“I kinda consider myself as gender-fluid. Sometimes I’m a little bit more feminine, sometimes I’m super dykey.” – Tiare Ball
Last Wednesday I went to my first ever hardcore/metal show. Confronted by male rage and heavy-set men bashing into one another in the pit, my first impressions of the genre were: this is not for me. Then, the fourth band of the night came on. Fronted by a screaming Hawaiin girl (I later discovered that she’s also of Native American, Javanese, and Russian decent—which explains her exotic visage), The World Over not only arrested the entire venue (the Whisky A Go Go on Sunset Blvd in West Hollywood), but they also transformed my impression of hardcore music. Perhaps it was their energetic youthfulness, or that their songs seemed to rest on catchy melodies. Their musician-ship was admirable, and their sense of fun, infectious. Certainly though, The World Over’s greatest trump card is their unexpected leading lady. 21 year-old Tiare Ball (pronounced “Tiaday”) is a self-professed “androgynous” chick with as much charisma as anyone of the genre’s torchbearers. A tough girl who can command a crowd of macho, stomping men, and in the footsteps of her “Riot grrrl” foremothers (hardcore being a decedent of punk), in every way, Ball embodies the post third-wave feminist in a post-hardcore subculture. I caught up with Ball after the gig to discuss fake boobs, “the bitch pit,” and the future of girls in hardcore.
Viva: Where did you study?
Tiare: LA Music Academy. That’s where I met the boys (in the band). I went there specifically for singing. I was really strictly metal and my parents always wanted me to get another view of other music and to be a little more well rounded. So now I have that in my tool belt.
Viva: Moving forward with the band, has the music training been beneficial?
Tiare: It’s definitely helped make our music better and more universal. The main reason I went there was to learn how to sight-read. And to write charts for music. So I could listen to a song and say “oh that’s this chord,” and then write it down.
Viva: Do you play an instrument?
Tiare: Yeah, I play guitar. But not as good as the other boys. And I took some lessons on drums but I’m not very good. Bass a little bit too.
Viva: When did you discover that music was your passion?
Tiare: Senior year of high school. I’d always done it all throughout my life. I’m a fifth generation singer/songwriter. But I didn’t really want to do that, I didn’t want to stick in the family business. I wanted to be a nurse. But then I realized I’m deathly afraid of blood. (laughs.) So that dream sorta went out the window. I actually watched a ton of horror movies to get over it and its just not the same at all. I was applying for nursing collages in senior year and my dad was like, “hey, I have some friends that work at LA Music Academy, do you wanna just give it a shot? It’s rolling admission, it’s not too late.” And I was like, “why not?” And then I applied and I got in.
Viva: How did the band form?
Tiare: That’s a weird one. Xavier, the Frenchy (rhythm guitarist), he came into the school and he was just like, “you’re in my band, you’re in my band, you’re in my band.” And I was already in a band because I’d moved with my band from Hawaii. And we were trying to, like, make that work. And Ryan, the lead guitar player, he was also in my Hawaii band. But that band wasn’t going well. We all lived together and we’d practice, like, once a month. And the boys (of the other band) were really bringing Ryan and I down. They weren’t letting us try out other projects. It just wasn’t working out.
So it was pretty much right at the breaking point of that old band when Xavier came along and was like, “you wanna be in my band?” I was like, “you know what? lets try it.” We went through a lot of different band members initially, Xavier and I. A lot of people at LAMA were in, like, six or seven bands. The drummers that listened to our sort of music or who could play our sort of music were very limited at our school. Especially bass players—there were only five at our school, so they were really hard to get ahold of. Luckily we got Eric who doesn’t really listen to hardcore music at all. His favourite band is the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
And so we were really just looking for a drummer. We had a hardcore cover of the Taylor Swift song “I Knew You Were Trouble” and we sent Anthony (drummer) the music sheet, and we were like, If you can play this and we all get along, then you’re in.
Then I met this guy named Omor Espinosa (guitar player, Escape the Fate—legend hardcore band) and he decided to produce us for an affordable price. He mentored us and changed us completely. He made us more… ‘sellable.’ We had some really tough times. We were all really angry at him. I was the singer initially, the singer and screamer. But Omar was like, “you know what? Your voice is not going to work for this style.” Because my singing voice is a lot more mellow. So I really hated him at first. But in the end it sounded good and the whole project came together.
Viva: Why hardcore?
Tiare: I used to always listen to some metal as a kid. My dad listened to R&B, rock ’n’ roll, and soul. I listened to Linkin Park as a kid and then it got a little heavier as I grew up. (laughs.) I never could, like, ‘scream’… I mean, I had a lot of anger as a child and so when I was driving, I’d listen to metal and go along. But this one time, when I was a sophomore or maybe a junior, there was this ex-boyfriend of a girl I was in love with, she was like, “hey, my ex-boyfriend is in a hardcore band and I told him you could scream.” ‘Cos this one time I was messing around and I was screaming “French fries!!” And I’m like, “I can’t scream.” But she was like, “well they’re looking for a screamer so why don’t you just go meet them.” And so I tried out. And that was when I started taking it seriously.
Viva: I loved seeing a girl at the helm of this male-hardcore band. Tell me about it.
Tiare: We are one of the only female fronted bands in our genre. I mean, there are a few others that are trying to achieve the same genre. But so far, we’re one of the main ones. There’s this one female screamer/vocalist that I really look up to. But they’re more metal than hardcore. They’re called The Agonist. She has such crazy versatility to her voice; I’ve always looked up up to her. And there’s this other female screamer who fronts I Wrestled With a Bear Once. They’re more experimental. But no one female screamer has been successful in this one sub-genre, being post-hardcore.
Viva: How is it being the only girl in a band of boys?
Tiare: It can get tough at times. Like, at times I can feel a little bit insignificant. But I know that they do respect me. And I’ve always been in bands with boys, so I guess I’m pretty used to it. But you know, they can be stupid—boys are just boys. And I fuck with them right back. They tolerate my shit and I tolerate theirs. They’re like family.
Viva: Do you think being relatively “androgynous” (your words! Well, actually Anthony’s…) helps being embraced in the hardcore world than, say, if you were more traditionally ‘feminine’?
Tiare: Yeah. That’s a good point. Because the other female-fronted bands who are trying to do the same thing as I’m doing in the post-hardcore world are all very feminine. I think they try to over-accentuate the fact that they’re women. But there’s no other lesbian hardcore singer, right now. So, yay for me, I’m gay! (Giggles.)
Viva: Do you see yourself as a tomboy?
Tiare: I s’pose. I kinda consider myself as gender-fluid. Sometimes I’m a little bit more feminine, sometimes I’m super dykey.
Viva: Gender fluid… I’m gonna steal that. I’m sure you’re well aware of the age-old discussion about the pit and which gender inhabits it.
Tiare: The boys.
Viva: Right. Historically, it’s been a man’s domain, a macho space. Even when I was at your gig with my girlfriend, and you asked people to come forward, I was thinking—not only are we scared to come forward because we’re smaller, but I’m not gonna endanger my breasts! There seems to be a culture in the pit where guys are bashing into each other’s chests. What do you think about that?
Tiare: Yeah, you’re right. But I’ve always tried to break those boundaries. I’d always go right in there and the guys would push me and I’d push them right back. But that was the point. And I normally come out injured. For guys, getting injured in the pit is the point. That’s their testosterone. They get so amped and they wanna kick shit. They wanna get crazy, but I also wanna get crazy!
Viva: As one of the female pioneers of the post-hardcore movement, how do you see the future role of women in the genre? And not just the role of performers, but also female audiences. How do you see them engaging with hardcore?
Tiare: Girls are a little too afraid. I mean, I get it. You said it—you don’t wanna hurt your boobs.
Viva: I don’t wanna hurt my boobs, so kill me!
Tiare: (Laughs). Yeah, a friend of mine with fake boobs came last night and was like, “I would totally go in the pit but these are fresh!” And I stopped going into the pitt because I got an anti-eyebrow piercing. But, if you just go in there and you just don’t give a shit, just get crazy and fuck shit up like the boys… Well it’s not really a safe zone for girls. I mean, the safest place is right up the front. Then you can still see the show, you don’t have to be all the way up the back, and the worst that can happen is that you might get pushed or someone will get thrown at you.
Viva: Well yeah, there was that period in punk and Indie Rock when, at concerts and shows, girls were actively invited up the front. It was the answer to the conversation at the the time about how girls can also engage with the music and where is their space.
Tiare: Yeah, well, at an earlier gig when our band was then named Speakers of Infamy, people were gong ape-shit. So what I did was, I asked all the girls to come forward and the guys to stay back. I called it a “bitch pit.” And so we had a couple of girls swingin’ around and shit, it was fun. So that could be a cool thing to start making a trend out of. So the girls who wanna get crazy, they don’t have to feel afraid of the overpowering macho-ism of the guys. With a bitch pit, at least you know what you’re up against. And girls are gonna avoid each other’s boobs!
Viva: Sounds like a plan. And finally, who are your fave bands?
Tiare: There’s a band called Issues. That’s one of Anthony’s favorite bands as well. They’re really new and different because they add a lot of hip-hop influences. And the singer sounds like an R&B singer. There’s also this one band called Attila, but the lyrics are very… I’d say that the feminist’s would probably not like their lyrics. (Laughs.) Like they talk about bitches ridin’ they’re dick an’ shit. (Laughs.) But they have really cool vocals and that’s what I aspire to, to sound like his vocals. And again, The Agonist, the female-fronted band.
The band: screamer – Tiare Ball, singer/bass – Eric Gledhill, rhythm guitar – Xavier Moreux, lead guitar – Ryan Knecht, drummer – Anthony Dellaripa.
The World Over have upcoming shows at 13th Frame in LA Habra this Saturday Oct 4th at 7pm, and at Slide Bar in Fullerton on Monday Oct 6th at 7pm.