March 29, 2017

Interview: Nice Try

Madeline Robinson of Nice Try fights for inclusive lineups 
and enjoys sugar wafers along the way.

Nice Try is an incredibly underrated pop (with a tinge of punk) band hailing from the college town of Bloomington, Indiana. The duo crafts dance-worthy, feel-good tunes with a supportive message for marginalized artists. Primary songwriter Madeline Robinson gives the music a personal touch with powerful harmonies and empowering lyrics. Recently, I had the opportunity to see Nice Try play at a house venue in Tallahassee. Robinson was rocking a leopard print jacket and dazzling glasses for the set, and she played with the same bold personality that defines her music. After the show, Madeline and I talked for a bit, and I got to ask her some questions about favorite venues and tour snacks along with her experiences as a female-identifying artist.

The Le Sigh: In Tallahassee, you asked to play on a line-up of local femme and non-binary artists. What message would you like to send to DIY/art communities with this request? 

Madeline Robinson: I think this request is related to social issues but also purely personal. I find that a lineup of bands that includes women tends to be more exciting for me and offers a higher quality of music. I have an easier time sitting through a diverse show than through a bunch of men just repeating each other all the time. It's way too common that I end up on a show with a guy who has some sort of subtly or even blatantly misogynist lyrics in his songs. Of course I want to avoid that! I also think non-male artists fly under the radar in a lot of scenes (most scenes?) and don't get considered for shows as often, and I want to encourage people booking to try harder. Book a new band instead of the same dudes as last week. Someone I know was recently like "I don't know what to do because all of the bands I like just happen to be only white guys" and I think that's a really sorry excuse.

TLS: What kind of struggles have you encountered and had to overcome as a femme artist? 

MR: I'm a woman and I imagine most women making music have complaints. For me, it's mostly just a lot of small incidents that add up to major frustration. Getting talked over all of the the time or having men crossing personal boundaries at your own shows. A lot of things that make being a woman in a band difficult are the same things that make being a woman difficult in any situation. One thing I'm sick of is having to be acknowledged for your gender all of the time. Sometimes it's empowering to occupy traditionally male space and really shove it in people's faces but it would be nice to hear more bands described as "rock bands" and not "girl bands." More fests that just happen to include mostly women, without making a production of it. People are always comparing women with each other even when they sound nothing alike. Luckily, right now people seem more willing than ever to talk about issues in the music scene and solve them together so I think the glory days of the all white boy rock band are nearly over.

TLS: How old were you when you started writing songs? Do you ever play those first songs you wrote? 

MR: My first song I remember was called "The Pony Song," which I wrote when I was maybe 10 years old with accompanying choreography. My first serious attempts were freshman year of high school when I would write a capella solo music and then later moved to ukulele. I don't play those songs anymore. I used to feel really embarrassed of them and tried to remove all evidence of their existence. They still aren't my taste now, but I've been trying to appreciate them more for what they are. All the embarrassing stuff we did as teenagers made us the cool adults we are now. And maybe those things can still resonate with other young people.

TLS: Where is your favorite environment to play shows in and why? 

MR: There's something to be said for all of them! I grew up playing almost exclusively houses and really love them. I used to think playing anywhere else was awful. But playing in a venue actually feels really egalitarian. A house show is an exclusive thing sometimes, even if you don't want it to be. And when you play on a stage, everyone can see you and the sound is better! Bars kind of inherently suck and age restrictions suck too but they can be good. All shows just depend on who is there!

TLS: Y'all are on month-long tour from Bloomington, Indiana! I know that eating on the road can be hard. What's your favorite tour snack/meal? Any favorite local restaurants that you've visited so far?

MR: This tour I've been into getting sugar wafers at gas stations. My friend Stone taught me about that. I also drink as much coffee as I can. I love diners! Today we ate at a tropical-themed diner in Jacksonville Beach that had all you can eat spaghetti. I really wanted to eat an orange off of a tree on this tour but it hasn't happened.

TLS: So I heard there's another "Nice Try" band out there with a pretty different sound... are y'all going to try to put out a split or something? 

MR: There are a lot of Nice Trys! It's a pretty generic name and I'm always finding more. It's funny to me to look them up and see their serious promo pictures. I support the efforts of all Nice Trys.

TLS: What's your favorite era of music (pre-2000s) and who's your favorite artist from that era? 

MR: I love all the french ye-ye girls from the 60s! Especially Chantal Goya! She went on to just make lots of children's music and I actually love that too. I wish I could pick the 2010s though because I think so much of what's happening right now is really special and so inspiring! We're in the middle of something good.

Listen to Nice Try on bandcamp.

Brianna Peterson plays awkward pop punk country in a band called Cooper!, loves everything outdoors and Twin Peaks, and is painfully torn between being a dog or a cat person.