Starting today, Stereophonic will provide Sackville residents with a welcomed escape from the frigid reality of winter. In its 14th year, the festival’s new multimedia dimension plans to merge the music scene with the visual arts by incorporating a zine fair and short film screening to the concert program. The festival doubles as a fundraiser for local radio station, CHMA.
We sat down with the festival’s directors, Corinna Paumier and Sadie Donahue, and volunteer coordinator Katharyn Stevenson to discuss the past seven hectic months of organizing the music festival. They divulged the laborious process behind forming a “dream” lineup, working as a female team within a male-dominated industry, and the personal rewards associated with putting together a festival – getting us all hyped for this weekend’s festivities.
Argosy: You mentioned hearing positive comments about the lineup. Can you elaborate on the process behind forming it?
Corinna Paumier: We put out our online application in June and kept it open until the middle of October. We go through who has applied and then build it on a rolling basis.
Once we closed the application, we sat down and looked everything over to see if all the bands fit well together. This year we had almost 80 bands apply.
Q: How many [bands] do you accept?
CP: 21. This is the biggest year yet. Once you find your dream schedule and you think, “This is how it’s going to go,” then you get disappointed because you have to deal with the reality of people’s lives and schedules. Realistically, every band wants to play at 10 p.m. on Friday, but that’s a lot of bands to play in one night.
Q: What aspects of a band do you take into consideration when making a lineup appropriate for Stereophonic?
SD: A lot of genre stuff was considered because last year there was a specific genre, Halifornia pop – which is great, but this year we wanted to expand.
CP: It’s usually been younger, smaller bands that are in the Maritime area, and those tend to range from surf rock all the way up to heavy punk, like garage punk. This year, we have a little more electronic, some heavier instruments, some bands with saxophone, and we have noise bands. So there’s a little bit for everyone this year. And there’s some softer stuff, much more folky.
Q: What kind of crowd does Stereophonic traditionally draw, and what kind of crowd are you intending to draw this year?
Katharyn Stevenson: We want to appeal to more students, make it a more inclusive environment for people that may feel intimidated… A lot of people may not feel welcome attending something like Stereophonic, but with the new programming we are adding this year, it’s our hope to expand and appeal to other people that may not want to go to a loud punk show on a Saturday night.
Sadie Donahue: The bonus and benefit of having a multimedia aspect on the Saturday is that there is going to be a lot of family and underage people who wouldn’t necessarily be able to go to a bar and party until whenever.
Q: Can you guys elaborate on the structure of your team? Is there any kind of hierarchy?
CP: I think we’re really lucky that this hasn’t worked too much as a hierarchy. Doing this alone would be awful, right?
CP: Creating a hierarchy, I don’t think, is really conducive to having a successful team. Really everyone is helping out with what they can. Obviously, we each have roles that we are doing specifically, but that’s [informed by] what our strengths are.
It’s been really great having Katharyn, since she worked for Sappyfest in the summer…Katharyn jumped right in and saved my ass multiple times. Besides having position titles, it being such a small team, I would never put a hierarchy on it. Also being three females, I feel like it’s much more empowering to work together than try to one-up each other.
Q: Do you feel you encounter any biases working in a primarily male-dominated music industry?
CP: It’s really hard sometimes to get male members from bands to listen to you or to even credit you with what you’re doing, or listen to you at all. When you [say], “I need you on in ten minutes,” and they’re like, “Yeah, yeah,” and I’m like, “No, I want you on in ten minutes, and if you aren’t, I’m not going to put you on,” then they’re like, “Oh woah, you’re crazy.” But it’s just like, “I’m trying to do my job!”
I’ve found sometimes people respond to my name differently when I use Cori versus Corinna. Just the tone of the email – and not in all emails – but I’ve noticed the tone in some emails when I’ve used Cori, people address me differently than they do when I use Corinna. Probably because they assume that I’m a male.
KS: Dealing with male industry personnel – it’s not nice. Especially being a young female, and also still [being] a student…is really frustrating because they don’t take you seriously. They also, I think, don’t take the festival as seriously, because it’s “Oh, three girls running a festival.” But this festival is still going to be kickass. Just because we’re three women still going to school doesn’t mean we have any less time or energy to give to the festival.
CP: [There have been] instances where…[people] have directly messaged Scott [Brown, program director of the radio station]….[Even though] he has nothing to do with the festival apart from being a great support and definitely helping out, he has no [role] in this. And I’ve had the experience where I will be next to or around a male counterpart and they will go to him instead of me, and that’s infuriating. It’s very frustrating. This year, bands aren’t going to have an option, they’re going to have to go to one of us—
SD: It’s going to be a vagina regardless!
CP: Honestly, I’m really proud of all of us, because we are all women who are not going to take shit, we’re not going to allow people to treat us like that because, again, we have ownership and take ownership [of] this festival.
Q: Has planning the festival been a community effort in any way?
SD: The artwork that was done – we had BFA students doing that work. It’s pretty inclusive in the sense that these students dedicated some of their time aside from personal art and school art to do something for the festival and keep in mind the style we wanted. It was a really good support to have.
Q: Were you able to compensate the artists?
CP: Yes, they were all paid fair wages for their art. It’s been really important to us for any artist we’ve employed that we’ve paid them a fair wage for the artwork. For instance, the snake we have used on everything. So it’s not fair to pay someone only $20 for a drawing that has become the symbol of the festival.
KS: Savannah [Mileen Harris] did the T-shirts, Hailey [Guzik] did the larger posters, Izzy [Francolini] drew the snakes. They were all super accommodating and very willing to help us out and keep in mind our artistic vision for the festival.
Q: What are you most excited about for Stereophonic 14?
CP: I’m really excited for the Vogue short film screening. I feel that’s something that has really been lacking in Sackville. I love the Sackville Film Society, but those are big-budget, independent movies, whereas these are mostly New Brunswick artists who are just starting out, or they have not been in the field for a while and are making films that are absolutely amazing and intriguing. I’d love to see people have more access to that because I feel like it’s an untapped market in Sackville.
KS: Going off of Cori’s point, I like the idea of marrying different aspects of the arts this year. Stereophonic has been strictly music for a really long time, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but in the same way with Sappyfest this summer, we were really trying to expand and cater to different crowds.
CP: It’s really satisfying when you have people coming up to you and being like, “That was so much fun and I can’t wait for tomorrow.” We’ve had lots of people saying, “This show is going to be so great.” That’s really exciting for people to express that already, that they are already feeling that excitement.
KS: Having the small comment of “The lineup looks really great,” that makes you feel good.
SD: Especially when other bands say, “The lineup is great, I’m excited to be a part of it.”
CP: It makes you feel like you’ve done something right.
KS: It’s so much stress leading up to it, no matter how prepared you feel…when you’re at the show, even though you might be working, you are seeing people have a good time. It brings that special aspect knowing you were part of making something really special happen for people, and that’s really rewarding…Seeing other people happy makes it all worth it.