Rosie and the Riveters discuss new album and sexism in the music industry

If there’s anything to say about Saskatoon powerhouse trio Rosie and the Riveters is that they walk the line of past and present with total effortlessness.

Taking their listeners on a journey to the smoky sounds of a dark cabaret, or casual, fun, vintage inspired pop, it’s a sensibility with modern grounding that encourages confidence, self-worth and having a damn good time. The trio brings the visual flair with big hair, bold colours and plenty of attitude on stage. Their soulful melodies and effortless harmonies mix with engaging grooves that make sitting still an impossibility. Farideh Olson, Alexis Normand, and Allyson Reigh are coming down from a whirlwind year traveling North America with songs from their debut album Good Clean Fun. With a new album on the horizon for spring 2018, the trio is looking to usher in the new year with a big party.

Allyson Reigh sat down with Ominocity and talked collaboration, touring, sexism in the music industry, and fancy New Year’s Eve parties.

OM: You’ve had a wildly busy year. What are some of the highlights?

Allyson: Highlights, well, so many highlights. We performed from the Northwest Territories down to Tennessee and everywhere in between and all the way over to the Maritimes. So we really travelled a lot this year and with that we got to try some fresh fish up north, we got to see the midnight sun, and down in Tennessee we saw the Grand Ole Opry and ate some amazing barbecue. Out east of course we had seafood! The people were so kind and we had some pretty magical shows. It was just a really nourishing experience having all these great geographical experiences where we got to try local dishes and meet local people and it was wonderful.

OM: And you have a new album coming out – when is that happening?

A: We do, that’s coming out next spring and it’s really a collection of personal songs that we put a lot of heart and soul into. We secluded ourselves in a cabin and wrote a lot of music, then we went to Toronto and wrote even more songs with people like Royal Wood and Tim Abraham, Matthew Barber, and Caroline Brooks from the Good Lovelies. In total, we wrote about 45 songs. We workshopped these songs in Saskatchewan then we went back to Toronto to record with our producer, Joshua Van Tassel, who’s worked with Sarah Slean, The Great Lake Swimmers, David Miles and others. Basically, we lived in the Toronto airport for a good chunk of this year.

OM: The new album is a shift in terms of your image and your sound. Definitely some heavier topics, less of the lightheartedness that we saw on Good Clean Fun. What’s influencing that?

A: I think it’s a big change actually. We’re really coming into our own, both as people, as a band, and in our songwriting. I’m so proud of our last album, Good Clean Fun, and we had a lot of success with that album. Our new album digs deeper and is meant to empower listeners, particularly girls and women, and we want to use our platform to bring light to issues that are not always easy to talk about but are still very important.

We want our music to give a voice to the things women have been saying forever in private.

We really wanted this album to reflect the reality of being a woman living in a man’s world, so to speak. We’re not blind to the fact that we’re white, middle-class women and therefore our reality is not the reality of so many other women. But we tried our best to encapsulate a lot of universal truths, like the gender pay gap and issue of sexual assault, which is a pretty timely issue that is finally being talked about on a larger scale.

It’s like the idea of a butterfly; you’re in the middle of the cocoon and you just have to break free because you have no other choice. A lot of shit went down in the last couple years, and I think that in any time of intense change or awakening like we’re in right now, the work of artists is so important to the larger cultural shift. Just look at Lido Pimienta and Tanya Tagaq and the impact these women are having. They are powerful and their contributions are huge.

Rosie & the Riveters want to contribute to the conversation in a way that uplifts and empowers people. We want our music to give a voice to the things women have been saying forever in private.

As for our image, it’s a natural evolution that coincides with the change in our songwriting. Feeling confident as a woman on stage is a riot act in itself. We’re confident in who we are and we’re confident in the message we’re sending. Our image and branding are just a natural reflection of the power we feel collaborating and performing together.

OM: Tell us about the New Years Eve party you’ll be hosting at the Broadway Theatre?

A: It’s our second annual Very Vintage New Year’s Eve at the Broadway Theatre. We’re having special guest Meghan Nash, who you know is a fantastic singer/songwriter and she just put out an incredible new record this year and is having lots of success which is really deserved. Jay and Jo Trudel will also be performing, they’re a part of the Trudel Family band so they’ve been road warriors and they’re fantastic singer/songwriters and musicians. As a special treat, were having local story teller, Bonnie Logan, come and perform with us. So it’s a wide variety of talents that were inviting to the stage, and ages too, because we want this to be an inclusive show that really reflects the power and strength of women. Our MC and tech crew is also female, so it’s going to be a really inclusive show that highlights the talented women working in Saskatchewan.

OM: So the all female lineup is a very intentional move – why is it important to you to pull together something like this?

A: Because we work in an industry where that is abnormal, it’s a news story for us to have an all-female lineup. In the past we’ve had responses from various places, I won’t be specific but they’ll say, “Sorry, we’ve already programmed one other all-female band in a weekend” where there are maybe ninety bands! How many of those bands are all male? That question is never asked and if there’s an event where it’s only men playing that’s not out of the norm. So it’s important for us to make these statements in the industry but also to show the larger community that it’s possible to be successful, to collaborate and work together and to pull off an amazing evening of music.

Last year we were four tickets short of selling out so it tells us that people want this and we want to be an example to girls and women, but also to men, that representation matters.

OM: Help people like me on the outside of your experience to understand the barriers, the things that you have to keep butting your heads against in the music world.

A: Oh it’s constant. One of the major things is when a venue or festival, etc., says “we’ve already booked an all-girl band so you’ll have to wait to reapply.” That kind of language is interesting because we’re all over 30, we pay our taxes, you know? It infantilizes women in general and in the industry by saying “all girl.”

We get comments on our appearance more than our music, and I get that our brand is very visual but the comments range from friendly like, “I like that dress” to something that is extremely hyper sexual and incredibly inappropriate in any context, including at a professional conference.

Without ever having seen our show, someone said to me, “you should get male musicians to play because people will take you more seriously.” It’s also very apparent when people don’t trust us to know what kind of mix we need in our monitors at a sound check, which has caused havoc during the live show because we can’t hear ourselves properly.

It’s pretty interesting when people make comments like, “______ is prettier and funnier than the other two” or “______ is the sexiest band member.” We don’t need to be better than each other, that’s not the game, that’s not the point. We just want to have a show that celebrates our unique talents. That’s why there is no leader in our band, we all take turns signing lead and supporting the others with back up harmonies.

OM: And your show really highlights the different talents and strengths of each member.

A:Yes! And that’s on purpose, I mean we wrote all these songs together and the next record, too. In our band, collaboration, not competition, is the key. It’s important for people to see that women can and do work well together, and we can collaborate musically and that’s really fun, it’s not contrived, it’s not fake. It’s just about us enjoying what we do, and having more women on stage is great. We’ll be debuting some new songs on New Years Eve, as well as some new holiday songs that we just wrote that are fun and a total collaboration.