Dead Sara is a Los Angeles rock band. They are Emily Armstrong (vocals/guitar), Siouxsie Medley (guitar), Chris Null (bass), and Sean Friday (drums). Dead Sara‘s press describes them as “an electrifying four-piece rock band whose supercharged music is propelled by Medley’s exhilarating, monster guitar riffs and Armstrong’s powerful, wailing vocals.” I say they sound like Janis Joplin fronting Led Zeppelin meets Nirvana with Tom Morello [ex-Rage Against the Machine] on guitar! I was singing this band’s praises the other day with that very comparison and a co-worker said, “…are you serious? There’s too much going on there…” Yeah, there is, but Dead Sara blends all those influences together into their own grungy sound. If you need proof, watch this video …
Kurt Cobain once said “I like the comfort in knowing that women are the only future in rock ‘n’ roll.” He would certainly take comfort in knowing that Dead Sara‘s “blazing, impassioned classic rock” [OC Weekly] isn’t “just a heartless rebellion, a fucking fad.” You don’t just listen to Dead Sara‘s music, you feel it!
Dead Sara recently released their second album Pleasure to Meet You on March 31, 2015. The band’s self-titled debut was released on April 10, 2012. Back in early 2013, I declared (on Rock Chicks Rule!) that Dead Sara‘s debut was my second favorite album of 2012, behind Halestorm‘s The Strange Case Of… This year, both bands, again, delivered new albums but, this time, Dead Sara‘s Pleasure To Meet You is clearly the winner over Halestorm‘s Into the Wild Life! My obsession with Dead Sara has been reinvigorated, and I’ve been listening, nearly non-stop, to both albums since Pleasure To Meet You was released a few weeks ago. But, here’s the thing …
Dead Sara‘s debut album didn’t really move me – at first! I read all the buzz about the band in music publications, and heard their song “Weatherman” in the Fiat 500 Abarth commercial (here), so I downloaded the album later that summer. I liked the music, but an obsession wasn’t sparked because I was already obsessing over Halestorm after having downloaded The Strange Case Of… on the day of its release which was the same day that Dead Sara was released. So, after a few spins, I filed the album away in my vast music library. A few months later, I read about Dead Sara in the November/December 2012 issue of Revolver magazine in which Emily Armstrong and Siouxsie Medley were featured in that month’s “Hottest Chicks in Hard Rock” bulletin (here). I decided to give the album another spin. So, I loaded Dead Sara back into my iPod, pressed play and, 43 minutes later, I sat there, mouth agape, wondering what the hell I had missed a few months back! My obsession was born! Then, in March, a co-worker mentioned that he had just seen a cool new female-fronted rock band open for Muse at the Quicken Loans Arena here in Cleveland on February 28, 2013. He said I might be interested and should check them out. “Who were they?” I asked. “They were called Dead Sara,” he replied. “Dead Sara, huh?” I chuckled. “Well, I’ve been into that band since before they released their debut album,” I told him. Yeah, I’m that guy.
On Dead Sara, Emily Armstrong‘s vocals, which range from a Joplin-esque rasp to a Plant-ish wail, are perfectly matched with Siouxsie Medley‘s Rage-like riffs for a stunning mix of classic rock meets post-grunge alternative. Heavier rockers like “Lemon Scent”, “Weatherman”, “Test On My Patience”, and “I Said You Were Lucky” deliver the best blend of all the band’s influences, while “Timed Blues” and “Monumental Holiday” take more obvious inspiration from Led Zeppelin and Nirvana, respectively. Those heavier tracks are balanced out with tuneful rockers like “Whispers & Ashes” and “We Are What You Say” and stirring, powerful ballads like “Dear Love”, “Face to Face” and “Sorry For It All”. Armstrong truly channels the ghost of Janis Joplin on “Face To Face” when, in the bridge, she sings, “Am I dead? Am I dead…” then screams, “… to him? Well, baby, baby, baby, here I am!” You can’t deny the power of that woman’s voice! But, as intense as that song is, my favorite track is “Sorry For It All”, which burns slowly, then explodes with fiery passion! I love this song! So, let’s watch the video here …
Dead Sara followed-up their debut album, in December, with the single “Snow in Los Angeles”. It’s a sad California Christmas song, a gritty holiday companion to Colbie Caillat‘s “Misltetoe”. In 2013, Dead Sara recorded a cover of Nirvana‘s “Heart-Shaped Box” for the trailer to the (then) upcoming PlayStation 4 game InFAMOUS: Second Son (here). Their cover is one of the best Nirvana covers by a female-fronted band I’ve ever heard – although OT3P‘s cover of “Breed” is pretty awesome, too. Dead Sara‘s full-band cover of “Heart-Shaped Box” was featured in the video game, and an acoustic version of the song was included as a B-side on the single. However, Evanescence‘s live acoustic B-side is still my favorite acoustic cover of “Heart-Shaped Box”. On March 21, 2013, Dead Sara appeared on The CW‘s The Vampire Diaries, performing NY punk icon Patti Smith‘s “Ask the Angels” in a bar scene (here). They also performed “Lemon Scent” (here). Sadly, their “Ask the Angels” cover was never released. It’s a very good cover, and the performance is awesome. However, The Distillers‘ cover of that song is still my favorite!
All of the cover songs that I mentioned above, by the way, stay relatively true to the original versions, save for female vocals. I (mostly) dislike cover songs that stray too far from the originals but, at the same time, I (mostly) dislike cover songs that are too close, especially when a vocalist tries to sound exactly like the original artist which occurs typically when a band covers a song by an artist who is of the same gender as the cover band’s singer. Emily Armstrong might sound a little bit like Kurt Cobain in Dead Sara‘s cover of “Heart-Shaped Box” but, in case you haven’t noticed, she’s a girl – and that makes all the difference.
In early 2014, Dead Sara set out to record their 2nd album and now, in early 2015, here it is!
On Pleasure To Meet You, the band’s heavier classic rock sound is blended fully into it’s more melodic side with a dash of soul, gospel, and roots rock influences tossed in. The result is a worthy follow-up to Dead Sara that should rightfully bring this amazing band a whole new army of adoring fans. For me, in 2015, the tables have turned. Dead Sara‘s Pleasure To Meet You re-invigorated my obsession for the band which, in turn, may have influenced my initial judgement of Halestorm‘s Into the Wild Life. Well, maybe I’ll give it another chance in a few weeks!
The first single from Pleasure To Meet You, “Mona Lisa”, opens with a gospel-esque hum before kicking into the band’s signature bluesy classic rock. I love the line “I’m as addicted as your lips to your cigarette” but the line “My Mona Lisa wasn’t looking at me” is as “art”-fully ironic as “I fell right into the arms of… Venus de Milo” from Television‘s 1977 punk classic “Venus”. I don’t need to explain why, do I? The second single, “Something Good”, is similar to “Whispers & Ashes” (from their debut) in that the song’s melody really sneaks up on you, during the lead in “Something Good” and the bridge in “Whispers & Ashes”. Other good tracks on Pleasure To Meet You include “Suicidal”, “L.A. City Slum”, “Greaser” (which, for me, recalled Boston’s ’80s roots rockers Scruffy the Cat), and the bluesy garage rocker “Blue Was the Beautiful You”. My favorite tracks, however, are the Nirvana-esque rocker “Lovesick”, the highly-charged “Radio One Two”, and the melancholic power ballad “For You I Am” which slowly builds to crescendo as Armstrong sings “I’m slowly dying”, before ending with glorious feedback noise. Medley‘s melodic riff in that song is hypnotizing! Soulful “Mr. Mr” and Zeppelin-esque “Feel Right at Home” are the remaining two tracks on this awesome sophomore release.
Watch the video for “Mona Lisa” here …
Here’s some interesting facts about Dead Sara taken from Wikipedia and their own bio …
- The band’s name is taken from the Stevie Nicks-penned Fleetwood Mac song “Sara.” The line “Said Sara, you’re the poet in my heart” is often misheard as “Dead Sara, you’re the poet in my heart” which is ironic considering that the song is rumored to be about an abortion Nicks had after getting pregnant with The Eagles‘ Don Henley. The rumor is possibly true. Emily Armstrong and Siouxsie Medley are big fans of Stevie Nicks, as was I back in high school. I once used the name Steve Nicks to hook-up with a girl from a rival high school so my girlfriend, from my own high school, wouldn’t get word. I suck, I know.
- Siouxsie Medley‘s first name is an homage to the Native American heritage of one of her great-grandparents, not to Siouxsie Sioux of influential UK goth rockers Siouxsie and the Banshees.
- Siouxsie Medley stands 5’4″ and weighs just over a 100 pounds! She’s a little girl with a BIG talent!
- Emily Armstrong provided backing vocals on Hole‘s 4th studio album Nobody’s Daughter (2010) [which is really Courtney Love‘s 2nd solo album]. I’m sure she was elated to have the former wife of one her biggest influences request her BIG vocal talents!
- In 2012, female rock icon Grace Slick [ex-Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship], when asked by The Wall Street Journal which female rock singers she admired, named Emily Armstrong. Now, that is high praise!
- In 2013, Dave Grohl [Foo Fighters/ex-Nirvana], in an interview for Fuse, said that “Dead Sara should be the next biggest rock band in the world.” That is high praise as well!
- In February 2015, Dead Sara‘s cover of Nirvana‘s “Heart-Shaped Box” won the award for “Best Song, Original or Adapted” at the 14th annual NAVGTR (National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers) awards.
Finally, let’s watch Dead Sara pay tribute to two of their biggest influences at once as the band covers Rage Against the Machine‘s “Killing in the Name” live while Emily Armstrong wears a Nirvana t-shirt …
Oh, and be sure to check out Dead Sara‘s Youtube channel (here) for more video goodness including an awesome Q&A series called Face to Face Fridays (which I hope is continued for the new album and tour)!