The world of heavy and alternative music is typically understood as being male-dominated. With our Women In Music series, we shine a light on kickass women whose passion for music, high aspirations, and talent see them just as willingly and capably ‘in the ring’ as their male counterparts.
We recently hit Bianca Davino up with questions about her experience and perspective as a woman in the music industry. You may know Bianca as the vocalist of Grenade Jumper, but she’s also been heavily involved in the industry in other ways such as media, PR, and marketing.
Being in the music industry, you clearly have a love for music. How did that start for you?
It’s clichéd, but my parents instilled a deep love of music within me from a very young age – music was my first ever love and obsession in life, and I’m certain I’ll never shake it. Growing up, I was fully immersed in the world of classic and alt-rock, adoring artists like David Bowie, Neil Young, Led Zeppelin, and of course, KISS (my first ever favourite band!!!), and started playing the piano when I was three. By the time I was seven, I realised piano wasn’t entirely my vibe (which I now wish I had stuck with..), and starting learning guitar.
When I started high school, I was introduced to “the scene” and that truly changed my life. It’s where I met all of my friends and really planted the burning desire to be in a band. Being young and experiencing that other-worldly feeling of being completely awe-struck and lost within the world of your favourite artists is the best feeling ever. I’m constantly enamoured by music, it’s all I ever think about and so much of my life has been built upon my love for it.
What encouraged you to explore it more seriously?
I knew all through school and my childhood that I wanted to pursue a career in either music, entertainment or media in some form. I never thought I’d actually be in a band, as I didn’t really have any friends who were also serious about playing music at the time. I thought working behind the scenes would be my path (it still is, in a way).
From the second I finished my HSC, I was interning and volunteering at music festivals and different companies within the music industry learning the ropes. Since then I’ve worked across marketing, PR, media, and journalism within the biz. I currently work in a media company, which allows me to explore my passion for writing, marketing and creativity, and music often does play a big role in many of the projects I work on.
In terms of playing in a band, I studied music at uni for a period of time (before dropping out), which is where Max, Dean, Lukas, and I actually met. Max and I wanted to play in a band together from the second we met, and about a year or so later, we made it happen.
Did you receive encouragement along the way by people in your life?
I went to an all-girls high school, and I think in that, there was an inherent sense of camaraderie in which we all really supported each other’s ambitions. Music was the lifeblood of so many people I grew up with (even if they didn’t play), so that encouragement was really important to me. My high school music teacher was also probably the first person to encourage me to take playing guitar seriously (I was a classical/jazz player in school) and that drilled in a sense of discipline and love of learning music too.
Similarly, did you ever feel discouraged at all along your path to this point, whether because of the industry being typically male-dominated, or something else entirely?
I think it’s important for me to acknowledge I am privileged in that I am a white, able-bodied woman, and the potential micro-aggressions or sexism I may/may not have faced is a completely different experience to WOC, and other non-male identifying people.
Sometimes the most discouraging thing is witnessing hypocrisy and performative progression at play – seeing the same all-dude formula for bands, watching the same tastemakers push the same thing over and over, sometimes I think, “ugh, is this ever going to change?”. But that’d be defeatist, so it’s important to press on and be vocal about these things as a punter and musician.
Have you ever felt unsafe in the music scene/industry? Whether in the darkness of gigs or in meetings or interviews?
I’m very lucky that I’ve never felt unsafe playing a gig. However, attending gigs as a punter is a different story. There have been multiple times I can recall at festivals and shows throughout my life where I’ve been aggressively or uncomfortably touched by guys in invasive and embarrassing ways. I know for sure I’m not alone here. It’s a tricky one as well, but growing up I was physically hurt on purpose plenty of times by older, bigger guys in the pit. I understand that mosh pits are inherently dangerous, but I do think incidents can be avoided if guys learnt about how to respect space and others around them.
Looking back, I think I had a sense of youthful innocence at shows when I was younger, and my blissful ignorance helped me frame plenty of experiences as “rites of passage”. In reality, if I saw young girls getting treated the way I (and my friends) did at shows now, I’d freak out/cause a huge scene.
Have you ever felt overlooked or dismissed because of your gender?
I feel like as a band we’re sometimes held to a different standard at times because we are “female-fronted”. Even if this ‘standard’ doesn’t actually exist, it is an ingrained, societal norm that something ‘more’ or ‘different’ would be expected of you as a woman. It’s instilled within our psyche. Having worked behind the scenes in the industry, I know exactly what the mindset of old male gatekeepers is towards women within music can be like, and I think at times those residual experiences make me overthink what I’m doing/ how I portray myself.
What inspires you to keep going when you hit upon doubts or fears about what you’re doing?
As I said above, I’m obsessed with music. I need to be part of it, and I need to create it. Working with Max, Dean and Lukas inspires me because we’re like a family, and we all have a special bond. They are all incredible musicians and they inspire me to practice and get better at what I do every day. I’m a chronic overthinker, but I could never let doubt or fear get in the way of achieving what we’re setting out to do. I want to be a positive agent of change in music, so I’m not going to succumb to any of that rubbish!
Who are your industry role models or mentors and what do you love about them?
I definitely feel lucky to be surrounded by so many incredible women in bands who we’ve had the pleasure of playing with. It’s inspiring to see that community forming. Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney was probably the first woman in music who I wanted to be exactly like (still do). She’s an incredible guitarist and has an abandon in her voice when she sings that’s just unmistakable. Having been in Portlandia and now venturing into writing/directing, she embodies the exact path I would like to follow and her book ‘Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl’ changed my life.
Do you have any hopes by way of the industry and gender, such as what things may look like in ten years time?
I wholeheartedly believe we are on the right track in terms of shifting the perception of women in the music industry – on stage, in the studio and behind the scenes. I think it needs to shift on a greater societal level, because music is just a microcosm of what we experience in our wider life, right? The biggest thing holding us back in music right now is that we’re yet to have a proper conversation around accountability and action. Even though the MeToo movement has been significant, I think that Australia has a long way to go in terms of reaching a true point of reckoning with sexual assault and harassment that gets swept under the rug.
What advice would you offer younger women or girls who are wanting to get into the world of music?
Listen to as much music as humanly possible. Don’t worry about what gear you have, just do it anyway. People’s opinions literally don’t matter and there’ll be people who think you have no idea what you’re doing but just ignore them.
What are you creating at the moment that you’re excited about?
While Grenade Jumper is the main focus, I’m working on some solo-pop stuff in the background at the moment too. It’s definitely in its early stages, but I’m working towards something that sounds like Charli XCX-meets-LCD Soundsystem. I’m really passionate about my job and the projects I work on everyday in that, which is always exciting (for me at least) too.
Listen to Grenade Jumper’s newest release; What’s Left When It All Falls Down.