Artist Spotlight: Club Sofa

Vancouver’s new all-girl band talks about their place in the city’s music community

The members of Club Sofa (from left): Dominique Hallberg, Jessica Jones, Payton Hansen, and Jasmine Carlin in front of a mural near Vancouver’s Commercial Drive. (Alyssa Laube)

Like many local scenes, Vancouver’s music community is somewhat of a boys club. But four female musicians passionate about creating safe environments at shows are making space to help change that with their new band, Club Sofa.

Jasmine Carlin on bass, Dominique Hallberg on lead guitar, Jessica Jones on drums, and Payton Hansen on vocals and rhythm guitar are the members of Club Sofa. What started as a punk cover band between Carlin and Jones—who, along with Hansen, are students in Capilano University’s jazz program—has evolved into an up-and-coming indie surf group with a diverse sound.

Their first record, which will be released sometime over the next year, is certain to be more cohesive and experimental than their early live set, and will display a jazz and funk-influenced style that the band feels they “can really be proud of.”

Right now the band is jazzy and beachy, with feel-good melodies and riffs to get their fans moving and having fun. They pay homage to their punk roots with covers of the Stooges and Dead Kennedys, but are becoming increasingly known for their sparkly guitar tones and Hansen’s throaty, sweet-sounding vocals.

Politically, Club Sofa is confident in identifying as all-female and feels empowered by their ability to make waves in the community.

“We don’t really like the whole, ‘You’re in a girl band so you’re playing the boys game’ thing,” says Jones. “You can’t argue that girls just aren’t feeling as comfortable in that environment … It’s like you need to be twice as good to prove that you’re half as good.”

“If you are feminine it doesn’t say anything about your music taste or how good you are,” she says. “We should be able to be wearing dresses on stage and everyone should take us just as seriously.”

As one of the very few female instrumentalists majoring in Jazz at Capilano, Hallberg is used to competing for respect and recognition in music.

“There are definitely times when people have said to me that I get things easier as a girl because the guys don’t want to yell at me. It’s like, ‘Actually, I just know what I’m doing,’” she says. “It’s almost like you have to be a little bit more than confident. I almost have to be a little bit mean sometimes.”

For Hansen, “the best thing about playing as all-identifying women on stage is when women or young girls come up to [them] after and are like, ‘You guys are so cool! I want to do this too.’”

“They might not have felt the same way watching an all male band,” she says. “A lot of women get put down when they start trying to play guitar and stuff. We just want to encourage them to keep going. You can play at a very high level. You can totally do it.”

While they feel like the benefits of playing in Vancouver outweigh the setbacks, they are wary of being treated like a novelty on bills—a sideshow to male-dominated bands that can come off as condescending or offensive when they find themselves sharing the stage with a group of women.

“Don’t let yourself be that opening girl band that they put on the bill for publicity,” says Jones. “If you sound good and you put work and time and effort into it and you’re making something interesting to listen to, you’ll get shows and you’ll be able to pick and choose who you play with.”

Hallberg suggests, “Don’t feel like it’s bad to say no to being on a bill with somebody. If you think you’re going to be mistreated by them, don’t play with them.”

In the future, the band hopes to see more accessible venues for people with disabilities, support structures at shows for those who need help or have concerns about feeling safe, and more encouragement for marginalized performers who might be nervous about breaking into the scene.

“A lot of the venues that are used in the scene are very inaccessible. There are lots of stairs, lots of dangerous, old buildings. It would be really nice to have a reliable, safe venue,” says Carlin.

Hansen adds, “It’s also really important for young women to be able to voice their concerns and feel like they’re not in a place of judgement, and be able to voice their complaints and have their concerns taken seriously.”

Club Sofa will be playing live less frequently over the fall and winter while they focus on recording and school, but will be performing at a donation show for the SPCA with Luv Supreme, Winona Forever, and Wind-up Birds in October.


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