The Best 6 in the 6ix: Robyn Bond

With Stanley Kubrick posters lining the walls and Richard, a 6-month old kitten, roaming freely around the house, 21-year-old Robyn Bond’s cosy home on the west side of Toronto is tranquil by day.

However, if you head down to the basement, you’ll find a room hosting several guitars, mics and Bond’s stunning pearl forum drum kit that she’s had since she was 16.

This is also Blankscreen’s rehearsal space, where they host raging home gigs. You need to wear soundproofing headsets to survive.

While Bond currently lives in Toronto, she grew up in Millbrook, ON, where she had a “picture perfect” childhood. While all her family went down academic career paths (both her parents are professors), they did not stand in her way as she grabbed a pair of drumsticks and started jamming out.

“My dad is musical but he’s not committed to it. He’s one of those people that can sit down at a piano and shit something out,” says Bond. “They got me a little first act drum kit when I was 6 and I was just wailing on it.”

“Then an electric drum kit when I was 13 because it’s quiet,” she laughs. “That was when I started to take it seriously.”

(All photos by Joel Presant @presantj)

In grades 10 to 12, she attended a private school where she formed her first band and began recording her music.

After her band Clairvoyant came to an end last summer, Bond wanted to start her own grunge project.

“I was listening to a lot of Potty Mouth and Bully,” she says. “I was like, I can do this. These girls are badass.”

“So, I asked on Facebook if anyone would play drums for my project. Evan got in touch and said he was interested but that he wanted me to play drums for his project as well.”

“His project was Blankscreen.”

And the rest is history. Blankscreen released an album and have just filmed their first music video for the single “Passing Over” written by bassist Sam Reilly. The song was featured on the Lou Cole compilation album that also featured our last artist Teenage Green Bean.

“I think Lou Cole tried to compile a bouquet of different artists – maybe what they thought was the most unique artist in each genre that represented the DIY scene,” says Bond.

To stay close to home, Toronto was the best option for Bond to pursue her career. But while there is opportunity in Toronto, it is also highly saturated with new artists.

“It is a loving community and anybody can try anything but it allows so much room for giving mediocrity a pedestal,” says Bond. “And when you’re in a city like this, with this many people, who realize that if they do the bare minimum and do it with one or two other people, they can give themselves a name. They can be a band.”

While the DIY scene has been praised for being a strong community and a safe space for artists, women in the industry are still facing discrimination at lower levels.

“The scene is saturated with men - It is what it is. It’s not a ground-breaking thing for me to say,” says Bond.

The musician has run into sexism in her own career. She recalls carrying her drum equipment into a gig to be met with all-male bands assuming she was the girlfriend of an artist.

“It’s the same thing in a music store, where I find I can’t ask vague questions,” she says. “I have to be very specific and it’s pathetic that I have to actually prove that I know what I’m talking about and that I do actually play this instrument.”

Being a queer, female drummer receives a nuanced response from audiences and Bond highlights the issue of microaggressive comments following shows.

“I think a lot of compliments that I’ve got or that my projects get is ‘wow, you’re the best female drummer I’ve seen’. It’s backhanded,” she says.

She’s also had uncomfortable interactions playing smaller shows, where the audience isn’t as diverse as the ones she plays for in Toronto.

“There was a level of fetishism that I would feel,” she says. “There would always be older men who are just a little too into what you’re doing. They’re fixated on the idea of a female drummer or musician.”

“I think my ability to view it this way comes from a place of privilege because the discomfort I feel and the anger I feel is often not real fear. And I think if I was a woman of colour, or younger or a woman of smaller stature, I think it would genuinely make me fear for my life.”

The DIY scene in Toronto is providing a platform for queer artists and artists of colour. The audiences that bands like Blankscreen are attracting are young, diverse communities that are accepting and evolving all the time.

“I want people to know that I’m up there, I’m not a dude and most of the time, they’re probably going to know that I’m not straight because I dress like a lesbian,” says Bond. “I want people to know that because it’s important, it’s baseline representation.”

You can catch Blankscreen at the Hard Luck Bar on December 5th and listen to them here.