• About A Girl: Five to Watch in Athens

    This week, we're packing our bags and headed to Athens, GA for Slingshot Festival (click here to read all about what we're doing with the Fest!) — but looking forward to the weekend, we rounded up five emerging local musicians to find out how they got started, what they love about the city's music scene, and what would fill the itinerary of their perfect Athens day. 
    Photos by Paige French; interviews by Mercedes Bleth

    Above: Erin in our Renewal cashmere collar sweater

    Erin Lovett
    Age: 27
    Hometown: Chamblee, GA

    How old were you when you first became interested in music?
    I got a guitar for my 16th birthday. I was really mad because I wanted a cell phone. It was one of those starter guitars that comes with a little amp, so I kind of rejected it at first. I warmed up to it eventually, and I’ve been playing since then. 

    What are your current/past musical influences?
    Also when I was 16, my mom bought me an Iron and Wine CD for Valentine's Day, and it's still the best Valentine's present I've ever gotten because I'd never heard of them. I listened to a lot of that, a lot of Elliot Smith, Postal Service, and all the really emotional indie boys...filled with emotion but you know, polite about it. 

    How did you get involved in the Athens music scene?
    It's hard not to. I went to UGA, and Athens is just a town that's so inviting to new musicians ...everyone is so encouraging, and all I had to do was pick up a guitar for the person nearest me to be like 'Oh hey, you wanna play a show with my band?' They make it really easy to get involved with the music scene in Athens. I started playing little acoustic shows when I was a junior in college, which is kind of what I'm doing now except hopefully I've gotten better since 2009. 

    What other Athens bands are you into? 
    I think the first band I loved in town was Madeline. She lives in Atlanta now, but she's amazing. She started when she was about 13 and she's an Athens local so she was like the little kid band, and then grew up and has been writing songs for over 10 years. Hope For Agoldensummer is also amazing. They’re sisters that sing in perfect harmonies that are really spooky. They're less active now because one of the sisters does Dream Boat now, which is more electronic. I love Moths too, which is Jacob Morris. We used to work at The Grit together, and basically everyone who works at The Grit is in a band. 

    Where is your favorite local venue to play?
    I love Flicker. It’s tiny, it’s cozy, there are couches...I always want to play in rooms with couches and where people can sit on the floor and not feel gross. It's just got a really good feeling, like a living room. 

    Do you do any unique rituals before/after/during shows?
    I've tried different things, where I'm like ok, I'm going to get drunk so I'm not nervous or I'm not going to drink at all so my voice sounds awesome. I don't really have any rituals except for drinking as much tea as possible so my voice doesn't suck. Especially if I'm playing solo, it's all I got. 

    Music is often tied to really strong emotions and memories and feelings; what are a couple of songs that do that for you?
    I would say that there are a lot of songs that I straight up just don't listen to anymore because I can't touch that song...time will pass and you know that if you hit play it's just going to be a time capsule. Like everything is stored in a song and I can't listen to it. I think "Impregnable Question" by Dirty Projectors is one of those songs where every time I hear that, it's like, 'Oohhh my heart.' I don't know what it is. The song that Sufjan Stevens just released, "Shadow of the Cross," just tears me apart. 

    How would you describe your fashion style?
    I have a couple ways I describe it: Tom Hanks going to the grocery store, your stepdad looking up directions to Radio Shack, Laura Dern on the weekends...I go for a casual America's Thrift Store feel. I definitely don't do feminine very naturally because my mom doesn't wear makeup, so I grew up with a very tomboy aesthetic. I keep it simple. 

    Any question that you've never been asked during an interview that you always want to be asked?
    I got asked the perfect question once actually, and I didn't have the guts to answer it correctly. The girl who was interviewing me sat down and said, "I don't know anything about Four Eyes. Tell me everything about your band." And I wish I had lied! I wish I had just made up something, because she really didn't do any research at all and had no idea what it was at the time. The article came out fine because I told the truth, but I really wish that I had been like, so Four Eyes is my death metal project, it's me and my grandfather and we weren't very close but our love of the darkness brought us together...But yeah, that's the perfect question, when someone doesn't know anything and you're like, 'I have so much freedom.' I was just so caught offguard that I was just like, 'Damnit I have to tell the truth: I'm a folk artist.' 

    Follow Erin's music
    And for locals: Erin will be playing a special set at our UO Live gathering on March 25. 

    Above: Ruby in the Samantha Pleet x UO Noble jumper and Ecote suede ankle books

    Ruby Kendrick
    Age: 26
    Hometown: St. Simons Island, GA

    How old were you when you first became interested in music?
    I guess I've always been interested... But I started playing music when I was about eight or nine. I got a keyboard from Radio Shack that had preset songs and a little screen. It would show you how to play songs like Elton John's "Crocodile Rock," so I would learn them all with muscle memory.

    Who are your biggest past and current musical influences?
    Fiona Apple has always been a huge influence, every one of her records has a place in my heart. Other than that, it changes a lot; I'm influenced by all kinds of stuff. Currently I'm in an R&B phase. Today I was listening to the first Rihanna record, "Music from the Sun." 

    How did you get involved with the Athens music scene?
    Well I moved here to go to school, and during that time I started making a record and eventually decided that I wanted to spend all my time doing that.

    What are your thoughts about Athens as a musical town?
    I think it stays fresh because there is this constant incoming wave of young people who are interested in new music. They support local music and start bands of their own.

    Which other Athens bands are you into?
    I really love Grand Vapids, and also DEGA. Oh my god they're amazing. They're kind of new, and I think they're making a record right now, but every time I see them live it's like, next level.

    What's your favorite local venue to play?
    I like Caledonia because it's a good size. I feel good in that room. I like Normaltown Hall for the same reason. There isn't a bar in there, so people tend to pay attention.

    What's your favorite memory as a performer?
    Maybe before my very first show... chewing a whole pack of gum in the bathroom with my best friend cause I was so nervous.

    Where's the strangest place you've performed?
    I've performed in some really strange places... but Gatlinburg, TN is the most carnie side show vibe I've ever felt. People just walk by you like you're an attraction. It's on the strip, so people will stop for just a second and then move on. I mean I could have played the same three songs the entire time. So that was weird, I felt like the bearded lady or something.

    Music always elicits really strong emotions and memories, so are there any songs that just give you "the feels"?
    R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly"...that song will make you cry, it's amazing. Also "Take A Bow" by Madonna. I'm always thinking, 'F*ck I wish I would have written that.'

    How would you describe your personal style?
    I like to wear a lot of print: I was getting in the van the other day and my guitar player pointed at me and said, 'Noah's ark over here' because I had on cheetah pants, a zebra coat, and a tiger hood. 

    Do you think your fashion style matches with your music style? 
    Kind of all over the place? Definitely.

    What would be a typically great day for you in Athens? So not an average day in the life, but a great day in the life of Ruby Kendrick?
    I wake up whenever I want, and it's one of those days where the flowers are blooming and everyone's got their dogs out. I have coffee and go to a thrift store, take a blanket to the park and get some chicken salad or pimiento cheese. Then, since it's my dream day, we have a big show later so I have to get ready for that. It could be anywhere, as long as all my friends were on the bill. Maybe even an outside show? In a field of flowers. An early one, because I'm a grandma. Show's over at 8, then we all go have dinner. I’m in bed by midnight.

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    Above: Thayer in the 63 top by Tienda Ho

    Thayer Sarrano
    Hometown: Jesup, GA

    How old were you when you first got interested in music?
    I started playing piano when I was three, so forever. I learned oboe in school and then drums. I started writing songs when I learned to play guitar. 

    What are some musical influences you've had throughout your life?
    Neil Young is huge for me. Also Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Velvet Underground, Spiritualized... I could go on and on. 

    How did you get involved with the Athens music scene?
    I played in a reggae band with some friends of mine when I first moved here for college, and then I met some friends that saw me play and asked me to play with them. Then one night I played at Flicker bar with somebody on the piano and ten people asked me to play in their bands. I just ended up playing with everybody and then I asked some of the people I played with to play with me for my songs and then I had a band. So in the beginning it was very much just friends playing songs around campfires and stuff like that. Next thing I knew, I was playing at a club, and then at some point it kind of shifted where I just started touring with my own band and all that stuff. It was really natural because Athens is just kind of like that. 

    What are your thoughts on Athens as a music town in general?
    I think it's great because it's an environment where people can really thrive and collaborate easily. It's so small that you can meet people very quickly and there are so many places to play that are great. It's not a competitive thing and it's not pretentious and it just seems really honest and genuine and special. That's why I live here, you know.

    What's your favorite local venue to play?
    I really like playing at Caledonia a lot because it's small and when it fills up it just feels great and sounds amazing. I also love the full production at the Georgia Theatre and I'll always love 40 Watt too.

    How would you describe your personal musical style?
    Usually people are saying that it's kind of like a dark and dreamy rock band type of thing. I guess that's the simplest way. It's a little Southern, kind of grungy, slightly gospel? I like things to be ethereal and lush and sometimes heavy.

    Are there any other Athens bands that inspire you?
    You know, Don Chambers is one of the most inspiring people to me. He's somebody that I love. He had a band, Don Chambers and Goat, which was like this really heavy rock band, beautiful music. The way he experiments and follows what he wants to say and also whatever his source is. I just feel kind of like a kindred spirit to him. I respect him so much that it's always inspiring. 

    What's your favorite memory as a performer?
    My favorite moments are when I'm connecting with my other bandmates [during a show], making eye contact and being with really good people and being grateful to get to play with them. Those moments are just euphoric. 

    Where's the strangest place you've performed?
    Recently I was on tour in Germany and opening for a band. The place we played was the tiniest little bar in Hamburg. Kind of like the Old Pal in town. There was this tiny little stage in the corner and the floor was all tiled, and it was really pretty, and it filled! Maybe like 200 people in there. Just packed. The band I was with was on stage, but when I played, it had to be off of the stage. I was literally just standing in the middle of the floor surrounded by all these tall Germans, and they were all just completely silent. I was trying not to hit them with my guitar because it was like playing in somebody's kitchen where all of these people are surrounding you. It was so surreal and weird. The fact that they were so quiet made it a special thing I'll always remember. 

    What's a song that just really gives you the feels? 
    It's almost everything I listen to, because if it doesn't, I don't really want to listen to it. This morning I was listening to "Red Sun," a Neil Young and Emmylou Harris duet, that was really beautiful. I was kind of playing along to it on the piano when I woke up. 

    How would you describe your personal fashion style?
    I love clunky shoes and lace, but I also feel like I never really grew out of the 90s. Maybe like, 1920s meets 1990s? Elegant grunge? 

    What would be a great day for you in Athens? 
    I have a lot of great days here. Waking up in this beautiful old house, having coffee and time to write, and then having nice weather, going for a walk, practicing my instruments, meeting up with someone to work on one of the projects I'm doing, and playing a show that night. Playing a great show with other bands I love and having all of our friends there. I have these kinds of days all the time and it's just wonderful. Time for being creative, being contemplative, collaborating, and rocking out; that's the perfect day. 

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    Above: Channel Wrenn's look with our white flowy midi dress and boater hat

    Wrenn Notarthomas
    Age: 23
    Hometown: Woodstock to Athens 

    How old were you when you first became interested in music?
    I don't think there was ever a point when I was ever not interested. My family is really musical: I grew up listening to my dad play the guitar and sing to us, so it's just always been there. I started playing flute when I was ten so I guess maybe that was my first active step towards pursuing music.
    How did you get involved in the Athens music scene?
    I graduated from UGA with a degree in photography, and for maybe a week I was applying for photography jobs, and I decided I don't want to do that, I want to sing songs for everybody. I just dove right in—I've never done anything like this before. It was kind of a "fake it till you make it" approach. I did an album first so it would look like I had been doing it for longer than just a month. So I did the album first and now I've been playing gigs to get myself out there. There are a lot of great bands in Athens, so you can't be timid.
    What are your thoughts about Athens as a music town in general?
    It's a good place to start, but also difficult because there are so many indie musicians here. There's a lot going on and there's such good music market that it makes sense to start, but at the same time you're competing with all of these really unique artists, so you have to offer something that's going to stand out. Otherwise, you're just going to get lost in the rest of it.
    Are there any Athens bands that inspire you?
    The one song that I'm obsessed with right now is "Ride A'Rolla" by Monsoon! I put that song on all the time and dance around the kitchen and sing it even though I don't know any of the words. It's so fun!
    What's your favorite local venue to play?
    Probably the 40 Watt. There are so many people that started there, and it's a really cool room.
    What's the strangest place that you've ever performed?
    One of my first shows ever was in Athens through a group called Sofar Sounds. The way Sofar works is that the gig is a private listening room kind of thing, invite only, and details aren't released till the night before the show. The emails were so cryptic, like turn by the silos to the secret factory room, and I thought, 'What the heck, are they going to kill me?' It ended up being a fun gig and was zero percent creepy. 

    Music is said to elicit super strong emotions and memories—is there a particular song that does that for you?
    Yes! My top three favorite songs ever are "The Weight" by The Band, "February Seven" by the Avett Brothers, and "Fun Times in Babylon" by Father John Misty. I don't know what it is about them, if it's the melody line or what, but all three of those songs have made me feel either super nostalgic, or want to cry. Different songs speak to different people, but those are my top three. 

    What would be a great day for you in Athens? Not an average day but a great day?
    A hypothetical perfect day would be to wake up, and my voice is feeling awesome. I go to The Grit and have the best breakfast ever and then get ready for my sellout show at the Georgia Theater and everyone in Athens comes and it's a party and there are balloons everywhere. And then we all go out together and drink margaritas at Fuzzy's. 

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    Above: Kristine in our Renewal linen shop coat 

    Kristine Leschper
    Age: 24
    Hometown: Newnan, GA 

    How old were you when you first became interested in music?
    I guess I was about 14. I had told my parents that I wanted an electric guitar — I probably thought it would make me cooler/less of an awkward teenager. They got me this super cheap Fender Squier Strat “Rock Star” kit. It came with a tiny Fender amp and some quarter-inch cables...everything you’d need to get started. After that I played off and on, but didn’t have serious interest in playing music until I was about 19. 

    How did you get involved with the Athens music scene?
    To be honest, a lot of it stemmed from having so many friends who played music. It was always a hobby of mine but never something I intended to pursue so heavily. Being surrounded by so many people involved in bands was encouraging as a young musician. It’s easy to book shows in Athens. Mothers began as a solo act and I played that way for about a year and have recently expanded the project into a four-piece. 

    How do you feel about Athens as a music town in general? 
    It’s an encouraging environment. So many people play music and for the most part I would say people are trying, which is huge in itself. There are venues like Go Bar where you can do whatever you want and experimentation is natural; it’s a good place to try out new ideas. I think I was able to bloom here musically because of the built-in support system of musicians in town, and the accessibility of playing shows frequently.

    How would you describe your own personal music style?
    I would describe it as haunting, cathartic. Emotionally driven. It breaks my heart every time I play these songs. 

    What other Athens bands inspire you? 
    I have to say New Wives — I work closely with those guys. I liked their work so much that I ended up convincing half of them to play in my band. Wild of Night, Old Smokey, Circulatory System. I really love what Little Gold and Deep State are doing. Grand Vapids just released an incredible record. Crunchy is a stellar new sludgy two-piece. Lots of killer things happening in Athens right now. 

    What's your favorite memory you've had as a performer?
    I played a show at Normaltown Hall several months ago. Definitely one of my favorite venues in town. What I love about the act of performance is that it gives me the opportunity to sort of flirt with line of vulnerability and how much I can let the song attack me before I go off the deep end. I sort of started drowning about halfway through the set: ugly, open-mouth crying, the whole bit. I just kept going with the songs, doing the best I could. I feel like people can sense when it’s authentic, and in the end several people told me it was their favorite performance of mine. 

    Where's the strangest place you've performed? 
    I played a SoFar sounds show last year — they’re an organization that puts on intimate secret house shows all over the world — and the venue was a Christian fraternity house in town. It was definitely a strange environment to play my songs in. The bands played in front of one of those big composite photos of all of the fraternity brothers. 
    How would you describe your personal fashion style?
    Oh man, that’s a hard one. It changes a lot. Most of the time its like a teenage boy in the early 90’s. Lots of corduroy. I’ve also gotten super into blazers recently. When you wear a blazer you feel like you have everything together. My parents joke that I dress like a peasant. So what I’m trying to say is, blazer wearing teenage boy peasant chic. 

    Do you think that your fashion style mirrors your music style?
    Sure. I definitely prefer muted colors, earthy tones. I tend to downplay my clothes. I prefer softness and subtlety, so I think that ties into my aesthetic across the board. 

    Is there any question that you always want to get asked, but never do? 
    Yes! I always want to address feminist issues in music. It’s important to talk about. I feel like some of the most pressing issues regarding musicians right now are actually being compounded by this new wave of feminism that thinks, for example, that the answer is to host shows for only female-fronted bands. In my opinion, this sort of compartmentalizes women into a separate sphere from their male counterparts. Even when the intentions are good, I’m afraid that it perpetuates this ideal that women require a specific platform or special treatment in order to have a voice. I guess I just think that the first word in the term 'female musician' is an ultimately an unnecessary qualifier. I think that we’ll all benefit from a whole when we learn to disregard gender in music. 

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