Questions for Mary Timony
The Wild Flag singer and guitarist talks about the band's debut album, the perils of wearing a bear mask, and the virtues of Guitar Hero.
Slate: Do you think it's any better for young women musicians now?
Timony: I actually really do think it's a little different. There are a lot more women doing music and it's not quite as much of a statement as it was in the early '90s.
Slate: Are they getting more respect from male rock critics?
Timony: I don't really read enough rock journalism to make that claim, but I wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't that different in terms of what male writers say about women.
Slate: I tried to figure out how many bands you're currently in, and I couldn't get a handle on it since you seem to have so many projects going on. Besides Wild Flag, are you still performing with Soft Power and solo?
Timony: This whole next year is really going to be just Wild Flag. We're going to be really busy—I'm touring pretty much until the spring. I'm in this band in D.C. with my boyfriend called Soft Power and we've been fully working on a record, and that's the only other project.
Slate: What's it like to create with someone you were in a relationship with?
Timony: It's not really that different than making music with other people—it's fun.
Slate: You teach guitar as well—how do you divide your time?
Timony: It's not too crazy right now. It gets really crazy in the spring, because for the past three or four years I've had all the kids in bands, so I'm teaching and then I'm coaching their bands. That's when I'm super super busy. But right now I'm just doing lessons and all the kids come to my house in the afternoons and on weekends, and every couple months I'm going out to Portland for a week or two.
Slate: How did you get into teaching kids?
Timony: I started teaching seven or eight years ago. I got one student through my mom, who was a second-grade teacher. One of her kids said, "I want to take guitar," and she said, "My daughter just moved to town, and she plays guitar!" I started teaching just one kid, then I started teaching his neighbor, then her school heard I taught guitar, and within a year I had about 20 students. And that's just word of mouth; I never had to advertise or anything.
Slate: What are your favorite songs to teach students?
Timony: I feel like teaching is an entirely different thing than my own music. I approach it as a different part of my brain. It's a purely technical practice, like learning how to do dance routines. I really do stick with stuff that I like for the most part, though if a kid is really excited about something, I get caught up in that excitement. If they want to learn Guns and Roses, I wouldn't normally listen to that, but if they're excited, I'm excited. I stick with classic rock, usually, I start with Beatles songs. Then there's "Pinball Wizard" by the Who, if they've been taking lessons for like a year I'll start that. If they're really advanced I'll get into Hendrix.
Slate: Are the kids usually familiar with those artists or are you introducing them to classic rock?
Timony: A little of both, but oddly most of these kids are really big classic rock fans. It's because of Guitar Hero. That era of music is a common thing they all know about. I've seen so many kids get so psyched to learn songs from Guitar Hero. It's introducing them to music and I think it's great. It helps me out a lot because they'll bring songs in to me that they'll learn from that video game.
Slate: Finally, what is the best thing that you've seen on the Internet this week?
Timony: I just was listening to this band Veronica Falls, from London. I think we're going to play with them over there, and they sounded really good.