The Deli Philly Featured Artist(s) Poll Winner: Calamity Jane
- by Gil Min
What started on a whim at DIYPHL’s First Time’s The Charm, evolved quickly into our Features Poll Winners, the punk rock quartet Calamity Jane. This female-fronted crew is lo-fi and like it that way. They boisterous, unashamed sound fits in well with bands like Cayetana and Tacocat, who they unsurprisingly mention as an influence. We caught up with Ivy (bass), Madeline (guitar and vox), Dan (guitar and vox), Shelby (drums) to talk about their unique start, the Philly scene, and the future of Calamity Jane. Check out the interview with the band below.
The Deli: How did you start making music?
Ivy: Last summer I heard DIYPHL was hosting a showcase for all first-time bands and immediately knew I wanted to participate. I’d always wanted to be in a band, but never found the right people or felt confident enough in my musical ability. But since this event catered to newcomers with an emphasis on those who identify as women, queer, trans*, or a person of color, it felt like a really great opportunity to finally get involved in music. Madeline and I met each other at a high school summer program in New York, and for whatever reason kept in touch. I knew she was moving to Philly and thought she’d be great. We then got in touch with Dan from Slow Animal, who was one of the first people I met when I moved to Philly in 2010. I went to college with Shelby and she was really enthusiastic about getting involved in the Philly scene.
Madeline: Well, it’s always been a hole in my heart that I never learned an instrument because I’ve always thought of myself as a musically oriented person. I was working as the punk director of Oberlin College’s radio station, sort of singing in cover bands, and I was talking to Ivy about moving to Philly and started something up. Of course this was totally speculative, because not playing an instrument I kind of had nothing to contribute! But I began to play guitar, and then DIY PHL put on this awesome event, First Time’s the Charm, geared towards people playing their instruments for the first time and we signed up. Shelby was Ivy’s friend from school who was stoked to pick up any instrument. And we were set. But I got into a bike accident and injured my wrist, and asked my partner, Dan, if he wouldn’t mind playing guitar also, so as to alleviate some of the pressure of learning an instrument. Luckily, it still sort of catered to the event as Dan plays in another band, Slow Animal, but he’s the drummer so he got to explore something new. And that just worked for us all.
Dan: Personally, my introduction to music started with taking piano lessons at age 7 or 8. Then I wanted to be louder so I got a drum set and tried playing along to Blink 182 albums (I’m talking Travis Barker-era Blink 182...hence the word “tried”). I offered to play guitar in Calamity Jane because, although I already knew how to play guitar, I had never played it in a band.
TD: Where did the band name Calamity Jane come from?
Madeline: We were just throwing around a lot of ideas and, at the time, I was sort of thinking about women and these feminist ideologies and ideas that are really important to us. On the one hand, Calamity Jane harkens back to this idea of this tough, untameable woman. And, on the other, the term has this modern stigmatization. Like, women are supposed to have their shit together, and if they don’t, well they’re a Calamity Jane. So I guess that’s me, because I certainly don’t have it together and I think that the idea of this feminine "togetherness" isn't something many women asked for. And as far as qualities go, I don't value it very much. Also, I’m a clutz. And not in an endearing way. People preemptively bring band-aids and napkins to hang out with me.
TD: What are your biggest musical influences?
Ivy: Last spring I booked Potty Mouth to play Haverford College and had a really great time getting to know them. Like Shelby and I, they went to a women’s college and started playing music then. They’re really inspiring to me for many reasons and I’m grateful to them for helping me push myself to pursue music.
Dan: 90’s punk
Madeline: The old: Bratmobile, Henry’s Dress, Mika Miko, The Muffs, X Ray Spex
The new: Big Eyes, Mannequin Pussy, Potty Mouth, Screaming Females, Tacocat
Shelby: Angry women in general, really.
TD: What artists (local, national and/or international) are you currently listening to?
Ivy: Turnip King, Good Throb, Beyoncé
Dan: Whatever comes on Shuffle
Madeline: Mean Jeans, Suburban Lawns, Richard Hell and the Voidoids
Shelby: mostly Sleater-Kinney, Drake, and Fleetwood Mac
All: As far as local bands go, we're pretty smitten with Amanda X, Cayetana, Marge, and Slow Animal
TD: What's the first concert that you ever attended and first album that you ever bought?
Ivy: When I was eleven I saw Sum 41 and the Explosion. I was living in Maine at the time, so it was a pretty big deal that they came. That same year I bought a used copy of No Doubt’s Return of Saturn and listened to it exclusively for at least six months. [is this too embarrassing to share? just being honest here]
Dan: My first concert was Warped Tour ‘03. The first album I purchased was Britney Spears’ ...Baby One More Time, but before that, I was gifted with a Green Day album. I think at one point I was gifted with a Blues Traveler album, I don’t know when that was. I really hope that wasn’t my first album.
Madeline: I think the first concert I ever went to was N’Sync, Britney Spears, and Bewitched in 2nd grade. I remember my friend taking me for N’Sync (even though I was way more into the Backstreet Boys) but no one really knew who Britney Spears was. Shortly after the Britney experience, I participated an easter egg hunt, and the prize was a gift certificate to Tower Records. I used mine to get Greenday’s Nimrod. I remember whoever was running this thing had to call my dad to make sure this was an okay purchase because of the “explicit content” sticker.
Shelby: My first concert was Hilary Duff when I was in the fifth grade. I’m still waiting on her comeback. So maybe this is a troubling indicator of my young age, but I don’t really remember the first album I bought, while I DO remember the first song I ever bought on iTunes. It was Kelly Clarkson’s Since U Been Gone.
TD: What do you love about Philly?
Dan: The people.
Madeline: Not to sound lame, but the DIY scene. Coming from LA, it just wasn’t that prevalent and it was really inhibiting to trying out new things. I grew up with this idea that if I was going to do something I was going to have to be really good at it or not bother. In Philly, I feel so able to try things out and make my own mistakes and successes.
TD: What do you hate about Philly?
Dan: The people.
Madeline: How insulated each community is! I moved from West Philly to Fishtown in July and now, West Philly feels impossibly far away. So many of my friends are there but we all get so comfortable in our own spots that it takes a lot of encouragement to switch up our environments.
Shelby: The weather.
TD: What are your plans for 2014?
Ivy: Since I’ll be graduating college we’ll have more time to devote to pursuing the band. I think we’re just going to take everything as it comes and keep having fun, which is why we started playing music in the first place.
Madeline: Ideally, to play more shows and make more music. We’ve just had a slow start as a band because Ivy and Shelby are at Bryn Mawr and have real school things to be concerned about and can’t always be in Philly to practice. And, the majority of us are new to our instruments! So I’m just excited for a time where it’s like, we’re here now, let’s do our thing. Oh, and personally, my new year’s resolution was to get more into Joni Mitchell.
Dan: I just want to make it to 2015.
Shelby: I’m trying to get a better handle on the drums and survive at least until the weather gets nicer.
TD: What was your most memorable live show?
All: Our first show at DIY PHL’s First Time’s the Charm. It was the first time two of us had ever performed with a band, but it felt really cathartic and positive. Playing with a bunch of other new bands created this really welcoming and encouraging environment. The show not only provided a space for traditionally marginalized communities, but prioritized it. And there’s something amazing about playing your first show to such a large audience. It was a great exercise in shaking off pressure. Mostly everyone there was doing it for the “first time” and if we screwed up—so what?
TD: What's your favorite thing to get at the deli?
Ivy: Toasted poppy bagel with schmear and nova lox!
Madeline: I’ve been on that tuna sandwich with cucumber on sourdough flow for like 15 years now. I’m sure my mercury levels are through the roof.
Shelby: A can of blood orange Pellegrino.