By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
The musician, activist, and writer Amy Klein might not have lived in New York City for long, but she has already made quite the name—well, names—for herself. She joined the agit-punk band Titus Andronicus as a guitarist and violinist in 2009, adopting the nom du rock "Amy Andronicus" to show her solidarity with the group. In late 2010, she launched the arts collective Permanent Wave, which set out to "challenge gender inequality as it manifests itself in art, politics, and personal lives."
As the movement grew, Klein went through a "real feminist awakening" that included her penning passionate blog posts about the depiction of gender in Rolling Stone and being at the forefront of organizing protests against the two NYPD officers accused of sexually assaulting a woman in her apartment. She left Titus amiably this past fall and changed her name back to the one she was born with.
"I realized that the music industry was not quite as diverse as I idealistically assumed," she says over a laugh in a coffee shop near Union Square, sporting a big, floppy hat that she calls her "Don Draper look." "I wrote a lot of stuff on the Internet, and some people contacted me, and they were like, 'What you said, I feel the same way, and I agree.'"
Klein speaks with a quiet yet assured voice, often staring at the ground as she carefully expresses genuine solace with anyone who has felt alienated in his or her life. Her new band, a five-piece folk outfit called Leda, provides another outlet for this embracing attitude.
"Young women that were raised with the idea that [they] can do anything, that being a girl doesn't matter," the 27-year-old says. "[They] have reached a point in their lives where they're like, 'Oh, wait, we kind of do need some type of ideology that helps us deal with some of the conflicts that we have in our lives.'"
Out of mutual philosophies, Leda was born. Klein met members Kiri Oliver (keys/vocals), Charlene Obernauer (bass/vocals), and Heidi Vanderlee (cello) through Permanent Wave and enlisted drummer Colin Brooks after he performed at a mutual friend's wedding. Following some initial hiccups, Leda birthed a two-song record earlier this month that, on the surface, seems to be the opposite of Titus's reckless, loud assault. But it offers an anthemic, slippery sound that's aggressive in its own way, dodging the superficial trappings of Americana or alt-country to stand as a clean, enticing example of DIY folk.
"With the instrument setup we have, there's so much flexibility," Oliver says. "We can play Amy's old, quieter stuff and make it really beautiful. Or if we want to do an epic Bruce Springsteen breakdown. And at the same time, we can [give] it that orchestral, nuanced feel and have a lot of fun."
"Bruce Springsteen is cool," Klein notes. "I'll go on the record and say that."
Indeed, it might be Klein's reserved yet snappy audacity, as evidenced by comments like this, that gives the group its character. Every member of the ensemble identifies as a feminist, but they're hesitant for the band to be labeled as such—and that resistance might be their strongest statement.
"When women get up onstage and take the mic, that's automatically feminist," Klein says, looking down at the table, tapping her finger. "Like it or not, you have power over that room."
Leda play Union Pool on June 1.