When I was 14, I was in an all-girl band called Cyanide (inspired by My Chemical Romance’s “To The End”). My friends could play only a handful of chords on the guitar, and I hadn’t really figured out what fit comfortably in my vocal range, so there were a very limited number of songs we could cover. I wrote a grand total of three songs during the band’s short-lived time together. Two were about a boy that I believed myself to be in love with, and one was about getting Fs in math class. All really groundbreaking stuff.
Two or three years later, I joined another band that covered mostly Dresden Dolls tracks. Keyboardist, drummer, and my voice on the mic. We dissolved after 2 tiny shows, where the audiences consisted mostly of our friends, but I remained inspired and amazed by Dolls’ Amanda Fucking Palmer. AFP wrote the songs, she was loud and emotional, she was theatrical and brave, and she coined the term “Punk Cabaret” to describe the band’s aesthetics. This lady had started out busking as a living statue in Harvard Square, and now she was up on another kind of stage, a bigger one, telling her story, and doing it in a creative, unapologetic way. It’s not to say that there wasn’t tons of other music by female artists I could have gotten my hands on, but Amanda Palmer caught my attention. She was fearless and she was exactly who I needed to turn to at that point.
After the Dresden Dolls went on hiatus, AFP decided to release music as a solo artist, but faced a lot of unfair treatment from her label. The label didn’t want her to show off her stomach in her music video for the song “Leeds United” because they thought she “looked fat”. Amanda and her fans didn’t take this lying down and instead started “The ReBellyon”, fighting back against the label by bombarding members of the company with pictures of their stomachs covered with lyrics and messages. Amanda, through a long and tedious process of repeatedly asking her label to free her from her contract (she even recorded a song titled “Please Drop Me”), finally was released from it. This is when I truly got to see what AFP was all about.
What I appreciate about Amanda Palmer is her ability to use what she has to make things happen. She isn’t passive and she isn’t quiet. She is constantly tweeting, blogging, or posting on her tumblr. This is how she gets her voice out to the world, and the world, in turn, responds. In 2012, she launched a kickstarter in order to put together a record and tour the world. Her fans heard her call and raised almost $1.2 million. A lot of people criticized her methods, and the fact that some of the musicians who responded to her tweets to help cover certain instrumental duties on tour were not paid in the traditional sense of the term. Amanda explains in her recent TED Talk, The Art of Asking, that this is an exchange, that it is not without a certain give and take, that her ultimate goal is to reach out to her fans, to make it past the façade of “the celebrity”.
I realized how much of an impact a musician can make on their fans, and how it is not enough for them to release music in a bubble. I don’t think it’s too much to hope that more girls will start following AFP and Grimes’ example, to see that they can make art too, that it isn’t hard, that they have things of value to say that can be put into song, and that there will be people listening. I’ve been messing around with my ukulele and omnichord on Garageband (in the privacy of my own bedroom), and who knows? Maybe I’ll get the band together again.
Taina Teravainen is a 21-year-old girlchild who loves tattoos and milk tea. She hails from the little island city of Singapore and writes a lot about boys, feelings, and the search for home.