To find the tone for the Freevee teen dramedy series “High School” — based on the New York Times best-selling memoir by twin sisters and musicians Tegan and Sara Quin, who grew up in Calgary in the '90s — showrunner Clea DuVall revisited the female rock and alternative musicians of that era.
PJ Harvey, Courtney Love, Kim Deal, and Kathleen Hanna were touchstones for DuVall during her teenage years, and they continued to inspire her during the writing process. Similar to the characters on the show, DuVall says she saw herself as “a young person who did not fit into the categories of what girls should be, what they should look like, or what they should create.”
This segment has been edited for concision and clarity.
When I started writing [“High School”], I really went back and started listening to all the music that I was listening to when I was a teenager in the ‘90s. It brought back so many feelings, and immediately allowed me to connect with what it was like for me to be growing up during that time, being queer, and trying to figure out my own identity.
With PJ Harvey, her whole record “Dry” is a whole piece for me where, whenever I listen to it, I listen to it from start to finish, because it just takes me on a journey.
A song like “Plants and Rags,” it's so sad, but so human. I really remember listening to that as a young person and just my heart would ache, but it felt so good, because I felt like, “Oh, someone else is able to articulate something that I am feeling, and it's making me feel less alone.”
The second I turn those songs on, I just get transported back to that place and back to those feelings, and it allows me to connect with who I was at that time, and what I was struggling with, and gives me the opportunity to have compassion for that person who didn't have the capacity to have compassion for themselves at the time. It actually becomes very healing.
Courtney Love’s [band] Hole was a huge influence on me. I just was obsessed with her. I loved the “Pretty on the Inside” record. I felt so empowered by [her screams].
“Live Through This” was a more polished record, but still had so much power. My favorite song off that record, “She Walks [Over] Me,” we were able to use in the show, [and] that was a real thrill for me, just because I listened to that song probably 150,000 times in my room — much to my mother's dismay.
The way they express themselves, the way they dress, the art that they created — [Courtney Love] gave me a roadmap for the kind of girl and the kind of artist I could become.
Those women — PJ Harvey, Courtney Love, Kim Deal, Kathleen Hanna — I don't know what I would have done without them.