Sweet Juice Fest creators talk community and the future of equitable spaces in the Philly DIY scene
Shona Carr, Sug Daniels, Katie Hackett, and Melina Harris. Photos by Paige Walter.
The spirit of DIY is alive in Philadelphia. In the music scene especially, artists prove time and time again that if you want to perform for a live audience, host an event, or organize a market there is room to do so here. Sweet Juice Festival, a multimedia arts festival happening July 31st at Rigby Mansion in Germantown, is a prime example of that expressive freedom. It began as, and still remains, an opportunity for friends to play music together, and grew into a festival supported by visual artists, wholesome catering, and even tarot readings. Four songwriters, Sug Daniels, Katie Hackett, Melina Harris, and Shona Carr met me in my home for an enthusiastic conversation about the festival that naturally evolved, as conversations with thoughtful and gracious leaders do, into a chat about equitable representation, business strategy, and the benefits of non-transactional relationship building. Specifically, we began by discussing Twitter…
Sug Daniels: I love following you [Katie] on Twitter, pushing buttons and shit.
Katie Hackett: *Bleep bloops.* I sometime will post videos of me putting things through petals, and little buttons–
SD: It’s so fun! Let me in there. Sounds like a video game.
KH: Twitter’s like my online diary, if diary entries were a sentence long, and then videos of music and stuff.
SD: Twitter is my favorite social media because all of the radio DJs are on there, lots of blogs and magazines. If you're on social media to market yourself and work with people, to me it's Twitter hands down. That’s how I got linked up with The Black Opry.
KH: I’ve gotten shows through Twitter. People are like, ‘Anyone wanna hop on this show?’ And I’m like, ‘Me! I wanna do it.’
SD: I feel like news breaks first on Twitter.
Daniels will perform with The Black Opry in September at XPoNential Music Festival; it’s her second year in a row playing WXPN’s annual festival, last time was with her band Hoochi Coochi.
CVZ: All four of you are the songwriters of your own projects, but also have a hand in producing your own music as well. Are you able to do that from home?
SD: When I can, yeah. That was the whole Franklin Street EP. I just had access to do the shit, so I was like, I'll do it.
Shona Carr: That’s pretty much what I did during Covid [record from home]. I didn’t release anything; I still might.
SD: PUT IT OUT!
SC: I have a little graveyard of songs on my computer. I wanna get better at it though.
KH: It feels like once you get past that [a learning barrier], then you’re like oh yeah, everything else just makes so much sense.
SD: There's little plateaus to it. I got to a good place, and then had a mind explosion and was like, ‘Oh, there's still so much I don't know,’ I’m starting to learn again and get comfortable with that, and now I’m about to go back into it and be like, ‘Ok, what’s the next thing.’
Melina Harris: I really just use GarageBand as a song recorder, like recording a song so that I remember it. But I would never make anything that would be functional as a demo, but I have been thinking a lot about that and who owns the music production kind of thing, so often men are in that position of power. It is so rare that someone other than a cis dude has the equipment. When Personal Trainer [Harris’ indie rock band] was making a record, we wanted to exclusively work with women and nonbinary people but, then we were like, ‘We don’t have that much money, and like there’s all these men around who just want to do us favors,’ And I was kinda like, ‘Well, I guess I should use their free labor.’ It’s this confusing conversation.
KH: They all dominate the industry, like 98% of producers in this country are men. Pretty much every experience, maybe except one, that I’ve recorded in a studio it’s all been with men. And they sometimes don’t respect my vision, and that just really gets to me. And it’s not that I want or need control over everything, but when every idea is shot down or the autopilot thought is that you don’t know what you’re doing because you’re a woman, or not a cis dude, it squashes the creativity.
SD: Like, they think it's your first time and shit.
SD: Like, I’ve been doing this since I was 14 years old, and I'll still get in the studio sometimes and men will tell me–I