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AU's Student-Run Internet-Only Radio


AU's Student-Run Internet-Only Radio


DIY in D.C.—An interview with Makeup Girl

Makeup Girl headlined WVAU’s fall 2023 Capitol Boogie. Photo by Ben Austin.

Makeup Girl is a DIY band in every aspect of the word. Hailing from Washington, D.C., Makeup Girl is Brody Steck on vocals, piano and guitar, Caleb Schiebel on drums, Johnny Leander on guitar and James Lepinsky on bass and backup vocals. They combine elements of jazz, punk, hip-hop, rock and more in their unique, bright-sounding tunes. Every track they make is written, performed and produced by the band members.

The band has been releasing music since 2017, but their most recent release, “Escalator,” came out just this year. Steck said that what’s kept the band going for so long is the sheer enjoyment of playing music with friends.

“If we weren’t making it fun, we probably wouldn’t do it,” Steck said.

At its core, Steck said that Makeup Girl is about this energy—making interesting music and having fun while doing it. Leander said that he and his band members have spent a lot of time listening to many different styles of music, all of which come together to create an eclectic sound. Schiebel said they bring these different sounds together by just jamming with each other and seeing what sounds right.

“Escalator” differs from their other releases because instead of having a concept like they did with their EPs, they jammed together to see which songs meshed well. Steck said that he feels that this sound represents their band’s evolution from the garage rock they were playing at 13 years old to the amalgamation of all the different types of music that they play now.

“I think for a while, it was like, ‘What does that [combination of genres] even sound like?’” Steck said. “But this one, it’s like, ‘OK, this is what it sounds like.’ It’s definitely, for me, the most representative of what we’re trying to do.”

Steck said that he tries to throw in interesting key changes and other abnormal aspects into their songs so that it sounds poppy on the surface but has a lot of technical complexity underneath. Before Lepinsky joined the band, he heard them playing live and noticed their technical skill, but once he started making music with them, he realized that what makes the music special isn’t its technicality but its overall enjoyment value.

“I think the great thing about Makeup Girl is that, I think, on the surface, it may seem like what we’re doing is very out there and kind of technical or difficult, but I think at the end of the day, it’s just good pop music, good rock ‘n’ roll,” Lepinsky said.

One of the band’s core values is their DIY nature. They don’t have a record label, and Steck said he produced this album by himself. Lepinsky, an AU alumnus, said that he thinks that the band stays true to D.C.’s punk rock movement by keeping DIY a priority, and he said that he believes that D.C.’s political nature makes this important in the present day.

“Us as people from Washington, we’re actually competing with the biggest entertainment market there is, and it’s politics,” Lepinsky said. “Everyone from every corner of the globe knows who the president is, and everything that happens in D.C. affects the entire world and what’s happening. In a way, I think musicians are set up, I hate to say it, but kind of for failure.”

To combat this, Steck said that Makeup Girl does not care about commercialization or making it big. The band started as a fun project between friends, and to Steck, that’s what makes the band worthwhile.

“We really all are against commercialization of art, and with our stuff, that’s what we try to do through being DIY or not caring about writing pop songs just to get plays,” Steck said. “I write them because I like pop. That’s kind of the main thing. And I think just really playing, we all just love to play our instruments. It’s almost like if we were a punk band that learned how to play jazz.”

Makeup Girl plays gigs throughout the D.C. area. They update their Instagram page with shows they’re playing, new releases and more.

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