Here at She In The CLE, we love to shine the spotlight on the fantastic and empowering women of Cleveland. In a special Spotlight feature, we were fortunate enough to sit down with two of Cleveland’s women of rock and roll: Jasmine Sims of Montage and Jackie Popovec of The Vindys.
Read below to learn what it’s like to be a woman in rock ‘n’ roll today, how they got started in the music industry and what advice they have for the future women of rock ‘n’ roll.
Tell us about a little bit about your background and how you got into music.
Jasmine Sims: Well, I’ve been brought up all over Northeast Ohio and I love it here. From Brook Park to Maple Heights to Cleveland Heights, Middleburg Heights, and now East Cleveland are just a few places where I’ve lived. All of these places introduced me to new people and a wide variety of music.
Music started for me in church where I started my first gospel band. Then in middle school my teacher had me dancing and singing and taught me how to perform. I knew music was going to be my career because when i would play with the gospel band I would take things very seriously and get upset if things weren’t ready for a performance and I knew what it was supposed to feel and sound like for a performance. Overall, it’s an indescribable feeling like nothing else.
Jackie Popovec: I grew up in the suburbs of Youngstown. I had a very “vanilla” upbringing, which bored me to death. There was no neighborhood kids to play with in the summers outside of school, but there was plenty of music out there to occupy my curious mind. My parents were common fans of the radio and pop music of the day, but where I had my first real musical enlightenment was via our home computer where I would spend hours researching bands and vocalists I loved. I would make playlists, and mix tapes, and pine over lyrics, and song structures.
I started my first band at the age of 13, and we played cover songs anywhere that would have us (restaurants, bars, wineries, etc). Short lived, but this was also when I began playing guitar and started writing my own songs. I must have been 16 or 17 at the time when I started playing singer/songwriter stuff for side money with a couple local guys whom I still regard as fantastic musicians. They introduced me to a large network of amazing players in the area.
Fast forward to 2014, I found the best guys for this original project called The Vindys.
Women who rock isn’t anything new but there’s a renewed sense of empowerment these days largely in part of the #MeToo movement. How hard is it to be a female musician in an industry still dominated by men?
JS: I feel like its hard, but very rewarding. It’s hard because people don’t look at you as being enough because of being a female, especially a black female, and there is already a lot against me. “She’s Just a girl.” “She’s not gonna be that good.”
It’s so rewarding though because I get to prove to these people that I’m more than just a girl. I’m a human being just like anybody else in the band and anyone out here who wants to make it. The guys in my band are very supportive and respectful of how I play and how I add creative dissonance to the musical genius.
JP: I have thought a lot about the #metoo movement we are in today. I think women are so brave for coming out and speaking up about this because it finally makes other women realize that they do in fact have a voice. Being in an industry like music, where there are far more men who have significant power makes it very intimidating. Usually, I’m perceived as the girlfriend or groupie with The Vindys at any new venue we arrive at. However, I kind of like this, because it makes me feel that much better when I’m front stage and center. I guess I like to surprise people in that way.
What’s it like being the only female in a band full of guys?
JS: I love being the only female. I don’t have to carry as much stuff as the guys, haha. And they also give me good boy advice. But sometimes it’s a little hard because they’ll bond a bit more with each other. And there are just some things I’m just not going to understand or be able to relate to some of the things they talk about.
JP: The guys always pick on me for being the only girl in the band. They are like my older brothers. Of course, they are going to gang up on me. But like brothers, they are also always there for me. I would love to have more of a female presence on stage with us some day. I just haven’t met them yet.
What advice would you give young women getting started in the music business?
JS: Work hard! Practice, practice, practice, practice, practice. And don’t let your emotions get in the way of your dreams because sometimes we get overly emotional, and we don’t know how to separate emotions from business.
JP: My advice for young women trying to do their thing, whether in music, or otherwise, would be to “knock on different doors.” When you knock on the same door hoping for a different response every time, you start to doubt yourself. If you really want something bad enough, you will find different avenues to achieve your goal. Start knocking on different doors until one swings wide open for you. And don’t be too prideful to take door B, C, or even D. It just might get you to A.
What do you do to stay grounded?
JS: I stay grounded by living where I live. I live in East Cleveland, and there’s not much out there. Living there helps me not get a big head about my success.
JP: We are nothing without our fans, and that is the honest truth. We work so hard, but it all comes down to how well we perform and connect with our audience. I’m so grateful to our fans that recognize that we put it all out there on the stage, and it makes it so much more meaningful for us.
If we were to look at your Spotify playlist, who would we find?
JS: Lots of Queen and 70s rock music. A lot of early 2000s music like Fall Out Boy, Paramore and early Panic! At The Disco. Plenty of R&B and funk and a splash of rap music. But no country music.
JP: I’m pretty much everywhere when it comes to listening to music. Most times I’m stuck on my usual comforts of Ryan Adams or The Black Keys. Lately, I have been listening to a lot of Kurt Vile, Nathaniel Rateliffe, and Alabama Shakes.
You’re both playing at the upcoming Catch Meaning Music Fest, a festival that was founded by two local dads who lost their sons tragically. They want to bring people together, through music, and help us live more meaningful lives. How do you catch meaning?
JS: I catch meaning by doing something that keeps me out of trouble that I love to do. Because I know it’s real easy for me to fall into the wrong loop of people with my everyday surroundings. I feel that music was the only way for me to feel free. That’s my escape from the real world that I have to face everyday. Music has brought me places and introduced me to people that I never thought I could meet. It showed me that there’s a way out, and it helps me catch meaning of life.
JP: After hearing of Josh and Alex’s story, I couldn’t help but compare it to my own life. I myself was in a very bad car accident right before The Vindys began. I don’t like to talk about it, but I was fortunately very lucky. I spent almost a week in the hospital after internal hemorrhaging and an emergency surgery. Being close to death made me realize how incredibly lucky I was just to wake up every morning. The meaning of ‘Catch Meaning’ is to remind people to make every moment count in their lives. That is something I strive for every day. To live with intention, but never forget to enjoy life.
What’s next for you?
JS: Next is to play packed stadiums and to inspire kids like me that need a different outlook on life. First is Catch Meaning Music Festival on May 27th and then the final Warped Tour as well as some new music that we want to release.
JP: What’s next for me? Everything! Right now, I live for the The Vindys. I believe in this group so much, and I believe in our music first and foremost. The talent that is behind me on stage is undeniable. We all work so hard at putting everything we have behind these songs, and it is great to see hard work paying off on this regional scale. Recently, I’ve been in the writing process for the new record, and I’m dying to show fans what we have already! I trust the guys now more then ever, and I really respect their thoughts and suggestions. This next album will showcase what I think is my best songwriting yet.
Montage and The Vindys will be performing at the Catch Meaning Music Fest on May 27 at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. For the complete lineup and ticket information, visit the Rock Hall’s website at https://www.rockhall.com/catchmeaning18.