VOICES OF FEST: What Drives An Artist's Passion to Create?

By Rivka Yeker
Photos by Morgan Martinez

As we wrapped up our festival run with FEST in Gainesville, Florida, we were unsure what to expect. Everyone that I know that has been to the festival tells me that they count down the days till they go back. I was skeptical, not because I don't love the variations of punk that FEST brings, but because it seems like it is filled with a certain kind of man that I've known since I was first interested in DIY punk. 

Throughout the duration of three days of music and connection, we quickly learned that FEST isn't filled with just one kind of person. It is filled with hundreds of people that each stand for something a little differently but find a common passion for what punk does for them. I learned that each person is desperately searching for community, to hold on tight to the friends they meet, especially the ones that live thousands of miles away.

FEST for us, for Hooligan, became a journey to understand mine and Morgan's identities better and to find solace in the artists we highlighted in this particular series. We found ourselves falling a little more in love with Gainesville as each day progressed. We found ourselves in love with the passion behind the people we met and their kindness for building community and spaces that feel inclusive.

The artists we featured in the Voices of Fest series resemble the people that we were inspired by.

They radiate the entire city with their freshness, their willingness to discuss injustice and understand one another better. These voices are strong. They are powerful. They resemble the FEST that Morgan and I both long to go back to.

They are the voices of FEST that we found comfort in, the ones that made us realize that we can make FEST anything we want it to be. For us, it was a journey of reflection, of laughter and important and productive discussion. 

This is the community we found and the people we will never forget.

What drives your passion to create?
“I find that I get really easily bored when I dive too deep into something. And so, I’ve really enjoyed dabbling and experimenting. And I think what drives my passion and creativity is that it’s the only way I’ve figured out how to really function in this world. My mom told me when I was very young, you know, one of those pieces of mom advice, she said, “Find out what you’re good at, find out what you love to do, and then find a way to get paid for it.” And I still haven’t figured out a way to get paid for what I do, but what drives me creatively are these experiences and trying to absorb as much as I can and I’ve found the best way to do that is artistically and through the people that I meet artistically and being able to validate not only my passion but also other people’s passion with my work.”

KATE / The Winter Passing

What drives your passion to create?
“I would say probably never having to live an ordinary life, not that there’s anything wrong with an ordinary life, I just know that I’m not cut out for it. And I just want to constantly be doing things that amaze me and I want to constantly be seeing new things and making new things and doing it with my best friends. That’s what drives my passion.”

MISKI / City Mouse

What drives your passion to create?
“I guess music has always been therapy for me. It’s like an exorcism. It’s just how I work out my feelings. I don’t feel like I’m a good communicator and I don’t like burdening other people with my problems and I always have, because if I try to start talking to somebody about something, I just start crying. So I feel like my best release to work out my stuff is to just express it this way. Expression in the full form of the word, and just getting rid of it, and putting it out there. I feel like I started doing this way later in my life than other people do. I’m 38 years old. I probably didn’t start this until I was in my mid to late twenties. I actually worked at a record label for a long time and I worked with lots of bands, toured with lots of bands, but never really thought to be the artist. So many bands express the feelings that I want to express and I felt like I expressed myself by listening to them and thinking, “Yeah, somebody feels the way I feel,” and they’ve been putting words to this way longer than I thought about doing it myself. It was an epiphany the day I actually started to write music. It was my own words. That feeling, when it comes together, and you have that hook or those words that come out, there’s no better feeling that makes you feel good about yourself. Even if you’re singing about something that’s terrible. Because when someone connects with me and they tell me that they’ve identified with anything that I’ve written, and even if it’s not about a specific problem that they’ve dealt with but they feel empowered by it for just a minute, that means everything to me. That’s the best feeling in the world. People have said, “Hey, this got me through a really tough time,” and I’ve just cried and hugged them for what felt like an hour. It’s just the best feeling to know that somebody else has thought the same way about my songs that I’ve felt about so many other bands songs. That’s really the whole point of this.”


What drives your passion to create?
“Dreams, justice, and shredding.”

SIMONA / insignificant other

What drives your passion to create?
"When I had just started this project (insignificant other) in 2013, I had 12 songs on my bandcamp that I recorded in one take with a ukulele in my dorm room closet on my iphone voice memo app. I only had planned on maybe like 10 or 15 friends hearing the songs ever. One day, I got a letter, a tape, and some patches and pins from a new friend named Emma who lived in California. This tape contained the first songs that she ever recorded. In the letter, she told me that these songs would not have ever made it out of her bedroom if she hadn't heard my little collection of songs on bandcamp - she said she didn't realize she was "allowed" to write and record an album without anyone else's help or approval until then. I felt in that moment that this is why I needed to do this, to write and play songs, for as long as I live. Emma died a couple of months ago but I would give anything to tell her that I read that letter every day and I will never stop creating. On days when I can't find any other reason, I feel that I do it for Emma and for people like her and myself who need reassurance that we are "allowed" to have a voice."

TIERNEY / The Pauses

What drives your passion to create?
"People. I am so lucky to be surrounded by a diverse and talented cast of friends, family, and acquaintances that inspire me to be better each day."

LUCINDA / Kamikaze Girls

What drives your passion to create?
“My drive to create I think initially came from the frustration of filling a hole inside of me when I was a kid. I was angry, sad, and frustrated and playing music from a young age temporarily filled that hole for me and made me feel like more of a real person. After I wrote my first song I felt a sense of closure and I kept going. 14 years and I’m still filling that hole every day. I create to vent and to put across the things I struggle to say or cope with, out loud. The more brave I get, the braver I feel as a person and more comfortable I feel in my own skin. The more I create, the more I realize how we can use music and art as a means to challenge views, influence change, and help people. If I’m making music, I have a reason to be here, and I don’t want that to ever change.”

CHRISTINA / Gouge Away

What drives your passion to create?

LAUREN / Worriers

What drives your passion to create?
"Creating has always been about catharsis for me, or making things that I’d just like to see exist in the world - whether that’s a political perspective or a drawing. The driving force behind the band is the fact that it’s my outlet to both process the world around me and to connect with other people. Both Worriers and my artwork are my way to ask questions and start conversations, and I can’t picture existing without those two things."

BIANCA / Amygdala

What drives your passion to create?
"My passion in DIY punk is the relationships we build through playing music. Whether it be that our listeners can relate to Amygdala's message or they can learn from it, we are all a work in progress."


What drives your passion to create?
"I would explode if I couldn't express myself and my feelings about issues or stories in any way. I found writing and writing music to be my perfect outlet, where I can dive into a haze of worlds and put together pieces that feel right to me. It's cathartic. And to see people respond to that makes me just want to share and create more."

MORGAN / MeanGirls

What drives your passion to create?
"I write music because it helps me cope with my mental illness in a productive way and has given me a sense of purpose as well as a voice."

RAINE / MeanGirls

What drives your passion to create?
“Creating for me has always been parallel to existing. So much of our world is superficial and I think it can be isolating, so when I make something and someone else connects with it, I feel less alone. In fewer words, my passion to create things is driven by my need to make connections with people. I'm privileged and fortunate in so many ways so to have an opportunity to say something that could inspire or comfort someone who can relate in some way is everything to me.”

SHAUNA / Boyfriend Material

What drives your passion to create?
“Growing up with Depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, it was easy to shut down in social situations.  I was always a spunky kid but felt like I was fading in the background.  I started going to local shows when I was twelve.  Growing up in the punk scene, you would think I would radiate with self-assurance. Still, I have never truly felt confident.  I have always aimed for my music to be true from the heart.  In many cases, I released songs that were very difficult for me to share.  Writing is therapeutic for me; however, exposing my mental afflictions and history of sexual assault often triggered more panic attacks.  Although I still feel this anxiety, I have come to realize that sharing my music is the one instance that I have not felt talked over.  I have a platform to express myself freely, share my experiences, and relate to others in a way that I never felt was possible.  And that is what keeps me going.”

SHAG / Shellshag

What drives your passion to create?
“To follow up the quest, despite day and night and death and hell.”

DELIA / What Gives

What drives your passion to create?
“Creating music has always kind of been an excuse to hang out with my best friends. To sit in a room with a group of people who I love, get together, have fun, and write some riffs. To me, it’s all about feeding off of each other’s energy, enjoying the company of some of the funniest and smartest people I know, and making something we all can be proud of at the end.”