|Pictured above: Olivia Millar bends space-time with her righteous shreds!|
Olivia Millar has a degree of ambition that anyone of any age should find enviable. Millar, still a high school student, is a member of Sorry Mom, a band that formed at last year’s Louisville Outskirts Festival as part of the Rock Shops initiative meant to help women, trans, or gender non-confirming folks ages 10 – 17 engage in playing instruments in an environment that fosters inclusivity and welcomeness. And Sorry Mom rock! On top of that, Millar and her bandmate Marissa Booker put together the Southern Girls Convention 2015, which in their own words was “an opportunity for the current and upcoming populations of feminists, specifically devoted to building a pro-woman culture in the South that provides empowerment and educational opportunities.” And they’re doing it again, so check in at the link above to see what you can do to get involved or to participate. We caught up with Millar to talk about setting up Conventions, forming bands, and her Spirit Animal. You can catch her this weekend as part of the Outskirts Festival playing with Sorry Mom who you can hear below.
Never Nervous: How did you get started playing music? What instrument did you start out with and why?
OM: I started playing music when I was probably around ten years old with the piano. I don’t really know why I started playing, but I did not like the piano at all, because my ten-year-old self hated practicing and wasn’t too fond of my teacher. Later, when I was in eighth grade I think, I took up the guitar, because one of my friends played, and we wanted to start a band. Also, like since I was little I had this vision in my head of me being a lead guitarist, I could always just see myself playing in a band for some reason.
When I was a freshman in high school, this became more of a reality when I started my first “band” that was really just me and one of my friends writing super angry music and sending it back and forth, never actually playing instruments with each other. Then Marissa (Booker) and I became friends and we both really, really wanted to start a band, and that’s where the Outskirts Festival and Rockshops became so crucial. After this program, that we were actually really hesitant to do, we forged a really strong relationship with Caroline Taylor, and were finally able to achieve our goal of a three-piece band.
NN: How have you evolved as a musician? What are your goals now, both on a personal level as a performer, and on a broader level in terms of where you would like your music to end up?
OM: I’ve definitely started to take music more seriously, and I’ve also started to enjoy music and going to shows more now that I’m in a band. My goals for music though, really haven’t changed. I play music because it makes me happy and I enjoy it, but I’m not necessarily doing it for an “end goal.” I don’t think I’ll ever try to be a musician professionally, but I can see myself maybe in a few side bands, or working as a manager or venue owner. Right now though, I know hoe garden’s goals are just doing what we’ve always done–having fun with each other and learning. Something that I also always really love about playing music and being a woman is that I think when other young girls see us play, they are really inspired, so my other personal goal is probably just to be inspirational to others.
NN: How would you describe your music to people that may be unfamiliar?
NN: How did Sorry Mom start? How has it changed in the year since that start? Where would you like to see it go, if it continues?
OM: Sorry Mom began at Outskirts Rockshops in 2014. Caroline, Marissa, and I all met each other there and after the program ended we decided to continue working with the band. Since then we’ve changed a ton. Namely, at Rockshops we used to be a four-piece and now we’re a three-piece. Also we’ve just gotten more serious about our music, as well as getting more acclimated to performing with each other and on stage. Now we all kind of fall into a routine that comforting. We know what to expect when we play together and our stage performance is getting better because of that. Personally, I would really like to see a Sorry Mom US tour, but we’ll see if that ever happens, since college is a big inhibitor.
NN: That said, I understand Sorry Mom is on a bit of a hiatus. What can you tell us about that?
OM: Since Marissa is now in Ithaca, NY for college, Sorry Mom sadly had to split up indefinitely. We’ll see if it ever reforms again, it just depends on where we all are after college.
NN: Are you in a new band? What can you tell us about that if so?
OM: Yes I am! My new band is called hoe garden, and it’s more or less an extension of Sorry Mom. Caroline Taylor, the drummer from Sorry Mom, Jessica Martel (someone who has played with Sorry Mom before at some of our later gigs), and I started the band after Sorry Mom ended. That being said, hoe garden is not Sorry Mom. We have a lot of big ideas for how we want this band to sound, and while we still have a connection to Sorry Mom, hoe garden is definitely its own thing. We’ll hopefully be ready to start playing shows in a couple months or so.
NN: How did you get involved with the Outskirts Festival? How has it changed your life?
OM: My mom kind of forced me to get involved with Rockshops, and thus the Outskirts festival as a whole. And I say “forced,” because I was reluctant to go at first when I didn’t understand how crazy cool Outskirts is. After Rockshops and the festival last year, Carrie Neumayer and the Sorry Mom have stayed pretty close, and we were asked to play the festival this year, as well as be on the gear crew (which are both super exciting). It’s changed my life in so so many different ways, so it’s kind of hard for me to talk about. It’s really made me into the person I am today. Outskirts made me a musician, inspired the Southern Girls’ Convention 2015 (then shaping my career goals), introduced me to my best friend in the world, and just generally made me a stronger feminist and more confident person. I am so grateful to Carrie and Stephanie and everyone involved; I kind of worship them.
NN: Describe the life of a punk rocker in High School to a old guy like myself. How does your social choices impact your perception at school?
OM: I don’t really know how to answer this question, because I haven’t really noticed my “punk persona” affecting people’s perceptions of me. I wish people were more intimidated of me, but they aren’t; I think people think I’m cool? Maybe?
NN: How do you feel that the Southern Girls Convention went? Do you think it had an impact? Is it important that it does? Do you plan on doing a second year?
OM: The SGC was both a success and a failure, because we had two separate goals. Our first goal was the success, and that was having a convention that was inspiring and fun to attend. Our workshop and speakers were all super great, and that achieved that goal. But our second goal, the financial goal, was sadly not necessarily accomplished. While this goal is less important in some ways, it still was pretty disappointing that we weren’t as financially successful as we hoped due to our small turnout.
I have a great story though about its impact. My sister has a friend who volunteered at the convention who is 14, I think. She attended the convention the whole time and particularly saw a presentation by Lydia Mason, who’s the president of the feminist club, Girl Up, at my school. After the convention ended, and this girl went back to school at KCD, she decided to start her own chapter of Girl Up at her school, which is so so cool! Like it made me so happy to hear that the SGC inspired that. I can’t even put it into words how amazing and rewarding that feels.
I also think the convention just connected a lot of new people. I met a ton of new people because of the SGC, and that’s really great. There is going to be a second year! A board of around 12 people and I are already starting work to make it even better than last year. We are changing the name though, so stay on the lookout for that.
NN: How engaged do you feel by the Louisville music scene as a whole? I’m talking both about older bands or musicians, or people near your own age group.
OM: I feel more connected to some parts of the Louisville scene than others. But oddly enough, I feel more integrated into the older crowd of musicians, because of Outskirts and because of Sorry Mom. Most of Sorry Mom’s fans are my parents’ age, and most of the bands I go see are people usually at least ten years older than me. It’s not that I don’t connect with musicians my age, or don’t want to listen to other teenage bands, it’s just that I don’t really know of that many. I do love Diskonect though! If you haven’t heard of them, check them out, they’re great, and entirely composed of teenagers as well.
NN: What advice would you give to an older scene to help them engage with the younger scene?
OM: Go to shows. Support teenage bands. Don’t automatically make assumptions about a teenage band’s skill or seriousness just because they are teenagers.
NN: This is a hard question for anyone, but what would you like to see as your legacy when you look back? What mark do you want to leave on the world?
OM: At this point, I don’t really think I’m important enough to have a “legacy,” but I would like to be known for what I’ve done–for the Southern Girls’ Convention 2015, for my bands, and for the amount of passion and heart I put into everything I do. I want everyone (especially young girls who feel like they don’t necessarily fit the stereotypes of “girlhood”) to understand that if you want something hard enough, you can make it happen, as cliche as that is.
NN: What or who is your spirit animal and why?
OM: Oh god, this is hard. I would probably say that I’m an owl. Not because I’m super wise or anything, but because I can spin my head all the way around. No, just kidding. I think I’m an owl, because I’m creative and interesting and want to change the world and maybe owls want to do that too? If you can think of a better spirit animal for me, please let me know. I am also taking applications.
NN: If you could time travel, but you could only go back and forth once, where would you visit and why?
OM: Oh I would totally go back to the 90s, and see some of my favorite bands live before they broke up. Imagine seeing Sleater-Kinney in their fetus days when they played at bookstores and stuff! How cool would that be! And maybe go to one of the Riot Grrrl Conventions, to get some inspiration for the SGC, and see what it was like.
NN: What non-musical things have you interested lately? Have you watched, read, or tasted anything worth talking about? What gets you excited about life?
OM: Right now I’m all about zines. I just put out the first issue of my zine, Cunt Classics, and tabled at the Kentucky Fried Zine Fest. That was a really great experience and meeting other zinesters was really cool. I’m sad that I won’t be able to table next year (stupid college)! But I’ll give a few shout outs too. Bunz Burgers is my all time favorite restaurant, I could literally eat there everyday. And the same with Please and Thank You. Their cookies are the best. Excitement-wise, my bandmates and I are going to go see Sleater-Kinney in Indianapolis in December for the second time, which I am crazy crazy excited for!
NN: What have you been listening to lately and why?
OM: Right now I’ve also been really loving the band Purity Ring, I can’t get enough of their music. And Cayetana, one of favorite bands for a long time. I just saw them live in Covington, and they’re such a great band live and really sweet people.