Posted September, 2011
Like many of you, my listening habits often quickly wind up in a rut. I’ll listen to the same handful of albums over and over and over again. In doing so, it’s easy to forget that one must swim out of that musical vortex and into the rest of the melodic ocean to discover all sorts of great, new music by up and coming artists.
Exactly that happened to me a couple of months ago when I received an advance copy of the debut CD by the hot, new L.A. band, Dead Sara (read the Boomerocity review of it here). Baby boomers will enjoy the band if for no other reason than the fact that the band brings back memories of the musical energy and excitement that the bands of our youth fostered.
Ever since hearing the disc and catching a few of their video’s on YouTube, I’ve become quite the evangelist for the band. There’s just something about Dead Sara that keeps the listener coming back for more. So, when the opportunity presented itself to interview the band’s lead singer, Emily Armstrong, by phone recently, I naturally jumped at the chance.
I know that most of you have never heard of the band so my first question to Emily was one that I know she and the band has had to have been asked a zillion times: What’s behind the name, Dead Sara?
“It’s really funny. It’s actually from Fleetwood Mac’s Sara – the song, Sara. She says, ‘Said, Sara . . .’. Siouxsie and I, back in the day, we listened to Fleetwood Mac incessantly and we just loved the thought that it said, ‘Dead Sara’, or, sounds like it. So we were, like, ‘Yeah! Let’s go with that!’ It was the one thing that we could agree on, too.”
There you have it folks: Unlike Alice Cooper, the name wasn’t inspired by an axe-wielding murderer or from a séance. Nor did the band’s name come from combining the name of a sex symbol with the name of a famous killer, like Marilyn Manson. The origin of the band’s name is really as simple misunderstanding what the lyrics of a song was saying.
In my review of Dead Sara, I said that I thought I heard a lot of influences like Melissa Etheridge, Joan Jett and Janis Joplin. Since I had the opportunity to find out for sure, I asked Emily yet another question that I’m sure she’s been asked a bajillion times in the band’s new career: Who were your biggest musical influences?
“Well, it’s pretty much all over the spectrum. As far as singers that I sound like are concerned, there wasn’t that one singer – or even a couple – that I was like, ‘I want to sound like them’. It was more what I liked at the time because I went through a lot of phases growing up. But what really stuck out to me was the 60’s and 70’s, for sure – a lot of those singers such as Stevie Nicks; such as Janis, Melanie Safka, Robert Plant and stuff like that. There’s a lot during the 90’s, of course, too. Courtney Love, Kurt Cobain, say, like the bigger ones that people would know. There was a lot. Like I said, just whatever I was feeling at the time is what was influencing me.
As for the other band members, “They’ve been in five bands before, from electronic to all sorts of others. Siouxsie was into a lot of punk rock. So, it’s kind of all over the spectrum.”
Mick and Keith. Paul and John. Robert and Jimmy. Daltry and Townshend. These legendary, musical couples, as well as others, were paired up partly through the introductions by mutual friends. Such was the case with the ladies of Dead Sara.
“Siouxsie and I had met through a mutual friend. We had various line-ups when we were about 16 or 17. It wasn’t until about two years ago when we met Sean (Friday, drummer) and Chris (Null, bassist) that it just clicked. We had known them for awhile from here in L.A. The first song that we wrote together was Weatherman.”
Whether it is bands, businesses or other careers, they are often planned with one thing in mind and wind up as something completely different. I asked Emily what she and Siouxsie envisioned the band being like, if it turned out differently than they envisioned as well as what their goals were then as compared to now.
“At the beginning, it was just all over the place. We didn’t know what we wanted. We were just having fun. As far as vision is concerned and going the way we wanted it to go, it was only about two years ago when we decided, ‘Okay, let’s hone in on this. What do we gotta do?’ Then we found these two (Sean and Chris) and it’s been going perfectly – exactly the way we wanted it to go.”
“The goals change all the time. Once we achieve them, we just make new ones for the next six months or whatever. So, yeah, it’s been going exactly the way we wanted it to go. We have the bigger ones, too, like selling lots of records, being on the radio, things like that. We want to be a really big band so we’re working towards that and it’s going very smoothly.”
Since reviewing the band’s debut album a couple of months ago, the buzz has been palpable and the traffic reading the review has represented a large percentage of Boomerocity’s traffic since it posted. For those of you who haven’t heard it yet, I asked Emily to share how her insight into the album, how it all came together and what she hopes you get from it.
“What I would want them to get from it is something inspiring like I do when I write music – when I’m inspired by something. So, I would definitely want a listener to be inspired to do something. Not necessarily to do music but just feel like they have somebody to relate to, if anything.
“So, how the record happened, to give you a little background, we kind of went in when we just met and just started writing and writing and writing. Then we talked with our good friend, Noah Shain, the producer, and then things clicked. We started the pre-production then went into a studio in Texas – Sonic Ranch - and cut most of the live album then finished it here in L.A.
“I was scared to do it because it was the first record. I didn’t know what to expect. I had it so hyped up in my head like, ‘Oh! It’s gonna be like this’ after reading so many things as a kid. You read about your favorite bands and how they did it so I really had it worked up in my head. But it was easier than I expected. The way everything moves is very smooth. I thought, ‘Oh, god, I’m going to be running into a rut here soon!’ You think there’s certain things that you’re going to run into because what people had said to you or what you’ve read before. I just built it up into my head and I was, like, ‘Wow! It’s actually pretty easy and fun!’”
I never get a straight answer when I ask an artist what their favorite song is on their album so I didn’t bother asking Emily that question. However, I did ask her which song on the album she most closely identified with.
“That definitely changes but, right now, and what’s been the most frequent for me is Weatherman just because it’s the first song that we did together. It’s the one always feels really good live – not that the other ones don’t. This one’s just like we just let loose. It’s really fun to play live. It’s our first single, too, and a lot of people are responding to it.”
And how has the response been from the audience and fans been?
“Well, during a show, in between songs, we’ll get a lot of different reactions from different places we play. If we’re opening up for somebody or if we’re headlining a show, it’s always great. People are singing along, that’s what we get more and that always feels amazing! But, afterwards, when we get feedback, it’s ‘it was awesome!’ or ‘you completely rocked it!’ and that’s great. We’re doing our jobs then.”
Dead Sara are already quite the road warriors and will likely be hitting the stage in a town or burg near you. Since you’ll definitely want to catch their show, I asked Emily what you might expect when you see them on stage. With a laugh, Emily says, “Just some good rock and roll. A fun, intense live set. We do start our residency at the Viper Room on September 8th. Then we start on the 13th with Bush in Montana and work our way back down to L.A. then we finish off our residency at the Viper Room. Busy month!”
As to what’s on the band’s radar in the foreseeable future, it’s lead sing tells me, “More tourin’. Nothing confirmed yet. We’re looking for other bands to possibly tour with.”
I challenged Ms. Armstrong to polish off her crystal ball so that she can peer into the future a bit and tell me where she see’s Dead Sara 2 to 5 years from now?
“Definitely established, having toured lots of places; having a few records out. I’d love at least one of them to have gone platinum or more. Oh, and headlining our own tours.”
I usually ask this question of the folks that are more closer to my age than hers but I asked it of her anyway: When your life is over and you step off the tour bus for the final time, what do you hope to have accomplished and how do you want to be remembered?
“Hmmm. I would’ve loved to have made my mark in a really big way in rock and roll history; to have inspired a lot from that – for keeping music alive.”
If what I’ve heard and watched so far is any indication, Emily, Siouxsie, Sean and Chris are well on their way to accomplishing exactly that.
Dead Sara and the band are currently touring with Bush and other great match ups are in the works so watch their tour schedule for those. Also happening next month is the release of the band’s debut album. You’ll want to snatch it up immediately to see what all the buzz is about. You can also track the band's march into rock and roll history by visiting www.deadsara.com.