By ERIC SCHELKOPF
After hearing the music of Ramones at the age of 12, Mary Lemanski wanted to form an all girl punk band that sounded just like them.
Years later, Lemanski ended up opening for Marky Ramone & the Speed Kings. And the spirit of the Ramones is quite evident in Lemanski's current band, Mary & The Immaculate Rejections.
Mary & The Immaculate Rejections will perform Nov. 14 at The Black Sheep Cafe, 1320 S. 11th St., Springfield, to celebrate the release of its new EP. SAP, Los Injectors and Rotten Monster also are on the bill.
Lemanski will then perform a solo set on Nov. 15 at the Elbo Room, 2871 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. James Rawson also is on the bill.
The show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets are $9.
I had the chance to talk to Lemanski about her current activities.
Q - Great talking to you. In sitting down to make your new EP, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them?
The main goal for the new EP was to introduce Mary & The Immaculate Rejections to the world, to get our general sound out there, and to build some excitement in preparation for a full length CD to be released, hopefully, next year. So far, the initial feedback we've received has been highly favorable, so I think we are on target to accomplish our goals.
In fact, I was on ReverbNation this morning, and Mary & The Immaculate Rejections are #2 on the local punk charts, #59 on the U.S. punk charts, and #152 in the world! Not too shabby for only having set up the profile a week ago!
Q - I understand you have been playing together since last December. How did you hook up with Andrew and Harold and what do you think they bring to the table? How has the chemistry been between all of you?
I've known Andrew and Harold since I was 19 years old. We're all originally from the Springfield area. I was familiar with their playing from seeing them perform in The Stifs and other bands.
They are both solid musicians. Together they are a rhythm powerhouse, so I invited them to be a part of The Rejections.
We all get along well, and we knew we were all a good fit musically from our very first practice together.
Q - You once opened for Marky Ramone & the Speed Kings. What was that experience like and what did you learn from the experience? Do you consider The Ramones to be a big musical influence?
The Ramones are a huge influence on me. I can remember the first time I ever heard them and was cognizant of them. I was 12, and it was two for Tuesday on the local radio station, and they played "Beat on the Brat" and "Sheena is a Punk Rocker" back to back.
I immediately wanted to form an all girl punk band that sounded like them. So it was an honor to open for Marky Ramone & the Speed Kings. I was very excited about the show.
Unfortunately, there was a falling out with my backing band at the time, so I formed a new band, Mary Lemanski & The Arrangements, and they learned all my songs in about six weeks time.
We pulled it off, and people said we stood out from all the other bands that played the show that night, but the one thing I did learn from the experience was never break up with your band six weeks before a gig where you are opening for a national headliner. It was stressful!
Q - You also have a solo career. Is it hard to juggle both? Do you need both in your life?
My solo career has always been a constant. This is the fourth band I've played in, and the third band I formed.
Bands seem to come and go, but I still want to be fruitful as a musician. I write in many different genres and styles, so I need an outlet for that musical creativity, which is my solo career.
I use a booking agent to get a lot of my gigs, and since Andrew and Harold have their own lives and other bands outside of The Rejections, sometimes they cannot play all the shows that I can. I actually have five different sets under which I can book gigs.
I have the band. I have a solo acoustic guitar set, a solo piano set, an electric guitar and me/Billy Bragg-style set, and an alternative/pop-rock, electronic set on the keyboard, where I sing and play along with a drum machine. I think of it as product diversification.
Q - You are the director of operations and the Chicago/Springfield coordinator for Songsalive!, an international songwriting organization. What is the group's mission and what do you do to try and further that mission?
Songsalive! is a grassroots songwriters organization run by songwriters for songwriters. We have various programs to help nurture, support, and promote songwriters, and educate them on the craft and business of songwriting.
I run the day-to-day business of the organization, help maintain the website, social media, and facilitate internal & external communication. With the Chicago chapter, we currently have a bi-monthly showcase & open mic at Borelli Pizza.
We did host a songwriting workshop for 5 years, where songwriters could bring in their songs for critique, and we would often have a music industry guest speaker talk about a topic of interest to songwriters. We are currently looking for a new venue to host the monthly workshops.
Q - What do you think of the state of the music industry these days? What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the music business?
The music industry is a tough industry, but it always has been though. Since the beginning of time, musicians have always had to hustle.
Musicians have also always been DIY, booking their own shows, touring, promoting themselves, handling their own business. They've always had people around trying to take advantage of them.
Club owners not wanting to pay them. Kings not wanting to pay them. Remember the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin?
The townspeople and the king did not want to pay the piper for services rendered. The earliest account of that story is around 1300, so that tells you how long people have been ripping off musicians.
It's also very much a boy's club, but that goes without saying.
I think the difference now is that music itself has become such a disposable commodity and has become devalued to the point that people just plain want it for free. Nobody would demand that an author write a novel and give it away for free.
Nobody would expect a painter to paint them a portrait for free. I cannot think of a single art form, except music, where people expect the artist to give away their work for free. I think certain organizations, like the RIAA, over the past several years have done a lot to damage musician and consumer relations...and the RIAA doesn't have to suffer for the damage they've done.
The musicians and songwriters are the ones that are hurting.
I guess the best advice I can give for someone wanting to break into the industry is learn as much about the business as you can. Learn about copyright, licensing, marketing, royalties, distribution, etc.
Be consistent and persistent. Rarely does a music career happen overnight, and when it does, it's usually just a flash in the pan.
Be in it for the long haul. Hone your skills and your craft. Practice everyday. Write everyday. Be yourself.
Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you think you fit into it?
When I first moved to Chicagoland, I read an article about how the Chicago Music Commission had done a study and found that in money generated by music, Chicago was third behind New York and Los Angeles. I found that surprising because everyone always mentions Nashville as one of the big three, and it's really Chicago.
Over the past several months, I have been writing live music reviews for a national music industry publication, and I have found so many great bands and good musicians, and maybe it's because I usually go to these shows on Wednesday nights, but there is hardly anyone there to see these people perform!
The city of Chicago has this wonderful, diverse, talented pool of musicians performing every night of the week, and nobody goes out to enjoy it...at least that has been my experience so far. So as far as the Chicago music scene goes, people need to go out to shows and show support.
Don't be afraid to try something new. You might like it, and if you don't, you'll still be richer for having experienced it!
Q - Where does Mary & The Immaculate Rejections fit into the scene?
We are a female-fronted punk rock band. We like to play loud, and we mostly like to play fast. Any time I think of our music, I picture myself with my guitar held high above my head.
I'm smashing it into a glass ceiling, and shattering the ceiling to pieces.
I think that's where our music fits into the scene!