Bonne Finken and Sharika Soal sat in a booth at Raccoon River Brewery and, like just about everyone else last week, talked about Miley Cyrus.
The pair have a slew of things happening in their respective worlds: Soal, who auditioned earlier in the year for both “America’s Got Talent” and “The Voice,” is waiting for the release of a project with Justin Timberlake as well as an episode of MTV’s “Made.” Finken, on the other hand, is continuing her busy performance schedule while also heading back into the studio to record.
In the meanwhile, the women have carved out two dates in September for a pair of shows — Sept. 6 and 13 at Gas Lamp — with Soal headlining one and Finken the other.
“I think you reached out to me first and said, ‘I have a show, do you want to do it with me?’ ” Finken said, looking at Soal. “And I remember thinking (that) I had a show the next Friday, but my bill wasn’t done yet, and (Soal’s) wasn’t either, so I thought, ‘Why don’t we just be on each other’s bills?’ ”
But the shows wind up not being the topic du jour, as the two women share a plate of fries and talk about Cyrus’ controversial performance at the Video Music Awards and what it means to be a woman performing in an image-driven business.
“Every person you see change their image, it’s for more skin,” said Soal. “You never see someone be like, ‘I’m going to wear coveralls and no makeup.’ It’s always more sexual. Like with Miley. She changed her image, and what happened?”
“I’ve had that direct pressure,” Finken concurred. “Literally four months ago I had (former Nelly Furtado producer Mike) Krompass tell me if I changed my look he would sign me to a recording contract. I’m not doing it, and I’m paying the price for it. Because if I were to go wear short shorts and a cropped T-shirt and get my abs all greased up and dance around, I would have more going on right now than I do. And that’s verbatim what I was told: ‘Love your music, voice is incredible, there’s nobody who can do what you do, but we need you to look at these outfits and tell us which one you like.’ ”
“It’s exhausting,” Soal added. “It really makes me depressed sometimes. I feel like I can’t ever be off. Some days I want to be like, ‘I don’t give a shit about Ladysoal,’ but you can’t do that. It’s hard when you’re having a bad day, and you can’t really live out your bad day.”
The women have taken wildly divergent paths to where they are now, which is what makes their pairing on a bill seem incongruous at first blush. The recent offer from Krompass (Imagine Dragons producer Brandon Darner was also involved) marks the fourth time since 2007 that Finken has turned down an offer that could have changed her life, because she refused to compromise on who she is.
By contrast, the more image-conscious Soal has thrown herself into a multi-media presence that’s open for business. In addition to the Timberlake project and “Made,” Soal has a YouTube channel that picks up tens of thousands of views, and she’s eschewed her band in favor of a show that’s more stylized. But the passion the two share for their music and their performances is where they are in lockstep.
“(The shows) are about wanting to support other really hardworking women,” Soal said.
“For us, it’s just (supporting) women artists, end of sentence,” added Finken. “There’s not many around.” CV