back in the habit: the grace vonderkuhn interview;

The stupidest thing about this whole Reading/Leeds Festival line-up nonsense is that – as any reader of this blog hopefully knows – there’s very little effort involved finding female musicians to fit in with your festival programming. Melvin Benn of Festival Republic told the Guardian journalist who wrote about the poster that had been photoshopped to leave only the bands or acts with at least one female member a month or so back that the suggestion that female bands were being sidelined by programmers was “just not there”; but as sure as I am that there is no malice aforethought when faced with the visual evidence you can’t help but gasp:

If it seems like the whole world is picking on Reading and Leeds – and it’s not, as similar analysis of other festivals has since emerged and Alexandra Pollard included those in her Guardian blog – it’s maybe because of the festival’s historical reputation as an alternative/rock-centred event. Music writers like myself – women with a tendency to listen to alternative/rock music, the odd Taylor Swift album notwithstanding – are unsurprisingly a little sensitive about it. Seriously, somebody give me my own festival – if you’re fearing some Lilith Fair-esque tampons-and-tiaras tribute to gender stereotypes I can promise you it will be nothing of the sort.

Give me Screaming Females, who have headliner-level stage presence in bucketloads and the battle scars to prove it, and give me Delaware’s Grace Vonderkuhn in a supporting slot. Vonderkuhn (I’m pronouncing it as “wonder cunt” in my head, but YMMV) describes her home recordings as “garage/psych/dream pop for true believers”, and if the lo-fi scuzz of “Nowhere To Go” doesn’t seem to fit the billing at first then stick it out to the end. A five-year veteran of local punk bands Kind of Creatures and A New Dakota, Vonderkuhn plays guitar, bass, keys and drums and her self-titled EP – out now on iTunes, for those of you state-side – is her first solo recording.

How did you get started writing music and performing?
Here is the honest to god truth:
When I was in middle school, I saw the movie Josie and the Pussycats with Rachael Leigh Cook. That movie inspired me and two of my friends to pick up instruments and start “Gracie and the Hardcore Nuns”. None of us were Catholic and it wasn’t a hardcore band. Where do you go from there? Hopefully up.

Three words to describe your sound…
Dreamy garage rock

What influences you – both musically and otherwise?
In terms of music, I’m influenced by T-Rex, Bowie, The Beatles, The Kinks, anything Kim Deal-related, The Buzzcocks, and Ty Segall to name a few.
What influences me otherwise? Anything and everything. It’s usually unexpected.

You’ve been fronting bands for years, but this EP is your first release under your own name. Was it just time for a change? What’s the biggest difference between writing for yourself and writing for a band?
It was definitely a good time for a change. I wanted the freedom to create things at my own pace and to experiment with some ideas. The initial writing hasn’t changed a great deal for me, except that I’m writing and recording all the other parts after that. It’s great fun. I do have a band play with me live, so it’s a well rounded experience.

Since I’m based in Scotland, there’s probably no point in me asking about your touring plans – but what else can we look forward to from Grace Vonderkuhn in 2015?
I will definitely be playing on the (US) east coast. My shows are always posted on my Facebook and Bandcamp, etc. I’m also planning another recording project.

And what are you listening to at the moment?
There’s a band from Philly called Sheer Mag that I love. I’ve been listening to their EP on repeat.

The Grace Vonderkuhn EP is out on Instacrush Records through iTunes [US]; the rest of us can make do with a couple of tracks on Bandcamp.

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