Interview: VersaEmerge — "I love evil women"
Mon, 21 Jun 2010 07:38:06
VersaEmerge might just hypnotize you.
It's hard not to fall under the Florida trio's spell. Their full length debut, Fixed at Zero (Due out 6/22/10), is catchy modern dream rock at its most ethereal and entrancing. Over the course of the album, Sierra Kusterbeck's angelic vocals take hold and don't let go—from sonic powder keg of an opener, "Figure It Out," all the way through the final fading strains of "Lost Tree." Fixed at Zero could be the badass son (or daughter) of Siamese Dream-era Smashing Pumpkins and Circa Survive. In other words, they're one of rock's most intriguing new bands, and this is the first must-have debut of 2010.
VersaEmerge's Sierra Kusterbeck sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview about Fixed at Zero, her favorite Greek god, musicals and her take on trees…
What's the thought process behind your approach to music?
We're trying to figure that out too [Laughs]. We go about things very differently. What we're doing at the time and little things that we hear can inspire us. Blake wants to score films, and this is like practice for him. We're a rock band, but we can do whatever we want, so we try to create these big orchestral sounds. When Blake comes to me with something along those lines, it gives me a certain feel—like a movie does. You hear or see the theme of a movie, and you get it. It can be looked at in many ways, but the soundtrack puts you in the right place. When Blake gives me this soundtrack, it helps me get into the vibe of exactly what I want to write about. Blake sets up the stories for me, and it all comes into this big movie world, but it's a rock band so it's different! It's fun [Laughs]. Blake just scored a little independent film for one of his friends. One of the new Butch Walker videos starts off with a fight-ninja scene, and he actually scored that too.
Given the cinematic side to your approach, if you were to compare Fixed at Zero to a movie what would you compare it to?
It'd have to be a movie about hope. It'd be very dreary with one sad thing after another that kind of seems hopeless, but in the end, there's a big smiling happy ending and you'd learn something from it.
Do you tend to read a lot when you write lyrics?
I actually don't read! I can't keep my mind on a book for more than three days. I try to read all the time because it really does help me write better and get my brain into that mode. That's actually something I should do more. Thank you for reminding me [Laughs]. I've been writing since I was younger. I wouldn't call them "poems," but I've always had journals. When lines would pop into my head, it was the only way to get things off my mind; I had to go write them down. I never knew what I was going to use them for. Then when I joined the band, Blake was like, "How are you with writing lyrics?" I said, "Actually, I'm ready to go! I have more than enough!" It's something that I've been doing forever, and everything inspires me. Literally, I can look at a frickin' toilet bowl and write a lyric [Laughs].
And that was where the title of the album came from…
The toilet bowl! Yes , it did! [Laughs] I don't even remember writing that lyric, "Fixed At Zero." I was going through some stuff, and I was trying to find a line that was perfect for the chorus because the verses were all done. I saw the line, and it was fucking perfect! Thank God I found it!
What's the story behind "Figure It Out?"
The whole record is like a personal experience because mainly that's what I write about especially being young and on the road. It's a lot of thinking to yourself. The whole time I was writing, I was trying to figure myself out. I'm in this whole new world that all of us are experiencing for the first time. Our band gets told who we are, what we are, what we sound like and who we're copying left and right. I'm trying to figure out myself and why I do the things I do. The song is very much about all of my bad habits—being a space cadet and very loopy—why are people like this? They understand they're like this but they just can't fix it. "Figure it Out" is about having your problems and the people closest to you can't figure them out; it's something you've got to do yourself.
And what's up with "Lost Tree"?
We definitely like to open and close the album with a certain cohesion so everything flows and connects. We didn't want the album to simply be song one, song two, song three, etc. We wanted everything to tie together. We actually wrote this song in the studio. It was one day. I wrote the lyrics really quick, and Blake built it up and made it explode. Then we had this idea of bringing back a line from every song. We make it a story that way and it all ties in. It worked out so perfectly. When I first joined the band, I went to Blake's house to meet him. We pulled into his neighborhood, and his street is called "Lost Tree." I was like, "Mom, that's the coolest thing I've ever heard!" Trees can't be lost. They're rooted into the ground. That doesn't make any sense. The whole concept of it blew me away for some reason. I explained my meaning behind it to Blake, and it fit the song. The song's about a different angle of looking at trees but you are the tree—if that makes any sort of hippie sense [Laughs]. It's like you're lost, but you're in this world right where you're supposed to be.
That goes with the whole notion of "Figure It Out!"
It really does! [Laughs]
Are you really into mythology?
When I was in school, it was my favorite thing ever. Of course, I'm not very well educated in it because I don't ever think about it. We couldn't find a title for "Mythology" initially. It's about somebody who's lying to you all the time. It's all like a myth—is it real or is it not real? I was thinking for the next record we should use all kinds of mythological characters and stories.
You can name each album after a god!
I love Medusa! It'll all be centered around her; it'll be so cool!
What do you like about Medusa?
She was sweet in the beginning; she wasn't always evil. Now, she's evil and I love evil women.
What bands shaped you?
Growing up my favorite band ever was Sublime. I mimicked Bradley's voice a lot. That was a big influence. My mom always had me listen to Enigma. I love Circa Survive and anything Anthony Green. He's huge for me. A lot of musicals too! I grew up doing musical theater. When Wicked first came out, Idina Menzel was my hero! She was the reason I started belting as loud as I could because I wanted to sing just like her.
I love Putnam County Spelling Bee! That one's hilarious! I like a lot of the modern musicals. I love Spring Awakening and The Drowsy Chaperone. Who doesn't love the classics? The new musicals do a lot of fun and funky stuff. When you do the classics, you have to mimic these amazing people. I think that's why I joined the band because I was in theater and looking at colleges and I was like, "Do I really want to do this? I'm done mimicking. I want to sing my own shit!"
Have you heard VersaEmerge yet?