Mirah with Harsh Crowd at Ace Hotel

harsh crowd

Mirah with Harsh Crowd at Ace Hotel New York

New York, NY (December, 1, 2015) – Ace Hotel New York is pleased to present the next iteration of our 5 at 5 series. A collaboration with Martin Guitar, we invite our favorite artists to take over the rooftop at Ace Hotel Downtown LA and the lobby at Ace Hotel New York to play an intimate five-song set at 5pm.

On Saturday, December 12, we’re working with Tom Tom Magazine and Martin Guitar to bring together some of the most badass performers we could find. Brooklyn-based singer and songwriter Mirah and bandmate Maia Macdonald will perform alongside Harsh Crowd, a band comprised of four 13-year-olds who met at Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls two summers back.

According to The Rumpus, “Mirah’s early records…are DIY mini-masterpieces that express a punk sensibility through broken drum machines, reverb-drenched guitars and ukulele. Her more recent albums…are mature, complex and immaculately-produced.” Backed by Harsh Crowd’s pure sonic energy and can-do attitude, this performance might just be among her most memorable.

Event Details
December 12, 2015
5pm, The Lobby at Ace Hotel New York
Free and open to the public

RSVP: http://www.acehotel.com/calendar/newyork/harsh-crowd

About Ace Hotel New York
Ace Hotel New York reimagines the urban hotel for the people who make cities interesting. With a sense of curiosity and respect for the history and culture of New York City, the 12-story hotel lives in a historic, turn-of-the-century building in Midtown Manhattan. The space serves up engaged fashion retail, a Michelin-starred restaurant and eloquent, mischievous and interesting answers to the travel experience.

About Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls
Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls is a non-profit music and mentoring program that empowers girls and women (transgender and cisgender) and gender non-binary folks through music education, volunteerism, and activities that foster self-respect, leadership skills, creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration. The organization brings together girls and women from diverse communities and encourages them to explore self-expression through music, hone their critical thinking skills, build meaningful alliances with other girls and women, develop confidence in making healthy choices in their lives, and effect positive change in their communities and in the world. Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls operates a summer day camp, after school programs, and community events in New York City.

About Martin Guitar & Strings
C. F. Martin & Co. has been creating the finest instruments in the world for over 182 years. It continues to innovate, introducing techniques and features that have become industry standards, including X-bracing, the 14-fret guitar and the “Dreadnought” size. Constructed by one of the world’s leading acoustic instrument makers, Martin guitars are hand-made by skilled craftsmen and women, who use a combination of new design and techniques, along with those introduced by the company founder. The company is also known for producing high-quality, popular acoustic guitar strings. These include the Martin SP® LIFESPAN™ line, the fastest-growing treated string in the industry, and the Martin SP line, which uses an industry leading core wire to hold tunings better.

About Tom Tom Magazine 
Tom Tom Magazine is the only magazine in the world dedicated to female drummers. They are a 74 page full color quarterly print magazine, website, events, social media community, irl community, consulting agency and more. Tom Tom serves as the ultimate go-to guide for the latest information about girl drummers and beat makers around the globe. They seek to raise awareness about female percussionists from all over the world and hopes to inspire women and girls of all ages to drum, all while strengthening and building the community of otherwise fragmented female musicians. They strive to cover drummers of all ages, races, styles, skill level, sexualities, body size and notoriety. Subscribe online or find Tom Tom in any Guitar Center, Barnes & Noble or Virgin Atlantic Airlines. Tom Tom Magazine is more than just a magazine. It is a movement. Join them.

About Mirah
Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn has been creating incorruptible independent pop music since the late 1990’s. She has released over a dozen solo and collaborative recordings on K Records, Kill Rock Stars and various domestic and foreign independent labels. Defined by her graceful songwriting and adventuresome recordings, Pitchfork has praised her “incredible voice—a versatile coo that can flit from low, sultry tones to high, airy falsetto in one breath.”Mirah has always sought the creative company of unique collaborators, from multi-media artists and orchestral composers to DJs, Baltic music enthusiasts, and entomologists. Her collaborators include Phil Elverum (The Microphones/Mount Eerie), Merrill Garbus (tUnE-yArDs), Tara Jane O’Neil, Khaela Maricich (The Blow), Melanie Valera (Tender Forever), Jherek Bischoff, Lori Goldston, Britta Johnson and Ginger Brooks Takahashi. Mirah lives in Brooklyn, New York.

About Harsh Crowd
NY-based quartet Harsh Crowd — Willow, Rihana, Lena, and Dea — met at Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls in the summer of 2013 and have been playing together ever since. This fall they released their debut EP, Don’t Ask Me, to stellar reviews – including Noisey, who dubbed their sound “clean punk.” Harsh Crowd may be young, but they’ve already opened for Hurray for the Riff Raff!, Unlocking the Truth, Sharon Van Etten and the Indigo Girls’ Amy Ray, charming audiences at venues such as Bowery Ballroom, SummerStage, Joe’s Pub, Le Poisson Rouge and Madison Square Garden.

Harsh Crowd: Don’t Ask Themharsh crowd

by Mindy Abovitz & Caryn Havlik

photos by Meg Wachter

The band Harsh Crowd met at New York City’s Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls. The camp sets up girls on day one, who previously have never met, and give them a week’s worth of training to become adept at their instruments and write a song as a band. At the end of one week, the Rock Campers perform their song in front of an audience and then the girls all go back to their respective schools and sometimes fall out of touch with each other. Harsh Crowd is an exception to that rule. All the girls happened to live in NYC and shortly after forming the band at Rock Camp, the band got invited to play the Willie Mae Rock Camp benefit Gala at Gibson. After that show, they kept getting booked for more shows, and continued rehearsing every weekend. And then they recorded an EP “Don’t Ask Me,” collaborated with the artist Mirah at the Ace Hotel’s 5 at 5 series and now, well, they are onto bigger and better things every day. We had one of our photographers, Meg Wachter, shoot them at their rehearsal space at the Willie Mae Rock Camp HeadQuarters. Keep an eye out for Harsh Crowd.

Tom Tom Magazine: How did you all meet?
Willow: Storytime: OK, so I’m Willow, and I met Lena and Dea when I was 8. But I was in a band with Lena.At Rock Camp – Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls. I didn’t really know Dea. Dea kinda scared me (laughter). But me and Lena were really good friends. And then I kinda kept seeing Dea  – through the Rock Camp – and I’ve gone to Rock Camp for 5 years. And I was in a band with Rihana at one point – it was called “Penthouse Tunes.”

Rihana: I don’t remember this, but OK.

Willow: Caryn, you remember that don’t you? I played drums and rapped.

Lena: And then we all reunited in 2013 when we were 11. And it was a normal Rock Camp thing, where they put us in a band together – and they had just picked the perfect 4. So we made TWO songs, and they were really good, and then after that, we clicked well. It was different from normal Rock Camp bands. So then we continued playing after that.

Rihana – Well, actually. We played after that show.

Willow: We wanted to continue playing together and stuff. But we didn’t really know how to work it out.And then we all got emails from Rock Camp saying that they wanted us to play their benefit Gala at Gibson. We’re playing in two weeks at their 10th anniversary Gala on Dec. 4th at Roulette in Brooklyn. So we kinda did 2 or 3 rehearsals to get our song back into shape. After that show, we just kept getting shows and kept rehearsing every weekend. And then we recorded an EP and well – here we are.

TTM: How old are each of you and what are your favorite colors?

Lena: I am 14 and my favorite color is purple.

Rihana: I’m 13 and my favorite color is purpleDea: I’m 13, but closer to 14 and it’s blue.

Willow: I’m 13 and blue.

harsh crowd
TTM: What instruments do you play?
Lena: I’m the drummer, but I also play xylophone.
Willow: I’m the vocalist, and I also play clarinet and guitar. I used to play violin too.
Rihana: I play bass (upright) and piano, bass guitar, and I’ve also studied violin. I’m working on guitar too.
Dea: I play guitar, drums and sing.

TTM: How do you get your inspiration for writing songs?

Willow: The movie “Radio Rebel” from the Disney Channel (Lena: Tom Tom, please don’t put that in. Willow: Tom Tom , please do.)

TTM: Well, how old were you when that happened, though?

Willow: I was 10 years old.

Dea: I think that us being 10 yrs old,  I think we didn’t really have a realistic mindset of what was going to happen. I think that we just assumed that because we were a band, and WMRC kept asking us to do stuff- that we were amazing. But I think that now, we really understand that we really had to work hard and practice every single week for 2 years to get to where we are now. And we just released our first EP. And I think that’s all because A) everyone we’ve been surrounded by and everyone who’s helped us. But also, because we’ve been dedicated.

Lena: Because I’m the drummer, I don’t really write that much music. So in terms of the lyrics, there’s not much inspiration there. If we write songs together, it’s like basically whoever started it we build off of that. So the first few verses of the first whatever …it just builds off of that. But with my drumming – all my beats, they started – I listened to the Beatles and basic drumming at first and that’s the way I played. But all of a sudden, it changed to more improvisation and trying new things. And I think that’s because of listening to Led Zeppelin – the way those beats are out of the box. I think that’s what’s inspiring me to drum the way I am in our newer songs.

TTM: So, your songs aren’t written BEFORE you come to practice, right?

Willow: NOo. I think that contrary to what Lena says, the lyrics that I write are inspired by life, (Lena: and Love) and friendship and stuff that goes on in my life.

TTM: How did you get your band name and what does it mean?

Rihana: Ohhhhh…my gosh (excited to answer this one). We got our name because we were debating on a name and our coach – one of our band coaches, Zoe – she was like, “Oh, you guys are such a harsh crowd,” and we were like “OH MY GOD OH MY GOD YEAH.” And we picked the name, Harsh Crowd.TTM: Has it come to mean something for you over time?

Lena: I don’t know. We kinda got annoyed with- I guess, the way it’s really hard for people to pronounce it, for some reason. They’ll say “Hush Crowd” “Whoosh Crowd”? “Hearse Crowd”? (laughing) But it seems punk, so it’s cool. At least it’s not “panda bears,” or something.

Dea: I think that for me the name has comforted me. Bcuz I feel like I’ve taken a lot of risks during this experience. And having our name be something that you can’t really mess with. I think it’s like a shield. If we’re the Harsh Crowd, then there’s no room for the audience to be.

Lena: Yeah. It’s based off of “take that!” and also we have one of our songs [named Harsh crowd]. It’s a fun interactive song – it’s kind of a way to own the title.

Dea: Also, the name of our EP is “Don’t Ask Me,” which is also a very strong. The name within itself is very strong. It represents us because I think we’re really strong and we don’t care what [other] people think about what we do, because WE care.

Lena: Yeah, that’s the whole vibe that we have, since people are always – oh they’re good for girls, they’re good for KIDS. SO this is the vibe that we’re bringing out through our music and our title, and our band name and our EP name.

TTM: That’s really inspiring to hear you say, not just cuz I’m your band coach. It’s very exciting.

Soooo how does writing music make you feel?

Lena: Ooo. I think it’s a really great way of getting your feelings out. Personally, I bang the crap out of my drums if I’m mad. But also if you have a lot of emotions, writing’s a great way to let it out. Talking to people is one way, but if you just wanna put it down on paper, it’s really a good way to start realizing how you’re feeling. If there’s something going on in your life…it’s a big inspiration for a lot of people. So I think that’s really helpful.

Dea: I think a lot people when they think of songwriting, they think of deep meaningful ballads that are really supposed to make you feel something, and I think that there is that. But for us, we also just enjoy writing crazy songs that are really random, don’t really mean anything. But I think doing… we have a song called “Dirty Rotten Parents” which the whole song is just – we wrote it when we were 11 – but the whole song is just kind of like a joke. I think it’s really great because us being teenagers and going to school and having more responsibilities, it’s kinda cool to just let loose and write random stuff just because it makes you feel better about everything else.

Lena: It doesn’t have to be a clean-cut Adele perfect song -(giggles) like some kind of ballad that supposed to make everyone cry and supposed to relate to it. We have some songs about times that we’ve experienced but other ones are like DRP. Or like something really crazy and weird. But it’s cool bc then when we play it, we own it. So it could be about hot dogs and whatever, (Willow begins to sing “hot dogs, hot dogs”) and stuff that no one will even know. We used to have a song called “STOWS” – which it had no meaning – it was called “Shirley Temple Orwell Singer”- which, I’m not even going to get into what that means. But you know, we owned it and people don’t need to know. They’re like, “Oh, these people know what they’re doing.” So, you know, that’s what it’s about.

Willow: Writing music makes …when I write lyrics – I kinda just like whatever I’m pissed off about, or whoever I’m pissed off at – I write lyrics about it.

Lena: That’s when the most badass music comes to be. Anger is a great way to get really awesome, powerful music out. That’s what a lot of our songs are based from.

Dea: That’s where “Don’t Ask Me” came from.
harsh crowd
TTM. Right on. What can you say while playing music that you can’t say in words? Like if you had to write an essay vs. writing a song.
Lena: So writing an essay is like clean. Whatever – it goes by an outline. You have to have evidence. You have to have format. And that’s what most writing is. Even if you don’t think it is. A lot of stories, articles that you read today are based on this one little outline that forms into new things depending on who is writing it. But with music you can do whatever you want. It’s like a canvas that you can just splatter paint over whatever you want. There’s no like – go in-between / don’t go outside of the lines. It’s just creativity. Whatever you wanna do.

Dea: I also think that essays – you can impact people and you can write a really good essay, but I think when you write a piece of music, it brings that [idea(s)] to life. I think it’s really about your imagination – what you can do with the words. And so I think that’s why music and writing essays, they are art forms within themselves. But I think that music is a really great way to bring boring essays to life.

TTM: YEAH. What is the hardest part of playing music?
Lena: So a lot of times, playing music in itself  – I don’t think there’s anything hard about it. There is – someone can give you a really challenging piece of sheet music. And you think “Crap. How do I do this?” But eventually you will fulfill that. So I don’t think that it’s the music in itself. Just playing the music. I think that comes naturally, if you truly love music. But I think that being in a band and playing songs is a hard thing to do because we’re not THAT known. But we’re known enough to…if we’re getting the wrong message out, that could be a big thing. So certain songs or certain things that we say, or certain whatever we’re doing that can affect what people think our message is. And we have- I think- a really strong message – a “Take that” message, as we said. So a lot of times we have challenges in making sure we stick to that. So I think that’s the hardest part.

Dea: I think the hardest part is honestly – scheduling. Because we all have a lot of stuff, that the commitments, bc we all go to different schools, and we’re in different grades, and there’s just we all live in different boroughs. So I think yes – what Lena said. That music is the easiest part. But it’s just figuring out how to get together -if you’re by yourself you can play whenever you want. But if there’s 4 people, you have to figure out how to do it: collaborate, how to meet up, and how to keep it going and coordinate schedules. It’s a lot of work.

Willow: I think that the hardest part of being in a band -honestly- is getting out of slumps. Cuz you know sometimes when you get into that place where there’s nothing you can really finish. You can be writing, but then you get bored of it and you don’t play it. I think that’s the hardest part about being in a band is you’re with the same people playing music, well, for us – every weekend for 3 hours- so sometimes you can just get into this pattern of not really getting anything done. And I think that’s the hardest part of playing music.

Lena: There’s this time where we take a break for the summer because we couldn’t ever all figure out times for that so we take a break, we don’t write, we don’t have gigs. And then we come back -back in action – we have concerts, we get stuff together, we figure everything out. But last year, it wasn’t clicking back and we didn’t have any motivation to do anything. There were several rehearsals in a row where there was just silence, we were  – we had writers block for everything. And we didn’t really know what to do.  That, for a lot of us, seemed like almost it was gonna be the end of it. Or it wasn’t gonna go any higher from there. But we got back into action, and it hasn’t been like that since then. But it’s definitely a problem that a lot of the bands that everyone listens to today and has listened to… I bet a lot of that has happened that in previous bands bc it’s really hard to keep… It’s like a relationship like a honeymoon period, and you have to really fight to keep the interest and the creativity going no matter what the consequences, no matter what the circumstances are.

TTM: Since we ran out of time at practice, we continued the rest of the interview via email.  

What does a day in the life of Harsh Crowd look like?

Lena: Each of us have different lives outside of the band but all involving some sort of musical instrument.

We all play our instruments at school and bring them all together when we rehearse. A day at rehearsal is mostly productive like writing and practicing, but a lot of it includes binge eating on food that Caryn, our band coach, brings.

Rihana: A day in the life of Harsh Crowd is both difficult and easy because what is difficult is being focused, staying in the zone and ready to get to work. The easy part is putting the work in.

TTM:Who are your musical heroes (or favorite musicians) and why?
Lena: Right now I have a healthy (but maybe not healthy) obsession with David Bowie. He is one of my musical heroes because his music gives me chills every time which is pretty hard to do. Joan Jett is one of my idols as well because she brings out a powerful message especially in the feminist world. My drumming inspirations are John Bonham and Keith Moon.

TTM: Coolest thing you’ve learned about your instrument(s) lately (in class, lessons, recording studio, other) or music in general.
Lena: Many people think drumming is just hitting things but playing drums for many years disproved that rumor. Drumming is a lot harder, more creative and more technical than it looks to many people.

TTM: Favorite song to cover/arrange and why (this MAY be your own)?
Lena: My favorite song we cover is “Creep” {by Radiohead] because we put a spin on it, and every time we play it we are SO powerful and into it. My favorite original song is probably Long Shot because it is one of most fun and up-beat songs.

TTM: Most memorable show experience (s):

Lena: Playing MSG [yep, Madison Square Garden] was unforgettable, but our Bowery Ballroom show was probably my favorite. When we got off stage and started walking toward our backstage area, the crowd parted for us and started cheering and that was something I never experienced before.

Dea: Joe’s Pub [at the Feminist Press Gala event in 2014.]

TTM: Last show you went to (your own counts) or performed in:

Lena: The last show I went to was one that we played a couple of weeks ago at Cooper Union. It was a big feminist celebrating and was honoring Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Dea: The last show I went to was the suffrage gala.

TTM: What is your favorite snack?
Lena: Sometimes when I get home from school I count waffles as a “snack” which I should probably stop doing, but it will always be my favorite.

TTM: Favorite school subject?harsh crowd

Lena:I like English a lot because there are no right answers but my favorite out of all is my percussion class.

Dea: Math

TTM: Favorite app?

Lena: Snapchat because they have all of these crazy features that you can try out and make a fool of yourself in public.

Dea: Instagram.

TTM: Favorite part of band practice?

Lena:I love when we write new songs and it all comes together.

TTM: Favorite time signature?

Lena:Most of the songs I like are in 4/4, but I love playing 3/4. If I could figure out what time signature some of what John Bonham’s drumming is, that would be one of my favorites too.

Dea: 4/4

TTM: Favorite Netflix binge-watching (lately)?

Lena:While I’m waiting for the next Orange Is The New Black season to come on, I’ve been watching Portlandia, American Horror Story, Scream Queens and Parks and Recreation a lot lately.

Dea: How I Met Your Mother

Previous ArticleNext Article