The music of Minneapolis-based musician Mark Ritsema’s project Suzie is built unwaveringly on a framework and appreciation of pop music of all kinds, and so it comes as no surprise that he chose daring and seminal ’80s performer Cyndi Lauper to reinterpret for Girl Germs 3.0. Cyndi was iconic in sound and aesthetics, definitely, but she was furthermore iconic in her fearlessness in redefining and challenging the normative views of how female pop stars were supposed to act or what they were supposed to sing about. She is an activist, a feminist and a true pop-pioneer, and her enduring influence in such diverse realms of music is one of the truest testaments to that. Ahead of tonight’s show, we asked Suzie to reflect on both their own approach to music and their admiration of Cyndi. Here’s what they had to say:
photo by Serene Supreme
NAME: Mark Ritsema
BANDS YOU PLAY IN: Suzie, DoM, Joey Joey Michaels
EXPLAIN THE CONCEPT OF SUZIE. IS IT A COSTUME, A PERSONA, AN IDENTITY?
The concept of Suzie began with inspiration from Glam-Rock bands, and bands in general that I would see who would have theatrical, conceptual stage performances. I remember seeing the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s at Coachella a few years back and being blown away by Karen O’s stage presence and costume design. So I remember in my head saying:“I want to do THAT”. So I started Suzie as a project where I could explore those influences and have since worked hard at making my live shows as visually entertaining as the music is. I draw from influence but try to do something completely original. I don’t have any rules with it, and it will never fall into a routine visually. My goal was to constantly change and experiment. The name Suzie correlates with the aesthetic of the band I want to produce; the youthful, emotional, coming of age vibe.
WHY DID YOU AGREE TO PLAY THIS SHOW:
I draw so much influence from female musicians and know that the music industry is similar to most other fields in the sense that women are underrepresented, underappreciated and not taken as seriously as men and have to try twice as hard to get recognition. So I agreed to the show because I believe in the cause and I have gone in the previous years and it’s always been a blast.
FAVORITE CYNDI SONG: ‘Time After Time’
WHY: It achieves a level of universal relatability without being obvious that is very rare. The chords and chord structure fit with the emotional tone of the song so well. It is the perfect song in my mind. It makes me feel happy and sad at the same time and it feels so personal while covering such a universal subject matter. This song inspires me to make something that could move people in a similar way. When the song comes on it makes you think of that one person, that one time, and tugs on your heartstrings so hard that they feel like they are gonna rip.
WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES CYNDI SO ICONIC: She really encapsulated the ’80s musically and visually. I love her style, especially her hair. She defined a time and place in music in America.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW: THE PRUDE PARENTS WHO PUT ‘SHE-BOP’ ON THE ‘FILTHY FIFTEEN’ LIST, EVENTUALLY RESULTING IN THE FIRST PARENTAL ADVISORY STICKERS? They are listening to Ed Sheeran
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST PARENTAL ADVISORY CD: Either Chumbawumba or the Marshall Mathers LP. I remember being a kid and not wanting anything without that sticker. Ya know, if someone tells me I shouldn’t listen to something, it’s only gonna make me want to listen to it. They should really put those stickers on like Ed Sheeran CD’s to warn parents that their ears will bleed.
WHAT OTHER WOMEN IN MUSIC HAVE INFLUENCED YOUR MUSICIANSHIP:
Elliot Snyder: “[Psychedelia isn’t] a world only reachable by hallucinogens but obtainable by questioning what we think is real and right, by challenging the conventions of form and temper… I discovered psychedelia and it seemed to have self-help properties that allowed me to let go of an immobilizing working class pride that was cementing a false identity into my psyche, stopping me from transforming.” — Trish Keenan of Broadcast, The Wire, 2009
Charles McClung: “When I was a senior in high school, I auditioned for a senior solo in my youth symphony orchestra, and prepared the 1st Movement of Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85 in my attempt to secure the honor. Unfortunately, I didn’t get it; I probably should have practiced more. But, as I was learning the piece, I studied English cellist Jacqueline Du Pré’s famous recording of concerto. It truly is an amazing performance. I can’t think of a musician who has influenced the way I think about melodic phrasing and emotional suggestion more than she.”
Leo Vondracek: Grimes because she’s a young person, she does it herself, she makes a lot of money, and her music is really good.
Mark: Some of my favorite musicians: Grimes, Robyn, Frankie Cosmos, Kali Uchis, Karen O, Lily Allen,
WHAT WOULD YOU OFFER TO THE DISCUSSION SURROUNDING MEN PLAYING A TRIBUTE SHOW HONORING WOMEN IN MUSIC?
At the end of the day, we have the same goal, to increase visibility and representation of women in music. We may disagree on how to approach it, but I think it’s counterproductive to condemn Girl Germs just because they think differently than you. People can think what they want, I don’t tell people how to live their lives I leave that up to them and always question my beliefs and never think it’s right to push my values on others.