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Unwoman (aka Erica Mulkey) is a San Francisco-based cellist-singer-songwriter. Layered with skillful cello, rich vocals, and electronically arranged beats, her solo music is a futuristic homage to her classical training. Unwoman performs often in the Bay Area and has been featured at major steampunk, goth, and sci-fi-related events all over North America. She has collaborated with Abney Park, Amanda Palmer, Stripmall Architecture, Voltaire, Rasputina, Jill Tracy, Vernian Process, Jody Ellen, Nathaniel Johnstone Band, Caustic, MC Frontalot, and Attrition. Other influences include IAMX, Florence and the Machine, Imogen Heap, Siouxsie Sioux, and Beats Antique. Extremely versatile, able to perform with no amplification, just cello and voice ("acacella") or with full backing tracks, she also plays the piano, cello banjo, and theremin.
In Spring of 2010 Unwoman released her fourth full-length self-produced album, Casualties. Its pressing was funded by fans on kickstarter, and its release coincided with a huge bump in her popularity due to several enthusiastic tweets from Amanda Palmer. In September 2011 she released Uncovered Volume 1, an album of dramatic reinterpretations of popular songs written betwen 1980 and 1995, also funded by fans via kickstarter. Her most recent crowdfunding endeavor, for The Fires I Started, raised over 300% of its goal and was released in August 2012.
Unwoman performs solo, and as a guest in other bands, throughout the US. Unwoman has performed solo at Steamcons I - IV (Seattle), Clockwork Alchemy (San Jose, CA), Aetherfest (San Antonio, TX), Emerald City Steampunk Expo (Wichita, KS), Her Royal Majesty's Steampunk Symposium (Long Beach, CA), Wicked Faire (Somerset, NJ), AnomalyCon (Denver, CO), Victoria Steam Exposition (Victoria, BC), WorldCon (Reno, NV 2011), Bats Day in the Fun Park (Anaheim, CA), Can't Stop the Serenity (Phoenix, AZ), Nova Albion (SF Bay Area), Fanime (San Jose, CA), and Teslacon (Madison, WI).
Unwoman began playing the cello at nine years old, and piano at eleven. At thirteen Erica wrote her first songs for piano and voice. At sixteen she began studying electronic music at a local community college while continuing to play the cello and piano, compose, sing, and study music theory.
Erica earned a BA in music (emphasis on cello) and minored in electronic music at UC Santa Cruz. While at UCSC she began a thriving (now erstwhile) mp3.com page, choosing the name "Unwoman" from Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, as a nod to females in the novel's dystopia stigmatized and punished for rejecting traditional gender roles. As Unwoman rejected traditional genre definitions as well, her music flirted casually with goth and industrial audiences, until the rise of the steampunk sub-subculture which embraced her anachrofuturistic styles wholeheartedly.
Unwoman has studied the cello with Patty Hicks, Nick Anderson (who invited the young Erica to receive instruction from revered pedagogue Margaret Rowell, then 94 years old), and Karen Andrie at UCSC. By far her most influential teacher was international composer-performer, writer, and Renaissance Man Matthew Owens. Matthew Owens' instruction has been integral to her developing both cello technique and compositional savvy.