Pennsylvania native, Kylie Lotz formed Petal a few years ago and her first EP Scout soon followed in 2013. Most recently, she released her debut album Shame on Run For Cover Records. Not only is Kylie a musician but also an actress, recently relocating from her home in Scranton to New York City. Her new album Shame focuses on themes such as relationships and anxiety which are expressed through Kylie’s incredibly woven lyrics and graceful singing voice.
We spoke to Kylie about her introduction to music and any advice she might have for women wanting to start bands. Kylie had an early introduction to music, starting with the piano at age five “when I was a little girl I started studying classical piano. My mum was a music teacher so she really strongly encouraged us to learn an instrument. I was lucky enough that my parents both worked two jobs to help raise us and part of that also included letting us take music lessons. So, I got to take piano lessons and singing lessons and they were always playing records in the house and car. I was always surrounded by music.”
Aided by this early introduction to music, Kylie became aware of how the music she was exposed to was created and attempted to construct some songs of her own, “at a very young age I knew that the musicians I liked were also writing their material and I wanted to try and write songs too. I have diaries from when I was seven or eight with my little songs in and they’re so terrible. Some of the lyrics are pretty dark and I get concerned for my eight year old self.”
She was also inspired by a handful of musicians which encouraged her to write her own material. She says “I loved Whitney Houston growing up, her voice was amazing. I loved the Spice Girls, Carole King, Dionne Warwick. They were some female singers I loved growing up. St. Vincent is amazing, Feist, Regina Spektor, Fiona Apple – singer song writer people at that time. They were people that I loved and pushed me to write more too.”
Continuing on from her early years, her knowledge of music expanded and she eventually picked up a guitar, the instrument that Kylie plays in Petal today. She explained “I studied classical piano for many years and eventually went to college for it and I hated it. I had been writing songs and playing shows in high school but then I tried it on guitar instead. So then I started learning guitar and how to write songs on guitar and then I started playing in a band and it all progressed from there.” Kylie has various people playing in her band now including her long-time friends Brianna Collins and Ben Walsh from Tigers Jaw.
Kylie disagrees with the notion that there aren’t that many women in the punk and alternative genre. “I would say there are women doing it,” she states, arguing instead that it’s just a matter of perspective and being supportive of the women that do exist. “There are so many great women doing this – Eskimeaux, Pale Hound, Perfect Pussy, Colleen Green, Milk Teeth, Adult Mom – I can name a handful of the top of my head. I think if people think there aren’t women doing this then maybe they aren’t resorting to the right outlets,” she suggests.
Kylie proposes that the lack of women is just a matter of under-representation. She argues people need to search further afield than the mainstream outlets in alternative music if women in music is something that they’re searching for. “If people are interested in people who aren’t cis straight white guys – nothing against them – you just have to dig deeper and find the stuff that is more compelling to you, if it’s something that you identify with. I don’t think its genre-specific necessarily, I think everyone could do with a little more exposure than the people we’re used to seeing.”
She suggests searching out whatever you’re into rather than relying on being fed information. “There are so many bands with people who are women, or identify as queer or don’t identify as cis gender. It’s there you just have to maybe go through different outlets. Don’t rely on the main publications that are about – not that they’re terrible, it’s just that you have to seek it out and support it when you find it.”
Along with her advice about supporting and searching for artists who are women, Kylie has a whole heap of advice for any women wanting to start bands. “Don’t be critical of yourself, just do it. It doesn’t matter if you’re good at your instrument yet. It doesn’t matter if your song structures aren’t perfect. Just go for it. Have your friends do it with you. It doesn’t matter if you’re the best.”
She admits that it can be a struggle to earn respect in a scene dominated by men. “Sometimes I think there’s this idea that it’s a guy’s game and you have to be better than them in order to be respected. It’s like you can’t just be out there and doing it and learning and growing and making mistakes. You have to be perfect and one hundred percent and I don’t think that’s fair,” she says. “I’m not an amazing guitarist but I’m learning and practising all the time and that’s okay. As long as someone thinks ‘hey, she’s up there and she’s doing it and she fucked up, I can do that too.”
In summation, Kylie feels that music is a powerful process and should be done for your own sake, rather than anyone else’s. “The best advice I can give is embrace what songs you’re writing, don’t judge them. Who gives a fuck? Write what you’re feeling. Record it on garage band or you’re phone so you can have it and listen to it. Keep expanding on ideas and keep pushing yourself to make art. It doesn’t really matter if it’s not conventionally good or anything. There’s probably a lot of people who don’t think my music is good and that’s fine, I don’t care because what I’m doing is healing to me and it’s good for me to do. So, do it for yourself, do it because you have something to say and don’t be afraid to be messy about it.”