Q&A: Night Witch Discuss New Album, Accountability In The Music Scene & More

By: Lindsy Carrasquillo

Night Witch is a hardcore band from Tallahassee. Their next show in Gainesville is April 17 when they open up for Screaming Females at The Wooly.  We were able to speak to lead vocalist Rosie Richeson about their upcoming new record, changes in the music scene and more.

Can you talk about how you got introduced to the hardcore scene and when you first got involved in music?

I grew up in Tampa FL and my older sister Lily (of Bad Sleep and Crimex from Olympia Washington!) is the person who got me into punk. She gave me mix CDs and showed me bands to listen to and brought me to my first show. I wanted to play drums because she showed me The Donnas and that was the first time I ever saw a girl playing drums. When I started drum lessonsat 13 years old, my sister asked me to play drums with her solo project, Intertia, and that is my first band!

We had the privilege of growing up near Transitions Art Gallery that was attached to the SkatePark of Tampa. Transitions was an all ages, sober, DIY punk space that was home to so so many great shows. This is where I learned about punk music, got my first job running door, and played a ton of shows with my sister.

The earliest hardcore show I remember was actually one of my first shows where I worked door at Transitions. It was full of a bunch of big hardcore men and I remember feeling really intimidated because I was getting weirdly hit on my men much older than me (I was like 15 or 16 at the time) and also felt out of place because I didn’t know anything about hardcore music and didn’t feel like I belonged there.

The first time I remember seeing a woman fronting a hardcore band was at Transitions and was actually my friend JayDee from Tampa. She had this amazing screech that I still try to intimidate to this day. But what REALLY impacted me was the next show I saw her play was an acoustic solo set with the most BEAUTIFUL singing voice!! I was so blown away that she could do both and, being in a “cute” acoustic band with my sister, it made me feel like I could also do more.

You played Fest in October. What was that experience like and how did it differ from when you last played?

Playing Fest is always a mixed bag for me! On one hand, I have been going to Fest for 10 years and it’s always been a really fun and meaningful event to happen in Florida and I love it so much. On the other hand, there typically aren’t a ton of women or non-binary folks on the line up.  I think it’s definitely gotten better but I remember the first time we played 2 years ago, someone compared us to War on Women. They are a great band!! But we sound nothing like them. And last year, I was groped in the pit during a cover set and catcalled like 10 minutes before our set by Fest bros. So yeah Fest is great but it can do better about being more inclusive to women/non-binary folks.

Fest was also very different this year because in Feb. of this year, we all lost our friend Joey to suicide. Joey was a huge force in our community for a lot of different reasons. They were one of the most forgiving and understanding people I know, and they could also kick your ass. We’ve all been coping with it in different ways. But I talked about them on stage during our set because they helped me write lyrics to some Night Witch songs. We were assaulted by the same person at different times in our lives and Joey was the first and only person I really talked to about it. I told that story on stage before our last song and of course was crying the whole time. After our set, so many people came up to me and hugged me and cried with me and told me their stories of how they lost someone to suicide. It was a really emotional way to end the weekend but I’m glad I talked about it. Someone actually messaged me the other day about what I talked about on stage and said it motivated them to reach out to their friends about being suicidal and now they are getting help. Shit like that is why I talk about stuff. Cause if it helps or impacts just one person, it’s worth it, ya know?

You’ve recently talked about having a new record in the works. Does it follow a certain theme lyrically?

I don’t think there is a huge lyrical theme in it besides “shit that pisses me off and/or makes me cry”.

Lyrically and instrumentally, what is the writing process usually like?

Lyrically, I kinda just write whenever I’m frustrated or upset about something. I start out writing like a paragraph or stream of consciousness and then I try to make lyrics out of either the sentences I write or the idea behind the sentences I write. I can’t play guitar so I don’t have a melody or anything really in mind when I write them.

Instrumentally, we actually write songs together as a band. Someone will come up with a riff and not really know how to end it or what to add to it, and then we all figure it out together. Most of my input is “hmm idk I think the song could be shorter” and time signature changes. Lol.  

What are you hoping fans get out of the new record?

I hope they hear the lyrics as something they can relate to and feel like they are not alone. I know shitty men who hear my lyrics won’t have an epiphany and start researching all the different ways they can be better, but I hope this can make people think about their actions and how they have impact on people.    

Being from Tallahassee, can you describe your local music scene?

I LOVE TALLAHASSEE!!!!!! We have some of the goofiest punks in the nation here and I love it. We have like 4 cover shows a year and everyone always gets really into them. 3 out of 4 of them are to raise money for local non-profits. My favorite cover show is called “Friend Fest” where local bands cover other local bands. I always end up crying at that one. I have been in like 6 cover bands myself, (90’s pop cover band, 60’s pop cover band, Taking Back Sunday, My Chemical Romance, Naps [an old local band], and The Used)

Also being a college town, there are new bands forming all the time and people are always really excited about them! We once had a “new band show” where it was like 5 bands’ first show and there were like 80 people that came out to it!

Of course, we see the same shitty drama that every scene has to deal with. Being a smaller town though, I feel like it has a larger impact when someone fucks up. We are all learning and growing as a community though. I think it just takes time for people to figure out how to navigate serious issues like abuse and assault when there might not be the best resources in town for us to use. I believe in Tallahassee and the heart and knowledge we have as a community!

And on an even more serious note, the aftermath of Joey’s death really demonstrated to me how our music scene is so special. Everyone came together to grieve and support each other in different ways. I was booking Punk Prom a few days after their death and I considered cancelling it. But people wanted to have fun and dance so we hosted it with all the money going to Joey’s family. We raised $1800 that weekend.

In some of your songs, you talk about feeling alienated as a woman in the hardcore scene. Do you think that is changing?

Yeah, I think it’s slowly changing. But I think the challenge has moved from men being exclusionary to women in hardcore (like in the 80s) to men in hardcore music who claim to be feminists and outspoken activists who don’t actually step up when it’s time to take tangible action. They like to be seen as “progressive” but they don’t actually do any of the work to challenge other men in hardcore when they are being sexist/racist/transphobic/shitty.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still plenty of alienating aspects of hardcore that are alienating towards women, non-binary people, people of color, and people with disabilities. But I think the new trend is to look like you care about progressive things. Not actually follow it up with action to help oppressed individuals.

What changes would you like to see in the music scene?

I would like to see more scenes taking the accountability process route when outing someone. I think that we have come to a point as a community where we are getting more and more comfortable coming forward with our stories about assault and abuse. But now, as punks, we don’t know what to do with those individuals who have caused other people harm. We know that they shouldn’t be in positions of power or social capitol, they should be removed from any environment where they can hurt or trigger others, and that they should admit that they fucked up. But what about after all of that? If we exile people, that leaves them to go to other scenes and potentially abuse more folks. If we ignore it, then they stay here in our communities and continue to harm others while victims are left to feel alienated and unheard.

We need to figure out a way to rehabilitate abusers and facilitate long-term, tangible change and understanding of their behavior. This is all WAY easier said than done and requires so many different caveats: Is this what the victims wants? Is the abuser willing to go through this process? Are there multiple people in the community who are willing and able to facilitate this process?  Are there trained professionals who we can trust and refer to during this process? What does this process even look like based on the wants and needs of the individuals affected?

I think call out posts are necessary and effective in many cases. But I think we need to do better than exile. Because that leaves the abuser feeling resentful of anyone who challenges them, rooted in their belief that they did nothing wrong, and hellbent on leaving that reputation behind to gain a new one in a different town or community. They will learn nothing and they will continue to abuse. That’s a band-aid. That’s not a solution.

How do you feel about opening up for Screaming Females in April?

I’M HONESTLY SO EXCITED ABOUT THOSE GIGS BECAUSE I GET TO PLAY WITH MY FAVORITE BAND “THE HIRS COLLECTIVE”!!!!!!! Don’t get me wrong, I am freaking out to be playing with Screaming Females and Thou too. Screaming Females is incredible and so fucking talented! But HIRS is my favorite band and was the band that inspired me to finally start a hardcore band and also Jenna is an amazing vocalist/musician/lyricist/style icon so like idk I’m really stoked to be playing three dates with them. I’m probably gonna throw up alot from nerves. Lol.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I am literally always down to talk about stuff that people don’t understand or get. We are all unlearning biases that have been ingrained in us since birth so like DM me if u don’t get any of the stuff I talk about in my lyrics or on stage or whatever! Also I am not the authority on anything in punk rock or hardcore!!! I am a cis white lady who likes to scream stuff and cries a lot. Kill yr idolz xoxoxo

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