The very first Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls took place in Portland during the summer of 2001. Since then, rock camps for girls have been popping up all over the world. This summer will mark the first Queer Rock Camp, brought to us by a group of very diligent organizers in Olympia, WA who want to make sure queer youth are given instruments and stages from which to voice themselves. Bitch caught up with two of the organizers for this year's Queer Rock Camp, Kinsey Bell and Molly Fischer. Bell and Fischer were nice enough to tell us about the motives behind Queer Rock Camp, to let us know how we can help them make this camp happen, and to fill us in on some of their favorite queer musicians.
Bitch: Tell me about Queer Rock Camp and how it got off the ground.
MF: I have been volunteering at the Bay Area Girls Rock Camp since its founding four years ago and have watched that program completely change the lives of those who participate and volunteer. As girls and women, we are taught to be quiet, complacent, and content with our surroundings. Girls Rock Camp allows campers to be loud, to say whatever they want, and to be applauded for that. Through musical collaboration campers create bonds that are supportive rather than competitive, where everyone is heard and where being different is a virtue. When I moved from the Bay Area to Olympia in September I realized how pertinent the messages of the Girls Rock Camp program are to LGBTQQIA youth. With mainstream queer culture geared towards adults (like 21+ dance parties and the political struggle of marriage equality) I feel that it is so important to have programs for queer youth that foster supportive environments and applaud sexuality and gender variation. Especially given the current media climate which seems to be finally addressing the hardships that queer kids face. So I put up flyers around town and Kinsey got in touch with me and we decided to do this. We held a few meetings, talked to Girls Rock Camps, and eventually partnered with Stonewall Youth. Now there are about 10 people volunteering a ton of time to QRC, and about 20 people helping peripherally to make this summer session happen.
KB: I love thinking about how Queer Rock Camp began because it's a reminder that anything is possible. Molly and I have known each other for years, and both of us have been involved in the Girls Rock Camp programs, which are amazing. Being able to teach girls to build self-esteem and alliances by giving them a voice through music makes you do that in your own life. It really is a two way street. Queer Rock Camp will do the same; it will open up the opportunity to all people who want to talk about their identity, gender and sexuality in order to build self-confidence and rock out!
Bitch: What's a typical day at Queer Rock Camp going to look like?
MF: Campers will arrive at about 9:00 for morning assembly. Then they have instrument instruction for a couple of hours in either drums, bass, guitar, vocals, or keys before we serve them lunch with a live performance of queer musicians. After lunch, they go to loud band practice, where volunteers stand back while campers plug in and work on their original song using the basic techniques they have learned in instrument instruction. Loud band practice is usually followed by quiet band practice, basically a band meeting, where bands can write lyrics, design their t-shirts, plan outfits, etc. Then campers go to workshops, which rotate each day. Examples of workshops we're planning are songwriting, drag, self-defense, screen-printing, and a youth-activism panel. Then a short afternoon assembly and campers are done at about 5:30. It's a long day, but totally worth it! Saturday, August 13th, campers will perform their original songs at the QRC showcase at Olympia's historic Capital Theater.
Bitch: You're just getting Queer Rock Camp started, but where do you want it to be in, say, five years?
MF: My dream is that in five years Queer Rock Camps will pop up all over the world, partner with local Girls Rock Camps and make this program accessible to queer youth everywhere! In Olympia, I hope that we are able to get a space that we can use year-round in order to expand our programing and offer after-school sessions and possibly an adult Queer Rock Camp, cause we need it too. I would also love to set up a travel scholarship/sponsorship fund to get youth from all over the world who want to come to QRC out here to Olympia.
Bitch: How can people who want to support the camp help out? What are some ways that people who can't make it to Olympia this summer support the project?
MF: Since August is our first session, we are very much starting from scratch.The best way people can help out is by donating old equipment: drums guitars, basses, amps, cables, pedals, sticks, picks, keyboards, p.a.s, etc. QRC is a totally free program, with no tuition and free meals, so we are trying to do a lot of fundraising. We just started an online fundraiser at IndieGoGo to raise money to support this summer session and expand our programing in the following year. Any and all donations will allow us to reach more youth. This is a community effort. We are all volunteering our time and money and resources to make this happen. Another thing we can all do is spread the word. Let youth in your area know that this is happening in Olympia. Check out our website for applications. If they can't come this year, maybe in the future. Or maybe they will be inspired to start a rock camp in their area.
Bitch: Who are some of your favorite queer musicians? Did you have queer role models in the music industry growing up?
MF: I was really into Ani. Ha. I grew up in the Bay Area and started going to punk shows when I was 14 or so. Most of the musicians were straight men, but I do remember seeing Gravy Train and being totally blown away. Also the Gossip. Really, I feel like my queer role models were my friends and musicians in the Bay Area. My current bandmates have been a huge inspiration to me. Our band, Songs for Moms, has been together for five years, and Carey, our drummer and founder the Bay Area Girls Rock Camp, has been a huge help in planing QRC. Alanna, my other band mate has been an incredible queer role model to me, and my favorite songwriter since we met 11 years ago. Some of my favorite queer musicians are the Fucking Dyke Bitches, Screaming Females, Agatha, My Parade, Aye Nako, Doomhawk, Broken Water, Tegan and Sara, Purple Rhinestone Eagle, Le Tigre, and High Dive.
KB: I definitely did not have any queer musicians to look up to when I was younger, or if they were queer it wasn't openly talked about. I think the key is making it the "norm" to be an openly queer band, and part of why I'm looking forward to QRC is because it's going to get more queer bands out there!
Queer Rock Camp will be happening this year from August 8th-August 13th in Olympia, WA. To find out how to volunteer, attend, or support the camp, visit the Queer Rock Camp website.