The almost all-lesbian band, The Redwood Plan, hails from Seattle. With a growing repertoire and even faster growing reputation, particularly within the queer and indie communities, their dance-punk style is quickly gaining national attention. They’re set to play Urban Lounge in Salt Lake City on April 3 with Mr. Gnome, and I was lucky to snag a quick chat with The Redwood Plan’s front woman, Lesli Wood.
Annalisa Millo: I’ve listened to a couple of your tracks and saw the video of your live performance at Bumbershoot. My impressions of your music were three artists that came to mind: Sleater Kinney, The Organ, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but how would you describe your sound?
Lesli Wood: We consider ourselves more like The Faint or You Say Party – more dancier bands, but there’s probably some Yeah Yeah Yeahs in there with the vocals. Definitely not Sleater Kinney, we all love, love that band, but I was in a Riot Grrrl band years ago and there was a lot of guitar interplay, like what was going on with Sleater Kinney.
When I started The Redwood Plan my intention was to go a more of a dancier route, almost like what Kathleen Hanna did with going from Bikini Kill to Le Tigre, and so our influences have definitely been more dance-oriented, but we definitely have a background in the rock stuff.
AM: I was going to say, it seems like what you’re doing is like a continuation of the Riot Grrrl scene, but adapted to be more dancey and more relatable to today’s music trends.
AM: So you have your full length album, Racing Towards The Heartbreak, and a couple EPs as well?
LW: Yeah, Racing Towards The Heartbreak was released in 2010, and when we began in 2009 we released two EPs and those were really well received. When the band began it was supposed to be just a short-term project for me because I was about to move to New York, and I just wanted to put together a good band, but more so just doing it for the fun of it in the months before I left for New York.
But we released those two EPs and they were just really, really well received, so I decided to stick it out in Seattle for a little while longer, and we put out the full-length. Since then, we released a 7-inch last year when we went out on tour for South By Southwest, and we’re just about to release another full-length this summer.
AM: Do you have a release date for that yet or do you know what you’re going to call it?
LW: It’s probably going to be in July, it’s called Green Light Go.
AM: Being that we are a queer publication, what can you tell me about your involvement in the queer community?
LW: When we began, I wanted to put together an all-lesbian bandstand, and that was actually my concept behind the band, but that changed when we got Larry Brady, our bassist, but he’s just such a great bassist that I thought well, I’m going to forgo this idea for the lineup.
My drummer has been with her wife- this is actually their ten year anniversary, and the cool thing is that Washington [state] just passed the same-sex marriage bill, so it’s a fun coincidence that on their ten year anniversary they actually can legally get married in Washington.
So, we’ve been very involved in the queer community, I mean, our first shows we were basically playing every Pride Festival. We’re a very “out” band- last year at South By Southwest we got to play GayBiGayGay with Big Freedia and Tuna Helpers and all these really great bands. We got sponsored by Babeland (a sex toy shop in Seattle), and they actually sponsored specifically to us with their products, so having an identity in the queer community is really important to us.
AM: In consideration of the politics this year, 2012 seems like a huge year in terms of equality issues, what do you think the queer community’s role is in that?
LW: I think that what’s been so significant over the past two years with the gay marriage issue is that we’ve shown that as a community actually have a voice in politics as having rights that need to be acknowledged and established, and I think it’s important to come together as a community to have a voice, and use that in being educated in how we vote and how we express ourselves, and how we involve ourselves in making sure that our issues are given attention.
You think about 20 years ago, and the queer community was an entirely marginalized community, and we’re not now. We’re actually a very relevant and very significant community that needs to have our rights acknowledged, especially even going being gay marriage issues, various civil rights issues [like] harassment and bullying and issues that are systemic, that I think we really have an obligation now to use our voice and to use our impact to start to make these issues known and acknowledged. Not just by the president, or not just by having gay marriage rights, it’s to make sure that in our own communities, that harassment and bullying and homophobia isn’t tolerated just within our own local communities.
I think that starting with just educating those around us and in those within our own communities is important in the bigger picture, making sure those rights are something that, even those outside of the queer community, have to agree that these rights do need to be acknowledged.
AM: I completely agree, and it sounds like you’ve put a good amount of thought into this and covered it from all sorts of different angles. But it seems like you’re pretty socially and politically aware, do you take those things into consideration when you’re making your music as well? Would you say that your music is particularly socially or politically driven?
LW: Well, like I said, I was in a very, very political Riot Grrrl band for ten years, and that’s an important part of my identity. So when I started The Redwood Plan my concept was to make it more fun and less heavy-handed as far as the actual lyrical content, but it’s not like the lyrics are dumbed down by any means, it’s just that I used it as less of a platform.
But I am a very politically active person so I think that there’s no way for me to completely make my music exclusive of my opinions in the fact that we are getting noticed, and [gaining] a wide-spread audience, it’s almost like every time we go to Pride in a small town, it’s almost an activist notion because we are going into a lot of small towns who don’t see a lot of openly queer bands, or that don’t see a lot of female musicians.
So I’m very aware of that and I try to make sure that we’re representing ourselves and our community in a very positive light, and of course I want people to like our music, but also that we are communicating in a way that we’re also being a positive representative of the queer community.
So I couldn’t point to a song and say, “Oh that one is about when Washington passed the gay marriage law,” but most of our songs’ content has to do with living your life with dignity and integrity and doing what you want to do to live your life to the fullest, and I think that is inclusive in being aware of your place in your community, whether it’s politically or socially. I think there’s sort of this generalized political content to the songs but I don’t think it’s as straightforward as it has been for me in some other bands.
From seeing videos of their live shows, this band emanates energy and a huge on-stage presence that translates into an exhilarated and dancing audience. Their music is intelligent but fun, and we’re more than excited for their first visit and performance in Salt Lake City on April 3!