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7th Grade Girl Fight is bringing the heat to Charlottesville

After releasing their first album during the COVID-19 pandemic, the local pop-punk band has made a triumphant return to the stage

<p>The eventual self-titled debut was the "silver lining" to the COVID-19 pandemic's abundance of free time, and – as venues have begun to allow live events again – the band has had the opportunity to share their music with the local community.&nbsp;</p>

The eventual self-titled debut was the "silver lining" to the COVID-19 pandemic's abundance of free time, and – as venues have begun to allow live events again – the band has had the opportunity to share their music with the local community. 

7th Grade Girl Fight frontrunner Debra Guy is no stranger to the local music community. After playing in several bands both around Virginia and in the Washington, D.C. area, the singer and guitarist has also written and performed as a solo singer-songwriter since 2018. It wasn’t until a friend asked about Guy’s favorite artists, however, that Guy had a “small epiphany” about the type of music she was creating.

“A friend of mine asked me about my favorite singer-songwriters and I couldn’t really think of any, all I could think were the bands that I really liked,” Guy said. “I had a really self-reflective moment and I thought, ‘Why am I not playing music that’s like the bands I listen to?’”

Soon after, the pop-punk band 7th Grade Girl Fight — in all its colorful and energetic glory — was born. Guy invited several other local musicians into the band as Charlottesville knows it today — a group of friends who are “super diverse in their own [musical] influences,” with a penchant for pop-rock that is “loud and fun.” Aside from Guy, the members include Drew Pompano on bass, Bill Morris on drums, Wes Fleming on guitar and J.J. Williams on keys.

The group began playing locally in 2018, and since then have boasted a wide repertoire of local venue performances, several video projects and a full-length album to boot. The self-titled album — which came out Oct. 15 last year — is a conglomeration of influence from Guy’s favorite artists and bands. The album is currently available on all streaming platforms, as well as their bandcamp website

The album features upbeat, guitar-heavy tracks that bring to mind a nostalgia for many of the rock trends of the early 2000s — blending elements of pop and punk, overlaid with Guy’s velvet-smooth vocals. 

“When I’m writing my own songs it definitely is sort of a Venn diagram of all the folks that I listen to, which really varies between mid-to-late 90’s … but then also the early 2000s stuff that I really love, which is more of an emo, pop-punk sort of vibe,” Guy said. “If you were to put the other Venn diagram in it would be singer-songwriters like Patty Griffin, folks that write more autobiographical lyrics. I tend to write from my own experiences.” 

For Guy, the songwriting process in 7th Grade Girl Fight has been a very different experience than the solo work she’s done in the past. Rather than working alone until the song is “just good enough,” with the band of several talented musicians, Guy is able to “take a rough draft skeleton” of a song and pass it to the band members, who later take turns fleshing out the song in unique and creative ways. 

The success of the collaboration between members rests largely in the band’s tight-knit community, and their ability to get along so well. 

“[Being in 7th Grade Girl Fight is] like dating lots of people at the same time. Everyone’s gotta get along, but you’re also in a space where you’re all making this unique, creative experience together,” Guy said.  

For Guy, this group dynamic has proven to be reliable not only for writing music, but also for maintaining connection throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

As with many other aspects of life, the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic drastically shifted what it looked like to be in a local band. Just before things shut down for the first time, 7th Grade Girl Fight shot a video at the Blue Moon Diner. Soon after, everything shut down. For the group, the focus shifted at first from actively making music to simply checking in with each other. 

“We kept in touch less about musical stuff, but more just about things like ‘How are you doing?’” Guy said. “[It was a] layer of friendship [where we thought] music will always be there, but ‘How are you as a person? How is your family?’” 

As early quarantine routines began to take shape, the songwriting process for Guy took on a new pressure that she had not experienced before. 

“There’s a sense of pressure when you’re quarantined and stuck in your house to be productive in some way,” Guy said. “It was really hard to get past that pressure of ‘You should be creating.’” 

However, after settling into the experience of quarantine and getting over the self-inflicted hurdle of pressure, “things came out more creatively” for Guy and the rest of the band. As a “core trio” of members at the time, the group — which had already done some of their work remotely — committed to making music however possible. Over that summer, the band members began rehearsing in Guy’s basement again, under strict limitations.

“It was hilarious — I set up a clear shower curtain to stand behind, and I had measuring tape and everybody had a square in my basement,” Guy said. “It was like ‘You shall not move from this square.’”

Toward the end of 2020, the group also decided to embark on a new project — recording an album. The eventual self-titled debut was the “silver lining” to the COVID-19 pandemic’s abundance of free time, and — as venues have begun to allow live events again — the band has had the opportunity to share their music with the local community. 

Despite feeling “nervous in a way [she] hadn’t been in a while” at the first few live shows, the return of in-person music has been overwhelmingly “amazing” for Guy. By having a live audience again, and being able to see them have fun as the band performs, Guy is overjoyed that an integral part of the music-making process has returned. 

“There’s a whole different energy when you’re playing in front of people,” Guy said. “There’s this connection between these two entities of people — the bands and the audience. Neither of us can do this without each other, and it was this really cool moment where we were reunited, crowds and bands.” 

In addition to the connection between performer and audience, Guy and the other band members also have a special place in their hearts for audiences in Charlottesville and the University community in general. Most of the band has a connection to the University, with a mix of alums, spouses who teach at the University and Guy herself, who works for the University’s library system. 

Although they have performed in several other cities — including Richmond and New York — Guy considers Charlottesville the group’s “home base,” and though 7th Grade Girl Fight plans to continue to “[knocking] around the state,” right now their main focus is to connect with more potential fans and up-and-coming bands in Charlottesville. 

7th Grade Girl Fight, Guy says, is ready to “give this town a little bit of a louder, pop-rock flavor.” 

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