By Lilly Estenson '12Guest Writer
The Los Angeles-based group “The Wild Reeds” talks about its roots, its influences and what it’s like for its members as independent female musicians.
Lilly Estenson: How did you guys form the band?
Natalie: Kinsey was playing solo for a Christmas show and Sharon and I played back-up on one song. We thought the harmonies sounded really rad. And then our friend Presley Perez, who now produces our albums for us, he really encouraged us to become a band. We started playing a lot of open mics around the area, like at CK’s Café, and also busking at the Pomona Art Walks and other events. And that’s how The Wild Reeds was formed!
LE: How did you come up with the band name?
Kinsey: We picked it because of this Chinese parable, whose title translates to something like “The Oak and the Reed.” In the parable, the oak tree says to the reed, “I’m sorry God created you because in the wind you just blow over.” But then there is a huge storm and the oak tree falls over, but the reed, even though it blows in the wind, stays rooted in the ground. It’s a metaphor about strength and how even things that seem little or weak can really be the strongest of all. I think that the metaphor of the reed really parallels our lives in general, and also [reflects on our staatus] as an all-female band. I think people underestimate us sometimes because we are all girls.
Sharon: Yeah, [the fact that we are an all-female band] was something we thought about a lot when we were picking a name. I really didn’t want the band name to be too feminine, or just scream that we are an all-girl band.
Kinsey: We didn’t want people to be turned off.
Natalie: Or on!
Kinsey: (laughs) Yes, turned off or on by just the fact that we are a band of all girls, like even before they hear our music. We want people to see us as more than a “girl band” and just to take us seriously. I think we identify as the reeds in that parable. In many ways, the view from the reeds parallels our perspective as female musicians.
LE: In what ways do you think the reeds are such a good metaphor for your experience as female musicians?
Sharon: Because I think female musicians are underestimated, especially by sound engineers at shows.
Natalie: We are definitely treated differently by sound guys before and after shows. They treat us with more respect after they see us play.
Kinsey: Before the show we’re sometimes treated like children and the sound people don’t think we know what we’re doing.
Natalie: And I mean, we’re not saying that every musician doesn’t go through this. Male musicians have this too because, let’s be honest here, sound guys have to sit through so many bad bands and so many musicians that just don’t know what they are doing. But I think especially with us, when they see three young women, they just assume we don’t know what we’re doing.
LE: Even if you want to avoid the negative connotations of the “girl band” label, do you take pride in being an all-female band—especially considering all the obstacles you have had to overcome because of this fact?
Sharon: Yes, we are definitely proud. But once again, we don’t want this fact to be the focus of what people say and hear about us. Like, we’ve thought about this before—do we need the Reeds to be only and all girls? I mean, we love playing together and aren’t looking to change up the line-up too much, but we are thinking of adding a drummer eventually and we talked about [how important it would be that this new member] also be female. We decided it was not important.
Kinsey: And what it really comes down to is, if something about us is going to stand out, we don’t want the first thing to be that we’re all girls. We’d prefer if people focused on how together we are as a unit or how equal we are as a band. There is no front person in The Wild Reeds. We all write songs and we all share vocal leads. It’s a collaboration. We wanted to make that when we are on stage people don’t see us as three solo singer-songwriters but as one band. The fact that we are so together is what makes us strong.
LE: Tell me more about your upcoming album. How is it different from your first album, the “Songs for the Morning, Afternoon, and Evening” EP?
Sharon: The new album has a few themes that are carried throughout it, and—this sounds cheesy, but—one theme is definitely coming of age. I think generally [our new album] is more edgy and our message is clearer. Our lyrics themselves are less cryptic, and also our sound is more defined. We got bluesier and bolder!
Natalie: The new album definitely has more attitude and is not as dreamy. It is still ethereal, though, and has warmth. Like, don’t worry, we still have sad songs! (laughs)
Kinsey: Basically, we’re really proud of it and really excited to release it. We have grown way more confident as a band this year and I think it will show.