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Bloomington band Rosegirl writes rock opera 'Marlene the Dream'


The Bloomington band Rosegirl consists of a trio of IU sophomores. The group wrote a 30-minute rock opera called “Marlene the Dream,” which they are currently recording. Courtesy Photo Buy Photos

Describing themselves as a cornucopia of friendship and love, the Bloomington band Rosegirl consists of a trio of IU sophomores. The group wrote a 30-minute rock opera called “Marlene the Dream,” which they are currently recording.

A floor-to-ceiling tapestry covers an entire living room wall in Abby Harrison and Mia Waggoner’s apartment, while drummer Rob Greene sits. It features hand-painted images of pine trees, a football and dark planets with rings around them to set the stage. On it is Marlene, depicted with  green eyes, black hair and bandages on her nose. She is a high school girl who learns she is actually an alien.

Marlene gets called to return to her home planet after feeling out of place her whole life. But, home isn’t what Marlene thought it would be.

Harrison, who plays keyboard and ukulele and sings, cites The Who as her inspiration for writing a rock opera.

“The Who has a few concept albums, like ‘Tommy,’” she said. “It’s like the final form. The rock opera is the ultimate creative piece for a songwriter.”

While Rosegirl is recording “Marlene the Dream,” it is simultaneously working on an album called “Here Comes the Director’s Cut.” Its title track is about becoming famous and having a movie made about you, Harrison said.

The band pondered who they’d like to be played by in a biopic about Rosegirl. They joked about playing Coachella and doing a collaboration with Nike as a lifestyle brand.

The album's lyrics were mostly written by Harrison. She’s been working on them since her sophomore year of high school. The band collaborates musically, advising each other on parts they wrote, guitarist and vocalist Waggoner said.

Harrison and Waggoner are both audio engineering students at the Jacobs School of Music, and record Rosegirl’s music themselves. Greene is studying informatics.

The band’s name comes from Harrison’s mother’s family, consisting of four sisters with the last name Rose. People who knew her mother’s family always said of them, “It’s a Rose girl thing,” Harrison said.

“Originally, I think it was supposed to be all-female,” Greene said. 

Greene is also in another Bloomington band, Secret Mezzanine. Though Harrison and Waggoner agree they were looking to form a girl group, Greene fits right in. He went to high school with Harrison and said he gels well with the band.

Group members said they focus a lot on storytelling and lyrical content showcased by musical simplicity, something that isn’t often found in the Bloomington music scene. They don’t claim to be masters of their instruments, unlike the shred-heavy math rock they hear a lot around town.

“I think getting as technically good as you can is a good thing,” Greene said. “But that doesn’t mean you have to get complicated.”

Rosegirl currently has one song from “Marlene the Dream” out on Spotify, called “Constellations.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly said Rob Greene drummed for Secret Mezzanine. The IDS regrets this error.

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