twists and turns that will be exciting to see live. We know The Greys are working to release an album soon and are excited to hear what they've got going on!
G: Since getting on this bill I have been creeping hard on both bands, I'm really looking forward to being in the room with them and being inspired by all that they do.
What are you working on right now?
J: We are in the process of working on a bunch of new material. We have a ton of new songs we are so excited about and we are planning to go back into the studio in March to record them.
E: We spent the last 2 months working on Liz Phair covers, which was an interesting project, because we love her work and it's good practice to learn other people's songs while adding our own unique interpretations. We have some new things we will be playing at the show, and then we’re excited to get back to exploring and developing the song ideas we’ve had waiting in the wings. We’re also beginning to plan for recording a full length album very soon!
G: We just finished crowdfunding for our next album! We are finishing writing it and then we will be heading into the studio.
Thank you all for taking the time, we are really looking forward to January 18th!
Jakals, Ex-Temper, and The Greys will be at GCA on Friday, January 18 at 8PM. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door.
To learn more about Jakals click here.
To learn more about Ex-Temper click here.
To learn more about The Greys click here.
To purchase tickets click here.