I had the chance to ask Kate Fenton and Dana Puddicombe about their series Band Ladies. Promotions for the series had appeared on some of my social media and I was delighted to have the chance to discuss this comedic and musical series with two of the co-creators, who are also co-writers and stars of the series. Thank you to Kate Fenton and Dana Puddicombe for answering all of my questions.
Could you tell our readers a little about yourselves?
Kate: I am an actor and content creator born and raised in Toronto. I love to tackle complex issues and mine painful experiences through humour! Biking and hiking with my husband and my 7 year old is one of my favourite things to do.
Dana: I’m a writer and actress from Newfoundland based in Toronto. I am really into improv comedy and spend most of my free time performing and coaching.
How would you each describe Band Ladies?
K: A show about women in their late thirties and forties who have reached a boiling point and want to blow up their lives. So they throw away their book club books and form a band.
D: Band Ladies tells the story of a group of women who shake their lives up as they start a punk band and start to challenge their wants and needs and failures. Coming together gives them power even though they all have different battles, battles that sometimes complicate each other’s journeys!
What are your roles, both on screen and off, in the series?
K: I play Marnie. Dana and I wrote the series together. We developed the idea with co-creator and director Molly. All three of us take on various producing roles. I have focused most of my time on writing and compiling application content and submissions. I lead the way for the IPF and Bell and I am actively pursuing season two money and in search of partners to develop the show into a television half hour. We are currently submitting to a series of Film Festivals.
D: I am a co-creator (with Kate and Molly), co-writer (with Kate), co-producer (Kate, Molly and I started our own production company (Moon Astronaut Studios) and have produced Band Ladies with Breann Smordin (Dei Gratia Pictures) and Melissa D’Agostino and Matt Campagna (Goldstrike Films/ HighballTV).
And I play Penny, a self made millionaire struggling with infertility.
What inspired Band Ladies?
K: Dana and Molly and I met at second city in the sketch and improv conservatory programs. We wrote a few sketches that were songs and carried this ‘band ladies’ idea around for a while. Dana and I had been developing a television series inspired by my mother and my childhood which we shot a teaser for that Molly helped us produce. We wanted to make something in the short form digital arena. Personally with the MeToo movement erupting and Donald Trump getting elected I was filled full up with rage and needed an outlet. When I started writing lyrics for one of our musical sketches it was all of a sudden possible to see a world where I could express that rage. Molly has been in several bands for years, Dana has worked in the music scene and as a teenager I had watched from afar while I followed my high school boyfriend and his band around to various gigs. So music somehow made sense for us.
D: Band Ladies was inspired by a sketch song about Heavy Flow that we’d been working on in a sketch comedy program, and led us to think of what would happen if average women used music to express their frustrations, punk specifically. Being in the entertainment industry and surviving it to your late 30s as a woman, your voice and frustrations strengthen but your platform shifts. No longer the ingenue, your reinvention isn’t as exciting to people, threatening really. What does their voice sound like? Without filters of beautiful melodies and harmonies, I guess, what do their screams sound like? Can they change their lives? Can they live double lives? All these questions, I guess!!!
How do you hope viewers respond to the series?
K: I hope that viewers feel like they can relate to the women and their struggles. I hope that we have accurately reflected women that we all know. Real people in a real way. As an actor I find it tremendously difficult to find female characters who feel three dimensional. It has always been a struggle for me in this industry. Finally in the last five years or so more female driven content has surfaced but we are still way behind. There are still more cops shows than there are mom shows. And women are still being represented as ‘moms’ or ‘wives’ or ‘basket cases’. So I hope that Band Ladies is true and inspires some ‘blow up your life and take what you deserve’ ethos.
D: We hope it inspires them to try something new. Do what they’re afraid of and dream of. And support each other. A beautiful part of Band Ladies is seeing the women come together to become a band, even though they have different ambitions and skills.
What was it like performing the music for Band Ladies?
K: It is awesome. I have been practicing for about 20 months and I had to really resist the need to play for real when we were shooting cause I was so proud of what I had learned on the bass and was so determined to be able to play it. Haha! I love singing but I don’t have a lot of confidence in my voice. I was in choirs all through my childhood and adolescence but somewhere along the way I lost my voice and still find it hard to sing. I have moments when I can really sound good but part of the freedom of punk is that it doesn’t matter. I went to Etobicoke School of the Arts and early on had the option of pursuing the drama stream or the dance stream or the musical theatre stream, I was even an avid player of the clarinet but I didn’t choose to be so performative. Instead I followed my angst and focused on Ibsen and Carol Churchill! Somewhere along the way I lost my musicality but Band Ladies is bringing it back into my life!
D: Amazing! Really freeing. Very scary too. Our first work day was recording vocals. We’d literally just met Vicki Kim (who plays Cindy) and then we had to scream at and with each other, growling and panting. It was quite vulnerable but a bonding experience for sure! We didn’t record the instruments but learning to play drums for the role was one of the most empowering things for me. I’d always wanted to and just love it. And keep getting better!
What were some of your favorite on set moments?
K: God. All of them. It was a dream come true. To create something and have it come to life with the crew, all of the artists involved – actors, designers, every department – it was pretty phenomenal. One of my favourite days was after I had been wrapped as an actor, our last day on set we transformed Kontort studios into both a restaurant and gallery and Molly, our director, played a role that day so I was on set helping her and just there as a producer. It was so wonderful. The last shot of the day was with Kirsten Rasmussen and Lisa Michelle Cornelius and we were supposed to shoot outside in the alley but it was raining so we opened the garage door and it was just magical. It looked incredible and their performances were so special. It was a perfect day. Dana and I just stood together in video village and breathed it all in.
D: Getting ready was always fun: hanging out with Larissa Palaszczuk (our Hair and Makeup Designer) and Tala Kamea (our Costume Designer) and seeing what was in store for the day was always a laugh.
I loved being on set and we had such a wicked cast and crew… it was really fun even though the days are long. As an actor, any time we were all playing shows, especially the Ep 6 super show, or the gallery scene in Ep 4 with Lisa Michelle, Tim and Ishan was so fun and the argument scene with Kate in Ep 5. It was very cold and totally our fault for writing the scene like that but the sun was magical and the crew did such a great job under big pressure. The fuel of that scene also meant so much to us.
How has promotion for the series been impacted by the current quarantine situation?
K: We have had incredible support with Truly.Inc our marketing and social media company and TARO our publicists. They have done a phenomenal job getting the word out. We were truly sad not to have a proper in person premiere event. There was talk of possibly performing live and we were really excited about it. Nervous. But excited. But then, with everyone home and many unemployed, streaming and digital content consumption is up, so in a way, it is a perfect way to launch. And we hosted an exclusive premiere after show and Q&A on zoom. We ran a series of contests with some sponsoring outlets and it was a huge success. We had many people join us from all over the world which would never have been possible if we were live at a theatre in Toronto.
D: It is much different than expected. We had lots of plans that seemed a given: renting out a theatre for the premiere, having a show with live bands, playing that show, just being together to watch it for the first time. We really took for granted that those would be possible. I think we adjusted well though and tried to celebrate as best we could. We had a really fun online Q&A hosted by Jenn McNeely that had a contest for entries which let us engage with lots of new viewers. But like everything, our social life exists online and as thankful as we are for it, we are all pretty excited to be in a room together again! It would have been nice to promote more with the whole cast though, the Zoom and phone interview format has made it so we do mostly solo promotion and that’s a shame because we are a great team.
Where and how can our readers watch Band Ladies?
K: Go to HighballTV.com You can subscribe or sign up for a free 7-day trial or you can purchase the whole show and the album with the deluxe package.
The album is available on spotify and apple music.
The show is 6 episodes 60 minutes total so you can watch it all in on go if you want!
D: Head to http://www.highballtv.com Scroll right down to buy the whole series (9.99 Standard/ 14.99 Deluxe includes our album Angry All The Time which has all the original music) or just search Band Ladies and subscribe (there is even a 7 day free trial) and watch away!
Where can our readers keep up with you both and the series online?
K: Follow @bandladies on instagram and facebook or @band_ladies on twitter. Our website is http://www.bandladies.ca
my handles are @kate_quickening on instagram, @KateFenton on Facebook @katequickening on twitter
D: I am on Instagram (@danapudd) and twitter (@danaPuddicombe) and I really like engaging with people. For the show, hit us up on Facebook (Band Ladies), Instagram (@bandladies) and Twitter (@band_ladies). We also have a book club every Tuesday on Twitter at noon if you want to engage more!