After two years of playing music together in and around the Oakland rock scene, The Splinters released their first full length album “Kick” in March on Double Negative Records. They have quickly built an audience ecstatic for these four girls singing and twisting their way through infectious two-minute garage-bop songs full of just as much rocker whimsy as they are in grit. Their charm couldn’t be any more eloquently expressed as it is in their debut video for the tune Splintered Bridges. Guitarist and Bassist Caroline Partamian graced us with a lovely interview earlier this month and the rest of the group – Lauren Stern, Ashley Thomas and Courtney Grey chimed in later with a few clarifying comments.
TDR – Is there a shortage of all girl bands in the rock scene?
TS – We don’t think of ourselves in that way but there is not a shortage. I think there are a lot of girl bands out there and there is a very strong female presence in rock, especially in the Bay Area. We all went to school together at UC Berkeley and were surrounded by a lot of local creativity and there may be a lot more respect given now to female rock bands because of that scene.
TDR – Who are some of those local bands that influenced you girls?
TS – Locals bands we like are Brilliant Colors, Maus Haus, Thee Oh Sees, Culture Kids, Agent Ribbons, Nobunny – there are so many that are great. I don’t think we are really more influenced by other bands if they happen to be girl bands – so to separate them would be kinda silly. I guess lyrical content can relate more to being a female, but yeah we don’t listen to bands and think to ourselves “this is another girl band.” But a lot of our influences are not in the Bay Area.
TDR – I’ve heard you girls compared to The Shangri-La’s, could you name a few of the bigger bands that have helped to define your sound.
TS – That is a great compliment and we love the Shangri-La’s but some bands in general who we are influenced by are: The Cramps, Patti Smith, Sonic Youth, The Evens and X.
TDR – Would you define yourselves first and foremost as a girl band or a rock band?
TS – We are a rock band for sure and I wish people would classify us like any other rock band.
TDR – But are there any advantages to being in a young, all-female rock band?
TS – As long as people are listening to our music, it’s rad. If there is an appeal to our band because we are girls, we don’t scoff at that. It’s kind of cool to be in a position to inspire people to be in a band and because there is such a male presence in rock it can help girls feel empowered. I really like female vocals (the way they sound) so having four girls in our band who like to sing is the biggest advantage.
TDR – So there is something to be said about the power inherent in a girl group?
TS – We started realizing that after we became a band. People would come up to us after a show and talk about how great we are but maybe it was just because they thought Lauren was really cute. We all want to be respected but when people would come up and be like “Hey, you play your instruments really well,” Did they mean for girls?
TDR – Do you consider your sound retro?
TS – We feel like we have a ‘90s vibe more than anything. For our album Kick, we noticed a lot bands were recording things really low-fi to make it sound more retro but we wanted something really smooth. Now, our new songs are being recorded onto tape. I think it’s cool because it’s different to put out 8-track recordings on 7” records.
TDR – Do you have a particular niche crowd or are you girls playing music for a variety of people?
TS – We play for all different types of people. Some shows will be all dudes, some shows all girls. Sometimes we will be playing for older metalheads and other times for 20-year-old’s. I also see a difference from Oakland to San Francisco. We are an Oakland band and when we play a show there it is less public. All the people there are usually from Oakland and they go out to support their friends, in San Francisco there are different crowds of people and you get more of a mix. Recently, we got an email from the father of this 14-year-old from Bristol, U.K. saying that we were his son’s favorite band and asked if we could send him a gift packet. Getting an out of the country response like that makes us really excited so we sent him all sorts of cool stickers and things.
TDR – What drives the band’s music?
TS – When we started writing songs, we tried to make whatever sounded good to us. People were so friendly and super supportive that really just hearing how awesome you are all the time kept us playing. We are playing a lot of great shows with a lot of great bands and we try to do everything super positively. We work cooperatively together and it works because we are all best friends, I can’t really see playing music with other people.
TDR- Do The Splinters have a mission and is the band going to stick around?
TS – To have fun. We want to play shows where we are super comfortable. We played the Noise Pop festival and didn’t really get into it but we did got some really good press from it. I am moving to New York this summer to go to grad school but official things are now happening behind the scenes that are allowing us to keep doing it. The press is allowing us to do more than we’ve ever imagined. I put off grad school for a year because we’ve had so much fun and when I leave we are going to do as much as we can. It will be an active hibernation.
TDR – How do you you define the music of The Splinters?
TS – We all work on a song together to make it our own. If it sounds cool, we go with it. Whatever we are vibing with, we splinter-fie it.