In-Depth Interview

Here's What It's Like Being A Female Musician On Warped Tour

Being a woman isn't easy... but what is it like when you're an artist and you're not taken seriously solely because of your gender? We sat down with two frontwomen to find out
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Taylor Jardine and Sydney Sierota (Ariel LeBeau for Fuse)

You've heard it before. Feminism almost seems like a casual talking point these days, but what happens when your job—and life passion—are marginalized because of your gender? Warped Tour is one of the most forward-thinking festivals, and yet, there's still contention. Everyone should be treated equally, but they're not.

We sat down with two fantastic frontwomen on the tour—Sydney Sierota of Echosmith and Taylor Jardine of We Are The In Crowd—to find out what injustices still exist and how they surpass them every day. Bravery is best served in numbers!

Hey ladies! The reason we brought you together is because you're both kickass women in bands and we want to know what that experience is like. Does it ever feel isolating?

Sydney: I wouldn't say there's too much sexism. I don't think there's too much of that on this tour. It's more like a family. There are creeps who hit on you...

Taylor: I can agree with that. You go on Warped Tour and you know that's the vibe, that's the environment. I know that's been a popular topic nowadays, to address the female world in the music industry. It's always so confusing to me because sometimes it almost seems like there are problems that are created by putting such a spotlight on it versus just saying how it really is.

Can you give me an example of that?

Taylor: It gets asked all the time. A perfect example is how it's prefaced. "Dude, does it suck to try and find a place to get dressed?" And it's like, "Did you just create that problem? Last time I checked there's a girls bathroom."

When you say there are the creepy guys that hit on you, has that happened recently?

Sydney: I guess it depends on how you describe "hitting on you." There are the kind of people who try to sneak in a butt grab during a photo. I'll bend down so their arm cannot touch my butt. I put my arm over their arm so their sweaty armpits don't touch mine. 

Taylor: There's definitely an arm move!

Sydney: In general with the guys who try and hit on you, it's very important to make sure that they know that you don't want anything. "Hey, hi-five! Too sweaty for a hug!" Whether you're too sweaty or not, I still say it. You make sure they know you're not interested in doing who knows what with them.

Have you put anybody in their place after they've done something like that?

Taylor: I definitely have. When we were touring the UK, there was a guy that grabbed my butt. I looked at him and was like, "Dude, do not do that." He's like, "What? I did it to all your guys." That's even weirder! That was his excuse. I went up to all the guys and said, "Did that guy grab your ass?" and they all said no. I told our tour manager and he freaked out. He went up to the kid and was like, "Listen, I know you're here to see the band. That's all you should do. It's not about anything else. I don't know what you're telling your friends." It was funny… but it's important to stand your ground and let people know that's not okay.

One time Paramore was playing a small club and this guy starts yelling, "Take off your shirt! Take off your shirt!" to Hayley. She ignored it for a while before realizing, "I'm the one with the microphone! I'm the one on stage! I'm the one with the power to say something!" She eventually was like, "Get the f**k out," and he did. It's weird to think that a fan would do that. 

Taylor: Here's the thing: you're playing a show that usually has other bands on it. So that guy is probably not there for you.

Sydney: You can't chose your fans, either. You can't say, "I only want non-creepy fans." You're bound to, especially as you grow.

Taylor: You just have to be smart about it. Like you were saying, you have to say the right thing to make sure that they know. It's not just know, it's outlining, "This is why you suck."

Taylor Jardine and Sydney Sierota (Ariel LeBeau for Fuse)

I have a friend in this band Speedy Ortiz who told me that she'd go to a show and she'll have a sound guy or somebody explain

Taylor: How something works!

Does that happen?

Sydney: All the time!

Taylor: Before we had our own crew, we'd use the house monitors and we're checking all the instruments and the sound guy would ignore me. I'd have to say "Excuse me, I need the bass up." And he'd say, "Honey… Honey, we already did the bass." I'm like, "I know, but I can't hear it now." I'm not stupid! We just played a song and now I can't hear it. That was just awful. It used to happen all the time. I used to also not get let into the venue. I remember getting locked out of a venue… it was my birthday actually, ha! 

It was because they saw you were female and assumed you weren't in the band.

Sydney: Oh yeah! I wasn't let on stage once because they thought I was a fan and not in the band. The fans were even screaming, "She's in the band! She's in the band!" I told security, "I will give you a million dollars if I am not in the band. I promise."

Taylor: What's the justification? I want to know what goes on in their head. You're an idiot!

Sydney: I get that he was trying to do his job and I tried to be nice afterward. 

Taylor: It's good though! Even this conversation, it's so important to let people know that this exists. That part is important. I love this! Going back to what I was saying before, it's not about creating problems. I don't wake up every morning and say, "S**t, I'm a minority." There's a difference.

Do you find yourself getting compared almost exclusively to female musicians?

Sydney: Oh yeah, every day. I don't know how many times I've gotten the Paramore thing. You get that all the time. You have to learn to say, "Thank you, they're great." Instead of saying, "What do you mean? Just because I have partially red hair or something." I used to have partially red ombre. I changed it.  

They're making you change your hair now!  

Taylor: Clearly you want to be known for yourself and what you do, no matter if you're female, male, whatever. That used to get annoying but now it's like, "Thanks man, but we do this song."  

Sydney: You just don't like getting compared to others and it's important not to compare yourself to others. It's another thing when people do it to you. It's a challenge but there is a balance of just taking it as a compliment and not thinking too far into it. If they like Paramore and they're coming to see you too, then cool!

Taylor Jardine and Sydney Sierota (Ariel LeBeau for Fuse)

Do you remember the first time you were treated differently because you're a female musician?

Taylor: The "hit on" thing is funny because I always think everyone is the nicest person in the world when I first meet them. I'm the kind of person that walks around like, "I love them." The boys say, "He's a creep." And I'm like, "Really?"

Sydney: "He seems so normal!"

Taylor: I remember security guards, not letting you on stage or whatever. There are a couple moments where they'd grab you by your waist and hoist you up. I hate that!

Sydney: My waist is my waist. Not yours.

No one has the right to touch your body without permission. I was at this Tigers Jaw show in Brooklyn and when Pity Sex were playing, this kid grabbed my friend Britty and kissed her on the cheek. It's one thing to go up to somebody and kiss them on the cheek, even though that's really f**ked up, but this guy grabbed her head, forcibly moved her and kissed her. He wasn't taken out by securitymy fear is that they thought it was funnyand then he did it again to the woman in Tigers Jaw. 

Taylor: That's happened to me before! How did they let it happen again?

I have no idea. It really bothers me. What happened to you?

Taylor: We were in Philly and playing the Church. It's a super weird underground venue so anything can happen. A kid crowd surfed up and he looked just like our merch guy so I'm like, "Hey buddy, what's up?," and as soon as he got close to me I was like, "You are not my friend!" I was like, "Whoa whoa whoa," and stopped the song. He grabbed my neck. There were tons of people on stage so no one even knew but he got kicked out. It was one of those moments where you're like, "That just happened, what the f**k?" The audacity of these people is unreal! When I was a kid and I went to shows, if the lead singer brushed my shoulder, I went home freaking out. Now not only do you have to meet them, take a picture and sign an autograph—which is all great—but now I gotta kiss them on stage?

Tay and Sydney snap a selfie (Ariel LeBeau for Fuse)

Do you ever find your musicianship described as "sexy" instead of talent-based adjectives?

Sydney: Always. We're bound to get compliments like that. It depends on how it is worded. I don't prefer being called "sexy." You have to leave it alone. Don't fight it. Then there's an extent… yesterday someone commented on a photo of me and my friend and wrote, "Oh you look sexier just by yourself, she shouldn't be in the photo," and I blocked the person. They tweeted at me like a thousand times, "Oh my gosh why'd you block me?" That's just so disrespectful, not just to me but to them. It makes no sense.

Taylor: They're creating this thing for all the other people who read that to be like, "Oh, that is right."

Sydney: "Maybe that is true." I deleted it immediately. It was lame.

Taylor: I was nominated for "Sexiest Female in the UK" by Kerrang. I wrote this thing, I wasn't trying to botch it or boycott the award. We were nominated for Best Single. Everyone ignored that because I was nominated for "Sexiest Female." I worked my ass off on this song and none of you care because there is something else distracting you from that nomination. I didn't want it. If that would have happened I would have been embarrassed. I wouldn't have said thank you. It shouldn't be a category of music! It's f**king stupid. 

What advice would you give young girls who want to start bands?

Sydney: I would say be really confident and know who you are before you go into it. Because if you don't, don't start a band. Don't do it.

Taylor: That's even something I work on every day.

Sydney: Me too!

Taylor: It's easy to say that. You have to constantly remind yourself that there's a reason you're doing this. There's a reason people are going to my show and not… Linkin Park! [Echosmith] played against Linkin Park today!

We Are The In Crowd at Warped Tour (Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

Sydney: And there was still a great crowd! I was so thankful.

Taylor: There's a reason for that. There are days I feel discouraged and I go on stage and think, "Oh we do awful in the Southwest, no one is going to be here," and the boys are like, "What are you saying?!" I tend to get negative sometimes. You have to remind yourself not to. 

Sydney: You can't compare yourself to other girls, either. I find myself doing that all the time. Sometimes I find myself literally deleting Instagram off my phone. 

Taylor: I've unfollowed people in the industry before because it is intimidating. It's not that I don't like that person. I don't need to see this in my feed. I need to focus on me. I feel like a bitch sometimes. It's not that at all! I love seeing other females succeed. It does get competitive, as I'm sure the male world does, too.

There was this article that came out a few days ago called "Warped Tour's Woman Problem."

Taylor: I read that. 

The journalist talks to Kevin Lyman about the lack of female artists on Warped Tour. He brings up the fact that 53% of the attendees of the festival are female, but they're not the ones on stage. Do you think that's a problem? 

Taylor: No. I think the article was a little bit exaggerated. There's a Shiragirl stage. It's the raddest thing ever but I'm not even sure I have the room to say anything because I'm on Warped! We have the opportunity, you can have it, too. I've done this three years now and there's always been girls. It might just have to do with the fact that there aren't as many. I really don't know. It's hard for me to say that without someone else saying, "Well that's because she's on it." 

Sydney: I don't know enough about it. I don't think it's a problem and I don't think it's his fault. 

Echosmith at Warped Tour (Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

Taylor: The day that article came out I did an interview with Kevin and he asked me about it. He looked at me and I said, "Come on, dude," and he was like, "I know." Especially someone as successful as him, people are going to find things to nitpick about.

Sydney: It's not like he hates girls. He has two daughters. 

Taylor: And they work their asses off on this tour!   

Sydney: It's not like he said, "You can't come because you're a girl." "Even if you are my daughter, I just hate women so much…"  

Taylor: It's a tough one. 

I'm sure you would agree that it would be awesome if there were more women on the tour.  

Taylor: Right! But I don't have the stats. I don't know who is submitting. If I found out there's like 20% of the bands not getting in were female I'd say, "Yeah, that's pretty weird," but I don't know who they are. I don't know who their agents are. The question is always, "What's it like to be a girl?" My go-to answer is, "Well, I don't have a penis, so I don't know what it's not like to be a girl in a band." And then I bow and walk away.   

That's a good answer!   

Sydney: I usually say, "It's like being a girl." There's no other answer for that. When it's a girl asking I say, "You know what it's like!"

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