In what will likely be their only appearances in Texas this year, musician duo The Doubleclicks (aka sisters Angela Webber and Aubrey Webber) performed at Comicpalooza this past Saturday and Sunday. The duo writes and performs songs with a geeky bent. They're kind of like the female version of Paul and Storm.
Aubrey plays cello while Angela swaps back and forth between instruments as varied as an acoustic guitar and an adorable, modified B. Meowsic keyboard that makes kitty cat noises.
While their songs are ostensibly fun songs about velociraptors and annoying creeps who scream out "Freebird!", there are messages about how to treat fellow humans. For example, no one wants to pay good money for concert tickets and have their experience disrupted by a drunk, screaming idiot.
The Doubleclicks had an unexpected viral hit on their hands with a song with a more overt message. The music video for "Nothing To Prove" has become an anthem for women who participate in traditionally male-dominated interests and hobbies, such as reading science fiction, playing video games and collecting comic books. The cosplay phenomenon, amongst other things, has led misogynistic types to question whether women are "really" into such things, suggesting that these hobbies are some kind of attention-seeking behavior.
"Nothing To Prove" features shots of women (and some men, too, such as Wil Wheaton), holding up signs describing their interests and history with the subject matter. In light of the #yesallwomen hashtag that has been flying around Twitter all weekend, the issue of respect for women seems especially relevant.
We sat down to find out more about The Doubleclicks and how they ended up touring the United States with their songs of nerditry and dinosaurs.
How did you get into music in the first place?
Angela: We live in a musical family. Our dad is a professor of music and a musician. I started playing violin when I was three and then I stopped because it wasn't any fun at all. We were always in choirs and singing. I was drum major for my high school marching band. I stopped for awhile and then I picked up a guitar and realized it has a whole chord on it so you can play a song all by yourself.
Aubrey: I'm also part of the musical family she's talking about, so I played a variety of musical instruments growing up. I settled on the cello when I was 14. I've been playing since then.
Angela: After college, Aubrey moved to Portland and if she went to an open mic night or a singer/songwriter event, she was immediately invited on stage. Everyone knows if you have a cello in your band, it's going to sound amazing. The music will sound more soulful, more happy or more deep.
Eventually, I stole her away from all of those people to just be in a band with me, and that's where The Doubleclicks came from!
You are sisters and you work together. What made you decided this was a good idea? How can you stand it?
Well, we don't live together, which would be insane. When we were kids, we didn't get along super-well. We were fine and always made music together, but it wasn't until after we both moved away from college that we really started hanging out. We realized we had a lot in common and should be friends and make stuff. It's all about distance and boundaries.
What was the first song that you recorded together?
Angela: "Modern Poetry." I wrote it when I was a senior in college. It was about love and Magic the Gathering and was on our demo CD.
Aubrey: We haven't done that song in a long time!
Angela: It wasn't very good. We had been playing at this open mic night, which was the only place we performed for a year. At the time [the song] was great, but that was a long time ago!
You, Marian Call [who, incidentally is coming back to play in Houston on June 7th] and Molly Lewis all seem to engage in this grassroots "guerrilla touring" where you do most of the work yourself. Is it difficult?
The model of music is changing. 15 or 20 years ago, our goal would have been to get signed with a label and have someone else book our tours. Now, because of the Internet and record label stuff crashing for small musicians, we do it all ourselves and it's awesome.
We send a lot of emails. The Internet is important but it's nothing if you aren't actually going to see people. We get to have intimate shows at people's houses and their favorite game stores. We have a lot more interaction than you would if you were doing the standard "big club" tour.
We don't have someone doing marketing for us, but we also don't have to give a share to a promoter, marketing team and record label. It's a good time to be the kind of musicians we are.
There's a Twitter hashtag flying around called #yesallwomen. Your song is related to having respect for women. Do you see a relationship there?
There are certainly a lot worse things happening in the world than "fake geek girl" shaming, but nerds feeling entitled and not knowing how to deal with them in their space is a thing that society has structured in a weird way. There aren't discussions about things like consent and empathy when those conversations should be happening--when people are forming their opinions. It's a bummer and I'm glad we're talking about it openly, but there is still a lot of progress to be made.
Who are your favorite musicians and singers?
Since we were kids, we've listened to music together. We would listen to a kids' radio show every weekend and we liked music with funny lyrics. We listened to They Might Be Giants, The Muppets, and funny songs on A Prairie Home Companion. Of course, when I first heard Jonathan Coulton, that was a huge change for us. These days, we listen to The Magnetic Fields and The Mountain Goats.
What was a good break for you that increased your number of listeners?
There are a lot of specific moments, like the first show we got to play with Paul & Storm. Jonathan Coulton invited us on his cruise [Joco Cruise Crazy] and the first W00tstock that we did. We got to open for Amanda Palmer once.
It's not just that one thing happened. We try to be prepared, have an easy-to-use web site and are on Twitter. Instead of pushing out an album and trying to shove it down people's throats, we just move on and keep making new things and getting better. That's served us well.
You're on tour right now. How long does it run?
We're touring all year! We're doing a big West coast jaunt in July, as well as mountain states and then we're doing a East coast jaunt in October. It's a year of a lot of traveling and we won't be home any weekends until September.
Any international travel planned?
We're going to Canada. Does that count? We're hoping to cross the pond and go to England next year!
Besides touring, what projects are you working on?
Our new album, Dimetrodon, comes out on June 10th! It was Kickstarted and we're very proud of it. We have music video projects happening all year, which were funded as part of our Kickstarter. We have weekly songs happening until July 10th and monthly songs happening... well, forever. They'll be appearing on our You Tube channel.
Do you have any awesome stories from fans who say you changed their lives?
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We've had people come up to us with tears in their eyes about the "Nothing To Prove" video and say "I didn't know other people had this problem." And then we have people come up to us and say, "I wrote my graduate thesis about that song!" "That's crazy!! That's a lot of work! I bet you don't like that song anymore!"
There are a lot of little girls who like "Clever Girl." It's a song about dinosaurs, but it's really about body image. There may be two little blonde girls who look just like us in the front row who look up and say "You're amazing!" and we think "We're teaching you to like yourself and you don't even know it! Now you believe in yourself! Gotcha!" It's a rewarding thing.
Anything else you want people to know?
We're happy because we do what we love and we encourage others to do the same!