What started out as a small gathering at a bar for friends who wanted to listen to the same music has evolved into an empire—and Babz Szabo is the sole woman in the trio behind it. Along with her two male cofounders T.J. Petracca and Morgan Freed, Babz has built an entire business that's far more than an event, although Emo Nite was never just an event. The originally LA-based party has expanded to touring across the US (they'll be in Brooklyn in June), they have a creative agency aptly named Ride or Cry, a line of merch that always has high-in-demand sold out items, plus a podcast which features some of the biggest names in the scene.
I spoke with Babz about how being a woman affects her place as a woman in music, style inspiration, Emo Nite as a safe space, and more. Not like I had any doubt before, but now I'm certain: Emo girls run the world.
Who are some of the women in your life or in the music industry who really inspire you?
In my life, the person who inspires me the most is my sister. She’s really awesome and we’re really good at bouncing ideas off each other and just knowing how to be there for each other. In the music industry, the person I look up to the most is Steph Mirsky from Warped Tour. Ever since I met her, she’s always just been an example of someone that I think does their job really well and is really nice to everyone all the time, even though she's under a lot of stress— which I find hard to do. She's just so bad ass.
Being in the music industry, do you feel like u have to work harder as a woman to prove yourself since the industry is still so male dominated?
Yeah, absolutely. As a woman I definitely have to work a lot harder to do everyday things that for men are a lot easier, but I think that I’ve found ways to kind of be less upset about it as it comes up. I remember when we first started doing Emo Nite in different cities around the US, I would go with my two co-founders Morgan and TJ and we would just be setting up and pretty much all the production people and bartenders would be males at these venues, and they would go up to TJ and Morgan to ask questions or to ask to settle at the end of the night. It's a super small thing—I had to explain to them that it's little things like that. But I think I've sort of figured out a way to not let it get to me and just work as hard as I can everyday and be an example of a woman who can get through these things and really just be on the same level as men are considered to be in the music industry.
With all the stuff thats going on—even in the emo and pop punk scene—all the news about sexual assault, do you kind of feel a responsibility to make Emo Nite a safe space?
Yeah, I think that's been our message with Emo nite from the beginning—for everyone to be there for each other and take care of each other. At least once throughout the night at every single Emo Nite, we'll get on the mic and say, “No matter what happens tonight, take care of each other and be there for the people standing right around you, even if you don't know them.” I think that's the most special thing about Emo Nite -- people have met at Emo Nite and they've become friends and now hangout outside of Emo Nite, and it's just this community that supports each other in and out of Emo Nite which is really, really cool. So I definitely think that's been our message forever, and I feel like that's almost the most important part of it all.
On a less serious note — what are your go-to sources of fashion inspiration for Emo Nite and everyday outfits?
My number one source of fashion inspiration is my favorite brand called Lazy Oaf. They're based in the UK and I am obsessed with them—everything, not even just the clothing but how they represent themselves on their social media their website. Their store looks so cool. I had a chance to go by there last winter. And then I follow this blogger Zoella and I really like her style and I kind of look to that. Honestly, also, a lot of the merch that we make for Emo Nite, we design them to be things that we want to wear, so I wear a lot of that to Emo Nite and outside of it as well.
So you guys have your Ride or Cry podcast too—who's your dream woman you’d have on your podcast?
Someone I've been trying to get on our podcast but the schedules just never align is Lights. I'm obsessed with her. She’s just such a perfect example of a really strong woman who's super creative and just so nice—and you know, she has a kid and she tours the world, and she now started making comics. She’s just such an inspiration to me. So she’d be one I'd love to interview. Hopefully one day it works out.
What's your favorite emo song of the moment?
I’ve been listening to Grayscale’s new song...it's from their album last year called Adornment. They just came out with a video for the song 'Forever Yours,' and I've been listening to that nonstop this week. Really good slow acoustic jam. And then I've been listening to a lot of the new Senses Fail.
If there’s one main thing that girls going to Emo Nite could learn from you, what would you want it to be?
I think the one takeaway I would want girls to know is just to do whatever you think will make you happy, regardless of the fact that it might be scary at first. When we first started doing Emo Nite, I had crazy social anxiety, and going on stage and doing what we do was the scariest thing in the world. It probably took me a year of continuously doing it to feel even a little bit comfortable, but now it's really easy for me to do. But it took a lot of putting my mind to it and knowing that I could do it, knowing that it was something that was good for me to do. It's awesome because I used to be really scared—or not scared, but I guess shy—to speak in social settings or give speeches in front of people or anything like that even though i took speech class in college. But now, none of that even scares me at all, and I'm so glad because it's nice to conquer your fears and live life without having all these obstacles.