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Interview With Sophie Rae, the Lead Singer/Guitarist of "Care Bears on Fire" and Creator of Grrrl Beat

Posted on the 11 August 2011 by Danielleb

Photo by Jess Norton

Sophie Rae is the lead singer/guitarist of Care Bears on Fire, a pop-punk band with serious feminist undertones. But when she's not touring or rocking out for David Letterman (how cool is that?), this teen dynamo also operates her own webzine. Recently, one of my gracious associates Stuck in the Past writer Andrew Jacobs — interviewed Sophie. Check out what she had to say!
Andrew Jacobs: How did you become a fan of rock music?
Sophie Rae: My parents always listened to a lot of rock music when I was growing up, lots of Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen, and the Beatles. Eventually, my band-mates introduced me to punk and riot grrrl.

AJ: How old were you when you learned how to play the guitar?  Also, please discuss how you learned how to play.

SR: I was 9 when I started playing guitar. I took piano lessons before that, but I got bored of that pretty quickly. I started out just sort of messing around on the guitar by myself, but I started taking lessons when I was around 10. 

AJ: As a musician and as a songwriter, who/what are some of your influences and why?

SR: I’m really inspired by Le Tigre’s ability to confront really intense, difficult topics in the context of super fun, dance-y songs. I love Sleater-Kinney’s songs and the way they layer the different guitar parts and vocal melodies. And as a musician in a 3-piece band I really admire what a huge sound they can create from three instruments (and no bass!). I’m also really inspired by Bright Eyes right now. I think Conor Oberst’s songs are incredibly well-written and beautiful. 

AJ: How are you successfully able to juggle doing your band Care Bears on Fire and your personal life?

SR: Sometimes it can be tough, because doing well in school is really important to me. There have definitely been a lot of nights of studying for a math test in a dark smelly club between sound-check and our set. But I’ve found that being busy when you’re busy doing something you love makes it a lot easier.  

AJ: Would you be at all opposed to signing with a major record label at some point down the road?  Why or why not?

SR: It’s tough to say. Musicians talk about losing their musical integrity when they go major and feeling like they’ve lost their creative freedom. I think as long as the people I’m working with understand me and my musical goals I wouldn’t rule them out. It depends on the circumstance for sure.  

AJ: You may have already answered this but just in case you haven't, at this point in time in your life, how interested are you in making a living in some capacity (not necessarily as just an artist/musician either) in the music industry?

SR: I think it’s still pretty early for me to say. I have a lot of interests. I love writing, feminism, history . . . Music is just one of the things that I love to do, and I don’t want to limit myself. But I do love playing and writing music and I definitely don’t see myself stopping any time soon. 

AJ: When and why did you decide to become a feminist? 

SR: It’s hard to pinpoint when exactly I became a feminist. For as long as I’ve been playing music I’ve been subject to sexism and I always thought it was really unfair and totally sucked. I’d listened to riot grrrl music since I was about 11, but I really started to identify as a feminist this past December, when my band played a Kathleen Hanna tribute show in NYC, which was being filmed for a documentary about her. At that show I realized that sexism, especially in the music world, doesn’t have to be a given, it is something fight-able. I realized how many feminist artists and musicians there are and what a supportive community that could be. After that I started really getting in to feminism, reading feminist blogs and books and thinking more about issues of sexism and how I could combat them in my own life.

AJ: As a feminist and as a writer, who/what are some of your influences and why?

SR: I just finished Girls to the Front by Sara Marcus, which is about the riot grrrl movement. I loved how beautifully written it was while still being incredibly informative. It really made you feel like you were there  a part of the movement. I also recently read Jessica Valenti’s Full Frontal Feminism, which was amazing. It is very conversational in tone, sort of like just talking to one of your friends about feminism, but at the same time it was smart and educational. I’ve been trying to use that conversational tone in my articles for Grrrl Beat, because I think it makes difficult topics much more accessible.     

AJ: How much of an influence has the Riot Grrrl movement of the 1990s had on your feminist and political views?

SR: Huge! Listening to riot grrrl music when I was younger brought up so many issues that I’d never thought of like rape, abortion, female representation in the media, and sexism in general. Riot grrrl taught me that these issues were ones of equality and had to be confronted, both by individuals and by politicians.

AJ: Discuss your online forum, Grrrl Beat.

SR: Grrrl Beat is my online magazine, which I started in July. It’s been such an amazing experience! I write a bunch of the articles myself, but I also have a ton of submissions from other writers, mostly teenagers, on topics like feminism, music, culture, and fashion. I also post a lot of music from female musicians. I’m always looking for articles and music to post! Email me at [email protected] with any submissions/ideas for submissions.

AJ: Feel free to shamelessly plug any of your other musical or non-musical endeavors here.

For all New Yorkers: On August 13th Care Bears on Fire will be playing at the Manifesta loft, at a show put on by Permanent Wave, a super awesome feminist group I just joined. The other bands are Big Nils, Bad Credit No Credit and Shady Hawkins. To kick off the show at 8pm, I’m organizing a Q&A panel about women in music with myself, Amy Klein (of Titus Andronicus) and Mindy Abovitz (of Tom Tom Magazine) and Emmet Moeller (of Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls) as moderator. And the show is a benefit for Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls! Please come out and support! 

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