quaaludes Quaaludes. Left to right: Morgan, Aimee, Susie, Courtney

The first time I saw Quaaludes was at Think and Die Thinking. For me, that festival was a welcoming into a better world, one where I wasn’t the odd one out. I actually felt at home there — maybe it was because I really wasn’t that far from home. Maybe it was the fact that when I walked in, there was a panel of indigenous, Latin@ and Pacific Islanders speaking about feeling a type of dsyphoria not only with your family but with people who listen to the same as music as you. They were given their space, and everyone was left to listen. I was too afraid to speak up, I just wanted to listen; I did and felt at ease because I related. I agreed. I knew how they felt. They knew how I felt and were saying everything that at the time I had a hard time saying aloud.

Think And Die Thinking has been creating these safe spaces for all minorities in music and the alt scene since 2011. If I had known more about it before and had the opportunities to make it out to San Jose, I would have been a happier person long ago. There’s also a very limited amount of events and collectives like Think And Die Thinking, but moreso, not enough information. Most of the time you hear about this kind of event by word of mouth, or nowadays, because one of your friends said they were interested in the event via Facebook.

Think and Die Thinking seemed like a haven; I was safe in all my oddities. I didn’t need to drink away any anxiety, because just by being around all the positive and accepting energy, I was my best. I spoke to everyone that spoke to me, had actual conversations about being a Xicana writer and person. I became the person I always aim to be, and if you see me at my best, that’s how I’ll be. Meaning, I was positive, I was outgoing, social, and throwing appropriate jokes all over the place. Before this festival in summer of 2015, I had been having a hard time being this person.

Not only was it such a wonderful space filled of amazing people I’m so happy I’ve met, but there was also so many bands and musicians that I hadn’t known about, so much local music for me to Google endlessly about. Quaaludes were one of these bands.

After seeing them that one time, they ended up popping everywhere for me. In conversations, at concerts I was already interested in going to before, as the next song on shuffle. Their energy is so addictive that they eventually were one of the bands I would constantly hear in that “Have you heard of” kind of conversation. They’re also the type of local band that will be at every DIY space, event, and show almost every week.

Like the best of the bands, they all met through music. “Me and Morgan met through Virgin Records on Market,” says Aimee. “We both worked there back in the day (Virgin Records no longer exists)” said Morgan. “At the rock counter, you (Morgan) were reading a zine, then we went to Needles and Pins, and they were having a party, with wine and cheese. Then we were friends and we started making music. We had another band. Then the band ended,” said Aimee. “We still wanted to make music, so I was playing guitar, we started trying to get other people, and we realized we wanted to only play with not dudes,” said Morgan. “I met Susie at a house party and I didn’t know she was a drummer ’til the end and then I found out how amazing of a drummer she was and I stalked her; forced her to join the band,” said Aimee. “The Susie reached out to me, because their old bassist moved to Korea temporary, she’s back,” says Courtney, “But I am still the bassist.”

We are all just sitting on the floor on their practice space in a circle, all criss-cross-applesauce style, a little worried that the dad-rock-bands practicing in the space next door would muffle the audio. Gladly the dad-rockers didn’t ruin a thing. It seemed to actually just make everyone not be afraid to speak up. In a way, that’s how I feel about Quaaludes: They discourage the fear of speaking up. For them this band is about friendship, being themselves, and love.

Of course, gladly, the music scene is accepting female and queer musicians a lot more. “When we first started making music, we just liked hanging out and talking shit about a lot of stuff happening in our lives. We would just be making music and then be like fucking, you know, technology or life,” said Aimee about their original inspirations when making the band. “The Go-Go’s are always a good band to fall back on. The Runaways did a lot of cool stuff as extremely young women, which I think is awesome. They accomplished a lot in the short amount of time in which they were a band. Alice Bags from the Bags, who’s like one of the best front people of all time. Also on good front people from bands, Debbie Harry from Blondie, obviously. There’s, like, so many good ones. Lots of reasons to listen to music and be excited,” said Susie who seemed the most vocal and enthusiastic.

“When we first started playing shows, people liked our band, but the people we would see consistently were always just are friends, and now we’re meeting and seeing more people we haven’t seen before. People are just realizing how supportive they are and how excited people are to see our band, and they want to see us again. Like we went and played Chico and Sacramento less than a month ago and both of those shows were great. But before we went on for both, we were noticing how there had to be one woman for every six guys that were there; there weren’t very many at all. But when we started playing, like literally, at the very front was just this whole row of all the girls at that show. All the guys were behind them, and the girls were just all dancing and having fun. So that was kind of cool,” Susie said while we spoke about how their experience as a mostly female-identified band has changed in the last three years.

“The comments from people have changed. In the beginning it was like ‘Why are you so angry?!’ you know, and, uh, and (people) trying to weirdly flirt with me at the same time…um, no. I think, in general, people are a lot more respectful and don’t do a lot of weird comments like that anymore. They’re more professional and, you know, come to the show then just say ‘Good job’ and are really supportive,” replied Aimee.

“You do see more women in bands now; maybe there’s just more visibility now. There’s just more room for female-identified bands to get attention. Aimee’s right, there has been a little bit of a shift in that department. Also, I feel like people come to our shows and they accept what we do on stage, when before I feel like they would have been more like ‘What’s her deal?’ There was a disconnect but I feel like we’re seeing a lot more people who just kinda get it and want to be a part of it,” said Susie.

“We’re not a novelty anymore. For me it was more of the scene becoming more aware and that the scene was slowly growing over time or just like getting more into it and having more friends. Maybe at the beginning of this band it wouldn’t have been that surprising to go to a show and there just be a ton of dudes, and probably not even think much about it because that’s just how it’s mostly been. But then now, when I go to a show and it’s all dudes, you, like, you feel it. You kind of notice that maybe you don’t have the space you want or people are straight up being jerks. It very rare for us now,” said Morgan.

This has become a common conversation with my friends who are female or minorities in music. How we’re finally noticing the disconnect, and how we’re finally trying to change it. To the Sugar Bowl girls who saw that there wasn’t many free all-ages and safe spaces for women-identified and queer-identified folk who just wanted to play or listen to music in Oakland. So Carly started hosting shows, in her own small apartment, and then soon took it to California College of the Arts, Oakland campus. She did this for us, the minorities in the scene, the ones that weren’t getting the space they deserved. Just like Think and Die Thinking did. There’s also many other spaces and people who want spaces like this popping up all over the bay area (if you’re reading this and know of any spaces, please tell us about them in the comments). We are recognizing that the only way we can give attention and safe spaces to those that are not getting it is to change and make them ourselves. Another notably new space is Notaflof Collective Community Salon & Artspace.

Quaaludes are giving more opportunities to similar bands. They are doing a radical act just by doing what they love and not letting anything push them down. They are even releasing a cassette, which they recorded on their own after a strange mishap.

“End of 2014 we got an offer from a friend of ours in Portland, who was doing a series of 7″ for a bunch of bands, and he wanted to include us. So he was like ‘Get us the recordings, it’s gonna be a single series, hopefully we’ll have you something by summer.’ Come January 2015, we put some songs together that we recorded with our friend Jackson who records in Oakland and then we sent the songs off. By March the songs were mastered and sent to the plant, but because of Record Store Day. Just huge orders everywhere, and our 7″ was among the thousands or whatever that got pushed back an insane amount. So pretty much all the singles that were being released through Jonny Cat, who’s the label putting out our 7″ had a record pushed back a bunch. So we only got our test press back in December and then that’s when they told us we wouldn’t get our actual 7″ until June or May at the earliest of this year,” said Susie.

“We even went on tour last June, thinking that would be our record release tour. So now it’s a year later,” said Courtney.

Obviously this felt like too long for them to do nothing. So join them in releasing their DIY joy of a cassette Rejects at the Hemlock on Friday, April 8. The cassette shows the energy they let free during their live sets, because it was done for them. It wasn’t meant to be perfect, it was meant to be something to hold and be proud of. They should be proud of it. I was lucky enough to get a copy after meeting them in their practice space, and with the snippets of parental snickering and negativity, you can see that this is more than just about them. The thing is, in the end, it is. It’s about them and other female-identifying musicians taking their own space and not being ashamed of it.

Quaaludes and a autographed photo of KornQuaaludes and an autographed photo of Korn

Quaaludes, Mane, Foster Body, Rays
Hemlock Tavern
April 8, 2016
9pm, $7 (21+)