You may not know her name yet, but Mexican-born, Portland-based Fabi Reyna—the 25-year-old guitarist and founder and editor-in-chief of She Shreds magazine—is currently one of the most interesting people in the world of guitars.
After picking up the instrument at a young age she later felt unrepresented in the press. So, a year out of high school and spurred on by the politically charged energy of the ‘90s riot grrl movement she merged her twin loves for classical guitar and punk and spearheaded She Shreds in 2012.
Marnie Stern, Sleater Kinney’s Corrin Tucker, acoustic wizard Gabriela Quintero, Beyonce guitarist Bibi McGill, Esperanza Spaulding and Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard are just some of the luminaries who have graced a She Shreds cover over the course of their first 11 issues. Now, five years in and on the cusp of releasing issue 12-featuring Alynda Lee Segarra of Hurray for the Riff Raff and Clem Creevy of Cherry Glazerr on two covers-She Shreds can be found in 28 countries, hosts more than 20 shows a year, and boasts a circulation of 40,000 (and growing) and a new distribution deal with Barnes and Noble.
Fender sat down with the talented activist, editor and guitarist to discuss She Shreds, the state of the guitar industry and how she defines 'shredding'.
"I started on Hendrix when I was nine, then I switched to classical guitar. I went to fine arts academy in high school and we had to practice four hours a day in a classical guitar ensemble. Me and my best friend were first and second chair and we were the shit. Then I went to punk and I got into K Records and stuff that makes you ask, 'How the fuck did you make that?' 'Oh, you picked up a guitar, turned it upside down and banged out something really amazing.' Now I’m also playing cumbia (traditional Latin dance music that originated in Columbia) and R&B.
I was mostly taught by people who I didn’t feel understood how I learned and didn’t seem willing to try to keep my engaged. If I wanted to play guitar I felt that I needed to figure out how to inspire myself, how to stay motivated, and how to be supportive of myself. I didn’t have a community. On the contrary, I had people telling me I shouldn’t play because I was a girl.
"I loved Ana Vidovic. I saw Ana Vidovic perform and she was one of the first women I saw play guitar in a truly compelling way. I was so taken by her performance. Ana Vidovic changed my life.
"On the other end of the spectrum there was the riot grrl movement. Learning about that movement and picking up punk along the way allowed me to see that I can create compelling, driving music, and it came packaged with the D.I.Y. culture that I also absorbed. So, I started blending the D.I.Y. and punk worlds with technical, classical guitar, which is telling of She Shreds as well.
"We’re all about 'try something' and 'experiment' and 'make a revolution' but we also think the gear side is cool and to be technically proficient is dope. I feel lucky to be able to be a part of all these different worlds."
On the Industry
"It’s interesting to see what companies believe and where the music industry is heading. I can tell by your branding and often by your instruments who you believe your audience is, who you’ll be connecting with because of your brand and what you value in terms of product development. The industry has focused so much for so long on a specific type of player-the noodler, the techie-and that’s a very small amount of the players out there.
"My generation and the one coming up behind will be the generation that won’t take this old-school mentality. We need to see equality in order to support something and we can see right through commercials and we know when you’re trying to sell us shit. And we know when something is genuine or authentic.
"Eventually, as small or as big as a company may be, finding a wider, more inclusive audience is going to be a requirement. That audience will be too large to ignore. And that’s what cool about Fender and other companies who are doing it. It’s interesting to see who is paying attention and is forward thinking and to see who’s stuck in the past and who is just stuck."
On Who Shreds
"To me, 'shredding' incorporates philosophies and doing amazing things with time and space. To me that stuff is shredding, but you have to convince a portion of the guitar community that has nurtured a different defition for more than 30 years that there’s a different way of being a shredder. The industry created that terminology. Now we have to use that terminology to define what it means for us."
On Rules and Breaking Them
"One of the best things I could have possibly done in creating this revolution within the industry is trusting my intuition. I don’t necessarily have any rules. I believe the industry wanted this (She Shreds) and were just waiting for it to happen. I think it took someone who didn’t know the rules to really say, 'Let’s try this', because you can get stuck inside the rules."
On the Pitfalls and Potential of Theory
"I played classical guitar for a long time and I knew my theory and I was good at it, but at one point I wanted to forget all of it. I began to feel very limited by it. I needed to throw all that away and I took a year and just played punk and it was so refreshing and made me love guitar even more.
"When you pick up an instrument and go for it and write music without knowing what you’re doing you can create new genres. It’s passionate and compelling in a new and different way, but when you know theory you have to think about what comes next. In fact, you already know what comes next. It’s limiting in its way and creates a different outcome.
"There are certainly ways that you can be revolutionary from both perspectives, but I think there’s something magical about not knowing anything about the instrument that can help you make something unique and out of this world."
On Starting She Shreds
"It mainly started from booking shows, touring and picking up guitar magazines. I was watching and meeting incredible players and I was saying 'she shreds' over and over again. It hit me that I can create something that I can see myself in and support the people I see in front of me who don’t have a platform, but who are super talented.
"She Shreds actually started as shows. I’ve been booking shows since I was 15. I booked random shows for my high school in Austin. One was on a bridge. Then I started doing one-off, unofficial shows for SXSW. Then I booked a tour. I was supposed to go to Cal Arts for guitar, but instead I went on tour. Then I booked a 15 band festival with the idea of making a community of these women. That’s how I raised money for the first issue."
"I think part of why we’re so succussful is because of the design. I always knew that I wanted the aesthetic to be neutral. Anyone can look at (the magazine)and they wouldn’t assume that it’s for either gender. When Lauren (Baker) our creative director came on for our third issue. Her aesthetic was cool and drew on the art and fashion worlds. I wanted it to feel like you’re picking up a guitar magazine, but I also wanted it to feel like you are picking up an art magazine. To me, guitar should be associated with art. And it’s wild to me that it hasn’t been for so long."
On She Shreds' Greatest Hits
"We did this mariachi piece. Mariachi is the traditional music of Mexico. Gender roles are very intense there and within mariachi music so the genre has always been very male dominated. We interviewed someone who has been studying women in mariachi for 20 years and we made a timeline of how women have been involved in mariachi from 1900 to the present. To so many people women don’t exist in that genre, period, but it’s so cool to see that in 1903 there was this amazing woman who was breaking down that barrier. That was one of the best things that we’ve done.
"Other stories we've done that I love include the feature we did on the 50 most influential guitarists of the '90s which was cool because the '90s were so influential, but to choose 50 was cool. Mary Timony, Denita Sparks, Corrin Tucker, L7, Bratmobile, PJ Harvey was in there. The Deal sisters and Kim Gordon as well. To me the '90s were about experimenting.
"And the profile we did of Abigail Ybarra, who has been winding pickups at Fender since 1956, is also an amazing story."
On the Future
"My ten-year dream is to be the place that reflects how women are seen in the world and to branch out and look at more instruments and then to sports and politics. I'm also always thinking about lessons and teaching. I’d like to start a creative agency as well. If you ask, 'How does this industry speak to this audience that has been largely ignored for the last three decades?' We can answer that question.
"What gives me hope and makes me so sure that this market and this audience exists so widely is that we haven’t even really tried yet. So far we’ve just made the stuff that makes us happy. What’s going to happen when we start planning things out six months in advance? We just do this because it’s naturally what comes to us.
"It actually wasn’t until last month that I truly considered this a business because I always had it in mind that when you run a business you have to give something up and I never felt like I’ve given anything up. I’ve always felt like I've only received."
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