The members of Negative/Positive, which may well be the city’s youngest rock band, had never thought much about music before attending Girls Rock Milwaukee, a summer music camp where girls ages 8-16 form a group and perform an original song over the course of a week. (The camp also includes classes on self-defense, music history, flyer making and more). In fact, none of the members knew how to play an instrument. “I wasn’t very ready to play the instrument. I was kind of scared I would hurt myself,” Ava Antonie, 11, remembers of that first camp. She gravitated to the drums because she liked “hitting stuff with sticks,” she says. Fast-forward three years: The trio, who didn’t know each other before, routinely plays shows around the city with bands at least twice their age.
In September, Negative/Positive opened for Sat. Nite Duets’ album-release show at Villa Terrace, and in August they released a six-song debut EP Lumanescent, which shows off a confident, albeit slightly rough-around-the-edges, verve. They’ve also got a knack for songwriting. “We don’t want to be seen as girls who just sit and look pretty/When really we can do all the same things,” Ava Gessner, 13, declares on “Done With This,” a screed against pocketless jeans and lipstick that is somewhat silly, but, as evidenced by that line, still packs some lyrical firepower.
That devil-may-care attitude was nurtured in Girls Rock. “Being in that environment … it wasn’t that you have to write this song so people like it, or have it be about something completely serious; it’s like, ‘Do what makes you happy,’” Gessner explains. Negative/Positive has written plenty of material to do just that, including a song about author Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson book series and another about accidentally stepping on a kiwi, which was a little too goofy to make their record.
“On our newest song, we couldn’t think of what to write so we wrote a song about not knowing what to write,” says bassist Lola Flores, 13. The influence from attending Girls Rock is unmistakable, but the band contends the main objective of the camp isn’t to turn children into rock stars. Instead, the goal is to provide an outlet for girls to come together and have a great time. “Even if you don’t think you’re going to spend your life pursuing a career in music, if you’ve never gone before or if you don’t play anything, it’s still a great experience,” Gessner says. “And if you end up not liking your instrument, you can play a different one. Or you can stop.”
290 future Joan Jetts have attended Girls Rock Milwaukee since 2013.
Go See It
Negative/Positive Album Release Party
(Jan. 26). Jackalope Lounj, 343 N. Broadway.