Local Talent

A Fiendish Conversation with Rose Windows' Rabia Qazi

We talk vintage clothing and Black Sabbath as a gateway drug.

By Laura Dannen July 30, 2013

Rabia Qazi, lead singer of the "hard-hitting hippies" Rose Windows, toasts the crowd at Capitol Hill Block Party 2013.

Spirit warriors move softly… So goes the opening of “Native Dreams,” the psychedelic single off Rose Windows’ debut album The Sun Dogs (out in June via Sub Pop). With 22-year-old Rabia Qazi on vocals, these spirit warriors rock harder than most. She’s a modern incarnation of Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick, decked out in crocheted clothing and alternately head-banging in the band’s Black Sabbath moments or crooning softly on its finer folk-rock.

It’s a big summer for Rose Windows. The septet helps to kick off the annual (free) Concerts at the Mural series this Friday, followed by a national tour, including several dates with Sub Pop labelmates the Moondoggies. For our latest Fiendish Conversation, we chatted with Qazi about her early influences, vintage clothing, and Black Sabbath as a gateway drug.

What did you grow up listening to? How did you get into music?

I didn’t really listen to much music growing up. We weren’t really allowed to. But in middle school, I started to get more into classic rock and roll—Black Sabbath, stuff like that. My family is Muslim, and it was forbidden for us to listen to anything with percussion. Sometimes we would get away with listening to certain bands. There was this one ’80s band called Vital Signs that was probably my favorite as a kid.

Was Black Sabbath kind of a gateway drug?

Oh yeah, totally. Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin were definitely a big influence. All of the late ’60s, early ’70s stuff. I really loved Billie Holiday, Etta James; the blues in general made me really like singing.

Do any of those bands/sounds influence the work you do now?

Totally. I’m really inspired by Buffy Sainte-Marie and I really love Billie Holiday as well. She’s one of my biggest influences.

How did you get involved with Rose Windows?

Chris [Cheveyo] is the lead guitarist, and he writes most of the lyrics. Me and him kind of switch off on writing. On the first record, he did most of them; I did two songs. But he was just playing guitar at the kitchen table, and I was just sitting there. We were trying to entertain our friend, and started singing, and just started making music together, recording demos.

Is there one song in particular that you love to perform?

My favorite song to perform is “Walking with a Woman.” It has a lot of soul…I feel like I can really express my voice fully with that song. And “Native Dreams” is also fun too, because you get to go crazy, head bang and all that.

Any other Seattle bands we should be paying attention to?

Oh man. There’s a singer, her name is Jessika Kenney. She’s a Persian poetry singer. Her husband’s name is Eyvind Kang, and they are two of—in my opinion—the best musicians in Seattle. Jess is my favorite singer of all time; she’s incredible. … She just played for the Dalai Lama, and she is just this incredible light that has come into my life and inspired me a lot.

What do you think you'd be doing if you weren’t playing music?

I’d probably be a lot crazier and a lot more wild if I didn’t have this. I really don’t know. I’d probably still be traveling. I’m not really good at having jobs. I’m horrible at having jobs. I would probably be trying to find a way to make music if I wasn’t making music.

What other small jobs have you had?

I worked at an Indian boutique called Travelers, and I served chai tea to people. Then I worked at some pizza places for like a month. For the last five years, I’ve been selling vintage clothing—buying and selling. That’s how I make a living on some days. I have an Etsy account where I sell all my stuff. I guess, going back to the question, I would probably want to buy and sell vintage, or work with antiques— those are my favorite things.

Do you outfit the band?

I try to. I actually bring extra stuff for them to wear on tour.

What’s the highest compliment someone could give you or the band?

This 16-year-old just recently sent me a message on Facebook and told me she was very inspired by my voice, and asked how I got where I am. She was just really sweet and adorable about it. It makes me really happy when people—especially young women—are interested in singing and creating music. I don’t know if that’s a compliment really, but it’s what I like to hear the most—people being inspired and wanting to create music from listening to our record and do something new. That’s really awesome.

Concerts at the Mural: No Depression Night
With JD McPherson, Rose Windows, and GravelRoad

Aug 2 at 5:30, Mural Amphitheatre, Seattle Center, free

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