The women of Warped: Jess Bowen of The Summer Set
(With the Vans Warped Tour returning to St. Petersburg’s Vinoy Park on Friday, for the second year in a row, we’re spending this week getting to know some of the women on punk’s most pop-friendly summer tour. Today: Drummer Jess Bowen of The Summer Set.)
Home base: Scottsdale, Ariz.
Their sound: High-energy, tween-friendly power pop.
Most recent album: Love Like This, 2009
You’ll dig them if you also like: The Jonas Brothers, We the Kings, Girls Like Boys, The Honor Society
Their story: As a drummer, unless you’re Phil Collins, Mick Fleetwood or Travis Barker, you’re not going to attract a lot of attention.
But when you’re also the sole female member in a band full of burgeoning tween-idol boys, suddenly you find yourself thrust into the spotlight.
“It probably throws people off, because it’s like, 'There’s a girl in the band ... but wait, she’s the drummer, not the singer?’” laughed Jess Bowen of Arizona power-pop band The Summer Set. “I love hanging out with chicks, but I think if I were to be on tour with a bus full of all girls, that’s just going to be drama left and right. With all guys, it’s a little more of a laid-back atmosphere. It doesn’t clash as much.”
The Summer Set have an energy that relies on the young band’s propulsive energy and offstage chemistry. Bowen was friends with Stephen Gomez (bass) and Stephen’s brother John (piano and guitar) in middle school, and played club soccer alongside them in high school before forming the band in 2007.
Given the melodic style of pop rock they play, it’s no surprise The Summer Set have been sucked into the Radio Disney universe. The band’s hit song Chelsea was written by singer Brian Dales for his girlfriend, Chelsea Staub, who co-stars with the Jonas Brothers on the Disney Channel show Jonas. And the band just re-released a Walmart-exclusive version of their 2009 album Love Like This featuring five live Taylor Swift covers.
“We’re definitely not trying to market ourselves a certain way; we’re just kind of going with it,” Bowen said. “It’s more up to your management and your label. If they want to put us in a Disney magazine, cool, awesome, that’s better marketing for us. More people will read that and find out about us. But as a band, we’re definitely not marketing ourselves that way. We’re just saying, 'We’re a band, we love playing music, we love having fun, come check us out.’”
This is the group’s first Warped Tour, and already, Bowen has found herself overwhelmed by how exhausting it can be.
“In my hometown in Phoenix, I had a bit of a heatstroke,” she said. “I think I stood up too fast after we were done playing, and I almost fainted. I had to sit down, and for about an hour, the medic came and was putting ice all throughout to cool me down. My face was completely red, and I was about to pass out.”
At least she’s made a few female friends on the tour to help her get by — artists like VersaEmerge’s Sierra Kusterbeck, Automatic Loveletter’s Juliet Simms and Hey Monday’s Cassadee Pope.
“A lot of the girls have all become great friends,” she said. “We’ve been used to touring with all guys, and it’s like, 'You know what? I need a little bit of estrogen in my life. I’m down to hang out with some girls, finally, after being with dudes all the time!’”
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*. Photo: Dave Green of Ardoor.