Photo by Cortney Armitage. From left: Lena, Dea, and Rihana—and that’s Willow in front.

Harsh Crowd was formed a few years back by Dea Brogaard-Thompson, Lena Faske, Rihana Abdulrashid-Davis, and Willow Bennison. The two 14-year-olds (Rihana and Willow) and two 15-year-olds (Dea and Lena) met at the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls and have been playing together ever since. Last year was a whirlwind for the band—they got a shoutout from The New York Times and opened for Kathleen Hanna’s band the Julie Ruin. After listening to Harsh Crowd the first time, I sat back in my chair and wondered what powers had been bestowed upon this magical, musical quad of girls whose tunes and lyrics both impressed and inspired me. In reality, these powers seemed to simply be the product of teen-girl greatness set free.

Today, we’re premiering the new music video for Harsh Crowd’s single, “Clowns.” Watch it here:

I recently Facebook chatted with all four members of the band, who answered collectively. We talked about being young and doing your thing.

ALYSON ZETTA: In the video for “Clowns,” you all appear so confident! Where do you get your stage presence and confidence from?

HARSH CROWD: What confidence? [Laughing] We get our confidence from each other. We talk to each other before shows and make sure we’re all ready to go. For stage presence, we totally feed off the audience to be entertaining.

What has been the craziest show you have played, or your biggest audience?

Craziest show was [New York’s] Irving Plaza, opening up for the Julie Ruin. We did a cover of a song by Kathleen Hanna‘s band Le Tigre when we were 12 years old, so it was insane opening for her. (The cover song was [Le Tigre’s] “Deceptacon.”) Biggest audience was when we sang at Madison Square Garden before the New York Liberty home opener in 2014, but that was also kind of weird.

Wow! How is Kathleen Hanna in real life?

She’s very fun, high energy, and seems to always have a positive vibe.

I’m also very impressed with the lyrics in your songs. Do you write them yourselves?

Yes! Thank you.

Yeah! How does the writing process happen? Does everyone contribute?

Everyone contributes. We usually start messing around during rehearsal and find a riff or chord progression that we like. Then we work out different parts of the song. Sometimes we break into smaller groups to do that. Then Willow usually writes the lyrics.

Sweet! How did you all find each other?

We met at Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls in 2013. They put us together at the beginning of the week, and we wrote a couple of songs. We clicked right away and have been playing together ever since.

Were there any initial goals for the band, or just to do your thing?

Just to do our thing. We like writing songs together and we like doing shows. After a while we wanted to record what we wrote. We’ve just kept doing that.

Speaking of coming together, how did you come up with the name Harsh Crowd?

The first day we were together at rock camp, we had to come up with a name. We couldn’t decide on anything and kept shooting down suggestions. Our band coach said, “Wow, you’re a harsh crowd,” and we all liked that name.

Do you see any goals for the future, or is the best goal to keep up with your passion, wherever it leads?

Yeah, we just want to keep playing music together. We’re happy that more people are starting to like us too, and we’d like to put out a full length album soon.

Serious question: If your band was a food, which food item would it be?

Trader Joe’s Gummy Tummy Penguins.

Is it the tang?

It’s everything. We always have them at rehearsal.

Do have any other rituals?

We have a handshake that we do before every show. It’s the handshake we do at the very end of our “Don’t Ask Me” video.

That’s the dream: gummies and handshakes. How has the reception of your age and gender been?

It’s been very positive, although we’d be fine if it were less of our identity. We’re just a normal band.

Yeah! I totally relate to that. In some situations, you can get more attention, although at the end of the day, you want to be on level ground with other bands out there.


I sound so old, but it’s really rad to see this mature point of view being expressed.


You are rad and your music is certainly something I will be talking about. Thanks for chatting.

Thanks, Alyson! We’re excited that Rookie is premiering our video!

Our pleasure. Just keep being harsh!

Oh, we will. ♦