Sierra Kusterbeck of VersaEmerge Talks Acoustic EP, Next Album, Outer Space, Brash Campaign and More
Thu, 01 Sep 2011 08:29:22
VersaEmerge are blasting off to outer space for their next full-length album.
"So far the feeling is spacey," reveals singer Sierra Kusterbeck. "It's lyrically intergalactic and spacey."
Picking up where last year's Fixed at Zero left off, the band are building upon their elegantly entrancing take on rock and floating into uncharted musical territory. However, at the heart of everything lie timeless melodies, and that's why VersaEmerge are one of the most intriguing, infectious, and incredible outfits in modern rock.
Even though they're in the midst of working on the next record, they just dropped a gorgeous acoustic effort, VersaEmerge: Live Acoustic – EP, and they'll be playing Fueled By Ramen's 15th anniversary show at Terminal 5 in New York City September 8th and 9th.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino, VersaEmerge singer Sierra Kusterbeck sounds off on the group's acoustic EP, next full-length album, outer space, the Brash Campaign, and so much more.
On the EP, even the covers sound like VersaEmerge.
I'm glad because that's what we tried to do. If it feels like us, that means it's nice and honest.
How did you choose the songs you wanted to reimagine?
We generally like these songs, and we always sing them. Blake has this ability to hear anything and play it back. We'd jam them for fun when we were bored so we figured we'd cover them for the EP. We didn't really ever perform them live unless we were playing some really tiny impromptu acoustic show. We'd play them on our time though [Laughs].
Was it important for you to impart your own personality on these songs?
Absolutely! Being a singer and, first and foremost, a writer, I listen to lyrics in everything. That's what my ears go for. Generally, that's why I like certain pop songs. They might seem mindless, but some of them are pretty deep in a way. That's especially true for "Toxic". I love singing it. You can make these songs a little deeper than what they may come off as. In the process, it's important for me to sound like myself though. I don't want to sing like Britney Spears, Rihanna, or Drake. I want to sing like me.
Did you "E.T." stand out for you lyrically?
Yes, it did. I've been working on lyrics for our next record for the past year and a half. Then I heard "E.T." and it was similar to what I was writing as far as the space theme goes and the idea of giving everything an intergalactic spin. I fell in love with it. The words definitely came across like that to me on the radio. The lyrics are awesome. My absolute favorite line in the song is, "Different dimension". I'm obsessed with lyrics like that with the double "D" words. It flows so well.
What was the first song you covered?
We did "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" for our first Christmas on Fueled By Ramen. They have bands record videos for their YouTube around the holidays. We wanted to cover a song for it. You think of the typical Christmas songs like "Jingle Bells" and shit like that. I said, "What about The Grinch? It's a bit different". We jammed it, and it came off with this bluesy feel. That was the very first cover we did, and the feedback was really unexpected.
What's the story behind "Father Sky"?
It's a b-side from Fixed at Zero. It's on the deluxe edition of Fixed at Zero on iTunes. We wrote it pretty early in the process of the last record. We made it a b-side, and we thought it would be cool for kids to find it since the lyrics are some of my favorite that I've ever written. I bring the vulture back up. It's like the sequel to the song "Fixed at Zero". It's got those same themes—"Who am I? I'm lost. Do I believe in this? Do I believe in that? I don't know what I believe in". It's just one big question mark.
Why'd you choose "American Boy"?
I love the feel of "American Boy". It wasn't so much about the lyrics. The feel is so smooth, and Estelle's voice flows out really free. I love how she sings it. It reminds me of summertime.
Did "Mythology" start off as an acoustic song?
Blake did come up with the guitar parts on an acoustic guitar. We jammed it at his house. We wrote that song right after our self-titled EP. It has the most old version of VersaEmerge. It comes off well acoustically.
Was this in the works for a while?
It was a spur-of-the-moment thing. Since we're off the grid working on the record, we wanted to put something out there to keep people calm while they're waiting. It seemed like a good time.
How did the Brash campaign start?
The Brash campaign came about when Payless reached out to me. They presented me with the product and what it was all about. They were on the search for this "Brash" girl to personify the brand as a whole. When they showed me the product, I was really anxious. I met their whole crew, and they're some of the nicest most down-to-earth people that I've ever met. I love fashion and everything about it. It's been a really fun journey to be thrown into this other world. The product is presented by Payless as this edgy shoe line with accessories and beauty products for teen girls and 20-, 30-, and 40-year-olds, depending on how sassy you are [Laughs]. The best part is it's affordable and accessible. It's got such an eclectic and wide variety. It can be there for any girl. It's about being bold in your style and collaging your own look together and being who you are. I don't think there's a brand out there that's edgy and affordable. It's like combat boots, biker boots, and riding boots. Then there are some flats and platforms. Everything was already designed and setup, and they came to me.
How intertwined are fashion and rock 'n' roll?
I think they're intertwined very tightly, especially being a girl. If there's one thing I've noticed, people will pick up on your style if you're in front of some kind of public eye. It's bound to happen. Being on stage, girls see what I wear. They'll be like, "I love this type of music. I'm going to express that through how I dress". What you listen to makes you who you are. Music dresses people. You can always tell what someone listens to by how they dress. That's why it's important to me.
How far into the new album are you?
We have a lot written. We're working on some more demos as we speak. There's a vintage feel to the space element and the wonders of the unknown. Blake and I put a lot of thought into it before we sat down and started anything. We wanted to make sure we were on the same page. There was a lot of verbal interaction between us. We'd send a lot of pictures back and forth. We'd collect photos of things we'd see like light fixtures or things that would give us inspiration and put us back on the feel of the direction we're heading in.
Have any books or movies influenced that?
We've watched a few Stanley Kubrick films [Laughs]. We like 2001: A Space Odyssey feel. Also, we just recently watched the Foo Fighters DVD which is killer. It's so badass, and it's really inspirational. It's cool to see how iconic bands like that work. We've been looking at landscapes in different countries too. We're a bit obsessed with Iceland. It almost feels like another world to us. We're really visual people so we have a lot of imagery we keep around. We're also reading lots of books and educating ourselves on space, time, and the universal in general. We've been looking at different theories of time travel. We're getting it all in our heads. If it's in your subconscious, it'll play out in everything.
Are you looking forward to the Fueled By Ramen 15th anniversary show?
I'm super excited about it. It's amazing that Fueled By Ramen has been around for 15 years. This is a big celebration of where everyone's at and the family. You know everybody there, and they're so excited to work hands-on with the bands. They're busy all of the time. It never stops.
Have you heard VersaEmerge?
Listen to "Mythology" acoustic here!
Watch the band's exclusive acoustic performance of "Figure It Out" for ARTISTdirect.com here!
Watch them perform "Fixed at Zero" here!