By Brooke Kato
Photo by Atrocity Girl at Gasworks Park Seattle
“We strive to be honest, raw and as liquid as possible.”
Though the vibrant downtown life of Seattle has come to a grinding halt due to the coronavirus lockdown, Atrocity Girl – a rock band that hails from the rainy metropolis – is staying busy by quarantining together and working on their music.
The band, which formed last year through an intersection of Facebook groups and mutual connections, is coming to gradual success, with one of their videos, “Suffering Skin” (below, with former bassist Machelle) recently reaching more than 50,000 views on Instagram. According to one of their own reviews: “The band – comprised of rumbling vocalist Johnny Angel, lightening-strike drummer Angie, thunderous guitarist Jess [aka Eljae], and quaking bassist Ryan, aims to do more than just play good music. Atrocity Girl plays hard-hitting rock ‘n’ roll. Vocals growl and shout, guitars hammer and drums crash. It’s mesmeric.” The band is also LGBTQ and POC inclusive.
“Our gradual success has been incredible; we are ready to bring something to Seattle that nobody is doing right now, at least no other female rock band,” said Johnny Angel, who the vocalist and lead guitarist. “We strive to be honest, raw and as liquid as possible.”
When they’re not playing music as members of Atrocity Girl – a name created by Johnny in an attempt to combine the word “girl” with a word that meant gritty, aggressive and unapologetic – the band also holds day jobs to pay the bills, though many small businesses have been forced to close due to social distancing.
Eljae, guitarist (she can solo behind her back!), considers herself a “working musician.” She is a “guitar tech by day and rocker by night,” but no matter what, her focus is always on music. Meanwhile, Angie, the band’s hard-hitting drummer, is a women’s studies professor as well as a drum teacher who owns her own studio with a passion for empowering women through music. She teaches both in-person and online.
Both Johnny and new bassist extraordinaire Ryan Lee split their time in half between the band and their jobs. Johnny challenges feminine stereotypes by working as a small engine mechanic and providing her signature gritty vocals to the band. “I work hard to play harder and my work never gets in the way of that,” said Johnny. “There’s always time to rock and roll in my book.”
Ryan is a barista, but dedicates her nights to writing music, practicing and playing shows. But in Seattle, many people have been forced to stay cooped up and work from home, something that has put a strain on day jobs as well as the music scene in the city. In fact, Ryan recently lost her job due to the coronavirus shut-downs, and she’s lost what she loves most about working with the public: connection.“I love working with people, customer service, playing music,” she said. “No shows, no work, no practice, for me, it’s been devastating and further goes to show me the importance of human connection.”
“‘Non-essential’ businesses like bars, venues and restaurants are closed, which cripples the music community as well as our income,” Angie said. “As musicians and educators, we are hit especially hard since our living depends on our ability to perform and share our music with others.”
Still, the band is trying to work within the parameters of their new reality by getting creative with solutions, like live streaming their shows from their rehearsal space and designning bandanas that double as face masks. They are also soon headed to the studio to record their first EP and will then be able to share their music with the world.
According to the band, “The music community has been supportive of one another and encouraging each other to unite and keep going. Music must live.”
Despite cancelled shows and the inability to perform, Atrocity Girl is making use of their time in isolation to practice more frequently, write music and prepare to start recording.
The band shared similar sentiments of excitement to get back on stage and share their new songs with their fans. When reflecting on their favorite times together, the band all had one answer in common: performing, practicing and “just being together.”
While they said there were too many great moments together to pick just one, Johnny recalled their first show as a band, “It really made me feel like we were whole, and that something in us ignited a fire in our hearts.”
Despite not being able to share some of the more enjoyable moments together in this time of uncertainty, Atrocity Girl is staying hopeful, optimistic and, most importantly, together.
“All hope is not lost,” said Eljae. “Times are hard, but together we will get through this, and we can be a soundtrack during these times. Support the music and arts so people can keep on creating.”