Cherie Pyne + Band (L-R: Jonathan Hynes (drums), Cherie Pyne, Andrew Robinson (guitar), and Victor Lewis (bass).) Photo by Rachel Jean Harding.
Five facts about St. John’s musician Cherie Pyne:
1. She enjoys being silly and dead serious at the same time.
2. She has a soft spot for disco basslines.
3. She believes that women musicians are not being taken as seriously as they should be.
4. She just turned 30.
5. She and her band have just released a new album entitled “Little Springboard”.
Who is Cherie Pyne?
Okay. I grew up in Newfoundland – That’s important. I grew up with a single mom… That’s probably a big part of me. I had one sister, but a lot of half-brothers and half-sisters. That’s important. My mom’s family all grew up in St. John’s. I’m a creative person, so I started all kinds of means of expression. I could never make up my mind whether I wanted to be a visual artist, or a dancer, and wanted to do some acting, or do a little bit of writing, and on top of that I wanted to play music. And I want ed to do everything all the time.
So I did everything all the time, and then I decided I was spread too thin. So I dropped everything forcefully, and decisively. I wanted to try to do just one thing. Music. I couldn’t quite drop everything, but I’m getting there. I want to concentrate on music.
What are you passionate about?
One of the things I’m most passionate about and therefore the most active about is women’s issues in terms of music, and women feeling shut out, not being taken seriously as musicians.
Why do women feel that way?
I think it’s a big combination of things. If you get a bunch of women in a room and close the door, everyone knows what the others are talking about. Stuff like growing up and your family encouraging you to be quiet and nice, and encouraging your brothers to speak their minds.
Girls are encouraged to be concerned with how they look, and to impress boys, and worry about that stuff more than anything else. People deny it, but it’s there. So as a girl you hear Chatelaine magazine saying you can do anything you want, but out in real life, for example, every time I say that I play music, people go “Oh, what do you do? Jazz?”
How often does that happen to you?
Every time… Not just every now and then. Or they might say, “You’re a folk singer?” And I go, “No, I play in a rock band.” And their eyes are like saucers. On the one hand I’m proud because I’m the tough girl my mom wanted me to be, but on the other hand I’m pissed because people can’t conceive of a girl who plays rock music.
Who are these people?
Really nice people. Nice people. Not assholes. With mean people, it’s easier to dismiss. When really nice people come up to me and say I should give up the guitar and just sing, instead of saying “You bust your tail, you’re gonna be wicked,” it hurts you know?
But there are some women playing rock in town: Liz Pickard, Jill Porter…
Yeah, but there are too few.
People will feel really good about themselves in the indie-rock community because they’ll go to a show and they’ll see a bunch of girls on stage, but when you actually count the number of women compared to the number of guys, there might be 5 girls on stage in a night of 4 bands, and there’s 12 guys, or 15 guys. And that’s a good night. I can’t count the number of nights I’ve played where I was the only girl on the bill. It’s just that there are no role models for you.
When Liz Pickard and Rhiannon Thomas and I jammed out the first idea for the first Rock School for Girls, we all needed it to happen. We were desperately in need of some company.
Just a note here: The Rock School for Girls began in 2002. Designed to encourage more young women to participate in the music scene, the workshops focused on direct, hands-on experience in a comfortable environment. Last year it was repeated as part of the Peace-a-Chord Festival.
…As a woman, if you get on stage and you’re dressed up, people will think you’re playing up your sexuality to sell your music. Either that or you have to be a tomboy. One thing I figured out because of Rock School was that masculinity is something that we all aspire to right now. In order to be cool, you have to be masculine. You see it in 80’s movies – they’re so tough. They’re gonna pick up the electric guitar and they’re gonna go “weeeedly-weedly-weeedlyweedly!” They’re gonna get in that racecar man, and they’re gonna wow everybody with their crazy moves. They’re gonna out-macho the guys. They’re demure and in stiletto heels, but once they get behind the wheel of something they’re gonna blow everybody away. So I realized that I was rejecting my own femininity a lot, I was dressing like a tomboy all the time. I wouldn’t wear makeup or pretty things because I wanted to be taken seriously.
At what point did you realize you were doing that?
I was talking to my good friend Renee Sharpe actually. She’s one of the people I talk to about these things and she’s super-smart, and knows a lot, and she’s been a real role-model in a lot of ways.
Back then I would never let myself play a C, F and G or a C, F and E song… simple chords on an acoustic guitar and sing in a soft voice. Indie rock guys do that all the time, and it’s so ironic and everybody loves it so much. People love it because it’s feminine, and it’s takes bravery for a guy to show his feminine side. But for me to do that, there’s no irony, it would be the typical thing.
And I just can’t stand doing the typical feminine thing.
Little Spring release parties: Thursday w/ Origin of the Sound, Night Music series, $5 at door, 10pm, The Ship
Saturday, cd release pt. 2 w/ Vampires of Love & Errand Boy, 11pm, The Basement