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'The Music Should Speak for Itself'

Female musicians discuss gender, Rock & Roll and the local music scene

By Samantha Bohnert · May 6th, 2009 · Music

We’ve all seen the bumper sticker: a simplistic drawing of a baby chicken above the words “Chicks Rock.” Well, that statement couldn’t be truer in the case of Lisa Walker and Margaret Darling, the female faces behind local bands Wussy and The Seedy Seeds, respectively. The two, who list Culture Queer and the Pomegranates as their favorite local artists, have a pretty nice following of their own.

Walker and Darling had never met prior to CityBeat’s interview, but as soon as they started talking it was like two friends who realized how much they really do have in common. And the biggest similarity? Their love for all things music.

Wussy, which formed in 2001, has released four albums, including a self-titled EP that came out last month. The band is on tour now through August. Walker and fellow bandmate Chuck Cleaver plan on doing a tour as a duo in the UK starting September.

The Seedy Seeds have two albums out and have played numerous local shows, most recently at the Southgate House.

“We’re going to be doing a lot of weekend stuff over the summer,” Darling said, “and we’re looking to do a week and a half to two weeks in either September or October.”

Surprisingly enough, Darling never thought music would play such a huge part in her life.

“I very nearly never got into music at all,” she said. “The Seedy Seeds was kind of my decision to say, ‘Hey, I’ll give this a shot,’ but I always wanted to be an artist. I never thought I’d get this serious about it. I’m a professional graphic designer and I do all of the artwork for the band. I do most of our posters, all of our CDs, merchandise, T-shirts.”

Walker, who has a degree in technical writing, also does artwork for her band. And she always knew that performing was a passion she couldn’t pass up.

“I always wanted to do something with music,” she said. “I met Chuck (Cleaver) in 2001. He hated singing by himself, and I sing harmony, so I offered to sing. The first time we went up, we hadn’t practiced. He wrote the lyrics on a napkin. But it went well, and we just decided to keep doing it.

So it was a folk duo at first, but we knew it was going to be a band, and a loud band eventually.”

Darling’s decision to be in a band was based upon a pact she made with a fellow bandmate.

“I met Mike (Ingram) a couple days before New Year’s in 2005,” she said. “I had just moved to Cincinnati and was invited to a party. He answered the door, and we started talking. Each of us had acquired instruments over the years we never bothered to learn to play, so we made an oath to each other that we would form a band and it wouldn’t suck. And we made ourselves learn these obscure instruments.”

Though neither woman is from Cincinnati, they both have a special place in their heart for the city. Some of their favorite spots around the city are Northside, Mt. Storm Park and Clifton.

“It’s the first place I’ve felt at home,” Walker said. “The music scene has inspired me more than any band I’ve ever listened to. I think that in a couple years, you’re going to see more places outside of Cincinnati writing about Cincinnati and talking about it as being a place where bands come from.”

Darling agrees: “It’s an unbelievably supportive musical environment. Cincinnati itself is such a weird city, so it’s kind of like a treasure chest of song ideas.”

Cincinnati has also been special to Darling and Walker for many other reasons — most importantly, its support of women who want to rock out on stage.

“I got to stand in line the other night to meet The Breeders at Shake It,” Walker said. “I didn’t realize how much it meant to me to get to shake the hand of two people from Ohio who paved the way for other weird girls from Ohio to do music. I almost got emotional. I look up to them. I look up to Margaret and all the other people in town who try to do this and don’t give up.”

Darling had a similar experience after seeing numerous female musicians perform at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Tex.

“I found myself for the first time being really conscious of women on stage who are really proficient at playing their instruments and really, really good at what they’re doing,” Darling said. “I had an emotional reaction to that as well.”

Unfortunately, not everyone is as receptive to the idea of women being in the foreground of the music industry.

“I once got stopped in Dayton at a club,” Darling said. “The door guy thought I was the girlfriend of the band and was like quizzing me on what instruments I played. I really wanted to punch him in his teeth.”

Walker and Darling also agree that it’s difficult to have relationships because of the band, but that’s not enough to stop them from doing what they love to do.

“I’m very proud of being a female artist, but I feel like once the music starts it really shouldn’t matter who’s up there,” Walker said. “The music should speak for itself.”

When asked whom they would love to perform with, there was no hesitation as each of their index fingers pointed to one another. By the end of the interview, they made plans to get their bands together and do a show in the near future, mutually agreeing upon playing The Northside Tavern, one of their favorite venues.

Wussy plays the MoBo Bike Co-op fund-raiser May 16 at Off the Avenue Studios in Northside.



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