Maybe we wish it wasn’t so groundbreaking at this point, but the truth is Hanna Brewer is a badass for doing what she’s doing: playing drums.
The world of performing musicians is still largely made up of men, and though women have been dominating Billboard charts this year, the backlash against the upcoming Women in Music Awards reminds us that female success in the music industry is not yet entirely expected (for example, like this FDRMX article asks, where will the Billboard’s Men in Music Awards be held?) Not to mention, women playing alternative styles of music tend to be less valued than those whose styles fit the mainstream.
The only female in her touring band, Purple, Brewer writes, drums, and sings on their upcoming album (409), named for the area code of their East Texas neighborhood. Their sound is at once poppy and edgy, with songs reminiscent of Hole and No Doubt. To quote the band’s biography, they play pop music, but it is “messy, dirty, raucous, grit-spitting, tequila-glugging pop music.”
Rarely do we see a woman pick up sticks, let alone grip them with Brewer’s fearlessness and fervor. Growing up in an area of Texas still plagued by racism, Brewer says that her community in Beaumont had a “messed up” attitude of "‘if it ain’t white, it ain’t right,’" so she got used to going against the grain early on. She stood out because being open-minded was a rarity, and Beaumont didn’t like ‘different.’ But she was never afraid of not fitting in -- it only made her tougher and more confident.
Brewer pursues her work with passion and grit, and the best part is that she has a great time doing it. All in all, it seems we can learn some things from Brewer, so why not ask her some questions? It made it more fun that she was especially excited to talk about what it’s really like to be a woman in the industry. Basically, to not be the subject of the objectifying interviews we are all too familiar with.
How does being a woman shape your band’s songwriting?
I guess it mainly just gives a female perspective on things. It’s cool because we have two dudes who sing, but we also have a girl, and we all write together. I always add my own things, like little sprinkles. They think more about the basics, but I feel like I always add fresh stuff they wouldn’t think of.
How did you start playing drums?
I started off playing bass, and I didn’t like any of the drummers we had, so I was like, I’ll just play drums. I like drums a lot better than bass. You can get a lot of aggression out on them, you know? The beat feels good. The drums can make or break the song. Everybody needs a beat to dance to. I don’t know, it just makes sense to me.
Who are your influences?
I really like Gwen Stefani. She’s a big influence on me. I’ve seen her perform, and she’s on stage with all these guys, but she does her own thing and is girly, and the whole time she’s totally in control. Then Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. She has a great voice and can do so many different things. And she just doesn’t give a fuck, she’ll do whatever, which is cool.
You’ve said a lot of people have told you “you’re pretty good, for a girl.” How do you handle that?
At first it really pissed me off. It was like saying we are "less-than" from the start, that we are limited. But we’re all the same. Now, I just try to prove myself by playing and showing what I can do. I don’t use angry words, I just go out there and play. A lot of times the sound guy won’t even talk to me at first because he thinks I’m someone’s girlfriend.
Does it feel good to get on stage and show the sound guy why you’re there?
Yeah, it feels really good. It feels good to be myself and not have to try to fit in and act like a guy or whatever. I’ve learned that I just have to be myself and be really confident. It’s hard being around guys all the time - sometimes they can act kind of dominating - but I’ve learned that I can be in control, and I’ve gotten tough.
Purple’s album (409) is out January 27 on PIAS Recordings.
Images c/o Purple