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"Being Uncomfortable is the Best Thing You Can Do for Yourself": The Women of RBMA Bass Camp

Allie, Charlotte Day Wilson, and Seychelle tackle what everyone’s already thinking.

Of the 20 artists handpicked from across Canada, this year's Red Bull Music Academy (RBMA) Bass Camp invited three women.

Allie, who is Toronto's songstress and a HW&W Recording artist. Her strides through major showcases like NXNE, MNFSTO, and M for Montreal have propped an undeniable following.

Charlotte Day Wilson, who is one part of the four-piece band The Wayo. Her roots in hip-hop, jazz, soul and electronic have nurtured a vocal and songwriting skill well beyond her years.

And, Seychelle, or Dominique Lalonde, who has a firm grasp on the house and techno scene as a DJ and producer in Montreal. Her recent performance on Igloofest's main stage being case in point.

The RBMA does not choose participants based on gender. Rather, their selections are finalized through a combination of nominations, musical caliber, and the cohesiveness of each artist's sound to the rest of the group. But the difference in numbers is evident.

The disparity of females in dance music isn't newsworthy, and THUMP has often attempted to bridge this gap by number crunching and offering a few suggestions. But sometimes it's best to let the women do the talking themselves. While at RBMA Bass Camp in Montreal earlier this month, THUMP sat down with allie, Charlotte, and Seychelle to talk about their experiences with sexism in the industry, the ways to overcome them, and a little thing called Bass Camp.

Left to right: Dom, Charlotte, and allie.

THUMP: How did you react when you found out you were selected for RBMA Bass Camp?
Allie: I was super excited because I've applied for the RBMA twice and never got in. So I was pretty ecstatic to be included, especially when I saw all the musicians that were involved this year. I feel like they see something in us that works well with all of these other amazing musicians. That's a huge confidence boost.

There's a very different creative process that vocalists go through, so to jump into the studio with a bunch of producers has been incredible.

Charlotte: I was obviously extremely excited. Not that I don't deserve it, but there are just so many other people that also deserve it. It's also interesting to me because I'm not a producer. I am a producer and I do produce a lot of my own music, but not to the extent of some participants here. It's interesting to come as a vocalist.

Dom: I feel like there are more than just 20 people in Canada who deserve a shot at the RBMA or Bass Camp. It is an honour to just be selected for this.

Throughout the studio time, how did you decide where you want to be and who you wanted to work with?
Charlotte: I've forced myself into some of the situations. You have to take that initiative as a vocalist. You have to be able to sit in a session for five hours and not touch anything, just listen. But because you're that person just sitting there listening and not necessarily turning all the knobs, you have a good perspective on way it sounds. You listen to it differently. You're not looking at the frequencies and the volumes, you're just listening.

Dom: It's cool because you can walk into the room and say 'I could fuck with that.' It may not always be my usual jam, but you've got to be willing to try it out. I was really interested in working with Adam--Iron Galaxy and Prison Guard, Rob--because they know a lot about synthesis and that's something that really interests me. I spent most of my time nerding out, to be honest.

Allie: Right off the bat Beach Season approached me to collaborate. We both love each other's work, so that made it easier. With them, I can say that I'm not feeling this part or this section is too busy, and have input with the arrangements. I don't think people know how involved we are necessarily in the arrangements of the tracks. This gives us a chance to show that.

Has it felt like a boys club at all?
Dom: No, they're actually really cool and really open minded. They definitely welcomed us.

Charlotte: I haven't felt othered at all.

Allie: It just feels like a bunch of musicians who all respect each other. I haven't felt like we're three girls out of 20. It just feels like 20 musicians who are all like-minded and open to each other.

What should these media outlets start changing, focusing, or including about how women are represented in the business? What are things that could benefit you or other women looking to break into the music industry?
Charlotte: I think it's really important to never embrace a defeatist attitude about it all. It's important to acknowledge that these issues exist and that it is difficult to be a woman in the music industry. But at the end of the day, it should be a positive message we're sending out. Don't get discouraged. That's the message that I would still like to hear. But when I was young that's definitely what I would have liked to hear more of.

One of the coolest ladies I've ever met, her name's Alison Gordon. She was a Toronto based journalist who was the first woman to ever report for professional athletics, so she was the first woman to ever go inside the professional male locker room and report. She reported with the Blue Jays and went on tour with them for years. When I was in high school I did a project on her, so I had recorded our phone conversation. She just passed away a couple of weeks ago and I recently went back and listened to the recording. She was saying that it was incredibly difficult to be a woman, especially in the environment where you're surrounded by sweaty, testosterone filled men. I said to her that I thought it must have been really, really hard. She said to me "You know what Charlotte, you will have a wonderful life as well. All you have to do is be brave and do not get discouraged. Being uncomfortable is the best thing you could possibly do for yourself." I just would like to pass her message along.

Allie: I think I'd really like to see females getting the credit that they deserve for the work that they put in. That article with Bjork says a lot, how she worked on an album for years but the guys who produced a small portion received the production credit for it. It's kind of like that. That tendency to give whatever man steps into the room for five minutes the complete recognition for all that was made. I would love to see a real shift happen in terms of that. I want to focus on what women are actually doing behind the scenes and in our creative process.

Has there been anything you've encountered as a female that stands out to you?
Charlotte: When I'm on tour with my band and we're playing shows, it's me and 20 or 30 guys. For some reason this is the circle I run in. Sometimes I miss lady talk. But I feel like I'm too persistent to let something stand in my way. The key is kindness. Kill people with kindness.

Allie: I'm very careful about the people I surround myself with. As soon as I get into any kind of situation where I feel that way, I remove myself. I feel like some females put up with certain things because they feel that they have to. I would just say, if something doesn't feel right, there are tons of people out there who will treat you better.

Dom: I would never let it overpower or overcome me. It's not worth it, it's not worth the bad energy. You'll never go forward surrounding yourself with people who feel that way or act that way. There's no room for them in your game.

What are your thoughts on this quote from Annie Mac: "As far as I know "DJ" is a genderless word. Yet I've been asked questions like this in every interview I've ever done. Let's think of the reasons being a female DJ would be different to being a male DJ. Do journalists think I spent years learning how to scratch records with my boobs? Or that I hide my USB keys in my bra?"
Dom: She's so G. Capital G, that girl. She's standing up for everyone who puts up shit like that because they don't think they can stand up for it themselves. For whatever reason. Fear? Is it fear?

Allie: I think it's the ingrained norm, you get used to something. Like 'This is the question they always ask, so I have to answer it.' But I think it's great to push back against that. They should ask her questions about her process and her craft, what she actually does, and everything that she has built.

Charlotte: I think it's also a bit of lazy journalism. "So what's it like to be a girl DJ?" Great question.

Have you been asked questions like that before? How did you react?
Dom: It doesn't matter, that's what goes through my head. It doesn't matter if I'm a girl or a guy.

Allie: I think as vocalists we get it less. I think there's a spotlight on female DJ's right now that's very much an emphasis on "female" and not their work. I think to be a female vocalist is a bit of a different thing.

Charlotte: I play the saxophone, so every time I pull out my saxophone on stage, it's like this "wow" runs through the crowd. It's as if they've never seen anything like it before. Afterwards, so many guys will approach me--and I'm queer, I don't fuck with that at all--and they try to flirt with me, complimenting on the fact that I play sax. Saying "You're such a good saxophone player, I've never see a girl play a saxophone." It irks me.

Dom: You should ask them "Well, where did you learn how to ride a bike?"

What about advice to next Bass Camp participants?
Dom: Keep your ears out for different stuff. Get inspired by more than one source. You tend to narrow your creativity by doing that, doing what you're already comfortable with.

Allie: Come with an open mind. Come well rested. We didn't do that. That was a big mistake. But soak it in. It's a once in a lifetime experience.

Charlotte: I just want to say the word feminism, I'm a feminist, feminism. [group laughs]

THUMP: We're gonna end with that.

allie is on Facebook // SoundCloud
Charlotte Day Wilson is on Facebook // Twitter
Seychelle is on Facebook // SoundCloud

Rachael and Connie are on Twitter.

All photos are courtesy of Maria Jose Govea / Red Bull Content Pool