This article originally appeared on MEOW Online.
No doubt about it: No Doubt’s new single, “Settle Down,” – same title but not the same song as Kimbra’s hit – is a great kickoff for the band’s first album in 10 years. The long string section at the beginning of the song, unexpected for a third wave ska band, proves the band is not afraid to keep their music varied and interesting.
No Doubt borrows from punk, reggae and pop influences. The group had a rough start. The band’s original lead singer, John Spence, committed suicide in 1987. Stefani, originally No Doubt’s backup singer, took over lead vocals following Spence’s death. No Doubt found itself competing with the ’90s grunge scene — their 1991 self-titled album failed to make an impact. They finally caught on with their 1995 release, Tragic Kingdom, with its hit singles, “Don’t Speak” and “Just a Girl.”
The band took an indefinite hiatus when lead singer Gwen Stefani started a successful solo career in 2004. She topped the charts with “Hollaback Girl” and “The Sweet Escape.” Stefani is also a fashion designer and philanthropist. She donated one million dollars to Save the Children’s Japan Earthquake-Tsunami Children in Emergency Fund last year.
Watch for No Doubt’s sixth studio album, Push and Shove, in stores on September 25.
Zoe Ann, a rock/pop singer-songwriter from Dallas, Texas, has a lot going for her right now. In addition to a quickly developing musical career, she just signed a publishing deal to help get her music out there, got sponsored by Manic Panic NYC, and has been asked to partner with Complete Havoc and Cameron Crown Collection Skateboards. Check her out and see why so many people are investing themselves in her right now.
Tessa: What inspired you to start making music?
Zoe Ann: My parents bought a piano for the family when I was born, hoping I’d grow up to play it. When I was 3, I saw a girl singing on the stage at a festival in TX and told my mom that was exactly what I wanted to do. She found that remarkable since I was so shy! I started learning to play the piano as soon as I was big enough to climb up on the bench and began writing songs when I was seven years old. When I was about 10, I found my dad’s classic rock records from the 70’s and fell in love with The Beatles and Led Zeppelin. I got into musical theatre in second grade, which solved my shyness, and I immediately knew that performing was what I wanted to do. I’ve continued writing and learning both piano and guitar. I released my first album at fourteen years old and have been working on this project for two years. I’ve been working very hard on my second album and I am so excited to release it.
Tessa: Who do you consider your influences?
Zoe Ann: Well the classics of course: Zeppelin, The Beatles, Van Halen, and even Motown. I’m influenced by everything around me, really. Currently I really like Papa Roach, Katy Perry, The Used, Brand New, Flyleaf and Sick Puppies. I always find myself so puzzled when someone asks me this question, because my influences come from so many different things.
Tessa: You describe yourself as a singer-songwriter, but you definitely don’t have that traditional “woman sitting with an acoustic guitar” singer-songwriter image. Was it weird for you to choose that label in spite of that?
Zoe Ann: In truth, I am that behind the scenes. The final product of my songs is very rocked out, and I love that. But it all comes from me sitting in a room, either playing my piano or guitar writing my heart out. It’s all very real, and my songs mean a lot to me. Especially on this upcoming album.
Tessa: What songwriters do you look up to?
Zoe Ann: I absolutely love Adele. She has such heartfelt songs. Her whole album tells a story, and you can tell she works really hard.
Tessa: I’ve been asking a lot of people this lately: how does the songwriting process work for you?
Zoe Ann: My writing process varies, haha. Most of the time I’ll just be walking around and a really cool idea will pop up in my head, so I get out my voice memos from my phone and record it so I can go home and work on it. This year a lot has happened that has really hurt me and I’ve grown a lot from it, so lately I always have something to write about. I just pick up my guitar or sit at the piano and let it go.
Tessa: Can you tell me about what inspired one or more of your songs? Maybe “Lipstick Lies,” “Someday,” or “Girlfriend?”
Zoe Ann: “Lipstick Lies” was inspired by the fact that there are so many girls who only care about themselves and the “boyfriend of the week.” I was actually really bullied when I was in middle school, so I’ve written a lot about mean girls. 😉 Ha. “Someday” was inspired by my life, really. I’m growing up in a small town outside of Dallas and know my goal is a career in music; I’m doing all I can to reach my “Someday!”
Tessa: You play rhythm guitar and keyboard and sing. Would you say you’re more of a guitarist, keyboardist, or singer?
Zoe Ann: Singing is my #1. I love singing so much. I sing all the time. Keyboard [is] second, and guitar third since it’s so new to me, but I get better everyday!
Tessa: Similar question: your solo YouTube videos usually have you singing and playing an instrument, while your videos with your band have you just singing. Do you prefer performing with an instrument or fronting a band?
Zoe Ann: I like both, because I love moving around and interacting with the crowd, but I spend more time when performing with my band not having an instrument. But I can easily front the band with my guitar or on keyboards.
Tessa: Is it weird for you to just sing at shows without an instrument in front of you?
Zoe Ann: Not at all, I have a really high-energy rocked out show, so it’s not like I am just standing at the mic. [Also,] being able to pick up an instrument in a couple songs is a nice break from jumping around, plus [it] shows some versatility.
Tessa: Would you rather play at a small, intimate venue or in front of a large crowd?
Zoe Ann: Large crowd! My dream is to see a ton of people at my show, singing the lyrics, all having a great time. I want to make people smile. I want people to be helped by my music. I can’t wait for that rush of singing in front of a ton of people!
Tessa: Your website describes you as a “teen rocker.” How did you get your career started so early in your life, and so successfully?
Zoe Ann: I just had the desire and [a] family that was willing to support my dream. They eventually allowed me to homeschool [so I would] have enough time to focus on music as my career path.
Tessa: You’re surrounded by guys in your backing band, and I’m guessing in other musical situations you’re surrounded by dudes too. Is it ever weird for you to be the token girl? If so, how do you deal with it?
Zoe Ann: Well, I don’t always have the same guys in my band, but the one or two that stick with me are like my best friends. [We’ve] become so close, it’s like they’re my brothers. But unfortunately in the rock world, you really have to look out for yourself. I’m glad I learned that early on.
Tessa: You’re different from some independent artists because you’re managed by someone else. How does that work?
Zoe Ann: Well, I am independent and although I have management, they are here to support me and help me. I think many independent artists have managers. I generally think of it as not having a label, though I do want a label!
Tessa: Do you prefer this route to managing yourself?
Zoe Ann: My management is very hands off, and and yet if I need them, they are a phone call away. I love the arrangement I have, but not all managers are like this. I got lucky!
Tessa: Where do you want your music to take you eventually?
Zoe Ann: I want my music to take me as far as possible. The sky is the limit, and I’m going to work as hard as I can to get there! This business has the power to be a good or bad influence in someone’s life. I want to help people and I hope one day, I’ll be traveling around the world.
Hearts Under Fire is an up-and-coming band that just released a new EP, “We’ve Come Too Far To Live In The Past.” With Mary O’Regan on bass and lead vocals, Nicky Day and Kat Upton on guitar, and Lexi Clark on drums, the UK-based group plays a great mix of pop-punk and punk rock. Hearts Under Fire took some time to tell me about how they started their band, the other instruments they play, and weird reactions from audiences at their gigs.
Tessa: Why did you all start playing or singing?
Hearts Under Fire: We all started playing music when we were young (around 13), some of us in bands, some of us just at home for fun. It’s just been something we’ve always wanted to do and always had a passion for.
Tessa: What bands and artists inspire you?
HUF: We’re all influenced by such a huge range of artists, everyone from Underoath to Bruce Springsteen to Alkaline Trio to Prince. We listen to such a wide variety of music.
Tessa: How often do you all practice on your own and as a band?
HUF: I’d say on our own we practice all the time. When it’s something you love doing, it doesn’t feel like practice. It’s just doing what you enjoy. As a band we will generally get together once a week, but it varies depending on how many shows we have.
Tessa: How did you start a band together?
HUF: Lexi’s been in the band since it first started, and Mary joined not long after. Nicky joined about 3 years ago when there was space for a new guitarist, and Kat joined just over a year ago when Steph [our former guitarist] left.
Tessa: Where was your first gig? What was playing that gig like?
HUF: All our first gigs were different. Lexi, Mary & Kat played in a few bands before HUF so they started young. Nicky’s first ever gig was with Hearts Under Fire in Guildford…nerve wracking to say the least!
Tessa: Do any of you play an instrument besides the one you use in this band?
HUF: Kat plays bass, Mary plays guitar, Nicky & Lexi play the tambourine…
Tessa: It looks like all of your members do backup vocals. Did all of you have experience singing before this band, or is this somebody’s first foray into singing?
HUF: Kat used to front a band called Black Nazarene, so she is a pro singer already. Lexi and Mary both sang backing in previous bands, and for Nicky it’s a first!
Tessa: I asked The Madeline Rust a similar question: why have you chosen not to label yourselves as an “all-female” band?
HUF: We don’t label ourselves “all-female,” as it’s not really important to us. We’re just four people who have come together to write music we love and put it out there, and we just happen to be all girls! We don’t think it’s really an issue to try and sell ourselves as that.
Tessa: Have you ever gotten weird reactions at your gigs as an “all-female” band?
HUF: Definitely. We’ve had people shouting all sorts at us (mainly ‘get your boobs out’), but a lot of people will pre-judge us before even listening to us. It’s always nice to get people come up to us after and say how much they enjoyed it when they didn’t think they would. Ultimately, the people in the crowds giving us abuse for no reason other than the fact we’re girls are the ones sitting at home doing nothing do whilst we’re out there trying to live our dream, so we don’t let it bother us.
Tessa: Okay, this is the last gender-related question, I promise. You’ve already been interviewed by a couple of sites. Do you ever get tired of being asked questions about your “all-female” status? What do you think about people asking questions like these? Do they ever get annoying? (I swear I have an excuse, because this site is centered on female artists. Haha.)
HUF: [We] wouldn’t say it annoys us. Sometimes it may work in our favour being all-female, sometimes it works against us. We just do what we want to do because we love doing it. People can form their own opinions of us, but hopefully our music speaks for itself and people will like what we do!
Tessa: How does the songwriting process work for your group?
HUF: Generally it will start with a guitar riff or some chords or a melody and just grow from there. We are all very much involved in the songwriting process, and any one of us can come up with an initial idea and we just roll with it!
Tessa:What was recording your newest EP like? Any interesting stories?
HUF: Recording the new EP was so much fun. We did it with our good friend Sam Burden at Empire Recording Studios in Guildford and just had the best time. He’s such a great guy to work with and brought so much into our recordings. As for stories, you’ll have to wait and watch the DVD we will be releasing with our EP when it comes out. 😉
What did you think about the interview? Tell us in the comments!
I interview most artists by sending them questions through email or Facebook and having them fill out answers and send them to me. If you are based near me and a face-to-face interview is a possibility, I’ll let you know.
After an artist has accepted an invitation to be interviewed, I’m going to ask her/them to read and agree to these terms. (If you want to be interviewed, post your music in the comments or on our Facebook page.) They’re pretty simple, and if you don’t like one of the terms, feel free to let me know.
1. You will let me know if you are uncomfortable with answering any of the questions that I ask you. I’d hate to ask a question that rubs someone the wrong way. Please let me know if I do instead of just leaving your response blank.
2. You will do your best to get your responses to me within a week of my sending you interview questions. If your circumstances are keeping you from doing so, you will let me know.
3. I reserve the right to edit your responses for spelling and grammar mistakes that could interfere with a reader’s enjoying the interview. (This will prevent nitpicky people like me from not really taking in a response because somebody used “effect” when they should have used “affect,” for example.)
4. I reserve the right to edit out or censor curse words and inappropriate language if they distract from a response. (To use an example where cursing was okay, this interview with Danielle Ate the Sandwich had a curse word that I felt was appropriate because it expressed her true feelings about dealing with record companies.) If an artist is cursing or using insulting language that doesn’t add to the interview at all, I may choose to take out that part of the response. If you’re being really hateful, I might decide not to feature you after all. Please check out the interview disclaimers.
5. I also reserve the right to mark your interview as “appropriate for ages 16 and over” if I feel it’s necessary. I have quite a few family members supporting this zine, and one of my first interviews was with a ten-year-old drummer, so I want to keep at least some parts of the zine family-friendly and give a warning when some parts definitely aren’t.
6. I should send you a preview of what your interview will look like before I publish it, so you can approve any changes. If I don’t send you a preview before publishing the interview, you will call me out on it and tell me if there’s anything you want fixed. Once you receive your preview, you will tell me if any changes I may have made bother you and I will work to fix them.
7. I might make a last-minute change right before publishing an interview because I noticed that I worded the introduction oddly, left out a link, or missed a spelling mistake earlier. If you object to a change for whatever reason, you will let me know and I will fix it.
8. If you like your interview, you will post it on your website or Facebook, because I love it when people promote my zine.
Can’t wait for your interviews!
So, in order to get an interview invitation from Queens of Noise, there are a couple of qualifications.
1. I have to like your music. That’s the most important part.
Female and male musicians should be held to the same standards, so no, I will not feature a solo artist just because she’s female or a band just because it has a female member. I can’t write good interview questions if I’m not interested in who you are as a musician. Keep in mind that Queens of Noise is for all women in the music industry, and I am interested in genres besides rock and metal: pop, hip hop, jazz, R&B, blues, and more. I do my best to keep an open mind regardless of genre.
If you send me your music and I don’t send you an interview request, it might be because I’m a busy student, and this zine is a hobby. I might not be devoting all my energy to this site at the moment but still be intent on sending you a request eventually. If I don’t send you an interview request, it might also be because I don’t realize how awesome you are, and that’s not your fault. Keep making music and putting yourself out there, and never stop trying just because you didn’t meet my arbitrary standards, or anyone else’s, for that matter.
2. Your act has to have a strong female presence.*
For good solo male artists and all-male bands: I’m sorry I can’t help you. This zine just has a very specific purpose. Beneath the Grid Music is a great site that features unsigned and independent musicians of all genders, and you can send them your stuff.
So, what does a “strong female presence” even mean? Obviously, solo female artists and all- female bands will have no problem qualifying for an interview with a zine promoting women in music, but what about mixed-gender groups? Well, I created this qualification because some sites promoting women in music will only feature all-female and female-fronted bands. While I’m sure they have their reasons, that cuts out awesome bands like The Babes, who are male-fronted and have strong female instrumentalists. Other sites want bands with women playing instruments and won’t take otherwise all-male bands with a frontwoman who only sings. I don’t see a point in excluding bands with male members so long as its female member(s) are strong vocalists or players. I like to get to know an entire band, not just its female members.
These rules seemed arbitrary to me, so of course I created a weirder and more arbitrary one: I will interview mixed-gender bands so long as they have a “strong female presence.” Bands with female instrumentalists will generally be safe, but let’s be real: if a band has one female member and all she does is play the tambourine for a few seconds in each song, that doesn’t really count as a strong presence. Now, if your tambourine player also plays a range of percussion instruments and writes her own parts, then that would count and I would probably be comfortable with interviewing the whole band.
I will interview the whole band if I’m certain that the female member(s) won’t be overshadowed by the men. So if the frontwoman of an otherwise all-male band is a great performer, writes her own songs, can really grab an audience’s attention, or just generally holds her own against the guys she works with, I’ll feel comfortable interviewing the whole band. However, if the guys write her lyrics for her or she’s not an especially strong performer, there’s going to be a problem.
If I’m afraid that the sole female member of a band will be overshadowed by the dudes in an interview, or if I just find the female member to be the most interesting, I might ask to only interview her. Yes, it’s weird and arbitrary, but it’s my website and I make the rules. I will still mention your band in the interview and promote your group.
Thanks so much for checking this zine out! Keep making music!
* I would like to note that I am open to interviewing transgender female musicians, and that my standards for them are the same as the ones for cisgender female musicians. If you are a transgender male musician, email or message me and I’ll be happy to send you sites that are open to featuring you.
Jeanne Marie Boes, based in New York City, is a pianist and singer-songwriter. She talked to me about pianists and singers who have inspired her, the songwriting process, and how she came to compose for short films.
Tessa: You’re a great piano player. How long have you been playing? Do any pianists in particular inspire you?
Jeanne: Thank you. I’ve been playing since I was 10 or 11 years old. The first pianists that come to mind are Billy Joel and Stevie Wonder. They’re both extremely talented songwriters, pianists and performers, and I definitely count them as inspiration.
Tessa: You’re also an awesome singer. What singers inspire you? Is there anybody you ever tried to sound like?
Jeanne: You’re so kind. I think I’ve tried to sound like many vocalists over the years, but my main source of inspiration comes from the greats – Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald.
Tessa: A lot of singer-songwriters start out by testing their material on audiences at open mic nights. Did you do that? If so, were there ever any interesting experiences you had?
Jeanne: Of course, I’ve been to many open mic nights, more than I can count. Not one in particular stands out to me, but I’ve gone to many all over Long Island, Queens and Manhattan. It’s one of the best ways for performers starting out to hone their craft and perfect their sound in the most honest way possible.
Tessa: What’s the most interesting paid gig you’ve had?
Jeanne: I once played for a yoga class. Very interesting and intimidating, but fun.
Tessa: Some of your playing seems to have a jazzy flavor. Did you ever play in a jazz band? Did you play in any other groups before becoming a solo artist?
Jeanne: I’ve never played in a jazz band, although I would absolutely love to someday. I’ve always done the solo thing, long before playing with bands – but over the past couple years, I’ve played or sang in a few local rock bands.
Tessa: Did you study music in college or high school?
Jeanne: In high school I was a music major at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts.
Tessa: What’s the songwriting process like for you?
Jeanne: It always seems to be music first, then lyrics. I’ll either think of a tune or mess around on the piano first – but it always comes back to the melody that starts it off.
Tessa: You have an interesting variety of covers—Adele, the Jackson 5, and Hoagy Carmichael and Ned Washington. What music do you like to listen to?
Jeanne: I listen to so many different types of music. The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Kills, The Black Keys, Taylor Swift and Adele, just to name a few.
Tessa: Why did you choose to sing backup on the Little Embers‘ song, “Raise the Dead?”
Jeanne: I was so thrilled when they asked me to sing in their music video. I had been singing back-up vocals at a number of their shows, and I guess it was just being in the right place at the right time – but it was an absolutely wonderful experience and I enjoyed every second of it.
Tessa: I saw that you compose for short films too. How did you start doing that?
Jeanne: Another example of “right time, right place.” I know the director of the films personally and he liked my first effort. He’s used my work a few times, and hopefully more to come.
Tessa: How did you come up with the creepy music for “Who’s There?” It’s hard not to be freaked out by that video.
Jeanne: I watched it many times before starting to write down and record ideas, but one thing I knew was that I wanted to take part in the suspense but not overshadow it. It’s a wonderfully made short-film and I was so glad I could be a part of it.
The Madeline Rust are based in Nottingham, England and play music heavily influenced by the ’90s grunge rock scene. Lucy Morrow plays bass and fronts the band, Aly McNab plays guitar, and Martin Syvret plays the drums. The band took some time to tell me about their day jobs, their decision to not promote the band as “female-fronted,” and Aly’s struggles with arthritis. There’s even a bonus question. Learn about their perspectives on music here!
Tessa: Okay, a standard question that I use: why did you all start playing your instruments, singing, or making music?
Martin: We never had a television when I was growing up, so we always had the radio on. My mum was a teddy girl, and I had a diet of rock’n’roll and a little bit of jazz. I just always seemed to be drawn to the drums. My guilty pleasure as a 10-year-old boy was watching the drummers in the military bands that used to come to Jersey every summer. I used to hang out and try and get a go. I joined the school band at the age of 11 and never looked back.
Lucy: Thanks to my parents, there was always music in the house when I was young. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, The Cars and Kate Bush all remind me of my childhood. When I was 12, my uncle won a crappy acoustic guitar at bingo, and so I decided to try and learn songs that I liked. I’ve never been able to read music but learned to play by ear. Inevitably, when I heard Nirvana for the first time, I wanted an electric guitar, and my parents obliged for my 14th birthday. Aly and I went to school together, and we started a band at about this time. In this band, he drummed and I played guitar and sang – though I only sang by default because nobody else in the band wanted to. And actually, that’s the same reason I play bass in The Madeline Rust!
Aly: My parents are folk musicians who play Scottish and Irish stuff, so I grew up in a house with guitars, fiddles, mandolins and stuff all over the place, and my parents would have parties where people would get up and play or sing, and that was important to me. I never really heard pop music as a child, then started to get into punk as a young teenager (of course), and then I heard Nirvana and my life changed.
Tessa: Another standard question: who are your influences? I definitely hear some Nirvana in your music, and some of Lucy’s screaming reminded me of Joan Jett.
Martin: For me it’s classic rock, [Black] Sabbath, Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy and more modern(ish) bands like Clutch and Monster Magnet.
Lucy: This is such a hard question. I enjoy most musical genres to some degree, and I guess I’m influenced by everything I enjoy… I suppose if you listen to The Madeline Rust, the ’90s grunge scene obviously influenced us a lot. Though we have been referred to as “’70s rock,” which may also be a fair reflection of some of our other influences.
Aly: I guess musically relevant influences for me would be Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Tool and ZZ Top. I LOVE ZZ Top.
Tessa: Do you have any musical idols?
Lucy: You mean apart from Lemmy?
Aly: Yep, Lemmy, absolutely. Also Duane Allman and George Harrison.
Martin: Bizarrely for a drummer, Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy.
Tessa: How does the songwriting process work for your group? Does someone bring in lyrics so you can all add instrumentation? Do you write riffs, then lyrics?
Aly: Basically, I sit at home a lot and noodle on my guitar.
Lucy: Aly will come up with some rough ideas, and we all build around that. Vocals-wise, I play around with different things until I find a melody that fits right… Since we don’t have backing vocals, I tend to harmonise in some way with what’s going on with Aly’s guitar playing. Lyrics seem to come naturally to fit the pattern of the vocals.
Martin: Aly will bring a rough idea of a riff to a rehearsal, and we’ll knock it about for about an hour and record it live. Aly then sends it to us via email, Lucy will write some lyrics and the following week we have a song all ready to go. I tend to come up with the endings. (Well, Aly and Lucy have to let me do something…)
Tessa: All musicians have to balance the fun aspects of their music, like performing and writing, versus the business aspects of music, like distributing their merch and making sure they get paid. How do you all balance the fun and business aspects of being a band?
Lucy: Martin basically deals with everything “business”-wise… I just enjoy the creative aspect of designing flyers and posters, so I usually do that. My husband designed the album artwork – he took all of the Monument Valley pictures we used for the sleeve. Our friend Rich Solaini recorded our album in nine hours, and then mixed the whole thing in a few days.
Martin: A few band meetings in the pub and talking constantly on Facebook. We play for fun and are taking a very DIY approach to the business side of things. When I have a bit of time on my hands I sit in front of my laptop and email radio stations and magazines trying to get some coverage. I have found that we get a much better reception from The USA than we do here in the UK. We have had radio play on stations across America; they seem to be much more receptive to unsigned bands and are willing to take a chance on adding bands like ours to their playlists.
Aly: I stay away from the business side, as I’m hopeless at it.
Tessa: Do you have day jobs? If so, where?
Lucy: I have a full-time job in the clinical research industry. I manage a big diverse team, and I travel around a lot. Having such a demanding work life and so much responsibility means I need to do as much creative stuff outside of work as I can.
Martin: I am a full time student doing an animal biology degree at Nottingham Trent University.
Aly: I retired due to ill health last year. I’ve had arthritis since I was 3, and it’s getting worse at the moment. I used to be in banking, so I guess it’s partly my fault for the way the world is…sorry!
Tessa: You chose not to describe your band as female-fronted, which I think was a cool and interesting decision. A lot of bands will put the label “female-fronted” or “all-female” in their descriptions of themselves very quickly. Why did you choose not to?
Lucy: The fact that our singer is female is an incidental fact – it doesn’t bear any relevance to our music. Adding “female-fronted” to a description of a band indicates that this is something people look for (or don’t) in a band. It suggests some sort of “specialty music”; that the gender of our singer has some sort of bearing on whether you will enjoy our band or not. Our band is made up of three very different individuals – and the gender of each member is not relevant to the music we play.
Aly: Plus I think you have to be a female human for it to count. Bazinga.
Martin: I don’t think being female-fronted was an issue that we ever thought about. We are a band. Thinking about it, you never have to describe bands like Metallica or Pink Floyd as male-fronted… I have to admit that there are a lot of fanzines, magazines and internet radio stations that are geared towards female-fronted bands, and I’m glad they are there because they have given us some great coverage, but it’s not something we actively seek out. We are just three people making music and if others like what we are about, that’s a bonus.
Tessa: Why is your Bandcamp description written the way it is? (The Western theme is cool, by the way. “Strangers in a desolate ghost town, here to settle an old and bitter feud.”)
Martin: Over to Lucy on this one.
Lucy: Ahem. I am obsessed with becoming the eponymous rider-in-black from Alejandro Jodorowsky’s amazing movie El Topo. I make all my stage outfits, and everything I make is a nod to El Topo’s style in some way. My husband and I travel to the US regularly and have spent a lot of time wandering round ghost towns in Arizona, California and Nevada. I like to imagine our music playing out of a derelict saloon, into the silence of the desert…
Aly: Not even cowboys listen to us? Ouch…
Tessa: What is your goal as a band? Do you want to make it big, pay your rent, or just make a few bucks and have fun?
Lucy: For me, it’s being part of something I can feel proud of, and having fun in the process.
Martin: Just to make music, play it and have fun, and maybe break even, that would be nice…almost impossible, but you can dream. (Haha.)
Aly: You know, I’ve not even thought about a goal. Being in a band with Lucy has always been an important thing to me, as we’ve been in bands together for over half our lifetimes now, so I guess to continue that would be my goal. And millions of dollars and a 1959 Les Paul would also be cool.
Tessa: So Lucy, I think it’s really cool how you can go from singing very prettily to almost screaming. How do you get that raspy quality about your voice without hurting it? Any tips for someone who might want to try singing that way?
Lucy: Shucks, thanks…but who said it didn’t hurt?! …um, I drink Old Grandad and Pepsi. (Pure class.) I always seem to end up singing like this – it just feels right! I like to hear singers who have different or interesting voices: Lemmy, David Bowie, Roger Waters, Jack White, Anna Calvi. I went through a phase when I was a teenager, listening to extreme vocal stuff like Diamanda Galas. It’s cool hearing what the human voice can do.
Tessa: How did you all meet and start a band?
Martin: I met Lucy at a mutual friend’s wedding, we got talking about music and about a year later she introduced me to Aly.
Lucy: Aly and I went to school together and have always been in bands together… I met Martin at a wedding. I believe that’s the tradition, to meet your future drummer at a wedding.
Aly: Yeah, I was playing the drums to “Breed” by Nirvana in the music room at school, and Lucy asked if I wanted to be in a band in the next lesson. And here we still are…
Tessa: So, what does your band name mean?
Aly: So, first you should know that due to my illness I take a LOT of painkillers, okay? Bear that in mind.
So about a decade ago I had a dream about a monster. Nothing unusual there, as I’m a lifelong Stephen King fan and monsters pop up from time to time. This one was a little Victorian girl in a pinafore dress, but her neck was about 12 feet long and bendy like Mr. Fantastic from the Fantastic Four. She was using this to spy on me through a window, and when I confronted her by saying (in shock), “Who ARE you?” she said “I’m Madeline Rust.” And at this point I woke up nearly screaming.
So from that day on, the name has been rattling round my head, and after being stuck for a band name for what seemed like forever, we decided to use it. It confuses people, but that’s okay; we like doing that.
A bonus question
Tessa: After reading the interview, I want to ask another question. Aly, how does your arthritis affect your playing?
Aly: Playing guitar with arthritis is tricky. Apart from the basic fact that I don’t know if I’ll be able to even play a gig until that day, as I can wake up pretty ill quite randomly, when I play I have to wear Tubigrip bandages on my wrists to stop them from swelling, and I tend to play very light guitars onstage to save my shoulders. Even so, after a half hour gig I’m in lots of pain and I tend to get swollen knuckles and a stiff neck the next day.
I’ll never be a jazz guitarist or a shredder, as my fingers don’t stretch very far; some of the joints have fused and don’t straighten. But I guess it’s become part of my style – lots of basic power chords, or open, ringing drone notes and partial open chords too.
My insecurity about this means I’ve always looked for tricks to keep the sound interesting, and that’s where the pedals come in, I guess. I don’t know if you know the scene in “It Might Get Loud” where The Edge from U2 plays a riff with all his FX and it sounds awesome, and then when he plays without it the riff’s like two notes or something, but it’s very funny and that’s basically how I feel most of the time. My gear is all carefully chosen to cover up the fact that I’m not playing guitar “properly,” basically. Not that there is such a thing as playing properly, of course!
Read the first part of Danielle’s interview here!
Welcome to the final part of Queens of Noise’s interview with Danielle Ate the Sandwich! The singer-songwriter took some time to tell me about, among other things, her decision to be a full-time independent musician and the practicalities of doing so. Aspiring musicians, take note!
Tessa: What are the benefits and drawbacks of being an independent musician?
Danielle: The biggest benefit for me is the feeling of accomplishment. It’s a great feeling to know that I’ve gotten where I am because of myself and the help of a few great people. It’s a very small operation, so it’s possible to take credit and feel pride. I like the control of making the right choices for myself and steering my path in a direction I agree with. I also get to keep most of the money I make. I pay out to a manager, publicist and bandmates, but I don’t have to be paid by a record label. I am the one writing the checks and overseeing how everything is managed. This is also the drawback. It’s A LOT of responsibility and most days I feel more like a small business owner than a musician. It’s hard to keep your priorities straight and the passion for the artistic stuff alive and well. I spend WAY more time emailing and shipping and ordering and organizing than I do practicing or writing. But I’ve been trying to say no more and leave time to write songs and do the things I like more than the busy work stuff.
Tessa: Why have you decided not to go with a major label?
Danielle: Partly because I’ve never been asked to be on one, but also because I really like being in control of what I’m doing. It’d take a really accepting record label to make me an offer I would feel comfortable being involved in. I really like to do things my own way and have a hard time with people telling me what to do. I don’t like when people think they “get” me, especially when they don’t. I feel like record labels are kind of unnecessary—they’d make things easier for me and maybe have gotten me farther than I am today, but I would also have had to put up with a lot of their sh*t.
Tessa: How did your Kickstarter project, where you raised money to help pay for the costs of producing your new album, turn out so well?
Danielle: I can’t say for sure. I think I have a large number of fans on the Internet, so anything that happens on the Internet goes well for me, but after seeing how it all turned out I think it’s undeniable that I have incredible fans! I think they just believe in me and WANT to help me. It was really a surprise to me how it all went down! I was pretty confident I could make the amount I asked for, but I assumed it would take WAY longer.
Tessa: Wanna tell us something about your new album? Maybe some interesting stories about recording it, or would you like to talk about the songs on it?
Danielle: It’s a pretty good album! The guys who played on the songs with me really helped me make it sound cool and a little different than my last record! It’s [become] easier for me to work with others. I’ve grown up in that sense. I can listen to people’s suggestions and say, “Okay, let’s try it!” instead of, “NO WAY! They are my songs and you can’t do anything to them!” There are a couple of songs about gay rights, some on religion, some on love and wondering…I guess the topics are pretty similar to what I usually write about, but I think it’s going to be good!!
Tessa: On your Kickstarter, you said, “thank you for supporting me on kickstarter now and especially during my last few years as a full time musician!” Why are you quitting music? I’ll miss you!
Danielle: Oh no! I’m not quitting. I was just thanking people for the past three years of being supportive and encouraging to me! I am still going on; I just worded that wrong!
Tessa: Any tips for aspiring musicians?
Danielle: Just go do it and do it as good and often and as genuinely as you can.
What did you think about the interview? Share your thoughts in the comments section!