09.01.2016
women

4 Badass Women of Stoner Rock Talk Shop and Give Props

Queens of the stoned rage sound off.

Gathered here now are four stellar female stoner rock talents that KINDLAND has previously profiled—to discuss the genre they’re spearheading, the state of gender in rock and metal, and all things sonic and cultural. 

Pull up to the conversation, open your mind, and let these mighty women musicians illuminate you on the trials and triumphs of their trailblazing journeys—musical and otherwise.

Participants

Lori S. of Acid King

San Francisco power trio Acid King, dominant on the stoner scene since 1993, has always been the crushing vehicle of vocalist, guitarist, songwriter, and all-around conqueror queen Lori S.

Sera Timms (center) of Ides of Gemini and Black Mare

Sera Timms mesmerizes on vocals with L.A.'s Ides of Gemini, and is spellbinding in an entirely separate realm on her solo endeavor, Black Mare.

Dara Santhai of Serpent Crown

Serpent Crown's lead guitarist and vocalist Dara Santhai possesses chops, speed, and songwriting skills of the most brutal order. She blasts it all forward with six-string sludge bombs and flamethrower vocals.

Dana Schechter (right) of Insect Ark 

Insect Ark’s one-of-a-kind aesthetic results in stoner rock gone daringly experimental—the musical equivalent of when you simply inhale deeply after somebody says, “Here, smoke this.”


KINDLAND: How do you define stoner rock?

Lori S. (Acid King): I believe it is the fans that listen to the music that created that term not (at least when we started) the bands that started this genre. These days, since that is an actual genre and bands are starting out to play this kind of music, I would define it as slow, hypnotic grooves with heavy distortion and effects pedals.

Sera Timms (Ides of Gemini and Black Mare): I think I’d like to leave that to the journalists.

Dara Santhai (Serpent King): Heavy tones and heavy tunes for heavy times.

Dana Schechter (Insect Ark): For me, it's any music that takes you out of your "normal" mindset and makes you feel high.


What drew you to the genre? 

Lori S.: There was no such genre in the early '90s; it didn't exist! Hawkwind, Monster Magnet, Sound Garden, Kyuss, Obsessed, St Vitus, Mudhoney, Trouble, and Melvins, were all bands that were influences back in the day. SubPop 200 for sure influenced me to get a wah-wah and better distortion pedals in the late '80s!

Sera Timms: A friend of mine introduced me to Kyuss somewhere in 2003 or so, and that was really the gateway, which I didn’t get very far past to be honest. They existed before stoner rock was a genre, and I appreciate the freedom that exists in their music by not limiting themselves to one specific genre.

My description is overly intellectualizing it—the thing I’ve enjoyed about stoner rock is that it’s really the opposite of what I just did there. It’s about presence. A heavy presence.

I got into Sleep, and then Om and High on Fire, some Electric Wizard, but not too much beyond that. The similarity I see between them all, except High on Fire, and what I was drawn to was a feeling of rootedness. Like the music is heavy and dark like deep earth, but also psychedelic.

I think it can re-connect you to your own animal roots, so you remember that you’re a part of nature, but also opens up a portal of primal consciousness, which is simpler, raw, and imperfect. 

My description is overly intellectualizing it—the thing I’ve enjoyed about stoner rock is that it’s really the opposite of what I just did there. It’s about presence. A heavy presence.

Dara Santhai: In my mind, I intertwine a lot of stoner rock with doom, and I think I was initially drawn or interested in the genre because I liked the heaviness and the kind of atmosphere the songs would convey.

Just something different from traditional and extreme metal, which I do love, and actually listen to more than doom. But variety is always good when it comes to experiencing music.

Some of my early favorites were—and are—Cathedral, the Obsessed, St. Vitus, Buzz-oven, High on Fire, Pentagram. I wouldn't consider all those bands "stoner rock" exclusively. I was also listening to some doomy stuff like Grief, Morgion, Saturnus around the time I was first discovering the genre. I like Crowbar a lot too, but they were actually a band I discovered a little later in the game.

Dana Schechter: I've always been drawn to music and art, of any style really, that has the ability to transport. In that sense, I was already predisposed; so maybe it chose me. As a kid I loved Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, and later as a teen, Melvins of course, as well as things that are questionably termed "stoner" like Butthole Surfers, Alice Cooper, Bauhaus, et cetera—as long as it was dark and weird.


We are living in a major stoner rock moment. Why stoner rock and why now?

Lori S.: Perhaps social media plays a part in getting this music out to the masses where back in the day it was word of mouth and fanzines.

Sera Timms: In our culture today, the musical pendulum has swung so far to the digital, perfect, auto-tuned, polished, commercial side of things, that people naturally crave something real, imperfect, heavy, and dark to balance things out.

Dara Santhai: I don't know if I was aware that stoner rock was riding high right now, but I could definitely see how there is a lot of interest, especially considering the reformation of Sleep—who kind of epitomize stoner rock for a lot of people. A lot of people are drawn to the genre as a variation on metal that is more based in rock, that's not as abrasive as extreme metal, has a more kick back feel, and there is the careful crafting of tone. I feel a lot of stoner-style bands are meant to be felt and not just heard.

Dana Schechter: We all need to shut the world out a little. It fits.


Female performers in hard rock and heavy metal are conquering the planet in an unprecedented manner. What are your thoughts on this?

Lori S.: Perhaps there are just more females playing music these days and this kind of music, where 20 years ago there were not many. I don't have many thoughts on females in bands; if you love music and you want to play, that's awesome!

Sera Timms: I think that for the past 20 to 30 years—and continuing on—female children have been raised with the idea that they are equal to men, and are allowed and encouraged to get in the ring if it’s something they love and are good at. This is something happening across the board in traditionally male-dominated fields. I think it’s fantastic!

"My generation of women were told that we should live life how we want and being in a band wasn't just for the boys. "

Dara Santhai: Well, it makes sense more women are playing metal. I feel my generation of women were told that we should live life how we want and being in a band wasn't just for the boys. 

There have always been women in the metal movement, like Jo Bench from Boltthrower, Doro Pesch, Debbie Gunn from Sentinel Beast, Lynda Simpson from the UK Sacrilege, Katharine Thomas a/k/a The Great Kat—to name a varied crew of metal veterans. 

Back then, I think the women and their bands didn't receive quite the press that all-male bands have gotten, but we have definitely seen more women move toward the forefront of metal recently.

Dana Schechter: Gender in the arts is a complex subject. We're just starting to get our props and, while I'm glad it's going that direction, I'd like to see the male/female balance get to a point that it's a lot less of an issue. It still does feel like a fight at times. 

There are so many badass, powerful women out there; I'd like to see women get the same opportunities as men based on their work and merit, not on their gender. I understand that we're defined by our differences, but I sometimes think, What's the big deal here? I'm human, I'm a musician, I'm also female. Women, men, whatever—there's room enough for us all.


What’s next for you?

Lori S.: For now just touring when shows come up that we want to do and thinking about new material for the future.

Sera Timms: Ides of Gemini have almost completed writing our next album and will record in a few months. That record will come out in Spring 2017 on Rise Above Records. We play Psycho Vegas this weekend. The new Black Mare album is complete and being mixed, and we’re playing local gigs.

Dara Santhai: Serpent Crown is releasing our new album on September 9, called Incantations of Vengeance, and are going to do a brief run up to the Pacific Northwest with a Canadian date. Pretty excited that we are finally going to be releasing some new material. So far, it's just going to be an online release with a limited tape run, but the music will be on our Bandcamp page.

Dana Schechter: Right now, Insect Ark is working on our second full-length record, the first full album Ashley and I have done as a duo. We'll be touring as much as humanly possible in 2017. 

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