On a Safer Scene with Megaweapon

Michelle Turk is the enigmatic lead singer and keytarist of Long Island’s tour de force, Megaweapon. The hardworking vocalist eminates positivity in her web presence as well as her scene.

Hi Michelle! How are you doing?

I’m good! Busy, running on fumes as always.

What’s new in the world of Megaweapon?

So much! We have two big announcements.

We are independently releasing our debut studio EP on Friday February 10th on Bandcamp. We will be releasing the title and artwork within the next few weeks!

We are celebrating the release of our EP on February 12th at a festival celebrating women in music in our community called Galentine’s Fest Long Island under the umbrella of our new promotion company and blog called Ethos Live.

Some of the bands that have confirmed to play so far are just bands we love to see or are friends with that we wanted to have with us that just happened to have members who are women.

We did a Galentine’s Day Party last year and everyone wore Parks and Recreations costumes and made Galentine’s day cards for our friends. It was one of the first times people were singing our songs back to us in the short time we’d been playing them. We are so excited to expand it this year.

You just played a show with Metro Station! What a blast from the past. How was that?

It was so weird! They played really well but they had played Studio at Webster Hall a few days prior, so the Long Island show didn’t bring out as many people as we had hoped it would.

However, we had a lot of fun and our family and friends did too which is more important. Palaye Royale also played and their crowd enjoyed our set too, which was awesome because there were a lot of younger girls who don’t normally get to go to our sets at bars or have never heard of us. We even played a Paramore cover which was so much fun and nostalgic too.

Any plans for a full length?

Originally we had planned on releasing a full length by February of 2017. But we felt it would be positive to release half of the album we recorded instead.

We have all the songs written for a full length so it’s now a matter of financing it and keeping with people’s attention.

We recorded the six tracks we have so far with Nicholas Starrantino who is really in line with what we want at VuDu Studios. It was really amazing to be playing their very unique assortment of instruments, out of unique amps, and into vintage microphones.

We love the studio there so much, Nick and Mike and everyone there are chill and focused. And they have an adorable kitten named Gizmo I love to play with. We hope to be able to capture the next 10 or so songs there as well.

As a major focus of Safer Scene’s is to raise awareness about discrimination in the music scene, have you experienced or witnessed sexism in your scene?

For myself individually, I’ve experienced a lot of people not willing to listen or to believe that I experience discrimination as a woman. I often get told it’s in my head or that I’m making it up. Usually my response is that I wish it weren’t true. Many times I’ve been told things about my voice and my body that make me uncomfortable because if I were a man they would not say that to me.

Sometimes I feel like my femininity intimidates men to the point that they feel they need to put me down as a musician because they feel threatened by how I use my femininity and masculinity together and project it out there.

Most recently we were playing a dive bar and as my boyfriend and I were loading in my equipment a man said to me, “There’s a good girlfriend, helping out” and I stared him dead in the face and without a beat said “That’s my equipment. You meant that’s a good boyfriend for helping me out?” I feel like often people talk over me and talk to my boyfriend (who no longer plays in Megaweapon) or to my bandmates as if I don’t comprehend setting up the equipment on the stage or something.

Many times I feel invisible to music industry people and I have to say that promoters here like East Coast Collective, Live Source Long Island, and Planet of Sounds Promotions have made me feel like a person first which I am so very grateful for.

I felt a lot more unsafe and objectified in my old band because people would make lewd statements to me a lot more often. I feel a lot more empowered in myself than I did back then, especially in terms of defending myself and speaking out when I think something is wrong.

I’ve stopped caring so hard about how that would make a man feel because I want him to feel uncomfortable for making anyone who is around me feel uncomfortable. For that, I think I’ve done better of attracting people who are respectful of women into my life, including other women who want to empower women. I don’t think that when people experience sexism that there is really a reason it comes into their lives and that by any means called it upon themselves.

However, I’ve just found a feeling of safety where I am now. My bandmate Andrew is one of the first people that will say something when he’s been wronged – and that’s one of the many things I love about being a part of this with him.

I know that safety isn’t this given privilege to last forever and I find to never take advantage of it. I try to use that knowledge to speak out on behalf of others, especially as in the last year I have become so close with many more diverse people – people of different religions, genders, abilities, sexuality, races, and I feel to make it known that I will not stand by as a white straight passing woman and allow other people to behave in a way that makes people uncomfortable or unsafe because it’s not affecting me at the exact moment.

Do you think there is anything in particular that can help create a safer and more inclusive music scene in general?

I think a safer and more inclusive music scene is not only a responsibility of the promoters and musicians, but of the venues. I went to a show recently where a man who was on some heavy drugs was making me very uncomfortable by staring at me. It was paralyzing. Andrew and my boyfriend were there and trying to make me feel better. The security guard pulled him to the side and warned him that he will be asked to leave.

Having someone do their job so well and make me feel secure meant so much. That was a bigger concert at Warsaw, but in smaller venues I think it’s important if you’re at a show and the kind of person who is comfortable walking up to someone who is alone and saying like “hey how are you, who are you here to see..” that could be relieving a lot of social anxiety they might be feeling in at a show and also warding off someone who might be trying to prey on them.

I know for myself I have generalized anxiety disorder and sometimes have panic attacks at shows because I feel unsafe because of the crowd and my size (I’m barely 5’0”). Even though my safety might not even be infringed upon, I still feel that way. I feel like someone being open and willing to talk to people makes a difference.

I think also coming to shows in groups of people and not coming alone is a good way to keep safe – the same way we used to on class field trips or go to the bathroom at school. Especially going around with other people whose thinking is similar to yours and is going to believe you if you say something is happening that makes you feel unsafe.

Are there any particular bands, musicians, and/or organizations you believe are making an effort to help the cause?

Speedy Ortiz is definitely one of them that comes to mind right away- they have a hotline so people at their shows could reach out if something was making them feel unsafe. That’s beautiful.

My friend Oli Pleydle at Babetalk is someone I admire a lot within the scene who uses his voice to speak up about inclusiveness and safety. He’s uplifting as a black man and defender of women and people with disabilities within the scene. He’s one of the first people who made me feel empowered by my voice, as both a musician and writer who happens to be a woman.

Rorie Kelly is another person whose effort to inspire women and make the scene feel inclusive is one that I admire so much. Her strength as a woman and as someone who identifies as bisexual is something I really admire. Everything she does for GoGirlsMusic with her cousin Delia have helped so many people as musicians and within different respective scenes.

What advice would you give to women who want to become a musician or start a band?

I feel like this comes up a lot because I’ll hear from a lot of women that they wish they could get up there and do it. And I’ll always respond DO IT IT WILL BE AWESOME! I think starting out by going to open mics where the stakes aren’t high and meeting other musicians who are there is a good start – I started out that way and I still go to open mic nights often to play my songs in front of a crowd in a very non-threatening setting.

I would also say to read everything you can about different types of songwriting and not being afraid to collaborate with others when it comes to writing original music. Once that very severe vulnerability has been opened, it feels a lot safer to write and say anything you want to.

Are there any female alternative/rock artists you look up to in particular, and why?

Carly Comando of Slingshot Dakota is one punk badass I really look up to. She’s so positive and an amazing singer and keyboardist. Everything she stands for as a DIY artist and woman made me feel less terrified about finally playing my keyboard in front of other people. The music that she and Tom make is so passionate.

I have an unhealthy obsession with reading autobiographies and watching documentaries- from both actors and musicians. I admire Blondie a lot- Blondie’s New York is one of my favorite documentaries. Especially her lyrics and voice, which I feel were often eclipsed by her beauty.

Ever since I saw I’m With You about Grouplove, Hannah Hooper, also known as Lady Grouplove, is someone else I really look up to -not only in her live performance and voice which is absolutely wild, but in her artwork and style.

Regina Spektor is another woman I really look up to. After all these years of being in the spotlight she’s still so down to earth and truthful in all of her music. She’s true to herself and in control. She’s powerful and kind at the same time- while also having the insane ability to make me feel at home whenever I listen to her.

Eisley is another favorite too! Sherri Dupree Bemis is a stellar guitarist and unique singer-songwriter.

How have you changed personally, since starting a band? What have you learned from the experience?

I’ve grown up a lot over the past 6 years in bands but especially in the last 2 of being in Megaweapon. I feel like being the matriarch/manager of the band has lit such a fire under my ass to get my own personal life together. I’ve learned how to let go and share responsibility and when to say if something is too much for me to handle.

I’ve learned so much from my bandmates Mike, Erik, and Andrew who have inspired me to be a better musician, friend, and to channel my energy in ways that are realistic but also challenging. I’ve become a better friend- some of the people I’ve met through Megaweapon are my best friends and favorite musicians.

The community of people who listen to Megaweapon have especially taught me so much- especially in questioning the status quo and standing up for what is right.

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Author: Kat Hamilton

I am a Cali born turned east coast punk princess. Writer, rocker and dog person. I identify as a "Pumpkin Spice Lesbian". If I could, all of my days would be foggy and my streets would be cobblestone. I love scary movies and penguins. Check out my band, Manic Pixi everywhere that music exists.

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