Walk into an Orange County restaurant/lounge or meetup night spot known for its live music sometime after 9:00 p.m. on any given evening and what do you usually see? The entertainment being offered almost always consists of a three, four, or five piece band that sports male players. Start with the drummer and scan on over to the lead singer–who can be seen standing with or sans guitar. No questions, no wondering. It is what it is, and does anyone give it a moment of thought? Not likely. But please do.
Because here’s the next question.
When was the last time you went into a nightclub and looked up at the bandstand to see a person of the female persuasion who was providing the music (or even part of the music) for the house that night?
The bet that’s down is. . . not too often.
Yet sure as shiny, chic, shoes, there are some talented guitar-strumming, song-writing, keyboard-playing, drum-tapping songstresses out there who could definitely change things up for music fans looking for a fun night out. After all, could there be some people out there searching for new sound sensations, maybe some different thrills (powered instead) by a feminine sound?
Not to say that we don’t have a significant number of extraordinarily talented women in music today. If one were to just think about it generically, the conclusion could be drawn that there are as many ladies as men in the upper stratospheres of the music industry for both the recording industry and the larger concert stages. For every male mega-star’s name that is uttered, a fabulous diva-brand will also come to mind.
However, in the world of Independent artists, and especially those who provide us with live music performances in local venues, we still will surely count four or five dudes for every one, lonely little girl.
Why is that?
One obvious reason is that the bulk of contemporary night spots most often hire people who play tunes that were initially born from all-boy bands. When have you ever been out on a dance floor moving to renditions of “Brick House” or “Rebel Yell” that were being performed by an all-girl band? Most assuredly–never. You will never find girls rockin’ out to girls playing “My Old School” or “Miss You” by the Stones.
Why not? You can draw your own conclusions but suffice it to say that it’s due to a combination of cultural elements that run the gamut from “we live in a male-dominated society” to “there are plenty of music industry women who have their own biases against other women (in general) and it effects their ability to play music together.”
Simply said, this becomes apparent–there are people who believe that Rock ‘n Roll music has evolved in such a way that the archives of songs that exist are most frequently, better performed by all-male, or more primarily, male-dominated, groups and bands.
The whys and wherefores can be examined, analyzed, and argued till we’re blue in the face. The real purpose here is to reveal who makes up the female populace of local, Indie musicians and in so spreading the word about them, to encourage others to get out there, make some great music, band together (in girl-dominated music groups,) and get some of those gigs that your brothers have always been hired to do.
Obviously, a vast array of popular tunes are missed when our musical mamas fail to get together to perform covers from Heart, Tina Turner, Eisley, Katie Perry, Pink, Kelly Clarkson, Donna Summer, Abba, Grace Slick, Joan Jett, Stevie Nicks, Lady Ga Ga, Alanis Morisette, Melissa Etheridge, Janis Joplin, Dixie Chicks, Shania Twain, No Doubt, Pat Benetar, Blondie, Carrie Underwood, Bonnie Raitt, and Janet Jackson. Aside from never hearing these greatest hits played live, the world misses a lot of original music that’s being written by some of the same, extremely talented new Indie female artists.
One can still assume that it’s possible to find women gracing the more traditional piano bar here and there throughout L.A. and Orange County, since women have traditionally been the ones to do that particular kind of gig in the past. But there are not many Jazz clubs left. And although Pop-Rock and Rock ‘n Roll live music venues have been making somewhat of a resurgence since the ’80’s when they were all the rage, efforts by women getting gigs in these nightclubs is practically non-existent.
The purpose now is to begin to introduce some rock-solid musical women in the local Indie biz today, and then, go see them at the clubs they play in. Other ladies will be revealed in the weeks ahead, so keep checking back.
Let’s begin with one who is making a big impression on the music community as of late.
Emily Kilimnik !
She’s a 28 year old sister to her twin bro with another set of twin brothers to boot! In addition to that, she has two other male siblings–so Emily has five brothers in all! She’s also the mother of an adorable four year old girl, a crafter of jewelery, a clothing designer, and a classically trained violinist who now plays the fiddle in a Country Rock band.
Emily’s an electric fiddle rockin’ member of the Robby Armstrong Band and she’s a fantastic femme fatale who can’t get enough of making music!
She couldn’t help but talk (right out of the gate) about her five brothers. After all, this makes for a certain kind of family dynamic while growing up. The fact that she was the only girl amidst five boys is how she explains her present ability to easily incorporate herself into any band situation now.
“It’s always been my ‘leg up,'” she says. “Many men I’ve worked with have told me, ‘you’re a great musician but another reason we like you so much is that you’re easy to be around. You’re like one of the guys.'”
That may be, but the noticeable fact is–she doesn’t LOOK like one of the guys. Emily’s feminine charms are accentuated when she plays her fiddle because her confidence about her music is evident onstage. There is a unique and special beauty that is revealed while she performs which is the mark of today’s woman–while doing what they love most women achieve a kind of mesmerizing aura or glow that comes out in every bend of the neck or curl of the hair. And with Emily this holds true.
Of course, this talented, confident, and lovely young lady gets a lot of attention from men in the audience. But what kind of reaction does she get from other women?
“Well you wouldn’t believe how many women I get that come up to tell me I’m awesome and they love to see me onstage. It’s just a different energy I get from women fans than men, obviously (laughing.) So many women tell me ‘we love to see you onstage’ and that’s really special–to have that compliment from a woman.”
Perhaps Emily’s confidence and likability also stem from good parents.
“My mom is a Graphic Artist. She was always making things and creating things–she worked away and then from our home. Plus, she took care of all of us kids. My dad was into sports. He worked 12 hour days and then came home and cooked gourmet meals for everyone. I learned to cook for my dad. Now I’m into cooking for me and my daughter. I also have a business on ETSY making jewelry and clothes. I learned and got all this stuff from my parents and now, my daughter is seeing me do it and she wants to do it too. She’s four and already tells me she wants to play music onstage. Then, she’ll spend time with her dad (who is also into sports like my dad was) and she talks about wanting to play soccer. I don’t discourage her about anything. I tell her she can do it all.”
On the weekend, Emily plays gigs with Robby Armstrong and his band. Robby is a music mainstay in the OC and Long Beach nightclub circuit.. A huge favorite, he continues to entertain and inspire wherever he goes and Emily has realized the benefits of playing with, and being a member of, such an iconic band as this for this great time in her life.
When Emily reflects upon her own artistic endeavors, she emphasizes that all of it is intertwined–which makes for a great and interesting life. Although she has a busy week taking care of her daughter, recording in the studio, and teaching violin, she says she never just sits at night and watches T.V. It may be on, but her couch time is spent with the jewelry she crafts and the clothing she designs. “I’m always doing, making something, even while watching T.V. with my daughter. All of what I do is one big circle of artistic work–from the cooking to my jewelry and clothes business to my music.”
Kilimnik feels that it’s definitely getting easier though. She’s been sitting in with so many different bands that she’s got so much more experience tucked away inside of her. She’s had the opportunity to play so many more songs. When some of the guys she’s played with initially try to think of good songs she can do with them, they pick tunes like “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” or “Dead Flowers.” But she often responds by telling them she wants to perform “out-of-this-world Rockin'” selections like Kashmir and Miss You. They then nod their heads and say “Oh, you’re THAT kind of violinist.” It makes her laugh to tell it, but “THAT” is what she wants to be!!
And when asked what advice she would give to a young, aspiring Indie female musician today, she gets a pensive look on her face and says, “The music world is dominated mostly by men. You’ve got to be a strong, confident woman to last in this world. Don’t allow anyone to take you for granted and always stand your ground.”