In a scene that can easily become overrun with the same look and same sound repeated ad nauseam, Dallas-based band The Roommates breaks boundaries.
The band consists of Mallory McAdams on lead vocals and guitar; Lonnie Shields on bass and backup vocals; Marisa Saltzgiver on drums; and Jesse Johnson on lead guitar and backup vocals. The all-female quartet has more to offer than just their hard-hitting shrill screams and dark-toned indie rock harmonies: They're not afraid to get down and personal with their audience in their sound, as well as in their podcast Late Night Company. Nothing is off limits.
McAdams’ voice hit notes so high that it suggests the female twin of Anthony Green's — especially in songs like “Psycho” and “Illusionary War.” It’s easy to get caught up and mesmerized by the band's catchy melodies, unforgiving moods and captive vocals.
“Call it whatever the hell you want,” Johnson says of the indie-rock band's sound. In the two years they’ve been playing, they've been learning and getting to understand each other’s capabilities.
“I just want to listen to something that makes me cry,” McAdams says.
She lets her mood carry her. Shields describes her as a lyrical guru. The group agrees that being an all-female band in a world of hard-edged testosterone hasn’t held them back.
“I think if you think you have a disadvantage you will have a disadvantage, but if you’re like, no, there ain’t nobody like me walking around, there ain’t nobody playing these songs, that gives you the advantage," McAdams says. "And when you walk into a place and you do your motherfucking thing the way you know you can do it, people will notice.”
The Roommates says they're often the only women on the bill. But they just get up there and just do their "motherfucking thing."
“We’ve never been made to feel like we’re a gimmick or like, ‘Oh, we’re going to bring this girl band out that’s pretty rockin’," Johnson explains. “It always felt genuine, like, 'We just want to play with you guys because we fucking dig you.'”
The way the band sees it, if someone does have a problem with who they are, there are plenty of other people out there that they can work with instead.
“I think the more you get into this — and because we do have the independence — if someone is going to be weird about ... if they're going to be stupid about it, just don’t get it ... we just move the fuck on,” McAdams says.
The bandmates aren’t shy about letting their audience know who they are. While visibility and representation are an important part of who they are as a group of women, lesbians and people of color, it was never their intention to present themselves as an all-female band of lesbians.
“Oh my God it’s a band of women and they're lesbians,” Shields says mockingly.
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“It wasn’t like you can only be in this band if you’re gay, like that’s not it. We just came together as people — it just so happened to work out that way. ... We’re just us,” Johnson explains.
On their podcast (which will become available in the next couple of months on streaming platforms and the band's Facebook page),The Roommates want to open themselves up to varying topics and create a space for other Dallas artists "to explore themselves and their passions," McAdams says. The band's debut album is set to premiere in the spring of this year.
Johnson jokingly says they’re probably the gayest band in Dallas, yet they say they’ve never been made to feel unaccepted or unwanted.
“I think we bring viability to the queer community, like, there’s a place for everybody,” Johnson says, adding that she’s not necessarily advocating for anyone. “I’m just being me. But if me being myself helps someone, then fabulous.”