IMRO Spotlight – Karla Chubb
Karla Chubb is a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist best known as frontwoman of Dublin garage rock band Sprints.
How did you first get involved in music?
I was a passionate guitarist and writer from an early age and have always in some capacity been involved in music. In the last two years my main focus has been as frontwoman of a garage band called Sprints. Myself, Jack, Colm and Sam first began the project as something to keep us involved in music outside of work but it’s since grown into something really amazing and what we do hope to pursue as a career full time.
Did your gender ever affect your thoughts on pursuing a career in music?
When I began to take music seriously and started considering it as my main ambition, it’s definitely something that sat in the back of my mind. As a woman in music, I feel like there’s an invisible ticking clock that counts down the days of your life that you’re considered “viable” as a female musician. As you grow older, prospects dwindle and it’s rare that women break into the industry or are given equal opportunities beyond a certain age. So, starting Sprints in my late 20s, I definitely feel like I’m under pressure or a race against time that I wouldn’t be if I were male.
Is there an assumed view of what your role is in the band or what it ‘should’ be like?
I think people will always make assumptions and you come across it a lot when you’re performing. Whether its people introducing you as “just the singer” or being surprised when they discover you write your own music, there is a lot of misogynistic bias that people don’t even understand they have. Take mainstream media, for example, Taylor Swift who is a musical superstar, gets her talent and ability discredited because “sure she only writes about her boyfriends and whines.” Meanwhile male artists, pop stars, icons like Prince, have built their careers on it. It’s a tough pill to swallow sometimes. I’m very fortunate that I’m in a band with three of the most incredible men, who I would consider almost adopted brothers, that support me constantly and when those situations arise, we stand up to them together.
Have you seen attitudes toward gender in the music industry change over the years?
There has definitely been more of a focus or spotlight shone on women and non-male gendered acts when it comes to festivals, panels or live performances. I think to see people calling out major festivals online for their lack of diversity and asking them to do better is great, and a lot of them are doing better because of it. However, when we look at our homegrown charts or radio, I think it’s clear there’s a lot of progress to be made in not only supporting women in music but independent musicians.
The gender imbalance in the post-punk genre reflects a wider issue that runs across the whole music industry. How do you hope things change for the better?
It is hard to look around and see post-punk and rock as a whole being such a male dominated genre. It’s always been my favourite style of music, so it was always going to be the route I took. I hope that more women and non-male gendered people pick up instruments and don’t let the fear stop them, like I did for many years. As you grow older you realise people will complain, moan, discredit or put barriers up against anyone doing anything. It’s about finding the courage to continue in the name of creating something that matters and doing something that matters to you.
What advice would you give to those who want to start out in music?
Just to f*cking do it. We all have voices in our heads, our homes and our lives that will tell us it’s tough, or impossible or not a viable career choice and eventually you need to weigh up if doing what’s normal is more important than doing what will make you truly happy. Seek out people, friends, management, labels and musicians who will support you and whose views align with your own. Lean on the community around you and never feel like you’re in it alone. Support and lift the women and people around you and leave the gate open behind you. There’s plenty of room at the top for all of us so we’ll meet you there.
Which organisations and supports do you lean on for advice and inspiration?
I think First Music Contact, Keychange and shesaid.so are doing some amazing work for women and gender minorities in Ireland. I’ve been to a tonne of shesaid.so Dublin talks and they’re so informative. There’s so much more to music than just making it, which is a shame, but if you’re trying to get to grips with the business, media or management side of things, First Music Contact consultations or shesaid.so would be my first port of call. That’s how we built a plan, goals and hit the ground running.
Who inspires you, and why?
The boys in the band, my friends around me and to be completely honest blind ambition. I have spent a lot of my life sitting in the shadows, shy and scared to pursue what I wanted because I was a girl, wasn’t skinny enough, pretty enough or I wasn’t good enough. If you’re ever told the same thing, let that drive and inspire you. Prove them wrong.
What do you look forward to accomplishing this year?
We’re hoping that this is the year we finally get to play some of our first festival slots, playlisting on radio and a few other personal milestones. We’ve been cooped up due to the pandemic since our inception really, so we’re looking forward to our first tour, new music and hopefully securing an album deal with a label very shortly.
If you could give one message to the industry on how to better support gender balance and diversity, what would it be?
Make a conscious effort. The media, social media, publishers and radio will always play the easy and popular thing. Minorities will never break the popular media until you give them the break they need. Make the effort to search those extra five minutes, find that alternative option, look at your gender balance, and help raise those around you who are fighting a system designed against them. It’s not the easy choice but that’s why it’s the right one.
Where can people find out more about and follow what you’re doing with Sprints?
We also have a string of shows across the UK & Ireland this October/November, with tickets on sale via www.sprintsmusic.com
This series features interviews with people working across different genres and sectors of the industry to assess how they feel about gender diversity and balance in music.