Interview: Doll Skin at the Mesa Music Festival
Open air, stages cropping up in corners and pavilions all around Downtown Mesa in the arts district, and music spilling out into the milling crowd. On Friday night, November 11th, the Mesa Music Festival opened up, featuring an assortment of local up-and-coming Arizona bands. The audience was incredibly diverse; ranging from little girls in pink jeans, to suburban soccer moms, to the headbanging emo squad right up next to the stage. People wandered around for most of the night, checking out the art scene: that is, until Doll Skin hit the stage. By the second song, a crowd of almost sixty people had gathered to listen.
The girls, Sydney (vocals), Nicole (bass), Alex (guitar), and Meghan (drums), have an amazing chemistry that came through not only on stage, but backstage during an interview with yours truly.
FRR: We are at the Mesa Music Festival and we are gonna interview these, ladies, get talking. It’s going to be awesome.
Alright, so you guys have been pretty hype to play this festival for quite a while. What’s it feel like to actually be here?
Sydney: Well we played last year and it was amazing, so we were very excited to be invited back again. Because it’s just this giant awesome collection of musicians and other vendors and stuff, so it’s really cool to be here again.
FRR: Awesome. So, for a lot of musicians, music is a really hard business to get into, but people keep doing it anyways. Why do you guys think they do that? What’s the point? Why not just get a steady desk job?
Meghan: People, playing music is the best the best feeling in the world and despite all the possible outcomes, you know like a money issue or affording an instrument, people do whatever they can to do music, and once they like start like, getting into that path, and are like “okay. I’m going somewhere” they like, it’s an addiction honestly.
Meghan: Yeah, and every single show, even if it’s a crappy crowd and you’re kind of “ehh” but still it’s fun cuz you’re playing music and you love music!
Alex: It’s such a unique platform, and people have so many messages to put out there and a unique way to do that.
Sydney: It’s just, it’s just fun!
Nicole: It’s got this vibe to it. It’s just cool you know?
FRR: Other than just being cool, music has this power to it, but it’s just sound, so what do you guys think makes it so powerful?
Nicole: The message I think, and the emotion and the power behind music. Because yeah, technically music is just sound but the people who put their everything into music, I think, the people behind the music is what makes it powerful.
Meghan: The personal experience thing, especially for like lyricists and everything, like they’re gonna write their story you know? It’s very weird, I’ve thought about it. Its- its music. Can you scientifically describe why it sounds so good to the ear? No you can’t. You know it just sounds pleasurable.
Nicole: It just is, cool.
Meghan: It’s just cool. [Laughs] That’s it.
Alex: And I mean, you can convey what’s behind it. And then seeing that performed. It’s very nice. It’s very cool.
Sydney: Yeah, it gives people listening to it insight into other people’s lives. Sometimes people who might be listening to music are upset about certain things and sometimes you find a song where the singer feels exactly how you feel or like whoever wrote the music knows exactly how you feel and you kind of, you relate to them and it’s really cool.
FRR: So as an all-female band, have you guys ever come across opposition, especially as a young female band, and how have you guys overcome that?
[All nodding vigorously]
Meghan: Yeah we have!
Nicole: Every show we’ve played, I think, there’s always been someone who’s like “Wow, I saw you guys walking in here and I didn’t expect you guys to actually be good.” and were like “Thank you for the compliment” and people are like “Are you loading in for your boyfriend’s band?” and we’re like, No.
Sydney: My boyfriend loads in for my band sometimes like…
Alex: My boyfriend is doing that right now.
Nicole: People definitely second guess us and doubt us but is a very powerful feeling to know someone doubts you and going onstage and literally watching them be like [gasps].
Alex: You can see a change in their face throughout the set and it’s such a good-
Meghan: We’ve had people, you know, at this show, and there was this lady who came to see us and there was a group of guys surrounding her while she was waiting for us to go on, and they were rating us from one to ten and saying the most vulgar stuff about us, and then the second we started playing, they just *zips mouth* shut their mouths.
Nicole: We’ve had a few women come up to us afterward and be like, the response from men, and women like honestly too, in the crowd was just talking about our appearances and multiple women have been like, “Yeah they were rating you.” And it’s sad to see women belittling other women just because we hear it from dudes and ‘yeah that’s funny.’ No it’s not. Don’t just put us down for our looks you know?
Alex: But it’s also very satisfying to know that we can prove those people wrong.
Nicole: It’s a lot of proving people wrong, being female musicians.
Sydney: We also got denied going into Warped Tour last year, because of our age, but whatever. Hopefully next year *crosses fingers*
FRR: Another struggle of musicians is writer’s block. I’m sure you guys have felt the struggle. What about that? How have you guys overcome that?
Alex: Going through that right now. I am personally, not you guys! *laughs*
Nicole: Well we’ll be practicing and we try to weekly schedule things, but you come to know that if we practice for more than three hours, all of us just hit this wall and all of our faces were just “ugh”
Alex: It so hard to get back into a groove once you’ve kind of lost momentum and you don’t just want to be like “lets just stop trying.” No, you want to push through, but it’s so hard to push through. It’s such a wall.
Nicole: It’s weird, because we’ll be sitting there for an entire practice, just playing stuff, but none of us are feeling it.
Alex: It’s not something you can overcome, you have to just roll with it.
Meghan: The thing is that when you’re having writer’s block, you have to actively go outside of practice. I go outside of my house and find something that inspires me. Watch a movie or listen to more music. Okay that’s my topic and I start just throwing stuff out.
Sydney: She never has writers block and she’s such an amazing writer. She writes all our lyrics.
Nicole: You could be like “write a song about toothpaste” and she’d be like-
Nicole: Got it! [laughs]
Sydney: She’ll be sitting there in silence for ten minutes, then “Okay I’m done.”
Nicole: Alex and I are the worst. When we’re not feeling it…
Alex: We just all work off of each other and with each other. Sometimes it’s one person who is shining in a song, and we work with each other in weird ways. Sometimes it’s the string section [Nicole laughs] but we have other people to work off of to reverse the block effect.
FRR: Off of what Alex said about when you fall out of the groove, but there’s that moment when you’re in the groove. So what’s your favorite line you ever written or one that really resonates with you?
Alex: None of mine would be serious. [All laugh] I like the one about underwear.
Meghan: Yeah, I like that line. But I think my favorite line lyric-wise is “Furious Fixation” because it’s all about Mad-Max and it came out really well when I wrote it so, yeah. And Sydney has kicked butt on some of her songs lyric-wise, especially “So Much Nothing” which is all about her struggle but I’ll let her-
Sydney: Yeah, personally one of my favorite songs I’ve written lyrics for is “So Much Nothing”, and I really like the song “Blind” too, which is all about my sister, I wrote it for my sister. I really like that one. I think “Blind” is my favorite song. It’s a song about coming together and getting through things together. For me it was toward my sister, saying that we can work through this together, just talk to me. We can do this. You don’t have to feel like you’re so lost right now. We can do this together. I’ve already gone through it, and now I’m going to help you get through too. I guess my favorite lyric from it is the chorus. Its “We can get through this, only if you’re willing to try. We can get through this, if you scream at the sky” It’s kind of hard to remember exactly how it goes without singing it. [Meghan cheers]
FRR: You guys obviously have a really great chemistry. You haven’t had a lineup change for almost three years now, so what about your chemistry has kept you together?
Nicole: It’s because we hate each other.
Sydney: We joke about hating each other, which is why we work so good. We’ll point out something that we don’t like each other then we’ll play it off as joking.
Meghan: We get in fights though.
Nicole: One time I threw Alex’s breakfast on the floor when she got me so hard. I was like [angrily] “I’m going to bed.” And I didn’t talk to her for the rest of the night.
Meghan: I just saw pancakes on the floor and I knew it was going down.
Nicole: ‘Cuz she hit me, hard. And she was like “It’s fine, it doesn’t hurt.” So I just threw it off the table.
Alex: But we can playfully get tension out, which is a very strong aspect of our friendship, because if we couldn’t get tension out, we would be a mess.
Nicole: I feel like though we kind of are like sisters where you hate them but you love them, you know?
Alex: Yeah, it’s a great contrast. It’s appropriate
Meghan: We get along.
Sydney: We work really well
Nicole: Alex and I are either about to kill each other or-
Alex: It’s so entertaining!
Nicole: or other times we’re like “Cha cha cha cha cha!”
FRR: So one final question, that i ask all my interviewees is, everyone’s an expert in something that not everyone knows about. So if you could teach a college class in anything, from astrophysics to surfing, what would you choose?
Sydney: Um I don’t know. I’d educate people in all my knowledge of Criminal Minds or Law and Order: SVU. My two favorite shows. I’d just tell them all about it. Like, so listen, this is what this is about in the show, and yeah, thats my knowledge.
Nicole: My Chemical Romance and or burping. That’s what I do a lot. I went to the doctor for it, you know.
Alex: I have no idea.
Sydney: You could do make-up.
Alex: Make-up, yeah I guess so. I really like coffee. I could lay down the lay about that. I’d teach a bunch of small classes, not one big one.
Meghan: I’d teach a combined class, where it would be like photography. That would be my first one. And my second one would be, dogs. I’d minor in dogs. Just, look at this dog, have you seen this dog? It’s amazing.
Alex: Would it be a class of slideshows?
Maghan: Yeah. be like, this is a dog.
Nicole: I could teach a class in slideshows.
Meghan: Just lists of animals predicaments.
Alex: Doll Skin University. We could just have a giant school with little, weird classes.
FRR: Well, that going to wrap up our interview. This is the ladies of Doll Skin. Signing off.
Doll Skin: BYE!!!