BABE #70: LINDSEY MILLS,
Bassist @ Surfer Blood
I like to think that in another life I was a badass touring female musician, so when Surfer Blood contacted us a few weeks ago as they kicked off their Spring tour here in Jax, I jumped at the opportunity to chat with their bassist, Lindsey. She's an incredibly talented lady (who also seems like someone I'd want to hang out with all the time) and I'm stoked to see all that she continues to create and accomplish in her career. Can you tell I'm a fangirl yet? Thanks for chatting with us while you're on the road, Lindsey! Keep being a babe.
Hometown: Lake Worth, FL
Current city: Lake Worth, FL
Alma mater: University of Florida
Degree: B.A. in Literature
Very first job: Slangin' French pastries
Hustle: Musician // Bassist @ Surfer Blood
If you could have coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be?
Joni Mitchell. To talk with that brilliant woman would be such a dream come true. I'd listen in googly-eyed rapture to stories of her wild parties in Laurel Canyon, and I'd definitely pick her brain about her songwriting process. Her confessional storytelling style is very influential for me.
What would you eat for your very last meal?
Definitely an Indian buffet.
Biggest pet peeve?
Go-to coffee order?
When it's my turn to drive the van during tours, I'm not above downing a gallon of gas station coffee. But in truth I'm a coffee snob, so I've started packing my own beans and this neat travel set that makes a damn fine pour-over. Black coffee always!
If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?
Hiking a mountain.
Tell us about your hustle:
I am a professional musician and singer, and I currently play bass for Surfer Blood, an indie rock band based in West Palm Beach. We're currently on the last leg of a tour and recently put out a new album, Snowdonia!
What does your typical workday look like?
Most of the time, I wake up hours before my dudes do. I cherish a leisurely morning because once we leave our hotel room, the day really flies by. First we find some "scrunch", aka the one meal eaten en route to the next town. (I picked up this term from Bob Pollard of the legendary band, Guided By Voices, when we had the chance to tour with them last year.) Then, I'll pass the drive as the DJ, listening to audio books, or napping. Once we arrive at the venue, we load our gear inside, set up, and do a sound check. Post-check is my other little window of chill time, when I find something to eat, track down the local record store or vintage shop, and of course, call my mom. Obviously the show itself is the highlight of my hustle! To stand on stage and play music I love for an hour each night is an incredible gift. It makes all the schlepping around that happens before and after worthwhile.
How long have you been playing music? Where did your interest for it come from?
I grew up in an exceedingly musical family. When I was born, my mom quit her day job to pursue singing, having decided she couldn't be a role model to me unless she was doing what she loves. She has made her living as a performer and voice teacher ever since. My stepfather is a genius multi-instrumentalist and recording engineer. From the time I was 6 years old, I've been recording music in our home studio with him at the helm of the mixing board. My dad's the shredder though. He taught me how to play guitar when I was 13.
Do you have any other side jobs or projects you’re working on?
Yes! I have an ongoing solo project under my own name with a sort of revolving door for bandmates. At the moment I'm calling it the Lazy Lovers, and we're coming out with a new album this winter.
When did you start playing with Surfer Blood? How is the experience different, if at all, to any of the other bands you’ve been a part of?
I joined Surfer Blood in November 2015. It's vastly different from all my prior experience because we're on the road for about half the year, which allows for touring to be my only job. That is a luxury not commonly afforded to musicians!
What is the dynamic like being the only woman in Surfer Blood? What are the pros and cons for you?
A pro is that my bandmates are like brothers to me, equal parts protective and supportive. But I'm an only child and I enjoy being alone, so one of the only cons is the lack of privacy. While we all share the burden of each day's tasks, I'm the one in charge of making sure stuff smells nice. In all seriousness though, my experience shows me there is still a gender gap in the music industry. I hope I'm able to use the platform of the band to inspire other female-identifying and gender nonconforming folks to play music, because I believe we are the generation to usher in a new era of equality. I'm a riot grrrl at heart.
What is the support system behind your work like?
I went to an arts magnet high school with my bandmates, we played many of the same local shows growing up, and I witnessed their choice to commit to pursuing music early on. It was our late friend and the former guitarist of Surfer Blood, Thomas Fekete, whose enthusiasm for touring inspired the rest of us. Once we figured out it was possible to use MySpace to book shows out of town, we felt like we'd cracked the dream wide open. That feeling also grew as I traveled and found the world shrinking before my eyes. As long as I am seeking to realize my dream, the right folks always seem to appear in my path. In addition to my family, I'm grateful to feel supported by some grander forces at work as well.
What are some common misconceptions about your job(s)?
One big misconception is that touring is super glamorous. Some people I meet are surprised to learn that we don't have a bus, that we drive ourselves in a van and carry our own equipment, and that we prefer to sleep on a friend's floor rather than splurge on fancy hotel rooms. We came up in a music scene with a strong DIY ethic, so in spite of the rockstar stereotype, I like to think we've managed to stay true to our roots.
Who are some women in your field that you look to for inspiration?
I'm a huge fan of Carol Kaye. If they've heard of her at all, most people only know her as the bassist on the Beach Boys' record Pet Sounds, but in that era, it was rare for session players to appear in the album credits. She in fact played on thousands of recordings throughout the 60's and 70's, many of which became chart-toppers. So I very much admire Carol's shredding ability and unpretentious devotion to the music. Kim Deal, however, is my real idol. Pixies has been one of my favorite bands for more than a decade. I first saw them live on their 2004 Doolittle reunion tour. Then in a crazy twist of fate, on their second reunion tour in 2011, I got to see Surfer Blood open for them! It was completely nuts! Kim has incredible stage presence - something I'd describe as this cheeky sort of strength. Her bass lines often carry the songs rhythmically, yet her delivery remains sly and playful.
What helps you wind down / how do you manage stress?
As we are seldom in any one town for more than 18 hours, my main source of stress is a version of homesickness, so I try to create some semblance of comfort and stability for myself with a little makeshift apothecary; I have a Holy Basil tincture and an immunity blend each morning, plus fennel on-hand for bellyaches, and cramp bark for, well, cramps! I've also found essential oils to be an amazing ally. The ritual of smelling the same scent when I wake up and another when I lay my head to rest on an unfamiliar pillow helps to keep me grounded.
What advice would you give to a Babe trying to break into the music industry?
It's simple enough: be fearless, do what you love for yourself and nobody else, and when you are willing to take the leap into the unknown, trust that your dream will be the net that catches you.
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