DEAD SARA

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photos / Shanna Fisher

story / Heather Seidler

Emily Armstrong, frontwoman for the Los Angeles band Dead Sara might be destined to reform rock music from the inside out. The 26-year-old can sing like no other female rock star of her generation. Her soaring rock crunch, grunge bluster, hard-rock verve, and multi-octave vocal beltings should make Grace Slick, Kurt Cobain, and Lita Ford all grind their molars. Kim Gordon meets Stevie Knicks with the sophisticated soul-grit of Janis Joplin.

 

Dead Sara makes straightforward rock songs to be blasted from cars speeding down backroads, windows down, hair whipping back and forth; music for freewheeling take-no-prisoner nights with a stormy, electrifying edge to them. One minute they veer into something melodic and haunting, then, as if with a defibrillator, come right back with a fireball crescendo that makes you want to leap up and down.
This might have something to do with why Muse bassist Christopher Wolstenholme invited Dead Sara to tour with them across North America after he heard their first single, “Weatherman.” An invitation the band wasn’t expecting to get, but certainly didn’t turn down. The tipping point had been reached; the whirlwind begun.
“We had this moment where we just couldn’t believe all these people were there for us,” Armstrong says of their first sold-out headline show. “Then later we were at a bar and saw our performance on [Jimmy] Kimmel. All the people in the bar stopped to watch it and clapped after. It was so surreal. None of the reality of what was happening hit me until that moment. It was an oh-my-fucking-god moment.”
The eleven tracks on their debut album will invade your head with bolstering frenetic riffs performed with athletic ease–a kind of stealth musical cruise control set to 150 mph. It pulls up outside your window, blasting from a boombox, shouldered by some dude in a trench coat holding the weight of the world. It won’t leave. And then you realize you never want it to.
Siouxsie Medley (lead guitar) and Emily Armstrong (vocals, guitar) began playing music together at age sixteen. Both were self-taught musicians. They quickly discovered their own brand of music: ragged rock with dirt under its fingernails and the right amount of polish on top. In 2004, the first incarnation of Dead Sara was born. As a duo, the girls garnered a lot of label interest early on, but they opted to perfect their sound and not rush into a label deal that didn’t suit them. After a brief hiatus came the addition of Sean Friday on drums and Chris Null on bass (both former members of Sonny Moore AKA Skrillex] & the Blood Monkeys). They all instantly clicked in place like Lego pieces.
“We started off a two-piece and saw many other members come and go on bass and drums,” Armstrong says. “It wasn’t till about three or four years ago that Siouxsie suggested we try Sean [Friday], but he was in a band at the time and I thought he might be too perfect. Then when Sean and Chris had left the band, we hit them up instantly. The two of them had been playing in various bands together for a decade, they knew each other inside out. When we all finally got together, it instantly worked, like we’d found our exact musical counterparts.”
At a time when the charts aren’t dominated by female hard rockers, it’s nice to see a female-fronted rock band rise to the surface. Women have been pretty much exiled from the rock world’s upper echelons since the days when bands like Hole and the Breeders could nab main stage slots on Lollapalooza. Dave Grohl himself commented that Dead Sara should be the next biggest rock band in the world. Not a bad endorsement.
“Truth be told, music is in my bones…it’s there,” Armstrong admits. “It just trickles out and sometimes I’m so hit by it, there’s moments where the melody is just suspended in the air like magic.”

Emily Armstrong

Chris Null

Siouxsie Medley

Sean Friday

 

More photos here!

 
 

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