[Q&A] Amanda Starling of Angry Grrrl Music

By: Hope Ankney

Amanda Starling, host of the Angry Grrrl Music podcast, is more than just a voice through someone’s headphones or speakers. Throughout AGM, this Florida native gives a platform to women, LGBTQ+, and minority movements in both indie and punk music scenes. Her dedication to helping these groups be heard is only half of what makes her great. As I had the honor to interview her, I was able to view the person behind the microphone through her buoyancy and insightful nature. By picking her brain, I was able to find out the passion behind her work, the clear mindset and growth she has had running alongside music, and how she envisions the future of the music industry to be.

Florida is quite famous for its incredible DIY scene and thriving arts. Growing up in Florida and ultimately making the state a home-base for yourself in regards to hosting/co-hosting podcasts in the local and underground scenes, is there a specific reason why you gravitated towards this outlet instead of others in the media field?

I found my way into music through perhaps one of the most corny ways possible – teen night dramas of the early 2000’s. The likes of One Tree Hill and The OC introduced me to so much pop punk, emo, and other “alternative” genres that they served as so many of my gateway bands, the ones that sort of opened the door to more independent music. I think my first exposure to “DIY” was when some classmates and I put together a charity show with this touring band, T13C. I remember just having fun taking pictures and talking to the band after, and I was just excited to take everything and put it into my school newspaper. Flash forward about five years and I’m doing some of the same for my college paper and different blogs.

Over time, I ended up finding that my voice didn’t fit the mold of mainstream media, so I decided to make it on my own. DIY had become ingrained in me after a few years of local shows and slowly meeting people from all over the country who were making music for themselves. Why couldn’t I do the same for media at that point? My best friend, Tyler Holland, introduced me to podcasting, where we’d pretty much sit around and gush about our favorite releases and shows, just with a microphone in front of us. ​I found it really fun to expand beyond writing into a live conversation, where I could just ad-lib and speak freely, alongside my storytelling.

Florida seems to have a bad rap when it comes to their music scene even though many who are notorious in the scene started their careers here. In your experience around the community, is there any truth about this stereotype that you’ve witnessed firsthand or is it all misinformed?

As You Blew It! once said, “FLORIDA DOESN’T SUCK.” I’m constantly falling in love with the scene here over and over again, because there’s so much of an effort to connect it. I think about people like Candice Maritato (Woolbright) and Paige Coley (Kinder Than Wolves) and Katrina Snyder (Expert Timing) who are really putting in the work to bridge all of us together​ across the state​, especially non-men​, LGBTQIA+​, and people of color. It’s special and important, and even touring bands have pointed out how lucky we are to have that​ inherent bond​ and effort to maintain it.

Gainesville and Tampa’s music scene almost feels like a group effort between the artists and those who work in the BTS of music. The DIY atmosphere is different in this area because those in the scene rally around each other and collaborate to keep the local scene alive. How has this environment affected you both positively and negatively?

I’m fortunate that the DIY scenes across the state have embraced me. I think it’s a little intimidating for someone who is a  little more introverted like me, so it took time for me to build the friendships I have. But I think when you embody the values of respecting others, their space​s,​ and are willing to put in the work to learn and grow, the scenes can be so open and inclusive. It’s kind of like a relationship – if you cultivate it and respect it, it’s a love that can enhance so much of your life.

I’ve noticed that you were big into “the gig life” (attending shows, being in the concert environment) for a while before you began your ventures within music now. Was there a turning point during this time period when you were immersed in this life of being a fan that you can pinpoint the blossoming of the passion for helping minority artists be heard?

There was a moment when I was sifting through different bands and new music trying to find people who sounded and looked like me. Sometimes it was easy, sometimes it wasn’t. It dawned on me at one point that so many of the shows I was going to were dominated by lineups of ​cis heterosexual white men, and that their stories and experiences were nothing like mine. Don’t get me wrong, I love a fun night out and I’ve had a broken heart, but none of these stories were told from the perspective of a woman or non-man, or explored the trajectory of balancing adolescence into genuine adulthood. I couldn’t connect anymore, and I found myself having this conversation over and over with different friends who felt the same way.

I knew what my tools were – a microphone, some editing software, and the ability to write out my feelings on this. So I think that spark of motivation really unleashed the feelings and thoughts I’d been considering for some time.​

Angry Grrrl podcast is focused around highlighting women, LGBTQI+, and other minorities in the punk and indie scenes. How has the opportunity to have this kind of platform help you extend and grow yourself as a person by constantly being surrounded by these communities?

One of my obsessions in life is constantly learning new things, and you can do that by exposing yourself to people of diverse backgrounds. Though I often have aspects of my identity in common with my guests, such as being a person of color and identifying as a woman, I find that I’m constantly opening up my mind to the experiences of others. I think it’s both humbling and eye-opening to hear the perspectives of members of other communities, and it’s that exchange of ideas that really helps bolster both myself and my belief structure.​​

Angry Grrrl makes sure to explicitly state its focus on punk and indie music. The birth of the punk subculture was founded on a core attitude of living your own truth through appearance, identity, political outcry etc. Was that the intention of the podcast, to follow that mantra and offer that environment to the guests as much as it is interviewing artists/guests from those particular scenes?

When I started Angry Grrrl Music, I was really deeply entrenched in punk and indie as a source of not only music but unabashed independence. Over the past two years, I’ve found myself branching out and opening to other subcultures and genres not only due to my taste, but also because unfortunately with indie and punk, it can get very white and very male.

One of the values I still focus on is the DIY ethic – I want to talk to and learn from people who are putting in the work to elevate themselves and others. ​It’s crucial when the music industry is less focused on providing opportunity ​to people of diverse backgrounds. The folks who are putting in the work with integrity are my ultimate focus.

Do you think having a “punk rock attitude” for lack of better word, helps in creating a comfortable setting for the guests you host to open up more to you to have their voices be heard?

Punk rock helps in sometimes establishing a connection, kind of like whenever you find out someone likes the same restaurants or movies as you. But I’ve found that just talking about passions, like the band that a person fell in love with, or the moment that person became excited or motivated about music, really unlocks the real connection. ​I make an effort to find what we both have in common, and sometimes it’s as simple as the band that made that person fall in love with music.​

With the influx of hate and inequality in the world we live in, only increasing with the 2016 election, it is significant to have inclusive podcasts for those that are discriminated against. What makes Angry Grrrl and your role in it an important platform for minority movements?

Exposure and education are some of the strongest ways to combat hate. The more that people see, or hear, the voices of people who do not look, sound, or think like them,  it’s an opportunity to learn and move beyond their preconceived beliefs about different communities.

Angry Grrrl Music is a platform for that within the music community. Ideally, I’m trying to share with al​l​ who listen​ that gender isn’t a genre, that people of color are not limited to what identities the general public forces on them, and that we’re all just trying to express in a time where so many want us to suppress.​ Sometimes those conversations are direct and at the forefront of interviews, and sometimes it’s just the presence of a person that can convey that message indirectly, too.​

What sets it apart?

The genuine passion of the guests​ is the real heart of AGM​. Every person that I’ve met just loves what they do, and they see the value in themselves and what their work could mean to others. I think about how badly so many of them wanted to see themselves on stages, and here they are, providing that opportunity to others.

What is your dream interview and why?

I’ve always joked that Lauren Jane Grace would be my dream interview, and I’d have to throw in the towel after that because I probably couldn’t top it. Laura has shaped an entire generation of people, inside of the punk scene and well into the mainstream because of her music and her identity.​ I’d love to learn more about her experiences in developing her music, her views of her presence in pop culture, and the sort of legacy she’d like Against Me! to ultimately have.

As much as the punk and indie scenes emphasize equality in all its forms, how progressive do you really believe it to be, as a woman who works in and around the scene, when it comes to sexism, racism, homophobia etc. when so much of it is still dominated by hegemonic men?

In my experience, so much of this is dependent on the spaces you occupy and the people you allow into it. The spaces I go to for music have a zero tolerance policy for sexism, racism, homophobia, and xenophobia, which is a gift. There are a lot of incredible people putting in the work for there to be spaces ​for people like me to​ simply exist and take a break from fighting for​ my​ rights and my identity.

Not all spaces are like this, though – I’ve had times where bouncers at larger capacity venues have scoffed at me for claiming to have press access, removed me from a side stage for photo so that they can watch the bands, and have been outright ignored in conversations. Crowd culture feeds into that too – if a show is booked entirely with white straight men, the crowd ​and staff ​will reflect that, and sometimes that can get really dark for someone who doesn’t fit that identity.

Things are definitely improving, but there’s a lot of work to be done. That’s why I keep going with this podcast, in some hope of educating people.

With the platform you have to give minorities in punk and indie music a voice and the stream of guests you interact with, what is one important thing you’ve taken away from all your discussions over time?

It’s just as important to listen as it is to hear. People carry their own experiences and opportunities that are worth learning from. ​Some of these experiences have threads of similarity, but ultimately each person’s experience is valid and can be learned from.​

I used to cohost a show at a radio station, and it was imperative to almost play yourself up since your whole show revolves around your voice, alone. As general radio weakens due to the popularity in podcasts, do you also feel like you have to exaggerate yourself on the mic or are podcasts more relaxed and raw in that regard?

I recently went back and listened to my first couple of episodes – and I was so nervous and monotone the entire time during my intro and outdo parts! It took me until about the end of last summer to really shake off the nerves and allow myself to just have fun with it. My friends could probably verify it better, but I try to sound like how I do anytime I’m speaking to any one of them when I’m recording. And I’ve learned that it’s okay to geek out over my guests, too.​ Podcasts are a lot like real life – be yourself, and that’s how you grow not only your audience but your self.​​

What is the main difference you’ve noticed between how radio and podcast deliver themselves?

The radio I grew up with was along the lines of Fisher and Boy in the morning of 97X, and they later added to the roster Danielle. I drove to high school every day listening to them, and I think what I enjoyed about them was their goofy banter that made you actually want to hang out  at a show or in the studio with them. ​It felt personable, down to earth, and everyone was just excited about that era of alternative rock music.​

I’m very selective about my podcast listening because I think I’m still drawn to the personable and honest. I think of people like Tim Crisp from ‘Better Yet’ who just have simple, fun conversations with musicians about their lives; or my inspiration, comedian Phoebe Robinson with ‘Sooo Many White Guys’​, who delivers earnest questions while still remaining true to her personality and interests​;  or even ‘Full of Sith’ with Holly Frye, Bryan Young, and Mike Pilot because they just have a round table of thoughts around Star Wars – these folks just are really passionate about the things they love and they express it out loud.

What were the steps that led you to where you are now in terms of entertainment?

In simple terms: listening to Tacocat and rewatching 10 Things I Hate About You for the hundredth time.

I wrote for years for different newspapers, including the local regional. I also wrote, took photos, and edited for a local blog. When I realized that my voice and others deserved a more meaningful platform, I started my own.​ It’s all slowly built upon over the years, and with my confidence growing, I’m branching out into more tools and opportunities to cultivate the platform.​

Who are some of your influences for your spark in working in the industry?

M​y first writing inspiration was long-form creative journalist Lane Degregory- she wrote the  Pulitzer Prize-winning piece “The Girl in the WIndow.” That’s when I fell in love with impactful storytelling.

R​ight around the time I was putting together AGM, I began listening to ‘2 Dope Queens’ with Jessica WIlliams and Phoebe Robinson, but it was Phoebe who stood out to me when she launched her podcast ‘​Sooo Many White Guys​.’ Phoebe’s authenticity and earnest effort to gather impactful, diverse voices across all spheres of culture (not just entertainment) was and still is extremely motivating.

​I have to give a shout out to publicist and influencer, Jamie Coletta! Jamie agreed to an interview with me within my first year of podcasting, and she’s really contributed to my success as a podcaster with her strong presence in music and the work she puts in. Plus, she’s totally helped spark my interest in more and more bands!

I think the largest influence on me goes to Carly Commando (Slingshot Dakota). Carly was the first interview I remember outwardly cheering for booking and being shocked that she agreed to it with the podcast being so young. I have been a fan of not only her music but her efforts to generate a larger, more inclusive scene. That interview was one of the most empowering and critical of my career – Carly got candid and really unpacked so much when it came to creating spaces. Her friendship is one I value deeply because not only is she a wonderful person, but she’s someone who really encourages others in their paths to opportunity and success.

If you could tell young girls who want to work in the music scene one piece of advice what would it be and why?

Be persistent and passionate for what you do, but also respect yourself in the process. ​Know your worth, and insist on opportunity that supports that. ​

What is a harsh reality about working in and around music?

It’s a lot of work and “​success”​ ​is​ based on your point of view. ​I wanted to be a journalist since I could write words – I’ve already accomplished that, even if it was for a moment of my career. I have a lifetime to try different roles, skills, and hobbies, and I consider myself fortunate to have experienced so much at this stage in life. ​For me, ​my success isn’t about making a financial impact for myself, but instead I’m focused on friendships and aiding in cultivating careers for artists and those who support them.

In one word, what do you want the future of the music industry to be?

Empowered.


You can listen to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Sticher & many other streaming sites.

Links:
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Spotify

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