Interview: Night School
Staff Writer Deb Carson attended a concert in San Francisco during the height of Pride weekend and interviewed an all girl band, Night School. Check out her diary from the night and hear from the girls of Night School!
It was a Friday night in San Francisco. But, not just any Friday night–it was the first night of Gay Pride 2016. The streets are jam packed with cars, people, and police. As I roll off the Bay Bridge and attempt to turn onto 10th Street to park under the Twitter building I meet with a dilemma: no left turn available. The Police are lining Market Street in their classic SF uniforms and the tension is obvious. Another big city celebration fraught with “what-ifs” in light of the recent tragedy in Florida. The first march in a weekend full of marches has begun, under very high security. A plethora of Rainbow flags, home made banners, and courageous transgender folk and supporters begin to move. Frustrated, I realize I have little time to get situated and walk the seven blocks to DNA Lounge to see Night School perform upstairs. Then, I remember how important this all is. I forget the awful traffic situation and begin to enjoy this lavish array of “beautiful ones:” all shapes, sizes, and genders pass me by, walking with conviction. I return waves, grin back, and snap a few shots before I am finally motioned to turn right by a San Francisco police officer. I head up to Van Ness and find parking near the Opera House.
DNA Lounge 8:30 pm
Outside, ravers of all sorts are lining up for the Pride kick-off party in the downstairs area of the lounge. It’s loud, colorful, and the excitement permeates and electrifies the atmosphere. The record company exec meets me at the door and guides me through. I have arrived in time, but by the skin of my teeth. They are on stage now and about to play.
At the drums a smiling, confident young woman, Bailey, dressed casually in a Hawaiian shirt and a trucker hat, finds her sweet spot on the drum stool, hits a few cymbals and kicks the bass drum. The sun is still up and creates a prism haze through the wall of windows behind the stage as bass player Cheyenne, blonde and in chucks and a dress, checks her pedals and lead guitarist and vocalist Lexi dark haired sultry and also in a dress, fixes her mic and tunes up her Fender. The set begins. The crowd is thin but obviously made up of true devotees with a sprinkling of parental units and record execs. Bailey counts them in and away they go.
What a ride! They have a smart way about them blending obvious influence from Motown girl groups such as The Shirelles with a smack of the sound of early Blondie. With a few snafus on equipment, and a false start on “City Kiss” this sophomore touring band handles it with the grace of seasoned pros. Then with a few words to the audience and an homage to the parents, and some impressive switcheroos on equipment, (these girls play them all), they continue. With obvious knowledge of how to get the best out of their instruments, displayed is a sound, intelligent ability in songwriting that puts them firmly in line for imminent notoriety.
All three are still enrolled in University with diverse majors. Lexi studies Psychology; Cheyenne, Business Management and Bailey, Anthropology. Supporting themselves with jobs as well, they have little time for extensive touring and recording but plan to tour more after graduating next year. The riffs are crisp and the vocals harmonious and sweet. Some songs, like the single, “Last Disaster,” are clean, straightforward and masterfully short. (All true musicians know that sometimes they need to convey their message in two and a half minutes, three tops for a song be remembered after one listen and they have achieved that in spades.) Others are gritty, with “stooges like” fuzz on guitar, clear rumbling hums on bass and precision drumming, with an innocent shrill from Lexi on vocals.
From Indie label Graveface Records their single “Last Disaster,” reminiscent of Weezer mixed with the Beach Boys, is available on pink vinyl and their first full-length album Blush, released June 19th, 2016 on green vinyl. I was gifted one of these with their autographs happily sharpied onto the smart and avant-garde cover art, designed by one of their friends.
Back in the modest but large green room of DNA, all members sat down with me to talk about the evolution of Night School and what’s up next.
Deb: “Let’s start with who you are and what instrument you play.”
Bailey: “I’m Bailey, and I play drums and do some vocals.”
Lexi: “I’m Lexi, and I play guitar and do vocals.”
Cheyenne: “I’m Cheyenne, and I have vocals and bass.” (Giggles)
D: “How did all this start for you lot?”
B: “We had some mutual friends, um we met each other randomly like…”
L: “Yeah we were just hangin’ out in a park one day together, and I’d been working on some music and was looking for a drummer and found out Bailey played.”
B: “I had just learned!” ( Laughs)
L: (Laughing) “Yep just learned, but she also wrote music and so we kinda showed each other our songs and realized we had the same taste and so added to the group and yep it was a go!”
D (To Cheyenne): “And how did you end up with the group young lady?”
C: “Well, I was living in LA, and our boyfriends were friends, (motions toward Bailey), and it was like hey Cheyenne plays bass, well just started playing bass, and I kinda moved back up to the Bay sort of, and met with them, and we totally clicked right away.”
D: “So, let’s talk about who your not so obvious influences are.”
L: “Hmmm that’s a good question… Well, I can give you some vocal influences that maybe aren’t so obvious. I used to listen to a band called Tsunami Bomb; they were my favorite band in high school. Their vocalist, Kate Jacobi, was a HUGE influence on me as a singer.”
D: “Do any of you have any family music history?”
B (Points to Lexi): “She does, A LOT!”
L: “Yes I do, I have a very musical family. My Dad plays piano, um my niece is a singer and well, my whole family sings! My Sister sings, My Mom sings.”
D: “So it’s in the blood then.”
B: “Her family are soooo artistic! You should see their house it’s, well err amazing!” (laughs)
D: “Brilliant! So where do you all hail from, without telling me your address of course!” (everyone laughs).
L: “Well my parents live in Modesto, it’s in the Valley, but I live in Oakland now.”
D: “So Bailey, the drums are pretty precision considering you haven’t been playing long. Very impressive!”
B: “Oh! Well, Thank You.” (humbly laughs and looks down). “Yeah, Thanks.”
D: “I have a lot of drummers in my family, so I was watching you and wow! Lotta confidence for a fledgling player.”
B: “Well, that makes me feel really good!” (laughs humbly again)
D: “In fact, all of you are very impressive talents!”
Collectively: “Wow! Thanks so Much!”
D: “ So how long have you guys actually been touring.”
B: “A Couple of Days.”
L: “You mean this tour?”
D: “No, I mean period from the beginning of Night School.” (I laugh)
B: “Well, since 2015.”
L: “Well, South by Southwest was the first year and the first time we actually went on tour, yeah.”
D: “And are you gaining momentum this time around? As far as record sales and a fan base are concerned?”
C: “I think so yeah.”
L: “Well I think we’re gaining a fan base, yeah, well I hope so um I dunno, it seems as though we are.”
D: “Well we found out about you so something must be brewing!”
B: “Yeah it seems like it’s really picking up right now, so that’s nice, things have been like way more obvious, obvious that people are listening and paying attention to us and caring so it’s just like….”
L: “I guess it’s just when you tour and are performing you notice people in the audience from maybe another show and…”
C: “I see people singing along, which is good!”
L: “Wow that’s good!”
C (To Bailey): “Yeah it wasn’t your Mom by the way!” (everyone laughs)
D: “Ha ha that’s great guys! If it wasn’t your parents singing along you know you have something going here!” (all laughing).
D: “So Ladies, what’s next for Night School.”
L: “Well, I don’t know, we are just taking it as we go and we’re also still finishing school and we all still work, so we can’t really do extensive touring until we graduate.”
D: “So Brian from Graveface Records? How did you get involved with him?”
L: “Oh, that was through my old band Whirr, they are also on this record label, and Nick from Whirr showed our music to Brian, and it went from there.”
C: “They are real supportive we feel lucky to be on the label.”
D: “I love the different colored vinyl! Can I get you to sign mine after the interview?”
Collectively: “Yes, of course!” (Laughing).
D: “Lauren Ignited is growing and will be trying to put together some exciting things for young women in the near future. Specifically, girls who want to go to Band Camp and get involved in the music business. What would be your advice for any young women pursuing this life?”
B: “Wow that’s wonderful! Absolutely; I would say just stick with it! It’s like at first for me it was well, everybody is doing music so would I like, pursue this? But even it is just a hobby let it be that and don’t feel like you can’t do anything wonderful because you don’t have a name for yourself. You can still make wonderful music. Just don’t be discouraged! Where I lived, The cowboy capital of the world, (Laughs), there wasn’t really a music scene, and that can be discouraging. Just make sure it’s fun and that you are writing music that you like!”
L: “Let’s see, I would say, well Bailey had such a good answer she kinda covered it all, but I would still say, the message I want to get out to young girls is this. Get your voice out there! Young women have so many important things to say, and it’s really important for them to say it and be loud and be heard. Keep going and be strong!”
C: “To top off what Lexi and Bailey said I’d say no matter where you are don’t get discouraged because I lived in LA for a year trying to do this and when I moved back to Oakdale that’s when it all happened. So it doesn’t matter where you are just keep going!”
L: “Great answer that’s important to know! You can do this anywhere even in a small town!”
C: “Yeah you don’t need to live in LA or San Francisco to do this!”
D: “How was it to play Barboza Seattle, exciting?”
B: “The best thing about Seattle was Breakfast at Meet the Moon. (She Laughs) But no, yeah it was exciting.”
D: “Did you get nervous before you played?”
L: “I always get nervous before I play, but then it goes away when I get on stage.”
C: “Yeah always.”
B: “I get nervous if I have a new vocal harmony to learn, I’ll think ugh can I remember this, but otherwise yeah I’m good. But I think I have the easiest job in terms of the band!”
L: “What? NO, you have the hardest you have to keep us in time and keep the rhythm going you are the backbone of everything!”
B: (Humble again) “I don’t think so at all, these girls are incredibly talented and make my job easy!”
D: “I think you should all feel very confident on stage because the set was great! But don’t lose that shy awkward feel you have on stage. It’s very endearing! You have something really special here and tons of personality!”
Collectively: “Wow thanks so much! That means a lot!”
D: “Anything else you want fans to know about the band before we finish up?”
L: “Yes! Cheyennes Dad is featured in the video of our single ‘Last Disaster.'”
C: “Yeah he insisted so we did it and he was! He plays the old man in the video! Lets tell her who the monster was in the video too!”
L: “No! That’s a secret! We have to have a secret right?”
B: “Actually it was me, I played the monster it was me the whole time.” (winking)
D: “Pleasure to interview you guys! Thanks so much! Last words.”
Collectively: “Oh yeah, one last thing!”
L: “Can we support Dott? They are another up and coming band on Graveface Records, and we did a split tour with them last year, they are awesome, and we can’t wait to play shows with them again soon!”
D: “We love fledgling bands so we will give them a listen!”
L: Please do they are an awesome husband and wife set-up living in Canada at the moment, so we love them and want to show our support.”
Deb: “Well that’s a wrap guys, thanks so much for talking to us tonight and I wish you every success with the Tour and the new EP!”
Bailey: “Thank you that was really pleasant actually.”
Lexi & Cheyenne: “No, Thank you!”