Our own Will Gallagher had an opportunity to speak with Air Waves lead singer, Nicole Schneit. Gallagher and Schneit spoke about being a woman in the music scene, what life is like for a queer musician, and music writing styles. You can grab Air Waves album, Parting Glances, on their Bandcamp.
Punk Out: As you might know from our website, PO is a website that connects LGBT musicians and fans to help create a more inclusive music community. The content on our site usually focuses on what we call “The 3 I’s” - Identity, inclusion, and inspiration. So, with all that out of the way, could you tell us who you are, what you identify as, and where you’re from?
Nicole Schneit: Sure! I’m Nicole Schneit and I’m the singer/songwriter/guitar player of Air Waves. I identify as queer, and I’ve lived in New York my whole life.
PO: Compared to about 5 years ago when Dungeon Dots was released, do you feel that the music community has become more inclusive and accepting, and why so?
NS: It seems more accepting of queer people, but I haven't noticed it being more accepting of women in general. For me, it’s more of a gender issue, where I’m constantly playing with men and they’re asking my bandmates what our setup is… Like, i’m the lead singer of the band, but they always go to the guys instead of me. So for me, it’s more of a gender thing where I feel excluded, rather than my sexuality. I don’t always know if people know I’m gay, y’know? I don’t say it before every show or anything. I think anyone who’s not a straight, white male feels excluded by the industry - especially by critics more so than the actual musicians.
PO: So, what do you think could be done in terms of making the music scene a better place for women?
NS: I think the first step is trying to get more women involved in music. I mean, there’s Girls Rock Camp, which is amazing, and I notice more of the younger generations, like preteens and teens, there’s more girls playing music now. When I was growing up and even now, it’s hard to find other women musicians to play with. It’s still very dominated by men. And with music critics, if you identify as female, they automatically compare you to other female musicians. You don’t do that with men.
PO: You’d never call a male-fronted band a “male fronted band.”
NS: Yeah, exactly. (For women) It’s always “female-fronted.” I know it bothers a lot of women. I think Sleater-Kinney had something in The New York Times and they wrote under their picture “female band….” Like, why did you need to write that? It puts more pressure on a female band, you know? You have all the judgements in your head about what they’re (supposed to) sound like.
PO: I feel like, on a local level, things are getting more accepting, especially for queer people, but you’re right - I don’t see it happening on a big scale for women.
NS: Yeah, definitely. And we’re in New York, so we’re in kind of a bubble here - when I go on tour, it’s harder in some parts (of the country)…Here, people understand that like, I’m the front of the band, so I get a little more attention that I need when we’re setting up here as opposed to somewhere else. There was one time I played in Long Island, there was this guy who was like “I’ve never seen a female play guitar before!” It was really bizarre.
NS: Yeah, it was crazy! I was like “what the hell, what is this guy doing?”
NS: In his life?!
AW: Yeah! He was like “Well, I know Sheryl Crowe, so I guess you sound like her…”
PO: So in general, how was the recording for Parting Glances different from Dungeon Dots? Have you noticed a change in the music industry climate in the five-year gap?
NS: The recording process for Dungeon Dots was a lot more intense, we recorded it in three days. It was very fast, and I wasn’t even a part of the mixing process. For this one, we recorded it over a couple of years, so it was a lot more involved, and I was there for all of the mixing. The guy who did it, Jarvis, is a friend of mine, so there was a lot more input from him. It felt a lot more “complete” than Dungeon Dots for me as far as what I wanted it to sound like. This is also the first time I’ve had a PR company, so it’s nice to have people helping me out.
There’s a lot more layers to the songs, the production quality is tighter, the songwriting is more complete. I still like the songs on Dungeon Dots, I don’t have any regrets about those songs, but I think the new ones are more complete in a sense. I feel like the songs on Parting Glances are a little bit more upbeat… They seem like happy songs to me. I started writing some new songs, too. I put the guitar away and starting writing on the keyboard, so that’s been a nice change for me, just seeing what happens with that. I think I’ll probably have something within a year this time.
PO: That’s awesome. How do you approach writing on the keyboard vs. the guitar?
NS: Well, the guitar I know how to play really well, whereas the keyboard I don’t know how to play at all…So it’s been an experience, learning a new instrument and makings songs with it, so it’s been fun. It’s nice to have a new instrument and hear new sounds - I notice that when I’m writing new songs, my voice is changing - the tone is different, so it’s really exciting for me. We actually played our release show a few weeks ago, and I played a song without any instruments. We did a Talking Heads cover, and it felt so good to just be free of any instrument and just sing.
PO: Anything you’d like to say to LGBT+ kids or musicians? Words of advice, encouragement, anything like that?
NS: Always stay positive! Do you, do what makes you happy. Don’t listen to any critics or anything - if you feel happy with your work, that’s all that maters. Make sure you have a good community of people that are supportive, y’know?
Editor's Note: The views and opinions expressed on our Artist Corner are exclusively of the author or interviewee and do not reflect the views and opinions of Punk Out as an organization. If you're a musician or an industry insider and would like to participate in our Artist Corner, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.