A chat with Patty Conway!

Hello! Back at you this morning with another interview! I decided to have a nice chat with the talented and lovely, Patty Conway. Read on to hear about what is going on in Patty’s life! Thanks Patty!

Patty Conway Photo: Alison Green

1. What is your name?

My name is Patty Conway!

2. Where were you born and where do you live now?

I grew up in and around Chicago, IL. After living in Brooklyn for about 9 years, I landed in Richmond, VA a few years ago.

3. What bands have you played in and who are you playing with currently?

I currently play in a band called the Ar-Kaics, a 60s garage outfit that’s based in Richmond and Leesburg, VA. The other members are Kevin, Johnny, and Timmy. They are my brothers! In the past I’ve played around in a lot of groups. I sang in a fake band with two of my best friends Fiona Campbell and Madison Farmer called Cybelle Blood that was one of the best and most fun. It was probably so fun because it was a joke!! I drummed in a group with Brett Lyman of M’Lady’s Records called Brett & The Whispers, and drummed in a pop project with Kevin Alvir called the Hairs. I sang backup vocals with Frankie Rose. I sang and played tambourine and maraca in Chain & the Gang for a while. I recently drummed on a 45 with a group called Christi from Richmond.

4. I love that you are a drummer! Who are some of your drumming influences and why? Also, what exactly got you into playing drums?

Drumming influences include but are not limited to: Nick Knox, Maureen Tucker, Andrew Loomis, Peggy O’Neill, Fiona Campbell, Frankie Rose. I started playing drums when I was maybe 19 or 20 when I had a two-piece band with my friend K. Dylan Edrich in Brooklyn called Dirty Beauty Shoppe. We wrote originals and did 60s covers. I was just singing at first and Dylan said I needed to learn to play drums. At the time it was trendy to just play standing up a la the Velvet Underground, and that worked perfectly for us because we didn’t have enough money for a full kit. So I bought a couple of toms, a snare, and a stand and started practicing in my apartment on Troutman Street and playing out with Dylan. Several years later, after working mostly in show booking, and having not really played much, I broke my leg, lost my job, and was in a bit of a funk/creative lull/depression zone. My friend Fiona was like “get off your ass and play these drums, I’m leaving them in your basement!” So I learned to play a full kit that winter, in maybe 2010. When I moved to Richmond, I knew Johnny from the Ar-Kaics already and he asked if I’d like to play drums in a group he was starting with Kevin. I’ve liked playing in this band for a lot of reasons but especially because I’ve gotten much better at playing and developed more of a personal style.

5. I see Ar-Kaics are touring Europe in April. What an awesome opportunity. Can you tell me how that came about? Any cities that you are really looking forward to playing?

We are so excited to go! That tour is happening because our album is out of print and a label over there, Bachelor Records, offered to do a repress and set up a tour. Our records have been selling pretty well over there, we had a UK label do a single last spring and it was sold out in 2 weeks! So we’re like, “yeah doggie, let’s go!” Another label, an Italian label called Goodbye Boozy, is gonna do another 7”, which will be nice to have merch to sell over there, and Johnny wrote some real good songs that are gonna be on that one.

I’m looking forward to all the shows. We’re playing a garage festival in Hamburg that I think will be really fun, and I’m looking forward to seeing all the best mod fashion the continent has to offer.

6. Tell me about the Girls Rock! camp you have going on. How did you become involved with them and what exactly do you do? I think it is a really rad thing you are doing.

I joined Girls Rock! RVA as an organizer shortly after moving to Richmond, about 3 years ago. I just started showing up to info sessions. I had a shitty boyfriend at the time and was bummed out again, and again my friend Fiona Campbell was like “get off your ass and join the girls rock camp!”

The camp had been going on for two years before I got involved. I joined the team of “core organizers,” we are non-hierarchically structured with a group of “core” people and a group of “support” people, which designates more of a level of responsibility than it does a level of power within the organization. I like the camp and my co-organizers so much. We organize everything around intersectional feminist principles. Camp is one week long, campers form bands and learn instruments and then write and rehearse an original song. They also get to attend workshops on topics like gender identity, consent and healthy relationships, song and lyric writing, the Her-Story of Rock, zine making, and many more. I teach drums at camp with my friend Bren, and he is a super technical, classically trained drummer, whereas I have a more primitive approach. It’s nice because Bren has taken lessons and can recreate that experience for our campers, and I can take the kid aside who is too nervous to play with their feet and show them Gories videos and tell them “you don’t HAVE to use your feet!!”

As for my duties within camp as an organizer, I am primarily responsible for development, including fundraising and grant writing, and administrative work, like government filings, taxes, annual reports, newsletters, things like that. I am also overseeing an expansion of our Free Richmond Instrument Lending Library (FRILL), where the instruments owned by camp are checked out to kids and teenagers of any gender for free with their Richmond Public Library cards. I secured a sizeable grant this year to add non-rock instruments to our collection as well as expand our operation to branches of the Richmond Public Library that are in areas of the city with less access to music and art instruction. I love working with FRILL because I am a librarian by trade, so it sort of melds my two loves.

7. What advice can you give to young girls wanting to get into music and play in bands?

I’d say that it’s great to just jump in and play, and you should, but you need to do your homework too. You need to listen to music, buy records, go to shows, help out traveling bands, and discover your personal taste and run with it. People are going to say sexist things to you and push you around, but when we keep showing up, getting better and more knowledgeable, eventually we start changing the environment and then we can start setting the terms. Also, it’s hard to be a working musician. Put in your time. Tour. Buy records. Build a collection. Learn about old music. Go to the shows, help set up the shows, learn about new music. Then, when the guy in the opening band or whatever asks, “Are you IN the band, or WITH the band?” even though you’re loading in your own gear, don’t punch him–just smoke him when you get on stage.

8. Who are some of your favorite bands going today? Tell us why!

I really love some bands coming out of New Orleans right now! Black Abba, Buck Biloxi, and Giorgio Murderer are three great projects coming out of a similar orbit down there. I’m digging it!!! I like that primitive thing. They’re taking away the art-rock excess of the 2000s and bringing it back to rock n roll, like the Ramones all over again. I love my friend Veronica Torres’ singing and lyric writing in her band PILL from New York. I love Downtown Boys. I like Dirty Fences. Mostly I like old bands though! I just bought Ken and the Fourth Dimension Rovin Heart b/w See if I Care and I’m so stoked!!

9. I’ve played Richmond a few times and I always had a great time. What are your thoughts on the music scene in Richmond? Pros/cons?

Pros are numerous! Everyone in Richmond has been so good to me and the rock camp it is insane. From helping me fundraise, to doing the camp’s taxes for next to no fee, to helping us get the lowest price on new gear, to donating to the instrument library, to volunteering their time… the music community is so generous. Also Richmond and VA in general has been great to the Ar-Kaics. Most of our first 45s and our first album were from VA or DC labels (one Baltimore, but that’s close enough), and people actually bought them around here, too. Ha ha ha. I’m happy that people are starting to play rock n roll music here again. For awhile it seemed like just noise, metal and hardcore and I was like, “no thanks.” Cons are there are some real creeps embedded in some segments of the music community and seemingly not a lot of willingness to stand up to some of them.

10. It’s late. Patty is hungry for pizza. What kind of pizza does Patty get??

If it is late and I’m getting pizza, it’s gotta be pepperoni baby!!!

Thanks again, Patty! Please check out the links Patty sent along!!

Ar-kaics Bandcamp:

thearkaics.bandcamp.com

Ar-Kaics Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/TheArKaics/

Check out Girls Rock! – Richmond, Virginia:

girlsrockrva.org

Check out Girls Rock! RVA!