Saving Fiona, an all-female rock band, was formed in the middle of the pandemic. Based in Lincoln, the up-and-coming band consists of four University of Nebraska-Lincoln seniors.
Meet the band:
Madeline Schmit brought the band together by creating a group chat with Woody and Wang in July 2020.
“Annie and Ellie were my friends, and they both separately told me that they were interested in starting a band. I was like, ‘I think these two would get along,’ so I introduced them to each other,” Schmit said.
Halpine joined the group chat a month later in August 2020, and Saving Fiona was born.
“I guess it was the fact that a lot of us separately wanted to start a band, and we needed something to do to cheer us up during [the pandemic],” Schmit said.
Saving Fiona’s first single, THINK FAST, was released on May 31, 2021, and has been streamed more than 2,000 times on Spotify.
The band has played in Checkerfest 2021, Lincoln Calling 2021 and numerous local bars like The Zoo Bar and Duffy’s Tavern.
All members of Saving Fiona joined me at The Mill Coffee at Telegraph for a conversation about the ins and outs of forming a band in Lincoln.
Tan: How did the name “Saving Fiona” come to be?
Schmit: I’ll just frame it this way: We’re people who were born in 1999 or 2000. A certain movie might have come out around that time, which may have had a cultural impact that may have influenced this title a little bit.
It’s a reference… to Shrek.
Woody: It started out as a joke. And then we’re like, “This sounds kind of cool.”
Tan: What’s the dynamic in the group like?
Halpine: In the group chat, my nickname is “mom” because they’ve never been in bands before and I’ve been in a bunch. I haven’t played drums for very long, so they will play a song, and I will just kind of figure something out to play along with that. Musically, there’s not a lot of creativity on my part, but I am [in charge of] logistics.
Schmit: We kind of all have different songwriting styles but for some reason, it feels cohesive when they’re played in a row. It does still feel like we’re one band with one idea, even though the way we write is different. Annie writes very sad songs that sound sad. I write sad songs that sound happy. Ellie writes very intense music.
Woody: I run Saving Fiona’s social media accounts. For the most part, it has been fun. I enjoy the social media aspect. I made graphics for ISSO’s (International Student and Scholar Office) Instagram, so that’s how I figured out how to do it.
Tan: The band describes its music as “Midwestern sad girl rock.” Could you tell me more about that?
Halpine: Sad girl rock is something that I feel like has been really pushing through in alternative music lately. I would say some of the leading sad girl rock artists are Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus, Mitski… If you think of alternative music – it’s sad boy rock. Sad girl rock, for a really long time, was scoffed at and scorned in the music scene. Rock was a masculine tough thing. But sad girl rock has been getting a lot of attention. There’s been this push for it, and I’m living for it. I haven’t heard “sad girl rock” used a whole lot, but I think it fits [the band] really, really well.
Tan: How do you juggle between being in a band and a college student?
Schmit: It’s very much eating up our lives, but the thing is I know we’ll be able to find time for this. This is for your heart. This is for your soul. It’s for your health, you know. It has to happen. We’re gonna find a way to make it work. I think it just comes down to being communicative and reminding ourselves why we’re doing it in the first place.
Woody: Whenever I’m in a bad mood at band practice, I just have to think: “I’m literally playing in a band. I get to play music in a band, so stop being sad.”
Tan: How did you guys start playing shows in Lincoln?
Halpine: I played in a lot of places. I think a lot of the time it comes down to when we’re all free. There are some venues that I just feel like are more fun to play at than others. As of now, I think pretty much every show that we played has been: if we can play it, we take it.
Wang: I was very freaked out about playing shows because I have extreme performance anxiety. But now I’m getting used to it, and it’s really fun. We’ve been getting offers to open up places, which was really cool. People know about us. People know that we exist.
Tan: The band’s new single, THINK FAST, was just released in May 2021. Can you tell us the story behind the song?
Schmit: I wrote it on the ukulele when I was 19. We call it the ADHD song because it had to do with me not being able to focus on stuff, having undiagnosed ADHD and writing the song instead of doing my homework.
I kind of never really imagined it going beyond that. It was just supposed to be my own catharsis, and I’d play it like when I was feeling angsty. It was a very hard song to adapt for a while because it had a lot of words, and it was in a weird key. We just had a lot of trouble with that. Even with all that in mind, from the moment we played it in a band setting, I was like, “Oh, that’s how it’s supposed to be.”
Tan: What future plans do you guys have for the band?
Wang: I think, as of right now, I don’t feel prepared to record a whole album. Singles are probably good. Since we’re also kind of new to recording except for Kaila, we’ve been taking our time with recording so we don’t burn ourselves out with trying to do too much at once. Also, I found that releasing singles has been nice because it gives our listeners one thing to focus on for a little bit. I think that’s why so many people were able to listen to THINK FAST. When you drop a full album, they gotta commit to an hour or 30 minutes of music whereas if you’re just releasing a single, it’s just this one little thing that takes up three minutes of your time.
Tan: What advice would you give to people who want to start a band like you guys did?
Woody: When you first start out, just have fun. Just get together, make music, see what you can make and see where it goes.
Halpine: My advice is to go to local shows when things clear up and everybody gets vaccinated because you’ll meet people. The thing is, I know a bunch of bands because I’ve played in and with them at different shows. For Saving Fiona’s first show, I was just talking to another band that I play in and I was like, “Hey, do you guys want to do a show with Saving Fiona?” Just like that, we put that show together. If you’ve got connections in the music scene, you’ll meet other bands and be able to play shows with them. Just having those connections makes organizing your shows so much easier.
Schmit: I’ve spoken to a lot of people who have heard that I’m in a band and told me that they would love to be in a band. They seemed to think that they’re not allowed to. That’s not true. If you play an instrument, get your friends together and play – that’s a band. I don’t want you to think that you can’t do that. You literally can. You can do it.
Wang: I kind of want to go back to the sad girl rock thing and shout out to all women in the music scene. In terms of the indie music genre, I feel like a lot of male musicians are often applauded for their style but when it comes to women, it’s always: “Oh no, she doesn’t know how to play the guitar. What is she doing? She’s just thrashing it.”
A lot of women singers in the indie scene have voices that are a little bit rougher on the edges. And that’s a thing. Express yourself. You don’t have to share things with people right away, but I’ve found that only good things have happened since I’ve opened up myself to show what I’m making. Basically, regardless of who you are, if you want to make music, do it. When you’re ready, you can show the world, and we’ll be ready for you.