You may have seen the name Negative/Positive on local festival rosters and club bills this summer or heard their music over their six years of existence. But did you know the band members aren’t yet old enough to drive? It’s a struggle currently for underage bands in the city to find places to perform, and although Negative/Positive are booking club shows, they are coming of age in a music scene that caters more toward adults. They want their peers to hear their music — after all, it’s made for them.
Our partners at Radio Milwaukee checked in with the band to talk about their album Kick Me in Both of My Shins at the Same Time, all-ages opportunities and staying true to yourself in your lyrics.
On opportunities for musicians under 21
It’s not that the band doesn’t have opportunities to perform, explains 15-year-old singer/guitarist Ava Gessner. “There are opportunities; we’ve played shows at bars before,” she says, “but it’s more that we can’t invite our friends unless they bring a parent. No one wants to do that. No kid is going to drag their parents.”
That’s why Gessner says she’s excited about The New State, the all-ages venue and community music hub that’s set its sights on a fall 2020 opening. Gessner serves on the Youth Engagement Advisory Committee for the venue.
“I think it’s such a great thing because it’s not just a performance space,” she says. “There are going to be workshops and a recording studio.” When asked about her dream for Milwaukee youth, she says “The dream would be younger bands have the opportunity to play shows wherever, and there are always all-ages opportunities, and there are also spaces like [The New State] to bring them up.”
On outgrowing the “kid band” moniker
Much of the press coverage of Negative/Positive has focused on the age of the band, and understandably so — it’s hard not to take notice when kids as young as eight and nine years old perform with such a surprising level of confidence. Over time, however, their work and performance have evolved to the point of blending in with older contemporaries. Bassist Lola Flores points out, “I think the majority of people who listen to us are our friends or don’t want to offend us because we’re so young. I think people have a filter.” Gessner adds, “I haven’t gotten much critical feedback.”
As they’ve shed the novelty of their youth, it’s been interesting to watch the band grow literally and technically in their performances. As Gessner states, “I think we’ve become better songwriters overall. It’s a more collaborative thing; I’ve always been really interested in writing lyrics, but now Ava [Antonie, drummer] is writing a lot of lyrics. It’s really fun being able to create better things together. We’ve definitely improved overall with that. It’s making songs I’m really proud of, songs that I want to listen to.”
This story is from our partner 88Nine Radio Milwaukee.