Saturday, 23 February 2013

Madeline Mondrala

New York-based artist creating experimental pop sounds

So who are the biggest influences on your sound, and how would you describe your music?

This is a difficult question to answer because while I know who my favorite artists are and who I love to listen to, I don't know who comes through the most in my music.  I hope that no one artist in particular comes through. I think its the ambiguity of a lifetime of influence that makes a song interesting. Its not a conscious process. I can control what I listen to, but not how it rubs off on me.  There are a few artists who I deeply admire who I can only hope have added to my sound.  Bjork, Gwen Stefani (No Doubt years), Erykah Badu, Madonna, St. Vincent, and Joni Mitchell are all musical idols of mine.
I also listen to a lot of pop music like Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, and Beyonce who have all had a hand in the kind of music I create as well. I also go off on musical tangents all the time.  One week it will be classical indian singing, the next its random 80's albums.  I'm all over the place; the best place to be. 

I noticed there's a lot of musicians contributing to your EP!  Do you play gigs with a full band?
I worked with a lot of talented musicians on this EP, but my band only has four people.   It consists of me on keyboard and vocals, Matt Speno on guitar (he produced the EP), Brendon Caroselli on drums, and Jonathan Sacca on Bass. The live arrangement is similar but I didn't want to try to create an exact replica of the EP.  My band's arrangements are certainly influenced by the sound of the EP but its a different and unique expression of those songs.

As a female musican, have you experienced sexism in any shape or form?

I've made music with a lot of men throughout my life.  I've never felt particularly discriminated against.  Of course it was difficult at times to deal with rowdy teenage boys, especially at the tender age of 14, but I know how to command people's respect in a band setting.  The men in my band now have never disrespected me.  They love women.  They're wonderful men.

To look at things from a slightly different angle - and I'm asking this completely objectively because I've no idea of what you look like!  Do you think you have experienced any kind of reverse discrimination due to being a woman?  There's also a related phenomenon - which Chris Robley, writing for the website 'DIY Musician', described as 'Cute-girl dismissal syndrome', admitting that he has been guilty of it himself!  He defines it as the tendency to "discredit the talents of a woman (normally without ever hearing a note of her music) simply based on the fact that she’s attractive according to the standards of… yes, society– and you bitterly assume this affords her some unfair advantage"

I have actually. Last semester I took a Jazz Combo class. I felt like I had no voice in the ensemble even though I was the singer.  All the songs the instructor chose were from the male perspective and weren't in my vocal range.  I suggested songs I knew I could sing well but he never used any of them. Thats really the only stand out experience I can think of along those lines. I know there are downsides to being an attractive woman in the music industry, but more often than not its an advantage that I use to my own benefit.  I think as a woman in this industry its in your best interest to develop a sense of your own beauty and a knowledge of how to best present it, use it, and incorporate it into your art.

Discrimination as a women in music is hard to boil down to a list of specific experiences.  Its the kind of thing that hangs in the air.  Its on the level of pheromones and complex, subtle social cues.  Being a woman sets you apart in some ways when you're surrounded by a group of men. That just means its one more thing she has to learn to navigate.  Learning makes people smarter so I think being female has only helped me.

I get what you mean by that - one person I spoke to said that the bass player and drummer in her band were virtuosos, and they became like that because the constant discrimination meant that they had to work a lot harder at their instruments than they otherwise would have. 

Have you ever felt a pressure to sexualise yourself more than you otherwise would?

I suppose I have felt some societal pressure to look sexy onstage. Maybe when I was younger I bought into that mindset a bit more than I do now.  Now I personally want to look alluring onstage, but I do it in my own way.  I also want to look other ways on stage at the same time.  For example: quirky, interesting, original, stylish.  I try to balance it all out.

What would you say to a 15 year old girl just picking up an instrument now?

Find your own voice in music.  Do what makes you feel fulfilled in music.  Listen to the artists who inspire you. Play music that inspires you. Explore your own unique creativity.   If you love it, never stop, but take little breaks to remind yourself you love it.
Watch 'Blood Brother' video

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