Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Women Who Rock Wednesday: The Maybenauts!

As I mentioned last week, tomorrow (Thursday Janaury 28th), I'm going to this incredibly rad concert called Girls Out of the Garage at Lincoln Hall in Chicago. It starts at 8, is only 10$, and if you are over 18 and near Chicago, you should definitely come and rock out with me.

I was lucky enough to snag a Women Who Rock Weds interview with one of the bands, The Maybenauts. I love their sound and think you will love them too. So read on and learn all about them!

The Maybenauts are:
Leilani Frey - vocals, keys
Ellie Maybe - bass, vocals
Emily Agustin - drums
Vee Sonnets - guitar, vocals

Q: When did you start playing music? What inspired you? A certain musician, family member, teacher or friend? Who are some of your biggest musical influences (especially the women since it's Women Who Rock Wednesday, but men too!)?

Leilani: I use guitar as a song writing tool, but I definitely consider “my instrument” to be my voice. I started singing before I could talk. My Dad always included songs and singing into daily activities. He would videotape me and my brothers acting like a band, lip syncing and dancing to songs. They were always a hit to watch at family parties and stuff, and I guess I just grew up performing for fun. Singing just always made me feel good. Now it’s something that I must to do to feel right with myself. Females that I look to for inspiration, particularly with The Maybenauts include Ann and Nancy Wilson (Heart), Cyndi Lauper, Fiona Apple, Louise Post and Nina Gordon (Veruca Salt), Karen O (Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs), and Siouxsie Sioux (Siouxsie & The Banshees).

Ellie: I started playing woodwinds at about age 10 and bass around 13. My dad was the horn player in Heavy Manners, so I grew up surrounded by ska and reggae. Some of my earliest memories are of being in the Wild Hare listening to Gizzae. My inspirations and influences have changed over the years, but the mainstays have a strong emphasis on songwriting and arranging: Tom Waits, Foreigner, Bad Company, The Eagles, pat mAcdonald [sic], Bob Marley & The Wailers, Marvin Gaye, The Kinks. Surprisingly, I haven't been influenced by a lot of female musicians, even though I went to every year of Lilith Fair. Maybe that's why. Ha!

Emily: I took piano lessons as a kid, and am classically trained as a percussionist, but I didn't really start playing drum set until the end of high school. I'd spent some formative years listening to metal, and I was totally intimidated by the stuff those guys were playing. It wasn't until I'd spent a few years listening to noise punk and some really lo-fi indie bands that I realized I was just being silly, and that I didn't need 20 toms and a double kick to be a good drummer.

My family has always been really musical; my mom is a pianist, and she and my dad sing in the church choir. My older brother did the school band thing as well, and currently plays bass and guitar. He and I have been in a number of bands together, and he was the first person to kick me in the butt and make me get over my insecurities about playing, because he needed a drummer.

As far as influences, I still cite the video for "Pretend We're Dead" by L7 as my first feminist awakening. I grew up listening to the Monkees, Fats Domino, and the Beach Boys, so there's a basic backbeat in my bones; I don't really go for the flashier, more fill-heavy stuff. I've studied Japanese taiko drumming in recent years, and performed in theatrical percussion ensembles (Jellyeye, Redmoon Theater), so I'm trying to expand my rock drumming to incorporate that as well. My two biggest influences as a drummer are probably David Lovering (Pixies) and Todd Trainer (Shellac). Simple, but interesting and effective.

I wrote my MA thesis on female musicians, so women in rock is a topic near and dear to my heart. Furthermore, I'm currently a DJ at CHIRP Radio, and a huge record collector nerd, so there are a lot of bands that have influenced me as a musician in general (as opposed to influencing me as a drummer). As for the Maybenauts, let's say the Breeders, the's, old girl groups, and Sonic Youth.

Vee: I have been playing since I was about 3. I picked up instruments rather easily and playing music was never really hard for me. It was more about the desire to do it rather than be intimidated by an instrument. I just have no fear playing things because they just felt natural. Umm biggest influences? I'd have to say too many to list. I can tell you that I was brought up in a very diverse musical home (my dad played trumpet and was church choir director. My mother sang in church choir), and that there was all kinds of music. Rock, latin, soul, blues, r&b, classical, gospel, choirs, music from all over the world basically.

Q: Tell us about the Maybenauts. When did you form, who plays what in the band, and how'd you come up with the name?

Leilani: I think The Maybenauts are four friends who really just enjoy making music together. Our motivation is simply that little “must make music” monster that lives inside all four of us- and we all like to have fun. When we play together, everyone contributes a piece of their creativity, and each piece is different. I think because we all have such a wide variety of musical tastes, it creates an interesting sound that is unique to us. There is no other band that sounds like us that I’ve heard, and I like that.

We formed in January of 09’ after working together before in various forms. Ellie and I used to get together occasionally for years to harmonize and write for fun, and we always talked about playing together hypothetically. Then another opportunity arose, and she, Emily, and myself played together for the first “Covers for Cover” benefit show as the band Bikini Kill. It was super fantastic.

Then when Ellie recorded her solo record, “Meet Ellie”, Vee played guitar and I sang backup vocals on it. We started playing those songs live for people under the name “The Ellie Maybe Experence.” Then we realized that we wanted to grow away from those songs and actually write new material together. Our drummer Eric Yoder was busy producing records for his business Horse Drawn Productions, and couldn’t really keep up with the amount of shows we wanted to play. Also, he was just too busy with other things, like raising two kids and relocating his entire studio to Berwyn. Needless to say, when we needed a drummer, the obvious choice was Emily. After she joined, and since we were a new lineup, sound, and band, we decided to go by a new name. I wanted to keep the word “maybe” from “Ellie Maybe” because the band evolved from that project. We all liked a the idea of a play on words. I liked “The Maybe-Nots” but then I thought it would be cool to change the spelling of nots to nauts, and everyone loved it. It was cool because there are so many awesome costumes and stage props that work with a space theme. The other awesome bonus is that Emily wears metallic hot-pants all of the time. YEEOOWW!

Ellie: We played our first official show as The Maybenauts in January '09. January 30th is our one year anniversary! We evolved from a project called The Ellie Maybe Experence when Emily came in on drums and Leilani took over lead vocals. We were stuck trying to come up with a name for weeks when Leilani blurted out "Maybenauts - like ASTRONAUTS!" at a rehearsal. After a considerable period of giggles, it was our new name.

Emily: I'm sure Ellie or Leilani will answer that one in-depth, so I'm going to skip this question. :) I will say though, that Ellie had been bugging me to play drums with her pretty much since the day we became friends. I got sidetracked by some health issues for a couple years, but joined the Ellie Maybe Experence in November of '08, which then became the Maybenauts.

Vee: I joined when Ellie Maybe Experence was looking for bandmates. Ellie Maybe and I have played together doing live band karaoke with the Karaoke Dokies, and in The Sonnets, so playing with her was rather comfy. I play guitars. The name was just thought up in a brainstorm (uk equivalent of an 'idea shower').

Q: Please share the link to your MySpace page (or the best place to hear your music) and tell us about your favorite song on there/the one you are most proud of or think best represents the Maybenauts. Feel free to talk about a few if it is too hard to choose ;)

Leilani: It’s really hard to choose between “Head Is A Bomb” and “Blue Line” for me. I think I will always have a soft spot for “HIAB” because it is such a personal song about a really messed up time in my life when I was dealing with bulimia. It’s also really rockin’ and emotional, and the whole band just goes nuts on it. So that one for sure is up there. I gotta say though that “Blue Line” really feels more creative to me, and much more complex. Ellie and I got drunk on Tequila one night and wrote it really organically, or drunkenly. We had a blast coming up with harmonies. There's actually a video on YouTube of us harmonizing that night to Riskay's "Smell Yo Dick" that we just thought was hilarious at the time. Anyway, now when I hear that song and I see how much it has changed due to everyone pouring their creative ideas into it, it's really magical. Vee’s guitars are just so amazing, and the drums are so fucking sexy! I was riding the train today with my iPod on shuffle, it came on, and it totally feels like a train song. I love that one from start to finish and think it is a great accomplishment for our band.

Ellie: My favourite is Blue Line, though I never thought it would be until I heard it back right after we tracked it in the studio. It just sounded so sad, like the song needed a hug. It's a topic that isn't touched upon often in pop music, but one that probably speaks to a lot of city-dwellers. It's a song about Chicago, about politics and poverty and being disillusioned with the home you love - and I feel like it efficiently conveys the desperation of wanting to escape but being unable, because the city is as much a part of you as you are of it.

Emily: My current favorite Maybenauts song is either "My Head is a Bomb" or "Girlfight," mostly because they're really fun to play. I'm really pleased with "Blue Line" as well though, since it's a different style for us. I think the recording of it came out sounding great.

Vee: I like them all because they all have a part of us but i think Blue Line has magic due to the dual leads and words by Leilani and Ellie. I also think the whole folk rock flavor of that song is a perfect compliment to the lyrics and is almost visual. The blend of bluesy guitar riffs, jazzy bass, the quiet pounding of drums, the dual vocals...its a trip on its own.

A Note from Ellie: Blue Line isn't up yet, but keep checking back for it. You can listen to the Maybenauts on MySpace here or Facebook here. You can also visit their website or follow them on Twitter.

Q: What was it like working with Jane Wiedlin of the Go-Gos on your new single along with her boyfriend Travis Kasperbauer who engineered/co-produced?

Leilani: Jane gave me vocal tips I could use, and thought of the smallest changes during parts that wound up making all the difference in the end. She’d be like, “try it this way,” in her "Jane" voice, and she’d change one note, or go up or down slightly, and BAM, THAT WAS IT! It was crazy. No one I’ve ever worked with could do that for my vocals. When you think about all of the great songs she’s been a part of creating, and that she was a part of our songs, it's awesome. There is something about that chick though, you know? Like, she’s got it. She oozes talent. You can feel it just sitting next to her. It’s not a idolizing thing or a celebrity thing. It’s just Jane.

Ellie: I had the chance to work with Jane the year before at Steel Bridge Song Fest (, where we wrote and played on a handful of songs together, so I think she and I had a pretty strong rapport going into it. She's an extremely intelligent and talented woman who hears things that you might never think of - working with her is sort of like working with someone from another planet. Or maybe she's from Earth and I'm from another planet. Or maybe we're both aliens from different planets trying to fit in here. Yeah, I think that one's it.

Emily: I love Jane! I was kind of nervous and fan-girly before I met her, but she's so down-to-earth and sweet that she instantly puts you at ease. As a producer, she really knows her shit, and I was grateful that we had the opportunity to work with her. She also makes a great cup of coffee.

Vee: It was a good time! Jane and Travis are pros and they are comfortable behind the scenes as well as in front. More than that, they both opened their home to us and we had a blast! Jane is a doll who gives her whole self uncensored and is the biggest sweetheart. I love her dogs too, they're like her little army!

Q: What do you enjoy most about playing live? And when/where can we see you live?

Leilani: When the crowd reacts positively, that’s definitely something I feed off of. I love to see people rocking out having a good time. I really want to write a few dance songs so people can get really weird with me. When you can see people getting into your music, you feel like you are all sharing an experience, and that’s the point. Also, I can always count on my bandmates to have a good time with me.

Ellie: Our next show is January 28th at Lincoln Hall... but you know that already!

Emily: I think that live is the best way to experience the Maybenauts. A recording just doesn't compare to the energy of a live show. Also, if you come to our shows, we will share our Pixy Stix with you.

Vee: Live is where the challenge is. I hate seeing lip-synching or playing to track. Nothing in this world is so much of a let-down then watching a band one pays good money to see fail at recreating the songs live. I want us to sound like us. The music is there, the mistakes are there too but that is what makes us human right? Playing live is living on the edge as far as a musician goes. You don't know when you might break a string, burn out a tube, have a cable short, get lost in the song, screw up a solo...its all there and you are showing it off to everyone; the good the bad and the uncertainty. It is different every time. That is live entertainment! I hate safety nets.

Q: I have two standard questions for my Women Who Rock. The first is a two-parter: What was the first album you bought and the first concert you attended? Be honest, we don't judge.

Leilani: The first album I bought with my own money was by an R & B girl group from the early 90's called "Jade." They had a single called "Don't Walk Away Boy" that just kicked so much dance. Yeah, I just said that. I've always been a fan of girl groups. That time in my life I was listening to a lot of "En Vogue" and "TLC." I was 10 years old and wanted to be a little bad-ass diva.

When I was old enough to drive and buy tickets to a show, I went to Warped Tour and saw bands like Rancid, Anti-Flag, and AFI. I just remember smoking a lot of cigarettes and smashing into big meat-heads in the mosh pit and feeling super angsty all of the time.

Ellie: It's either "Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We?" by The Cranberries, "Music Box" by Mariah Carey, or "The Sign" by Ace of Base. All three came out in '93 so I can't make an educated guess based on release dates... but really, none of them are any less embarrassing than the others, so... oh well.

My first concert was probably Poi Dog Pondering, but my childhood was littered with street fairs and being snuck into bars to see my dad play, so a lot of it is a colourful blur of local bands, many of whom no longer exist. Around age 10 I went to see Sheryl Crow and Collective Soul out in Tinley Park; my dad was friends with Sheryl's drummer and if I remember correctly, I wanted to ask her to speak at our career day event but was too shy.

Emily: First cassette I ever bought with my own money was "Kick" by INXS. First LP was the first Fugazi album. First 7" was the Nirvana/Jesus Lizard split on Touch & Go. First CD was "Trompe le Monde" by the Pixies, in a long box! Told you I was a record nerd. ;)

First concert I ever saw was Weird Al at Six Flags. Ha!

Vee: 1. first album my sister and i bought together was the Beatles at Hollywood Bowl. We were trying to collect every Beatles album we could and that one was one our parents did not have. We must have worn out "Things We Said Today".
2. First concert i went to see by myself and my own free will was Cheap Trick at Chicago Fest 1981. What a show and everything around it seemed like a movie playing out.

Q: Please dish about the moment where you felt most like a rock star. Maybe it was a moment of big success in your career, an "I'm Not Worthy!" Wayne's World type moment where you met someone cool, or a time where you just got the rock star treatment.

Leilani: I don't really buy into the whole "rock star" thing. I never want people to kiss my ass, because that's weird, and it creeps me out. However, I have met a ton of amazing people like Miss Mia from Chic-A-Go-Go who is just so down to Earth and cool, Pat MacDonald from Timbuk3 (who sang one of my favorite songs as a kid "The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades), and of course Jane Wiedlin who was so hospitable and totally let us all crash at her place for a weekend. Meeting people who you've really enjoyed in some way before meeting them and finding out that they are wonderful human beings is so rad.

Ellie: There's no question about it - it was at a show we played last year in Sturgeon Bay, WI (for the aforementioned Steel Bridge Song Fest). We played for over 100 people in a bar that probably shouldn't have held even 50. There wasn't a stage or lighting; we played on the floor in front of the women's bathroom - I had to dodge out of the way every time a girl needed to pee because the bassist from the band prior set up the bass rig right in front of the door! When we finished our last song, there was this veritable wall of sound, applause, screaming - these folks were so excited they actually moved air with their cheering; it felt like someone had physically shoved us. That is the kind of feeling that makes you want to keep doing this, knowing people are having that much fun just listening and dancing to your music.

Emily: It was when we played the Steel Bridge Song Fest up in Sturgeon Bay, WI. I was bending over to pull something out of one of my cases, and someone started smacking me on the ass. I frequently wear gold leather hot pants to shows, and Ellie and Leilani smack me on the ass all the time, so I thought nothing of it. It wasn't til I finished what I was doing and turned around that I realized it was Jane Wiedlin. She later came up on stage and sang backing vocals with us, in this tiny little bar with no stage, packed to capacity. People had to walk through our set up to get to the bathroom! The whole thing was ridiculous and surreal, but amazing.

Vee: I dont think i ever had that. Sounds surreal. I did get lots of applause in a concert when i was in Conway, Arkansas for live band karaoke but i think those poor kids were starved for attention. They did invite us to their kegger afterwards and i naturally obliged. :)

A last word from Ellie:
The EP's title is Big Bang and will feature 5 original tracks (including the MHIAB single). We're hoping/planning to release it in late February or early March. At this show on the 28th we'll be selling "download cards" so that folks can download the album immediately and trade the cards in later for a physical copy of the disc when it's released.

And for those of you who aren't able to go to the show tomorrow night, you are luck. One of these lovely little download cards is the prize for this week's contest!!!!

Contest Rules:

So, if you wanna win the Maybenauts download and of course you do, there are many ways to enter.

First and foremost, leave a comment about today's interview and you will be automatically entered. Don't forget to leave an email address so I can track you down and send you your prize.

And here are some ways to gain extra entries.

+1 for blogging, linking to or tweeting about this interview, the Girls Out of the Garage Concert, or the Maybenauts

+1 for following the Maybenauts on Twitter, becoming fans on Facebook or Myspace

And yes you can do all of those things and get lots of extra entries, so get going on it!

I will announce the winner next Wednesday when I feature author Suzanne Young as my next Woman Who Rocks!


miaohdeux said...

The Maybenauts sound amazing! Unfortunately, I'm working tomorrow night, but I became a fan on Facebook so I can keep up with them!

Leonardo Jimenez said...

Great article! Awesome band!! I love the Maybenauts! They have such a unique sound and they are great with friends and fans :)I wish them lots of success :)

Liviania said...

Okay, they sound seriously awesome. Every time I read one of these interviews I'm surprised people can remember the first CD/record they bought and I definitely couldn't break it all down like Emily.

And just to be shallow, I tried to get bangs last Friday and it's a bit of a disaster, so I am jealous of their pretty fringes.

Jessica B said...

They sound awesome! I wish I could see them live....

I just became a fan on Facebook. (Jeffy Pukka)

shutupjessicasreading @ gmaildotcom

Alexandra K said...

These guys sound awesome!

alexandra dot k13 at gmail dot com

Anonymous said...

The Maybenauts are releasing a new EP entitled "Big Bang." For information on release events in Chicago, Check out: