Women in Rock: Exploring the Cincy Music Scene with Izzi Krombholz
Izzi Krombholz: editor-in-chief of Women in Rock magazine, avid concertgoer, versatile musician, and member of multiple Cincinnati-based bands. On a windy Sunday, we sat down and learned about her passion for music, the role of women in the scene, and her aspirations for Women in Rock over coffee, bloody marys, and banana daiquiris at Northside Yacht Club.
Tell us about yourself.
My name’s Izzi. I grew up in Cincinnati – I’ve been here my whole life. I never left. I went to grade school in Indian Hill, and then I went to UC, and now I’ve been living in Northside for around five years. It’s a great community. It’s really awesome and I love it.
I work at my parents’ jewelry store; that’s what I do full time. I went to college for electronic media and I actually started Women in Rock when I was in college. I had a class where we had to start a blog of some sort, and that’s when I started up Women in Rock. It’s funny because I’ve been going back and cataloguing all the articles I’ve written, and I can’t believe I’ve been doing it for this long. It started (I think) in 2011. It’s grown and changed a little. I’m kind of taking it to the next step with Women in Rock, trying to make it more of a legit business or, at least, starting to head that way.
I’ve played in bands my whole life. I started playing piano when I was six years old. I took music lessons; I took piano lessons all through school; I played drums in band when I was in middle school; and then I started playing in bands when I was in middle school and then high school. It’s continued – as an adult, I’m still playing in bands. My whole life has been based around my love for music.
Tell us more about Women in Rock.
It started out as a blog, and then my friend Roxie joined me. Over time, we collected two more writers. I now have a team made up of me and three other writers, and they’re really talented and great. I have a friend who’s doing photography for us, as well. We’re growing the magazine. This past August, we put out our first printed magazine. The goal is to get them out quarterly (ideally, I’d like to do it even more than that, but it’s hard to get that up and running). It’s still a blog, too.
We like to focus on the historical angle as well as current musicians, because I think the legacy of female musicians is very important.
It’s been left out a lot. The reason I even started it was because I was taking a rock 'n' roll history class at UC (which was really cool and I loved it!), but I was amazed at the number of female musicians they just didn’t mention, or that they mentioned but passed over briefly and didn't really focus on. It was after that that I thought, "I need to do something. What can I do?"
[At the time,] I was also the music director of Bearcats Radio, which is UC’s radio station, so I had a lot of music coming in to me. So Women in Rock started out more with me doing album reviews and concert reviews of things I would go to. It’s transformed to focus more on interviews. I try to get some interesting interviews. I think I can speak for my writers as well [when I say] we really have an interest in older musicians – people who have created a legacy for women in rock.
Our next issue will (hopefully) be out in July. We’re actually travelling to Detroit this coming weekend to interview The Detroit Cobras and see them live. They’re going to be in our next issue. It’s growing. As it grows, it’s fun. Now we have people that we reach out to who say, "Yeah, sure," and it’s just so interesting. Some people that you reach out to immediately say no, or don’t say anything back, or they turn you down or whatever, but there are other musicians – people who make me think, "This is such a long shot, I’m never going to hear from them," and then they’re like, "I’m happy to do that," and we’re like, "What?!? That’s crazy!"
It’s really fun, and I love doing it. It’s a little passion project – I think it’s worthwhile and I think it’s worth doing. I want to reach a broader audience. It’s all in the works.
The magazine has so many different sections: Songs of the Moment, interviews, artist profiles, photos, playlists, and so on. What's your favorite section to put together?
Playlists are always fun. It’s compiling them – early on, that was my favorite thing to do. It would often just be a Friday night, and I would sit and just have fun by myself. I would come up with playlists and come up with witty things. One playlist years ago was called “10 Summer Bar Fight Songs” – silly things like that. I was amusing myself doing it, and looking back on it, it was things I thought were great.
Now, my favorite thing is definitely interviewing people – just because you never know what people are going to say. You hear the most interesting stories.
I actually just recently interviewed – you know Jim Morrison from The Doors? He had his girlfriend Pamela Courson, who everyone knew about, but there’s also [his wife] Patricia Morrison.
I got to interview her. It was just a phone interview, but I mean, we talked for two hours. The stories she was telling me... I was moved to tears at certain points. I’ll have that forever. That is something that I will have forever, those stories. I mean, to me, that is beyond amazing. It’s just such a cool story to tell.
Those are probably my two favorite sections. It’s funny, the more I go to concerts, the less I like concert reviews. While I’m standing at concerts, in my mind I’m taking note of what’s happening. I feel like sometimes I can’t just relax and enjoy the moment. So I’ve turned away from concert reviews a little just because I like to be present for that. And I can draw on it later for articles if I think about it.
What's the last concert you went to?
I actually went to see The Damned on Thursday night, and Bleached opened for them at Bogart's. It was a really good show. I was very excited about it. I played a show on Friday, but that doesn’t count.
I feel like I’ve been so jaded in a way, because I go to shows all the time. But to me, there’s something so special about buying your concert ticket – your physical concert ticket – and going to somewhere like Bogart's where it feels like a concert. It feels different than going to, you know, The Comet or Northside Tavern or something on any given night and seeing live music. It’s just more special sometimes I think. You can keep [the ticket] forever too, and you’ll always have that.
What's been your favorite concert?
That is really hard. Well, I saw Patti Smith, actually, at Memorial Hall. It was a 550-person venue – it was very small – and that will stick with me forever. That was something that I cried through. It was really moving. It was amazing. That was probably my favorite show. But, it’s always changing. I’m always seeing bands where I’m like, "That was awesome! That’s the best show I’ve ever been to!"
I’ve been lucky – my parents actually took me to see The B-52s when I was in kindergarten. That was the first show I ever went to.
I’ve been going to concerts pretty much my whole life. I’ve seen some pretty great bands. Those are great memories, too.
Who would you say is your favorite female musician or female-fronted band? A top five list works, too.
Top five would be Patti Smith, X, The Cramps... I’m gonna throw in one that is my current favorite – so this isn’t probably all-time but more of who I’m obsessed with right now – this alt-country band called Sarah Shook & the Disarmers. She’s amazing; her voice is so good. And it’s like, such a good summer album. It’s something that I don’t know if I could listen to all the time because it’s alt-country – that’s not my go-to usually – but it’s the best album I’ve heard in a long time. And one more – let me think, it should be obvious. I would say Babes in Toyland would be my fifth.
It’s such a wormhole. It’s one of those things where one band leads to another band. Things like Spotify are so great because, you know, they now have that bar for you at the top that’s "recommended for you" or "suggestions for you." It is cool that they put together playlists for you now – it does the work for you. I’m like, "Well this is weird and awesome."
And it’s ever-changing. There’s always new stuff out there. Whenever I hear something that I really like, that becomes my new obsession for awhile. Patti Smith is probably my go-to always and forever, just because she’s such an inspiration and amazing. Same with X. Those two bands will probably forever be my favorites.
It’s funny too – I’ve been going back through and cataloguing all the articles I’ve ever written, and I can see how my music taste has changed over the years. It’s interesting – I used to be into a lot more electronic, alternative-pop musicians. I’ve always loved rock ‘n’ roll, but I’ve just gotten more streamlined into older rock ‘n’ roll.
What bands do you play in right now?
I’m in a few bands. I’m in a band called Vanity Creeps, and that’s like my main band. I was playing bass and singing, but I just switched to rhythm guitar and singing. I write all the music for it. I’m in the band with three of my best friends and they’re all great musicians. We’re actually going on a little tour in two weeks. We play shows locally probably at least once a month. We just started this band technically in January, so it hasn’t been very long so far. Our next show [was] Tuesday at The Mockbee, but we’re also playing May 12 at Junker's.
I’m also in a band with two girls that I have been playing with for a really long time. That band is called Breaking Glass – I actually play drums in that band. I learned how to play drums four or five years ago for them originally. They're great and really, really talented.
Those are the projects I’m in right now, which is fun. And then I fill in for other people too, if they need musicians – whether it’s guitar or bass or whatever. I’ve just been playing for a long time, so I’ve picked up different instruments based on my interests. I would suggest for any young musician to try to learn as many instruments as possible, because then you can play with anyone.
What advice would you give to someone who's looking to find more female musicians, or to get involved in the local music scene?
You know, I think it’s by seeking it out. First of all, I think looking up bands. There are great sources in Cincinnati. There’s CityBeat, which always has show listings and articles. CincyMusic is great – it lists like every band that exists in Cincinnati. But also, becoming a part of the community. I mean, the reason that I found such a community is because I’ve always – I mean I’ve had an excuse because I’ve been a writer, I’ve written for Women in Rock – but when I go to shows and there's a female in the band, half the time I will go up to them and talk to them. I’ve made some really, really great friends that way, and I’ve started some bands that way.
I think it takes, you know, reaching out to people, and not just hoping it’ll come to you. I think it takes the drive to seek it out, and to find a girlfriend who maybe doesn’t play an instrument, but wants to – has the desire to – and say, "Hey, let’s do this together."
I feel like you can just do it. There’s no reason you can’t do it. If you have the need or the desire to do it, just pick up an instrument and do it. And you’ll find a community.
For Women in Rock, we have events for releases and stuff. There’s LadyFest – that’s a great community. Go to that and see all sorts of different people, all sorts of different bands – it’s out there. I think it’s also really looking at the people around you, and not overlooking people. If they’re interested in doing something, bring them along.
What women have been influential to you?
I’ve been very lucky. I’m really, really close to my mom. Both of my grandmothers were really strong women. One of my grandmothers was a state representative. She actually took over when my grandfather died at an early age – he died at 53, of a heart attack – and then my grandma Jackie took over. She had no experience in politics and she became a state representative for Ohio for years – that’s a very strong woman. And then my other grandma – I called her Mella, her name was Mary – she was a writer and wrote like seven books. She was a historian – she researched German dolls, which is very specific, but she was a great historian and a great writer. I had both of those women encourage me throughout college. Anything I wanted to do, they were like, "Yeah, you can do it!"
My mom has always been that way, too. She’s so supportive. She comes to almost all of my shows. Both of my parents, for that matter – they’ve always just never doubted me for a second. They’ve been like, "Yeah, you can do that. Why couldn't you do that?" Even my older sister – she’s in a very male-dominated field. She’s the UC dive coach, and honestly it’s strange to have a woman as a head coach of a team at the college level. Once again, she’s never questioned it – she’s just done it.
I feel like those are the most inspiring women – those who don’t feel scared [thinking], "Oh, I’m in a situation that maybe I shouldn't be because I’m a woman." They’re just like, "This is what I’m doing. There’s no reason I shouldn’t be doing it, so I’ll just do it." And I’ve always had that attitude. When I was in fifth grade and I had to pick an instrument for band, I chose percussion – I chose drums. I was lucky enough that I had the urge to do it, and no one in my family said, "That’s weird, you shouldn’t do that because you’re a girl." They just said, "That’s great!" I’m actually a fourth-generation drummer. My great-grandfather was a drummer, and my grandpa, and my dad – they were all drummers. It’s like a little legacy. They could have said, "Oh no, no, no, you’re a girl, you should choose something different." They were like, "Great, do it!" I’ve been lucky. I’ve had a very great family life growing up. When you have that kind of support, you can almost do anything. You don’t question yourself.