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Girls To The Stage: A Celebration of Female Artists.

April 28, 2015

Amanda X @ Underground Arts_031915_Photo by Jason Melcher_IMG_0950Rachel Dispenza and Lauren DeLucca are seniors at University of the Arts, studying in the new music program called Music Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology. Together for their senior project, they created Girls to the Stage, recording and producing a compilation tape that highlights female musicians in Philadelphia.

The tape release benefit show tomorrow (4/29) received so much interest, Dispenza and DeLucca decided to move the show from Creep Records to the First Unitarian Church. Proceeds will be donated to Girls Rock Philly. Artists to perform include Amanda X (pictured above in a photo by Jason Melcher), Mannequin Pussy, Fake Boyfriend, Shannen Moser, VVeed VVolf and Roya. Get tickets here.

Our Michael Bucher spoke with Dispenza and DeLucca about the project and why it was so important for them to make it a reality.

Where did the idea for this project come from?

Dispenza: In October, we were in the music office in school where I worked until about a month ago, talking to the director of the music college at UArts about senior projects. Because our major is so new, there hasn’t been a developed protocol for that yet. No one has graduated yet. We were brainstorming things we would want to do for the project that involved stuff we cared about, as well as all three aspects of the major were involved in – music business, entrepreneurship and technology.

DeLucca: So technically, this whole project is our senior project. It kinda evolved into something bigger than that. We got a lot bigger response than we anticipated, which is great.

Was there something you wanted to do beforehand for the project?

Dispenza: I’ve been booking DIY shows for the past couple years now and didn’t really get into recording until having to take it for class and then working at Headroom Studio for nine months. Lauren’s been interning at Milkboy the Studio for about two years. So, we wanted to be able to combine the things we like and trying to work really hard at into one project.

Where did the idea for the all female/heavily-female show and tape come from?

DeLucca: I think from just being involved in the Philly music scene, you kinda start to notice how male dominated it is. Even in terms of not just the bands that play but the people that come out. So, we wanted to do something that drew attention to that and showcase some of these bands that we love.

Dispenza: I feel like if you notice a problem that you want to change, you have to start with right where you’re from and work on it there before going on to do more things. Plus, because we had such a short time period, it made the project a little bit cleaner. Say the studio cancels on us that night, the band didn’t just drive from hours away to record with us and then be stuck until we could get an available slot.

What were the logistical first steps to putting it together?

Dispenza:  We sat down one night and made a list of everything we needed to accomplish throughout the course of the project, whether it was short-term or long-term goals, and a list of bands based on a level we thought would respond or get back to us and be really excited. We knew we needed to pick a venue, a date. We needed to talk to the studios we worked for about when we could get in to record, if possible.

So finding the venue was the last part?

Dispenza: Well, we had worked on it for about two months. We originally had the show at Creep Records. Will Angelos, who works there, has been great about letting us do other shows there in the past. He was really excited about it. We picked a date and it was good and then after we announced the event, we noticed a very immediate positive response and came to the conclusion that that space would be too small to host the event. We didn’t want to have any limiting capabilities. We wanted to have as many people to come as possible and support the cause.

What were the steps from there?

DeLucca: We kinda thought having it at The Church was one of those things like, ‘Oh, what if we had it at The Church? Ha ha, that’d be great.’

Dispenza: But really, come on. About a week after we announced and decided we would at least try for The Church., among other things, I contacted Andy Nelson at R5 and got right back to me and was super positive about it and excited about trying to make it happen. We called him a couple days later to go over all the questions about having it there before we decided to settle. He was great about answering everything and we decided to go forward with it. They were totally willing to promote it. They just had to make sure they could get the room that day. After a week or two, it wasn’t going to happen. The Church tried to move a bunch of other stuff around for the R5 event and they just couldn’t do it.

When you reached out to bands initially to do it, what was that process like?

DeLucca: Initially we just asked friends like Shannen Moser, VVeed VVolf and Roya. We’re like, ‘Hey, do you wanna do this thing?’ Everyone was super responsive at first. Then we were brainstorming more full bands that we could put on it and cold emailed or texted people in Mannequin Pussy or Amanda X or Fake Boyfriend.

Dispenza: We were recording Mannequin Pussy at the Headroom the one day and they were giving us suggestions for bands that would be good for it and one of them was Amanda X. Kyle Pulley, who runs the Headroom with Joe, just got out his phone and started texting Kat and they were on it.

What was recording all these different bands like? Any surprises?

DeLucca: We had both taken recording classes at school and I’ve been interning at Milkboy for a long time, so I was kinda familiar with the whole process. But we had never done anything really to this scale by ourselves before.

What were your experiences at Milkboy before?

DeLucca: Mostly helping out the other engineers. Some of the engineers would record instruments themselves on other peoples stuff, so I’d help them record while they played. So, I was familiar with the process, familiar with the software, setting everything up but it was mostly just this being our project and not working on something else. There’s more pressure there but everything turned out surprisingly well.

Were there any different experiences in the studio that you weren’t used to?

Dispenza: I wasn’t used to recording anyone I wasn’t friends with first. When I was taking recording classes, I was doing demos of my friends’ bands that they wanted to use before going somewhere else to record. Meeting members of the band that I never met before at the recording session was a little unnerving.

DeLucca: Even with our friends, we wanted everyone to feel comfortable in the recording session and for everything to sound good and to see the experience as professional.

Were there things about booking DIY shows or being involved in the community that helped the process?

Dispenza: Networking, which is one of those things I hate to hear so I’m mad I even said it. But I have been booking shows with Ruben Polo for the last few years and he’s taught me a lot about that whole process. He was really helpful when it came to like bouncing ideas off for this. Knowing all these different people who can point you in a new direction or if they can’t do it, they might know someone who can. It helped get us to the next step, even when things weren’t certain.

What would you do differently if you were to do it again?

DeLucca: Because it’s our project for school, we had to get the whole thing done before we graduate and it definitely would have been a lot easier if we had more time.

Dispenza: This also being for a graduation project, we’re not just focused on this project. We’re still in class full-time. I’m working 2 or 3 jobs, another project, an internship and booking other shows. Lauren has school and her internship and job. So, balancing those two schedules and bands’ schedules was really challenging in such a short period of time.

What did you both learn from this whole experience?

DeLucca: Ask and you shall receive. We didn’t really know if any of the bands we contacted would be about it or how many bands we could fit on it or if we could get the recording time we needed or get the venue we wanted. But everyone we asked to help us has been really great and receptive.

Dispenza: I can’t say I’ve had too many bad experiences working on a show before. Even if I have, its kind of a thing I move on from and don’t hold on to.

What drew you to donating the proceeds to Girls Rock Philly?

Dispenza: Seemed like a no-brainer. We haven’t worked with them in the past but considering one of the overarching goals of the project is not only to promote women who are already playing music in Philadelphia but to encourage women to start doing so as well. Sending the money to an organization that teaches young girls not only music skills but leadership and creativity? It just fit.

How did you both get involved in music?

Dispenza: I started going to shows with my friend when I was 15 or so. From there, I started selling these T-shirts I designed at friends’ shows within northeast PA and southern New York. Sponsoring friends bands and booking shows a movie theater. From there I wanted to work in music in general, whatever I could do to be around it.

Did you learn anything from the bands you worked with that inspired you?

Dispenza: I just love how unafraid they all are. They got in the studio and started playing their songs. They were confident about it and that’s a point I’d like to get to. So, it’s really great to work with people who love what they do and are comfortable with what they do.

What are you going to do from here?

Dispenza: I’m gonna book more women on shows. Lack of representation was something I noticed before we started the project, otherwise there would have been no need. I don’t think I noticed it on such an individual basis before I started the project as I do now. Whenever a tour manager hits me up to put on a show they want in Philly, I now look at every single one and ask how many women are playing this? Are any women playing this? How many women do I think are even going to go to this? I make sure I’m doing my part to provide more representation.

DeLucca: Within the bands that play the shows but also with the people that attend the shows. Making it so the environment is comfortable for everyone who wants to come out.

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