Rachel Sanoff
September 11, 2019 2:06 pm
Max Aria, HelloGiggles

Shira Yevin has the kind of career you fantasized about in high school, the stuff of daydreams whenever music by your favorite band started playing on your iPod. As the lead singer of punk band Shiragirl, Yevin has a permanent place in rock history after transforming the Vans Warped Tour into a space where women musicians mattered.

In 2004, she told Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman that a woman-centric stage was urgently needed at the festival, noting its male-dominated lineup every year. When tour organizers didn’t make that happen, Shira did—by driving onto festival grounds in her band’s RV, setting up a stage on her own, and, quite simply, rocking out. Immediately able to draw a huge crowd, the Shiragirl Stage (as it came to be called) would remain an official part of Warped Tour forever after. Her activism-rooted efforts resulted in more than 200 all-women or women-fronted acts—including Joan Jett and Paramore—reigning supreme on the Shiragirl Stage. Many of these musicians would move on to other Warped stages.

The Shiragirl Stage legacy has informed all of Yevin’s work since the Vans Warped Tour packed up for the last time in 2018, leading to the birth of Shira’s recently launched Los Angeles-based music platform, Gritty in Pink. An ongoing live music event held at L.A. venues, Gritty in Pink continues to bring girls to the front by organizing shows that feature women punk musicians. When discussing the new project, Yevin tells HelloGiggles, “Now that Warped Tour is over, how do we carry on the Shiralgirl Stage’s mission? It’s a huge undertaking, but we’re doing it.”

Yevin’s feminist spirit also brought us her band’s latest EP this summer, Andi Underground. The project—a concept album produced by Rancid’s Tim Armstrong—is inspired by Shira’s love of musicals, dance, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, and, of course, punk rock. “I wanted to talk about the current political state and the scary ways technology is taking over our lives,” Shira says.

Shira will tell you that, in many ways, her career is allowing her to live her dreams. But she’ll also be quick to let you know that the life of a professional musician is stressful, anxiety-inducing, and physically taxing.  “As artists, we push ourselves and are hardest on ourselves. Sometimes it feels like you’re never doing enough. That can result in sadness,” Shira explains. “You have to keep a really good team around you and try to stay positive. Trust that things will ebb and flow.”

The fact is that even a dream job is still a job—you experience burnout, you have to step away to protect your sanity, you wonder if you’re actually any good at it, and sometimes you need a side hustle to pay the rent. It’s sobering to know that these feelings never go away, even when you’ve been profiled in music history books. Yet it’s also calming to know that you’re not alone in your frustrations. For the Back to Business edition of our new column, Women At Work, Shira talked to us about combatting burnout and reminding yourself why you pursued your career in the first place.

No matter how successful you are, the (less glamorous) behind-the-scenes work never goes away.

“What my bandmates and I love is performing, but if you look at a pie chart of everything related to a music career—at least for us at this stage of the band—the majority of the work is the administrative stuff. I wish my job was just playing music for hours, but there’s a lot that happens behind the scenes. A lot of strategizing and planning. I’m waking up and checking social media. I’m preparing any content that I want to post across accounts, and I’m trying to get the captions and images just right. We’re planning for upcoming shows by getting flyers together, adding songs to our setlist for longer performances, and organizing rehearsal schedules. That kind of stuff takes a lot of time.

“Then, once we’re performing, people think it’s all fun and games and partying. Yes, you want people who come out to your shows to have a good time. But before a show, it’s not just me taking shots. I have to warm up my voice. I actually have to prepare for this stuff. I think that’s a big misunderstanding—it’s a lot of hard work.”

Side hustles don’t take away from your dream career—they make it possible.

“My bandmates and I are all super busy—we all have side hustles. We’re not at the point yet where this band is our full-time gig. I work in the beverage and alcohol industry. My drummer just got her Master’s degree in psychology and is finishing up her thesis paper. My guitarist teaches music. My bassist is a recruiter who works remotely. We all have other gigs that help pay the bills—that’s part of juggling it all.

“When I throw events for my other job, my bandmates will come out to support me. It’s really important to cheer each other on in everything we do because we all get stressed juggling sometimes. That means being flexible when it comes to scheduling practices and making sure that show dates work for everyone. This band is not all we have, so sometimes we need to move things around to accommodate each other’s schedules.”

Max Aria

In fact, you might already have an entirely different career before you start winning.

“I worked for PBR for many years as a Director of Field Marketing and Director of Special Events. That really prepared me for being a musician. I had already been touring at that point, but I went to a lot of music festivals where I’d see things from different perspectives. I’d work with different artists and see how brands and artists can work together. I did a lot of traveling, grew my network, and was really able to speak the language. My music background helped the job, and the job helped my music.”

Supportive coworkers (or bandmates) will help you survive.

“We take care of each other. We look out for each other. The other day, we had an early show—and I don’t really like eating before a show—but I was nauseous and not feeling great, so my bassist peeled hard boiled eggs for me to eat for breakfast. Last night, we drove back to my place after returning our tour RV, took naps, woke up, said to each other, ‘We earned this,’ ordered vegan ice cream on Postmates, and watched Black Mirror. We have a group text where we share our favorite photos from shows and where we make fun of each other. We also have a Slack channel where we share ideas and coordinate schedules.”

Max Aria

Punk rockers get burned out, too.

“The business side of a music career takes a lot of energy, which can definitely lead to burnout. But that’s why we all have side gigs—we don’t want to be starving artists. We’re all super educated and never wanted to have to depend on our passion to eat—at least I didn’t want to. Of course, the goal is to make this band a full time living, but that gets stressful. And when you’re talking about creative endeavors, there are lots of different opinions that you have to consider—whether it’s taking 10 hours for you all to agree on a flyer design, or asking bigger picture questions: Do we sign to a label? What’s our long-term strategy? As artists, we tend to feel everything more intensely. Sometimes I have to take a step back, meditate, and realize none of this stuff is the end of the world. The important thing is that we’re doing what we love.

“The hardest thing about being a touring musician, though, is that it’s exhausting. You’re not getting a lot of sleep. We recently played a show where our set was from 10:45 p.m.-12:15 a.m. By the time we got off stage, loaded our equipment, finished talking to people, got home, took off our makeup—that’s 2 or 3 in the morning. And even when you do sleep on tour, its not the best quality sleep because you’re in an RV that’s swerving and going 80 miles per hour. You wake up saying, ‘I got six hours of sleep,’ but it feels like you got six minutes. So I have to find that time for self-care and rest. I get very excited on tour because so many things are going on, but I get to a point when I’m like, ‘Okay, I have to take a nap.’

“Then, when tour is over, it’s hard not to crash. It takes a few days to adjust back to normal life. You’ve been going-going-going on adrenaline, and then it’s your second day at home and your feet still hurt. Performing is hard on your body. Last night, I got a massage because I felt so beat up. And it’s not just physical—I remember when I got back from tour last year and experienced a lot of anxiety for the first time. I’d never felt like that before. As artists, we experience high highs and low lows. You’re out there on stage living your dreams; you can’t believe that you’re playing this ampitheatre where so many legends have played. You really feel like you’ve made it, and then you’re back home and your next tour isn’t lined up yet. Thankfully, band practice always brings me back to what matters. At the end of the day, playing music is why we’re here. It’s so much hustling and running around—but playing music is the reason I get out of bed in the morning.”

So, yes, a dream job still comes with burnout. You just need to remember what drew you to that career, and then reconnect with that spark.

“I feel so lucky to be able to share the stage with so many amazing artists and inspiring people, including icons like Joan Jett. It inspires me to keep going. My favorite thing is that I get to play shows in so many different, awesome places and meet all of the people there. I love travel, and tour lets you feel like you’re seeing the world. It’s really gratifying—those moments when you’re on stage, commanding the crowd as they cheer.”

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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