Tisch sophomores Ryan Peete, Katie Cunningham, Madeline Boreham and Molly Kirschenbaum have a lot to say about women in music, studying in the Clive Davis program and the absurdity of Lady Footlocker. Together, they make up the core four women of Tigris Records’ roster, the recent brainchild of NYU’s Evan Candelmo, a sophomore in Clive Davis.
All with their own eclectic musical influences that reach back to their parents’ records and mix in with today’s neo- soul, pop and R&B sounds, Peete, Cunningham, Boreham and Kirschenbaum (stage name Moollz) write, play and produce their own tracks, both on and off campus. Keeping pace with those high expectations can “overwhelm you with stress and fear of failure,” as Peete explains, but beyond the healthy dose of college anxiety, they have all faced a rancid cocktail of gender-and race-related issues that anchor both the program and the industry at large in the wrong part of history.
Boreham, who grew up as a singer-songwriter in Dallas and attended one of the more distinguished performing arts schools of the city, Booker T.
Washington High School, admits that Clive is a step up and creates the real-world music environment well, but she points out that they are replicating an environment fraught with profound social injustice. She and the rest are still waiting to see NYU disrupt some of the more corrupt practices that hold back young, aspirational women in music.
“I come at writing music from much more of a produc- tion standpoint,” said Kirschen- baum, who recently co-produced her EP “Moon Fruit,” but the implicit expectation in Clive is that women sing — not produce.
“You start to internalize your ineptitude when your teachers are almost always talking about male figures, and you’re literally one of two girls sitting in the room,” Kirschenbaum said. Katie adds that Clive needs to see women treated as musicians not just as singers.
Peete, whose music skews more toward Bon Iver and other contemporary folk icons, defies the tendency of many to pigeonhole black women into certain genres or simply toss them in the basket of Urban A/C — a term they insist functions less as a musical description than it does a racial qualification.
If not optimistic, the Tigris roster seems hopeful that big changes can shake up the game in the near future, pointing at the indie underground of artists like Girlpool and Snail Mail. Still, they insist that movements need to catch fire beyond the progressive hubs of LA and New York in order to break that glass ceiling be- tween the underground and the larger market.
From issues in the industry to everyday struggles in society, Cunningham says people, like herself, have the power to address issues in the industry and everyday struggles in society.
“There’s no choosing to not be a part of change,” Cunningham said. “If you’re ignoring the issue, you are contributing to it.”
In a climate of political chaos and entertainment’s corporate conglomerization, Boreham sees the perfect petri dish of issues to spark a movement.
“It’s at a moment of: ‘Don’t talk about it. Do it!’” Boreham said.
Pushing onward, the Tigris ladies are hitting the stage this weekend to headline the Young Tigers Party Saturday, Sept. 30 at the Knockdown Center.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Sept. 25 print edition.
Email Jacob P. Fox at [email protected]