Interview by Molly McKew
Walking through the cacophony of the Sydney Drum and Percussion showcase in Sydney’s Parramatta is quite a feat for the ears, with drummers galore testing out a dazzling range of drum kits and percussion instruments. Over the weekend the outdoor stage showcases a line-up of extraordinary musicians, including Chinese inspired drumming ensemble Taikoz, session drummer Michael Schank, and of course, Lozz Benson aka “That Redhead”. After checking out a huge range of kits and percussion instruments (including a very exciting range of vegetable shaped egg shakers), I meet Lozz at a table overlooking the Parramatta racecourse. True to her stage name, she is sporting a fantastic head of crimped red hair. I comment on the mostly male contingent inside, and our conversation kicks off. Her presence at the drum show is important, I say, to show that women are, and always have been, a huge part of the rock scene. Lozz agrees. When she first became interested in drumming she says, “I remember trying to think of female Australian drummers and I really struggled”. She would love to be some sort of role model for young female drummers. “I would really love to try and do the commercial thing to get my face out there”, says Lozz, “just for kids to be like ‘oh that’s possible’”.
Lozz is unusual in that she both is both drummer and front woman. When she started her originals project, That Redhead, she decided she didn’t want to have to choose between her two loves, singing and drumming. “It was my chance to front the band, be a front woman, and also I love singing I love drumming … and I have the creative control”. There is often a perception that the front woman is the easier, more entertaining aspect of music whereas the instrumentation is where the real skill lies. She’s often been told by punters after gigs that she should choose one or the other. “I just think people have so many preconceptions and rules of what a front person should be”, says Lozz with a laugh, “and you know what, YOLO”.
Since starting her music career at the age of 16, the incredibly driven drummer has played with the likes of Paul Kelly, seasoned Aussie rapper Urthboy, and has toured with the Aussie rock band The Darkness. I ask her what her advice would be to young women who want to work their way up the music biz. She says that it’s important to find music that inspires you, and do your homework – listen, listen, listen. “You gotta start somewhere” she says. “So educate yourself, listen, create your own opportunities”. Another, very practical (but fun!) piece of advice is to list your wildest dreams on one piece of paper, i.e ‘play at Glastonbury’ and on another piece of paper the steps you have to take to get there, i.e “take drum lessons, get a band together, do recordings”. She is both a dreamer and a realist. “You have to work 10 times harder as a woman, to prove yourself” she says. But she urges any woman keen to make it in the music industry to dream big, because there’s no point in neglecting what you love. “If your talent is juggling bananas and yodelling at the same time, go for it, cos that’s your thing and it makes you happy.”
The issue of misogyny in the music industry has been doing the rounds in the media, after last year a group of Melbourne based musicians made a satirical video to highlight the patronising attitude of music bros in music shops. Just a few weeks ago the group followed this up with a sequel featuring a gender flipped soundcheck, with the frontwoman being mistaken for a band members’ girlfriend, and reassured that her (distinctly not pretty) voice is ‘very pretty’. I ask Lozz whether she has had similar experiences. She scoffs. “You’re good for a girl” is among many comments she has had about her female drummer status. “I am just another human. Sometimes I wish I had a paper bag over my head so people could not see I’m a girl.” Over the past 10 years she has had to work hard to dispel self-doubt. “You just gotta try and have a filter, and take in the positive energies, and anything that is not going to be conducive to you just don’t worry about it”. It’s easier said than done, however. “I am an emotional sponge, I have been in tears after a gig because of people saying, you’re not playing XYZ”.
What’s next for Lozz? She tells me that she dreams of touring in the UK with her band. But generally, she’s happy just being able to live well while drumming with the incredible musicians she has been lucky to meet over the years. “Success to me is just having enough money to buy my lunch and travel, and fund my musical project, which in turn will get me other gigs”. With that, it’s time for lunch, and we make our way back into the cacophony to hunt for some food amongst the drumsticks.
You can listen to the new single from That Redhead, Gotta be a Man, here.