Shattering stereotypes in music

All-black female rock band proud to shake up how industry views women

It’s raining, band rehearsal is about to start and Gabriella Logan is filing her nails.

Her green rain boots match her green dreadlocks and green guitar.

She files her nails loud enough that it blends in with her bandmates tuning their bass guitar strings, drum cymbals and the keyboard.

Monique Williams’ light drumming turns into Alicia Keys’ recognizable “If I Ain’t Got You.”

Logan, having satisfied her nails, starts singing as the two are joined by keyboardist Dara Carter and bassist Oya Watson.

They easily shift into Erykah Badu’s “On and On,” but rehearsal begins with a cover of Civil Twilight’s “Letters From the Sky,” launching the group to their home genre: rock.

And with that, The Txlips Band (pronounced tulips), an all-black, female rock band, is smashing the idea of the stereotypical black girl simply by existing.

“The music industry is very good at placing us in a box and telling us that we can’t do anything outside of rap, hip-hop and hypersexualization,” Logan said. “We’re here to break through those barriers and say black women exist. We do all of the above and probably better than you.”

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In a city like Atlanta, known as home of trap music and putting out rap stars such as T.I., Gucci Mane and Outkast, it can be hard to find your voice. It can also be hard to find a unique female voice in a black music world dominated by the likes of Cardi B, Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé and even SZA, who shine in traditional black-oriented musical genres such as rap, pop and R&B.

While Logan says Atlanta’s music community has mostly been accepting of the all-female band, sexism has provided a flip side. Like when they arrive at a gig and are mistaken for sound engineers, the help or groupies.

“It’s like we’re challenging their ego for whatever reason or just by existing,” said Williams, the drummer. “It’s like I’m going to test you because I don’t believe you’re good at that. I see you holding an instrument and dog gonnit, I want to see if you’re better than me. And even if you are better than me, I’m going to make you feel like you are less than me because you’re bruising me.”

The band’s secret for overcoming it? Rock the stage.

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The Txlips have performed at Afropunk in Atlanta and Brooklyn. They’ve performed at One MusicFest, opened for Grammy Award-winning folk rockers the Indigo Girls and are currently headlining on their own tour following the debut of their latest EP, “Queens of the New Age.” The four-song EP is currently available on all music platforms.

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While The Txlips is a rock band, its roots are steeped in hip-hop.

Two years ago, rapper Diamond, a member of the rap group Crime Mob, of “Knuck if You Buck” fame, was looking for musicians for an upcoming music video. Logan was the rapper’s pick. She brought Williams along to play drums on the project.

The two-person band grew into four when they linked up with Carter on keyboard and Watson on bass.

“Little did we know that we would really come together and make something really pop like this,” Williams said. “This was unexpected, but it was an idea that flourished into something great.”

And while the rock band grew out of a hip-hop affair, the more you dig, the more you discover that each of their musical roots has connections to R&B, jazz, classical and even Caribbean music.

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Williams takes a break from her booming drums to talk about how her grandfather introduced her to the quieter genres of R&B and jazz.

Williams’ grandfather played in the Negro Leagues and would tell her stories of celebrities, speakeasies and jazz. She considers him a little piece of history and uses what she learned from him in her own music.

“I’m always trying to figure out what’s a different sound, what’s something that no one’s ever heard of before,” Williams said. “When I take pieces of rock and jazz and swing and free jazz and hip-hop and rap and put it all together, we create some masterpieces.”

Both Carter and Watson were classically trained.

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Watson grew up in a West Indian household where soca music and calypso often played. Carter grew up listening to classical piano music and was drawn to popular instrumentalists like Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder and Prince.

True to her rock ‘n’ roll look, Logan said she listens to a lot of grunge and classic rockers like Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, the Foo Fighters and the Melvins.

While their influences may be different, they all have the common goal of giving black women a space to be different in the entertainment industry and showcasing true diversity.

Their latest EP, “Queens of the New Age,” speaks to that. Pulling from her influences, Logan said she wrote, composed and arranged every song on the EP.

“The energy put in the music represents the freedom and feeling felt when you finally let go and live in who you truly are. This EP represents black women standing up in the magical beings that they are,” Logan said. “We represent the new wave and new age. ‘Queens of the New Age’ represents black women rocking out and doing them.”

During a rehearsal break, Carter, the band’s keyboardist, drew head nods and snaps when she said black women have always been simplified and The Txlips were going to prove that black women are fluid, complex beings just like anyone else.

“This is our time. We’re no longer going to sit in the shadows and go by your formula that you’ve made for us,” Carter said. “We’re just going to do what we know to do to be authentic and this is our truth. This is our authenticity.”

After a break, the members of The Txlips pick up their instruments to get ready for their next show.

Their “Queens of the New Age” tour continues this fall with an appearance at the Sweet Auburn Festival, and Afropunk Festival in Atlanta among the likes of N.E.R.D. with Pharrell, the Internet and Jada Pinkett’s Wicked Wisdom, and there’s no time to prepare like the present.

Logan adjusts her mic and tunes her guitar while Williams picks up the steady drumming she started at the beginning of rehearsal.

Watson and Carter join in. They rock and practice picks back up again.

The rain outside has slowed to a drizzle.

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