When Charlotte Bumgarner started playing shows as a solo artist, she almost never performed with people her own age. The 16-year-old struggled to find her place in a music scene dominated by dudes and 21+ venues, but cutting her teeth onstage gave the guitarist and vocalist the confidence to start the teen band Tulsa didn’t know it needed.
Enter Karli Pool, Brinley Lasiter and Abby Redmond. Bumgarner approached the three friends about the possibility of starting a band in the summer of 2018. Three months later, the quartet known as Graveyard Party was playing their first show at Chimera as part of a concert series organized by Pure Nowhere, a San Diego-based magazine documenting youth culture across the globe.
"It was scary, but we had been practicing for a while and we had so many friends come to support," Bumgarner remembers.
That show of support affirmed Graveyard Party’s ambition to carry on, but their relationship to the local music scene remains complicated for fellow vocalist and guitarist Brinley Lasiter. "Honestly, being a teenage and all-female band is still super intimidating. I feel like there’s this underlying pressure to impress people," she says.
Regardless of that pressure, the band knows the value of seeing yourself represented in your local music scene. "It is so powerful to be a kid in high school and go to a show where other teens are shredding," Bumgarner says. "Seeing that makes you feel like you can do it too."
Musically, Graveyard Party describe themselves as "Lisa Frank, but make it goth," delivering cheery, danceable bedroom guitar pop with emotional and combative lyrics about the travails of high school and the complications of growing up. "It makes the confusion of not knowing what the hell is going on a lot less scary when you know there’s someone else who also doesn’t know what’s going on. I love the community it builds," Lasiter says.
For drummer Abby Redmond and bassist Karli Pool, bringing these songs to life onstage offers opportunities for growth and exploration—key elements, they say, for navigating life as a teenager.
"Now is the time to go out and experience these things for real," Redmond says. "Starting a band and playing gigs is great to find what you want to do when you grow up. Inspiration floods into every teenager’s head, why not put that to good use?"
"Do it even if it scares you," Pool adds. That’s exactly what Graveyard Party did, and it opened the door to a community they wouldn’t have known without taking that leap of faith.
Comparing the isolation of her solo shows to the rich community she’s found with Graveyard Party, Bumgarner stresses the importance of being heard during a time when too few are willing to listen. "Your teen years are extremely weird and formative," she says. "An outlet is necessary to survive."