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Girl Gems: The Men of Alpha Consumer Tell Us About Their Influences (+ a Debbie Duncan Announcement!)

A lot of people ask us why male musicians are involved in Girl Germs, and our intentions behind inviting talented dude bands like Night Moves, Strange Names, Fury Things and Alpha Consumer to perform at our tribute nights. After all, isn’t the point to celebrate women? Don’t male artists also get influenced by women?

Those are legitimate question, of course, but our philosophy is that booking only female artists would minimize the impact and importance of the musicians we’re honoring. As we mentioned in an interview with the Star Tribune, to us it’s equally sexist to assume the only people influenced by female musicians are other female musicians, because that is so not the case!

Jeremy Ylvisaker On Joan Jett + Playing Girl Germs 

“I owe my love of the guitar and millions of subsequent tiny decisions to the first time I heard Joan Jett sing ‘I love rock n roll’ on the radio,” says Jeremy Ylvisaker of Alpha Consumer, an all-male trio who will be playing this Saturday’s Girl Germs tribute night.

“I wanted to be her,” he remembers. “I figure playing a Girl Germs show brings me slightly closer to my original goal somehow.”

We’re interested in how everyone experiences and interprets the music of the amazing female artists we pay tribute to. For us, being inclusive of all genders—with the common goal of celebrating and reflecting women’s often-overlooked contributions and accomplishments—is the only way to paint a holistic picture of these women’s impact on music.

With that said, we’re super excited that Jeremy’s band Alpha Consumer will be joining us at the Turf Club. Jeremy and his band mates, Mike Lewis and JT Bates, have collaborated with the likes of Brother Ali, Bon Iver and Andrew Bird. Alpha Consumer has been described as “The Modern Lovers meets Talking Heads but heavier,” and its members are veterans of venerable projects the Cloak Ox, Dosh, Fog, Happy Apple and Gayngs, to name just a few. They’re also no strangers to covering female artists; they’ve even worked the Runaway’s “Cherry Bomb” into a few of their sets, the discovery of which kinda made Team Girl Germs fall in love with them.

Mike Lewis On Debbie Duncan + Aretha’s Influence

We’re equally excited to announce that the one and only Debbie Duncan, a legendary jazz, blues and singer, will be joining Alpha Consumer for their set of Aretha Franklin covers! Here’s what Mike had to say about Debbie’s and Aretha’s influence on him:

I’ve been listening to Debbie Duncan sing for as much of my life as I can remember.  My dad is a musician as well and would take me to hear Debbie sing whenever he could when I was a kid.  Eventually my own compass led me in a similar direction as my father’s, and I’ve now had the chance to play with Debbie, if only occasionally, over the past 20 years or so.  Every time I’ve ever heard her sing, as a child or an adult, on stage with her or in the crowd listening, brings about the same familiar feeling.  It’s a feeling of being brought close and having something explained to you.  Maybe something you knew all along but didn’t know how to live in or let yourself feel.  Many artists make beautiful art, but some are able to help you know who you are through the sheer will of their honesty.  Debbie was the first artist other than my father to open my heart in that way.  Aretha is another such artist who has been doing the same on an impossibly large scale for most of her life, and when I threw out the idea of Alpha Consumer playing her music for the girl germs show, it hinged severely on whether or not Debbie felt up for it.  Playing at 11pm on a Saturday night at the Turf Club with a rock and roll band falls well outside of her wheelhouse these days, but it also sounded dangerous enough to be fun… thankfully she felt the same way, and here we are. 

Some time in the summer before my freshman year in high school my aunt Wendy gave me a mix tape.  Side A was a mix of Primus songs off of Frizzle Fry and Sailing the Seas of Cheese, and side B was all Aretha Franklin… an odd pairing perhaps, but utterly perfect for me at the time.  I wore that tape out.  Loved the Primus, but found myself rewinding the B side at least a couple times before letting it flip back over.  It’s not that I hadn’t heard Aretha yet, but that was my first full immersion in her music, and it ignited a major growth spurt in me not just as a musician but as a person.  Quite obviously adolescence can be a brutally fertile time and, at risk of being too precious about it, I think listening to such an incredibly empowered and empowering woman helped shape my burgeoning thoughts on what kind of man I wanted to be.  Suffice it to say that what she sang, how she sang it and who she sang it with, (especially the records with the Swampers as the rhythm section), blew my thirteen-year-old mind out and continues to do so on a regular basis.

JT Bates’ Top 5 Most Influential Female Artists

We asked drummer JT to clue us in to some of his favorite influential female artists, and he picked some pretty amazing ones:

The Runaways

Rock and Roll.


Sister Rosetta Tharp

Alpha Consumer has contributed many, many of the 1.3 million views of this video.  Holy buckets.


Carmen McRae

It feels like Carmen is speaking directly to you when she sings.  Like she’s looking out for everyone, everywhere.


Rickie Lee Jones



Billie Holiday

Tried to write about this.  Deleted everything.  Just listen, please.

—Dana Raidt


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