Dead Sara is an electrifying rock band from the USA. Having recently supported Muse on their latest US tour, Dead Sara are hitting the studio once again to blow audiences away with a new record set for release hopefully later this year.
Siouxsie has kindly joined me over Skype for a chat about such matters.
Hey, How are ya doin’?
Hi, how are you?
Yeah, good, good, you’re in the States aren’t you at the moment?
Yes, I am…
You just toured with Muse around the States. How was that?
That was awesome; they’re so awesome they are incredible. Their musicianship is just ridiculous, they’re amazing. But as people they are so nice as well, they took us bowling, they took us out for drinks, and they were so rad.
So how did you find the tour as a band, from the perspective of Dead Sara?
Oh it was surprisingly responsive, we’ve never played arenas before and we’re definitely a very loud, in your face band, so being so far away from an audience we were kinda like it’s gonna be interesting. We don’t have so much production, we’re just like 4 people getting on stage and playing music, but it went awesome, the crowd was really responsive which was great.
Fantastic! I bet that must have been an amazing feeling. So given the nature of the interview we’ll probably find ourselves speaking about guitars mainly.
So you were eight when you started playin’ guitar, is that right? You had a nanny who played? I guess you could say that she kind of inspired you?
Yeah she was in a band and she was my nanny, I remember her playing me her demo CD and I was like ‘Oh my fucking god’ (she says with a stunned look on her face) and then I saved up my money and got a Strat.
Yeah a Sunburst Fender Strat right?
Yeah, actually it was a Squier
... (laughing) it was like the cheapest one I could find and I would start playing, she would show me some chords and stuff like that, it was awesome.
When you were 15 that’s when you kinda met Emily wasn’t it? You guys were jamming loads of stuff, and then you put Dead Sara together. How do you think over the years you have kind of developed the Dead Sara sound?
Well I grew up as a teenager listening to a lot of punk rock music, I just loved - actually, one of my favourite bands at the time when I first met Emily was a band – Cockspar. They’re from England, and what I loved about them, was that they were loud and they were crazy but they were so melodic and I loved that punk edginess, especially in guitar, but very melodic.
Emily kind of grew up with a 60’s and 70’s background she loved that era - so I introduced her to the punk rock world, and she introduced me to that world and it kinda developed our sound. We’re kinda all over the place; it’s very heavy but melodic.
Yeah that’s the thing; I haven’t been able to put my finger on it. I’ve been like right, there’s a bit of punk there, and there’s rock there and there’s this sound there…. It’s fuckin’ crazy but that’s what I love about the sound that you guys have and I think especially with such a strong female element - I love it when women rock, and I think there are a fair few now, but it’s still a rarity, so to see two women up there just giving it so much is great. Especially with your guitar sound because it is very dirty and very big…
At the moment you’re playing what is it, a Gibson Les Paul?
Yeah it’s a Florentine
So why do you play that particular guitar, what’s so special about that?
Well I always used to play standard Les Pauls, I love them they’re awesome. I played them for years and years, but then when we were on the Warped tour I fractured my ribs.
Yeah, I went to the Dr and I had a stress fracture, it was literally years and years of my guitar slamming into my ribs, the guitars are so heavy and I’m a midget - I am so tiny. So I got the Florentine which is also a Les Paul and it sounds similar but it’s lighter, so that’s why I started playing that guitar.
So do you wanna talk me through your gear? You use a Super Sonic fuzz pedal, again, why do you go for that sound?
Yeah, the Super Sonic fuzz gun, I love just Death by Audio pedals – that’s who makes them they’re just like, aesthetically fucked up sounding and I fuckin’ love it. They crack and they break and they’re just so gnarly and sleazy sounding, I loved that, I love nineties rock and I loved Rage, so that kinda tone and that angst that it gives is just so appealing to me for some reason…
As a female guitarist what challenges have you faced? Has it affected you at all?
Yeah totally, like here and there. I’ve definitely gotten the feeling with people that they were like sceptical and I’m like ‘Hey I’m in a band!’ and they’re like ‘Oh that’s good, you can play a fucking power chord that’s awesome’ they don’t say that - but I can tell that’s what they’re thinking. I’ve definitely gotten a lot of that. Sometimes I’ll be getting ready for a show and people think that I’m a groupie or something and they don’t think that I’m in the band…
But that must feel great though, to be in the band and really show ‘em.
Yeah, bring it afterwards when I go nuts on stage… hahaha anyhow; I mean there’s the whole thing about being a girl in general you know like guys shoutin’ out - ‘Show us your tits’
What? Do people actually shout that out at you? No class…
Definitely. They have, not fans of ours but at like festivals and stuff before they even knew who we were, they just saw two cute girls on the stage and were drunk and they’re like ‘Show us your tits, wooo’
...and I’m like ’Fuck you’ (laughs) I mean for the most part, after people see us play it’s pretty cool that in a male dominated industry I get acknowledgement for my band and we’re not playing for sex appeal we’re playing for the love of music and if people can see that…
So who do you draw inspiration from? Not just your favourite guitarists because you love them and their style but the musicians that you may have kind of learned more from and drawn on and absorbed into your own playing?
Oh man, I have so many, I definitely like – I love blues, like delta blues, that’s like MY jam… like John Lee Hooker, Charlie Patton, Son House… like just you know that whole era, (sighs) it just kills me, I just love the blues and pretty much a lot of the other guitar players that I grew up listening to like Tom Morello or Jack White or you know, Kurt Cobain. They all definitely had a blues background you know.
A lot of the 60’s and 70’s guys like Hendrix and Jimmy Page, Lindsey Buckingham and John Fogerty, like those guys, I look up to them all but totally derived from blues. Jack White is one of my favourite guitar players, he kills me.
So when you guys write you just jam together don’t you? Do you ever work on stuff individually and bring it in or do you like to work from scratch together?
It’s kinda like a bit of both. We’re all kinda writing music, whether we’re writing together or not. So some nights I’ll write a riff and then I’ll bring it to the band the next day, or we’ll be in the rehearsal room and I’ll think of a riff, or Emily will have a melody and then we’ll just all jam.
Do you have like a kind of standout moment where you’ve met someone that has been quite influential to you?
That’s a hard question, let me think. It’s funny, I have met artists whether they’ve been a guitarist or not. Dave Grohl - That was the absolute highlight of my life meeting him. Well he’s a guitar player now and a singer and songwriter, but I fuckin’ love him for Nirvana and the Foo Fighters and meeting him was just surreal and you know we’re recording in his studio. He really likes us and he wrote us a note like ‘Hey Dead Sara, stoked you guys are in my studio, I love your band, don’t suck. Dave.’ It was really cool. It was really awesome and just meeting him, was - I grew up listening to Nirvana and just being a fan so that was pretty rad…
What’s the craziest thing that you’ve done?
Craziest moment - Was probably when we were coming back from South by South West in Austin and we had a friend of ours on tour with us and we stopped off at Sonic Ranch. We stopped off there because we recorded our record there and was gonna stay the night. Anyways we started letting off some fireworks and one of them kinda got aimed a little too low and lit like half a football field on fire. It was a huge ranch and right behind it was these bajillion dollar studios and we were fuckin’ freaked out. We literally had garden hoses and buckets of water and were trying to put out this fucking enormous fire. We have it on video. Emily was recording the fireworks it was fucking crazy. You see us just running around literally. It took about an hour and a half I think for the fire department to show up, so we were essentially just controlling the fire until they got there. It was terrifying because the last thing that we want to do is be all like ‘Hey Tony’ (owner of the ranch) ‘we burnt down your studios, sorry’. But that didn’t happen it was literally just dried grass and he was awesome, he was just happy no-one is hurt and told us ‘that’s why you don’t play with fire’ laughs
The Runaways, spring to mind… “I like playin’ with fire… Hahaha. So on stage you have your Les Paul, you’ve got your Super Sonic Fuzz Gun pedal, what other kind of kit do you have? What other guitars have you got? I can see an acoustic guitar there…
Yes, this guitar is called the Grammer guitar and it was made in 1971, Billy Grammer is a country artist and he’s an amazing guitar player and he made a line of those guitars. They’re my favourite guitars, acoustically they are just incredible. I have so many guitars they are just like falling outta my head.
I can see you looking around the room at loads of different angles, I can see two...
I’ll show you, here hold on (Siouxsie goes on to unplug the charge from the laptop and points me towards her guitars) There’s some on my wall.
WOW! That’s insane
Yeah, I have a whole bunch more; they’re like in my bed and under my bed… I actually had a place a year and half ago and all my shit got burnt and I lost so many guitars. I have them downstairs in a closet and they’re all burnt up.
What? You kept them?
Yep I just couldn’t part with them. They all had so much sentimental value….
Yeah I get that – so what are you guys working on at the moment? You released your album last year are you working on something else already?
Yeah we are working on our next record.
Are you recording – writing?
We’re writing, we just did some demos in the studio and we’re just writing a bunch and hopefully release our next record this year.
Ok, so I know you’re still in writing stages but what do you think fans can expect from this new record? Are there any sort of distinct changes that you can feel between the last record and this one that might be developing?
I think that we as a band - we’ve gotten so much more tight and as musicians we’ve definitely improved. It’s been a year and half of touring and we’re so much more in sync with each other. I just kinda feel like it’s gonna be a lot more mature – it’s still definitely Dead Sara, still raw and edgy, we’re just gonna be a lot tighter…
Well you guys sound pretty tight to me on the last record.
Have you got any new ideas from a guitar perspective? Are you gonna be using any different sounds?
I am gonna by using a Vox, I usually play through a 65 amp that I love but I’m definitely picking up some different guitars and different pedals and just playing around and seeing what kinda comes out of it - I’m not locking myself to one thing. I’ve been playing Guild; I’ve been playing some Fenders, and a Fender Princeton amp.
What are the differences between those for you?
They are just different sounds so definitely Vox amps are a lot thinner sounding, opposed to my 65 which is enormous massive wall of sound in your face. The Vox and the Fender amps I’ve been playing around with are thinner and smaller but still lo-fi - gritty and gnarly, just a little different. It’s interesting because it’s changing how I play or expanding how I play because it’s just like a different kind of instrument to a degree. It’s still a guitar and amp, but it’s something entirely different for me which I love because I definitely want to expand.
Well that’s the thing with music isn’t it, because there are no limits and of course you want to expand because things change, and you know, I think with music, not only is it about getting a different sound, but people grow.
People grow over time and music is such a personal thing so as long as person is growing, so that happens. I would be a bit worried if musicians didn’t expand…
I love music and I get inspired by artists in any medium be it a painting, a song, a photo it will inspire a song… art is just where it’s at…. Just a musician, I’m kind of a nerd…
As a guitarist, what do you aspire to achieve? If someone was gonna be like ‘Siouxsie, we want you to make your own line of guitars’ what would you do?
I would be like ‘Fuck you, you’re fucking with me’ – We both laugh ‘Get the fuck outta here’
If that did happen and you were approached to design a line of guitars – what would you bring to your model to make it A) You and B) Different?
Well I’m extreme - I like very fat think sounding round guitar tones with loads sound on them, but at the same time I like thin guitar tones. For me it’s been hard to find one guitar that can deliver both sounds, so something along the lines of its very bottom end, very heavy and then flip it and it can be very soft. We do a lot of finger picking you don’t want just big sounds, you want the high end.
Well babe, I don’t wanna take too much of your time so thanks for chatting to me. I hope you enjoyed it.
Hey, when are you guys gonna be next playing in the UK
It would be rad if we did it this year – end of this year. Probably fall or something but right now we’re just writing, maybe late this year, early next year.
We can probably expect that on the back of a new album?
Awesome. Great to meet you hun, take care
You too, bye, be good.
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