By Jason Keil   Published Nov 04, 2004 at 5:22 AM

{image1} It's still tough to be a woman in music. Just ask Blue Background.

Guitarist/vocalist Sarah Mick and keyboardist/vocalist Maggie Tielker, both 20 years old, are constantly scrutinized, and once were even asked to leave their own show by a bouncer, for being a female-fronted band.

But all the hassle and harassment that comes the band's way are mere blips in what has proven to be a hectic year for the quartet.

Somehow, between attending school and writing music, the members of Blue Background, including bassist Christopher Christen and drummer Carlyle Nowak, managed to play multiple dates nationwide (including a college tour), appear at the Invasion of the GoGirlsMusicFest at the South by Southwest Music Festival, win the People's Choice for Favorite Band at Wisconsin Area Music Industry (WAMI) awards, and travel to Los Angeles to record their new seven-track EP titled "Are You Listening?"

But the exasperated looks on their faces tell you music isn't all that's on these musicians' minds. Tielker says, "(Our schedules are) definitely starting to wear us out. We're getting busier and busier with the band so hopefully soon we choose between (school and music) and go with the music."

Their new EP is a step in the right direction for the Fort Wayne, Ind. natives. Much more confrontational than their previous effort "Paperbacks and Photographs," there is more of a rock feel to the group's already-potent pop mix on "Are You Listening?"

"With our last CD, we kind of ended up with a finished project that wasn't exactly what we had been hoping for," Mick explains. "It had more of a poppy sound. There aren't so many bells and whistles with this one. We're just trying to write songs that would appeal to more people."

Recorded in only eight days, "Are You Listening?" originally started as a demo, but under the watchful production eye of Elliot Alexander Richardson, it will be used as a tool to help the band shop for a major label.

"He's just an all-around genius when it comes to music," says Nowak. "He had ideas that we never (would have thought of.)"

"We just gelled together," Mick adds. "We worked together to get really cool sounds. It was like we were recording with another band member."

Blue Background is also making its second appearance at the GoGirlsMusicFest Nov. 4 at Shank Hall at 8 p.m. Stopping in Milwaukee for the third year in a row, local coordinator Andrea Hubbert promises another premier bill. "The entertainment lineup is a little more diverse than it was last year," she says.

Appearing with Blue Background this year are Chicago's Ovadya and also the Windy City's Goldman, Minneapolis folk singer/songwriter Lojo Russo, and local band Phalaphel. The first 100 attendees will receive a free compilation disc at the door, and proceeds go to MusiCares, which provides assistance for musicians by offering financial, medical and emergency support.

The band, which has appeared at several events, views these shows as a positive and supportive experience. "It's just a fun show to play," says Mick.

And it certainly provides the perfect antithesis to those closed-minded music fans who think there isn't a place for women in rock.