Grrrls who rock

Half Demon Doll heats up

Half Demon Doll, left to right: Sam Stahlmann (guitar), Alyse Emanuel (drums), Hailey Jacobsen (guitar/vocals), and Allie Pikala (bass). Photo by Daniel Corrigan.

Half Demon Doll, left to right: Sam Stahlmann (guitar), Alyse Emanuel (drums), Hailey Jacobsen (guitar/vocals), and Allie Pikala (bass). Photo by Daniel Corrigan.

Half Demon Doll might just be the next big thing. This all-girl, teen band from the Twin Cities recently won a battle of the bands in New York City. The girls played to a sold-out crowd in Times Square. “We’d never played in front of that many people before,” said Hailey Jacobsen, 15, of Burnsville, lead vocalist and guitarist. “From the stage, we could see people dancing to our music. Their adrenaline gave us adrenaline and it carried us a step above anything we’ve ever done before. They wanted rock, so we gave them rock.”

The Rock Meets Runway contest was sponsored by a host of recognizable names, including Teen Vogue, Hard Rock Café, Gibson Guitars and more. As the winner, Half Demon Doll earned a photo spread in a future issue of Teen Vogue and a record deal with Wicked Cool Records. “When we won, I cried on stage. I think it will really hit me, though, when we start recording. Getting a CD out there, and having it for sale at Best Buy, that will be a like a dream,” Jacobsen said.

The contest required that participating bands have a female lead; it also required band members be over 13 years of age. Ten bands from across the country were chosen as semifinalists. Three were later selected as finalists and given the chance to play in Times Square. Half Demon Doll was the only all-girl band in the competition. It was also the youngest band. In addition to Jacobsen, the band consists of Allie Pikala, 15, Sam Stahlmann, 16, and Alyse Emanuel, 15. “I love being part of a girl band,” Jacobsen said. “When we are songwriting, we learn a lot about where each other is coming from and our different styles.

“Being in the band has also taught me a lot about friendship,” she added. “I’ve never had as close of friends as I do now. We hang out. We have sleepovers. We can’t get sick of each other, that’s impossible. I think we’ll stay together for a long time,” Jacobsen said.

Beginnings at GRRR
Jacobsen has a camp to thank for her friends, her band and her promising career future. Two years ago, she attended the week-long Girls’ Rock and Roll Retreat (GRRR) at Perpich Center for the Arts in Golden Valley. The day camp is organized and sponsored by Women in Music Minnesota (WIMMN), a nonprofit organization that supports and promotes female musicians throughout the state.

Jenny Case is a musician, a WIMMN member, and a bass and guitar teacher. After spending a summer teaching at a rock camp in St. Paul, she pitched the idea of creating something similar just for girls. Half Demon Doll formed in 2006 during GRRR’s first summer.

“The girls in Half Demon Doll are so young, so talented. They’re just fantastic kids. And they have the greatest attitudes,” said Case, who heads GRRR each year. This summer will mark the camp’s third year. Since that first summer, it has grown from one week to two and from 35 campers to 70. Currently the camp is girls-only, a format Case intends to keep. “The girls can really let their hair down when there aren’t any boys around. There’s no pressure to look or act a certain way,” Case said. “These girls come to rock camp because they want to form a band, play the guitar and drums. They want to scream and rock out.”

Every girl who attends GRRR is assigned to a band on day one. By week’s end, the bands have taken a stab at song writing, plus they’ve created names, logos and marketing plans. They’ve also attended seminars about self-defense and eating disorders. Camp ends, of course, with a concert where each band performs. “We want to educate the girls about the realities of being a musician,” Case said, “but overall, our goal is to give the girls a sense of identity as musicians and as creative people.”

For Allie Pikala, bassist and backup vocalist of Half Demon Doll, the camp’s goals are well on their way to becoming her reality. “Camp was awesome. Our band wouldn’t be alive without it,” she said. “The other three girls are now my really good friends. It’s great because we can be so open with each other and express our ideas. Nobody shoots anybody down. I’m not very good at writing songs on my own, but my ideas always come faster when we all share input.” “I’m only in high school, but I’d like to be a musician as a job,” Pikala said. “Normally I’m very shy, quiet. I’m not very noticeable. But then I get on stage and I just go crazy. It’s exhilarating. I can’t stop smiling. I’m wired. I can’t even explain the feeling that comes over me. I’m just super happy. I’m with my friends and I’m free to do whatever I want.”

Want to rock out this summer?
GRRR (a.k.a. Girls’ Rock and Roll Retreat) will run twice in 2009: July 13-17 and July 20-24. It is a week-long day camp open to girls 10-17, held at the Perpich Center for Performing Arts in Golden Valley.

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