We sat down with the founder, Anna Bulbrook (you might recognize her from Airborne Toxic Event), to get the low down on how she started GIRLSCHOOL, her experience as a female artist, and what to expect from GIRLSCHOOL Fest 2017. Be sure to get your GIRLSCHOOL ticket here LA babes!
What is GIRLSCHOOL and how did it get started?
Formally, Girlschool is a women-led music festival and collective that celebrates and connects women-identified artists, leaders, and voices.
Informally, it's a really fucking fierce music festival with an unbelievably positive, community-focused vibe, that is also stacked with panels, talks, and workshops by real-deal women thought-leaders from the music space.
Behind the scenes, I am privileged to work alongside a group of smart, talented, socially-engaged, and different women who are creating a network and community for each other. And I hope that we are showing people that incredible things happen when women gather.
But backing up a little, I originally started GIRLSCHOOL as a reaction to spending the last ten years of my life in an alternative rock band. I love playing in a band--but the alternative rock scene is almost devoid of women. I can count on one hand the other women I see on-stage at alternative radio festivals. So, I thought, What can we do about this to change things in a positive way? and the GIRLSCHOOL idea unfolded from there. Honestly, it seemed so obvious to me that I couldn't believe no one had done it in quite the same way yet.
And it turned out that other women feel the same way, and GIRLSCHOOL has quickly grown into a team and collective. Now we are a beautiful, growing volunteer community of strong and talented women who work incredibly hard to make our utopian dream into a reality.
When did you start playing music and what artists inspired you growing up?
I am a (recovering) classically-trained violinist, so I've been playing music hard since I was four. The hierarchy in classical music is very clear, so I looked up to the players ahead of me in my little classical bubble, and the violin soloists who are the Olympians of classical music, like Anne-Sophie Mutter or Jascha Heifetz.
But when I graduated from college, I quit playing classical violin, because... It sucked. I wasn't happy. I worked for a couple of years, and rebooted my relationship with music. I discovered indie rock. I got over a bunch of classical inhibitions. I joined the Airborne Toxic Event, and then (briefly), Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Now I love playing violin in my own way.
Now, I look up to songwriters and artists like Björk who have this complete creative vision and oeuvre. The breadth and depth of her vision is breathtaking. Or newer artists like Christine and the Queens--she is my current kween.
What was it like being the only girl in Airborne Toxic Event?
The classic interview question! Honestly, I didn't think about it too much for the first few years, except whenever people would ask me this question, or when I noticed that the classic fangirl/band guy trope doesn't translate in reverse. I think I was used to... Side-stepping my gender as much as possible. We just worked hard and did our best to survive in the crazy, escapist, but also all-too-real dynamic that is touring life, and that included putting a lot of emotional stuff away.
I am proud to be a woman, and proud of how that makes me stand out in the alternative rock universe. I am proud of how respectful our fans are of me, especially when I'm in the crowd, but also with their language online. But I am the only girl around a lot of the time, and I wish that were different.
You're donating proceeds to Rock n' Roll Girls Camp, tell us about your experience of visiting the camp and why they inspired you.
The first time I visited Rock Camp, I think I wept from joy a good 65% of the time. To suddenly be in an all-women utopia, and also be making music, was like sitting down to eat an incredible meal when you don't even realize how hungry you are until the food is almost there. And then you almost collapse from hunger. That experience primed me to think about the community I lacked, and how I could tap into it, or make it, or whatever! I can't wait for us to share our whole thing with more people in more cities.
What can we expect GIRLSCHOOL 2017 and what are you most excited for?
You can expect a sick-ass show with a lineup of artists who are too big for our stage, like Chelsea Wolfe, The Bird and the Bee, Francisca Valenzuela, and Deap Vally, alongside extremely talented up-and-comers, all of whom are already generating their own heat. And we added 12 panel discussions, talks, and workshops on the Saturday and Sunday afternoons by women leaders on everything from singing in Spanish in an English language market, to women in media, to women at the intersection of film and music, to connecting with anger and harnessing it as a positive force, to intersectional feminism in music, to hearing from women in the queer and trans space.
I think having this real-deal community-building programming as part of a fun music festival is especially meaningful right now.
What do you envision for the future of GIRLSCHOOL?