Sick of Sarah on Tour: “Pretty Good for a Girl”

 
 

This is a monthly column by Sick of Sarah — whose music can be heard weekly on Brunch with Bridget, and on a recent episode of South of Nowhere — about their experiences as an up-and-coming band.

My name is Jessie Farmer and I play guitar for
Sick Of Sarah. I’ve never been a very good “blogger” but I’ll give it a
shot. I’d like to begin by saying that being in an all-female band is the
greatest blessing and the biggest curse.

Why do I say that? Well, being in
an all-female band provides more opportunities, but you get less respect. There’s that whole mentality that girls can’t play, don’t know their gear, or
anything about music for that matter.

Fortunately for us, the guys that we
work the closest with don’t have that mentality at all. As a teenager, I
always played music with guys, had guy friends, just overall was kinda “one
of the guys,” so I guess I don’t get it as much or as bad as my lovely band
mates. 

I am also the token “Boi”/”Butchie” of the band (with Katie at a
close second).

We’ve traveled all over the country and encountered many
“unique” experiences related to this topic, like one time at one of our
shows, Jamie went outside for something and upon re-entering the venue, she
got stopped by the bouncer. He told her that she needed to pay, she told him
she was in the band.

“Are you ‘in’ the band or ‘with’ the band?” he asked
her with an overwhelmingly sexist and condescending tone. “Um, I play bass in
Sick Of Sarah," she answered, and he promptly apologized, saying, “OOOHHH! I’m so sorry, right this way, let
me get the door for you” with his pride shriveling up like a
raisin.

Most sound guys in general think we’re idiots upon arrival,
which is pretty rude, but attitude of the staff at a venue
drastically changes after we play. 

One thing I don’t really mind is when
dudes want to load our gear, which any person in a band totally despises.
We are fully capable but lift away, my man!

I’ve always been attracted to all-female bands. I grew up listening to Joan
Jett, Pat Benatar, The Go Go’s, then as a teenager getting into the riot
grrrl scene with Bikini kill, Brat Mobile, 7 Year Bitch, L7, and my favorite
all female band Babes In Toyland.

I must have gone to at least 20 Babes
shows growing up. I always thought how cool would it be to jam with Kat
Bjelland.

Little did I know that a few years later she would be hiring me to
play bass for them and take me all over Europe. True story: I was a 20 year
old girl living a dream. I learned so much from Kat and Lori Barbero
(drummer). They really showed me how to be a strong woman in the male
dominated music industry. And what it’s like out there. And how to get what
you want. Still to this day, one of the coolest things I’ve ever
experienced.

So after the Babes experience, a couple of years went by. I was working at
this bar in Minneapolis and one Monday afternoon, I get a phone call from
Lori Barbero telling me about a friend whose band needed a bass player. But the audition was in
Maui. I was like, “Ooookaaayyy?”

The audition was for Courtney Love.

I
almost dropped the phone. I hesitated only because I was always more of a
Nirvana fan than a Hole fan, but it was such a great opportunity.

So she
flew me out to Maui and I auditioned. I got to witness the making of her
solo record America’s Sweetheart, with Linda Perry helping her out. It would have been cool — I had a great time
and got to see some things I wouldn’t have seen otherwise — but I
almost felt like that wasn’t the best place for me. So all in all, I’m kinda glad I didn’t get the gig.

A few years pass and I met Abisha. The worst day of my life! (Just kidding.)

She told me she put this all-girl band together, but they needed a bass
player. I wasn’t super down with the idea of playing bass again because I’m
a guitar player. She told me they had a show coming up and that I should
check it out. So that’s exactly what I did.

And there they were: Sparkle
Motion, four girls with four acoustic guitars. I told Bish that I was down for a
jam session on the condition that we downsize the number of guitars and
get a drummer.

So we got Abisha Uhl, and Katie Murphy, myself, then
Brooke Svanes, and a few years later, Jamie Holm. We got together and jammed
and it just felt natural. We started playing in public almost immediately (three weeks
after forming as a band) — too soon, in my opinion.

Our first show was a
complete and total disaster. One song was so bad we attempted it
twice. But we just kept on playin’. I guess you could say we learned
how to assemble the training wheels while the bike was already in motion.
(Do NOT attempt at home!)

After playing out our first year, we noticed a
pattern: We generally played with bands made up of guys. And over and
over again, the same things started happening. First there were the
“looks,” then the “you’re girls, so you don’t know how to work your gear”
assumptions, then the sound guys acting like we had no idea how the boxes in
front of us made noise, then “oh, I’m just too weak in my feminine physique
to possibly lift that box that makes noise.” You get the picture.

All female
musicians know what it’s like: People in the industry judging you first by
what’s in your pants, not how you play. And even when they are impressed by
your talent, they give you that whole “you’re pretty good for a girl” sort
of “compliment.” How are you supposed to even take that? 

“You’re pretty
good for a girl” kind of makes me want to come back with “you smell pretty
good for an a–hole.” I think I may try that one sometime.

But
seriously, it’s no shock that the music industry is a male-dominated
place. You just have to grow a thick skin, be articulate and knowledgeable,
and get on that stage and rock your ass off. That’s how you get respect as a
female in this scene.

And when some dude says “let me help you with that”
lift your 100 pound amp off the ground and say, ”That’s cool, I got it.”

I
feel very proud and privileged to play with such inspiring and talented
women, to have such a great and supportive management team and label, and
most of all to have such loving and devoted fans.

Learn more about SOS at MySpace.com/SickofSarah.

 
 

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