By Brooke Kato | Photos by Rutkay İnkayalı (First 2) & Serkan Tuna (last 3)
Five years ago, musicians Tuğçe Kaymaz, on vocals, and Ersa Hasandayıoğlu, on bass, turned to social media to find three more members to form an all-female rock band, eventually connecting with drummer Büşra Vanlıoğlu and guitarists Ekin Gülmez and Burcu Özbek. The group of women called themselves MARLA, a name that comes from Fight Club’s character Marla Singer. Her character, said the band in an email, represents the kind women they want to present, “not satisfying the society’s beauty standards or the accepted understanding of a woman’s behavior,” they said.
As an all-female rock band, they said nothing about their journey has been casual. They’ve faced prejudice from audiences, managers, and other musicians because of their band’s composition. But, despite some of the negativity they face, they said they also have been welcomed and felt accommodated when touring.
The band’s sound, they said, comes from their Turkish origins. “It’s a country that never runs out of troubles and exciting news,” they said. “Between all this confusion, music is the one thing that helps us breathe, it is both a shelter and an area we can improve ourselves.” Bringing that power of music and feeling to their audiences is the goal, they said, adding that the greatest enjoyment is seeing other women being empowered at their shows.
While they are originally based in the city of Istanbul, they’ve traveled to various Turkish cities when touring, and said that traveling is one of the most exciting parts of the job.
“Every concert is something new to learn, new people, and new feelings to feel,” they said. “Those new experiences are very important to all of us.” New experiences, they said, include fans who have traveled from city to city to see multiple shows where MARLA is performing. “The bond that you create with the audience is so precious,” they said.
Despite not putting out any original music yet, they’ve been covering their favorite songs at various shows, which has allowed them to get comfortable with each other’s musical tastes and discover their own identities on stage before creating an album. In terms of time, they said, they don’t want to put pressure on themselves to create music quickly. While they hope to someday make music in both English and their native language, they want the process to be “unique and natural,” which has no definite timeline.