This interview was done in November 2003 over email with Melissa the band’s vocalist.
RN: Can you give one of those brief intro, being that only a select few in the UK will have actually heard of The Wage Of Sin?
Melissa: The Wage of Sin formed in October 2000. Indecision had just broke up and Rachel Rosen finally had time to start an all girl band like she had always wanted. She wanted to prove that there are girls in hardcore who can play their instruments well and write their own songs. I sent her an audition tape, and then we practiced with drummer Vanessa Newsted and just took off writing songs from there. Jenn Christiansen was our original bass player who did some of the song writing on our first album “The Product of Deceit and Loneliness” but she left to band to go to school and pursue other musical ventures in 2002. Laura Zaino then joined on bass and since then we’ve had a solid lineup. We put out “A Mistaken Belief in Forever” in September of 2003 and done some touring across the US over the past few years.
RN: So are you happy with how the new record (A Mistaken Belief In Forever) has turned out? Have you had any feedback on it yet? Did you approach it any differently from the last record (The Product Of Deceit And Loneliness)?
M: I am happy with the new record. I feel we have been able to develop a sound that is our own and have all matured as musicians. since the start of the band. It was also exciting to record with Laura for the first time. We recorded the songs in April/May of 2003 so of course now after listening to the songs so many times there are some things I would like to change or do over, but I feel that there is always room to grow and improve. This album was a little different because we recorded it pretty quickly because of the girls involvement in their other bands. It was hard to find a time when Rachel wasn’t touring with Most Precious Blood or Vanessa wasn’t touring with For All It’s Worth, so we had been sending mixes all over the country to get final approval on the songs from all our members. Also, on this recording we had both girls and guys doing backup vocals. On our debut we only wanted females on the recording to just really emphasize our statement that there are talented girls out there who can make music to be enjoyed by males and females. On “A Mistaken Belief in Forever” we felt that we’ve been around enough, made our statement, and we wanted to have our friends on the record whether or not they had a penis. Hardcore is about unity and seeing past our differences, and that is what we want to do with the band. Have everyone in this together. As for feedback, we’ve gotten some really bad reviews! Oddly enough though, some bigger magazines have given us some good press, which is cool. But our fans seem to really like the new songs, we are getting better responses at shows, and we are happy with what we have done. And that’s the most important thing.
RN: Do you guys as a band have any particular message to get out? Are you guy’s vegan or sxe? Or is the band simply a place to exorcise personal demons?
M: Well like I said, the original intent of the band was to promote females in the hardcore scene. And I feel we still do that just by doing what we do, and we don’t have to be exclusive by only appealing to girls or only having girls in the band. We have actually had a bunch of touring guitarists in our band who are guys. We just want everyone to be open minded and respectful of each other. Vanessa (drummer) and myself are both straightedge, but instead of preaching about sxe we sing about respect for yourself and others. I am vegetarian and the rest of the band is vegan, and we distribute animal rights literature at our shows. All our songs are based on personal experiences, beliefs and relationships. By being in a band I feel we are fortunate enough to provide an environment where people feel included and that allows us to spread our ideas and beliefs in a positive way.
RN: Have you found that the HC community in the States has been open to your band? Do you ever have problems from other bands on the bill or from kids in the crowd?
M: Most people have been pretty respectful of our band. I feel it’s a little harder to win over kids locally in NYC/NJ just because they saw us play shows from the very beginning when we kind of sucked, and so now its harder for them to give us a second chance. Whereas if we play somewhere in Texas or California where people got to see us when we were tight as a band, it’s easier for them to be open to our music. Sometimes we get hassled going into a club because people don’t believe there are girls in the band. And then they end up being much nicer to us after they see us play! Every once in a while we will run into a jerk in the crowd yelling something derogatory at us, but most of the time the shows are great and the kids are supportive.
RN: Do you often find that you’re playing to simply a crowd of boys with the girls getting pushed to the back cause of the mosh? Do you encourage girls to get up to the front and join in?
M: The majority of the people in hardcore are guys. So of course they are going to outnumber the gals. But I think at our shows there are always a lot of girls singing along or moshing which is great. We want girls to feel like they can do whatever they want and it’s the most amazing feeling when girls come up to me after a show and say that our band has inspired them. There are so many more bands with girls in them, and so many more girls moshing at shows and putting on shows as compared to when we all started going to shows, and that’s a great thing to see!
RN: Why do you think fewer girls get up onstage, or learn instruments than boys, especially in a scene such as hardcore, which is supposed to pride itself on it’s inclusivity?
M: I know I never actually thought to sing for a band until I saw bands like Crisis, Walls of Jericho, and Fast Times. It just never crossed my mind! I know that sounds silly, but the style of singing in hardcore, which is mostly screaming and yelling isn’t really a feminine thing to do, so I guess it’s not really as accepted for girls to be doing it. Not too many guys want to date girls who are kicking and screaming for fun! But also the music world in general is harder for girls to get into. Females are criticized more because of their looks, or rumours go around that they slept their way to the top, or their daddies bought them their fame, etc. It’s just harder for women to be taken seriously, so it’s a big risk to just be yourself and be accepted as a musician. I know sometimes it’s stressful and upsetting for me to read reviews that talk about how fat, or ugly or manly I am and not about how I am as a vocalist. But I think now people are a lot more open to girls in bands, and they go see them for the right reasons. I know it’s exciting for me to play with other bands that have girls in them. It just further proves that things are changing.
RN: Musically Wage Of Sin don’t have that much in common with what it’s ‘normally’ expected for girls to play. Do you reckon that’s helped or hindered you? What bands influenced you to play? Did any riot grrrl bands, or any other girls playing in bands, influence you to pick up an instrument or starting screaming?
M: I honestly don’t know what type of music is normally expected for girls to play! It seems like no matter what girls do, everyone has something to say about it. But yeah, I guess screaming and playing heavy metal isn’t really a girl thing to do. But we love it, so we do it anyway! I think because some people consider it an odd thing for girls to do, a lot of people have become exposed to our band out of curiosity of what an all girl metalcore band would sound like.
I personally am into all types of female musicians. Tori Amos is probably my favourite musician. She is someone who isn’t constrained by boundaries or limits and I admire that. Madonna was the person who made me want to be a singer ever since I was 5 years old. It was just the way she carried herself and how she projected the image of a strong woman able to take on the world and all its criticisms. Then I got into bands like 7 Year Bitch and L7. Laura and Vanessa are both into riot grrrl bands too like Babes in Toyland, Sleater Kinney, Bikini Kill. Vanessa is a huge fan of Crisis. We all got into music for different reasons, but our love for hardcore and metal along with the influences of female musicians have made us the type of band we are today.
RN: Is it weird thinking that simply by being an all female band you are challenging certain members of the hardcore community, and their perceived notion of who can and can’t play music? Is it also weird thinking that you might be influencing people to pick up instruments themselves, and form a band because of that?
M: Some people think its a gimmick that we are an all girl band, but it’s actually more of a statement that we are trying to make, like an all straightedge band, or an all vegan band. There is strength in numbers. So I think by having 4 talented women on a stage it makes people think about other girls who are in bands who are just as, or even more talented. And like I said earlier, it’s amazing to hear that we have influenced other girls to start or join bands. Girls come up to us all the time and give us their band’s demo or thanks us for what we do. In Albany, NY the other night a girl came up to me and told me she is in a band now because our demo inspired her! It makes me really proud of what we do.
RN: How did you guys hook up with Burial Records in the UK? Are there any plans for European tours, or a jaunt to the UK for this record? Is the new record going to get a release in this country?
M: We met Troy from Burial Records when we played Hellfest 2002 in Syracuse, NY. He talked to Sean and Pat from our label, Immigrant Sun and they set it up. It’s nice to know that people across the ocean support us! We would love to come to Europe, but we are all crazy with school and work and other bands. Hopefully we can make it there this year! So far I don’t know of anyone releasing the new album in the UK… but if anyone wants to, contact Immigrant Sun!
RN: Anything else you wanna add to the interview? Thanks so much for your support and interest in our band!! Check out the following links: www.thewageofsin.com. www.immigrantsun.com.