But while most preteens would have shrunk from such public attacks and controversy, Rose and Alto are, like, so over it. “At first it really bugged me,” Rose says. “Now I just try to ignore it.”
Blübird’s proponents seem equally willing to invest the band with world-shaking import, albeit of a positive nature. “Úna Rose is the future,” declares Shawna Lipton, a former volunteer at the Rock ’n’ Roll Camp for Girls. “She’s already better at 13 than a lot of people, because she writes songs about real issues, like the environment, but they aren’t totally cliché or annoying, like, ‘Girl power, blah blah blah, yay.’ She’s not trying to do anything too fancy or adult, but her songs aren’t childish, either. They’re real.”
Neither Alto nor Rose can explain exactly how or why they first became interested in rock ’n’ roll, but both girls say that music has been a part of their lives for almost as long as they can remember. Rose began taking piano lessons at age 6 and started playing the guitar two years later, when her parents—Oregonian reporter Joseph Rose and stay-at-home mom Heidi—gave her an acoustic for her eighth birthday.
Joseph Rose recalls how one Saturday morning in 2002, during the drive from Portland to Lake Oswego for then 8-year-old Úna’s weekly piano lesson, an interview with Misty McElroy, founder of the Rock ’n’ Roll Camp for Girls, came on the car radio.
“Úna was really quiet, listening to McElroy talk about the camp,” Joseph says. “But when the interview was over, I heard this little voice pipe up from the backseat: ‘Daddy, can I go to that?’”
Rose went to the girls’ rock camp four summers in a row, starting in 2002; she joined the Ready her third year there. Shortly after that band split up, Alto attended the camp for the first time.
Alto and Rose have known each other most of their lives. They met at Alameda Elementary in Northeast Portland and were, according to Alto, “super super best friends” in Mr. Mundal’s second-grade class. After choosing different middle schools (Rose goes to da Vinci Arts, while Alto attends nearby Beaumont), the girls lost touch—until the Rock ’n’ Roll Camp reunited them.
“When it came time to form bands,” Rose says, “it was automatic that we would be together.”