Sierra Kusterbeck of VersaEmerge Talks "Fixed at Zero," Covering Drake and Tweets from Britney Spears
Mon, 15 Nov 2010 07:16:28
VersaEmerge don't just think outside of the box; they were born outside of it.
Their full length debut, Fixed at Zero, exists in a sonic realm all its own. From the vapors of space rock on "Figure It Out" and "Mythology" to the epic scope of "Stranger" and "Lost Tree," VersaEmerge weave their own lore across the landscape of the album. Frontwoman Sierra Kusterbeck infuses an equal dose of vulnerability and vitality into the songs, painting vibrant lyrical pictures that float on the embers of her fiery delivery. Think a combination of Deftones' landmark White Pony and Circa Survive's Blue Sky Noise as fronted by rock's last real heroine, and you've got Fixed at Zero. It's also the year's best rock debut.
However, VersaEmerge aren't afraid to have a little fun and cover a Drake tune [Watch it here], and they get stoked on Tweets from Britney Spears (who wouldn't though, really?)…
VersaEmerge's Sierra Kusterbeck spoke to ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino in this exclusive interview about Fixed at Zero, her favorite movies, collecting knives, what she's listening to and so much more.
What does Fixed at Zero mean to you? Has the meaning changed since it first released?
The meaning was so defined in my head; I guess I could never find the words to explain it, but I've been getting better at it [Laughs]. Instead of deeply burying your flaws, imperfections, insecurities and bad habits, it's really about embracing those things and realizing they make you who you are. That's what makes us different. Also, it's kind of fun to be a little bad sometimes. The album is supposed to be really inspirational too. As people listen to the record and they come out to the shows, they tell me that it helped them get through so much. It helped them maybe face their fears, or it encouraged them not to be scared of who they are and be themselves. I think the album can be very liberating for people, and that's amazing.
You also leave everything open to interpretation.
When I write lyrics, sometimes Blake [Harnage, guitar] is like, "Sierra, I don't understand what you're trying to say here!" I'll say, "It could be like ten totally different things." That way, people can take the song out of context and apply it to their own situations.
Fixed at Zero also feels like one complete vision.
To us, the record wasn't simply "song, song, song." It's a full piece of art. You can travel through it, and it goes through all these different levels. It can take you different places. That's the correlation of the songs that we wrote [Laughs].
Where did the vulture imagery come from? What inspired that?
First, it was just a lyric. I don't remember when I wrote it. I wish I did! I was going back through my books and I saw it, and I was like, "I love this!" Whenever I write, I try to put really strong images in the listeners' heads. The way you listen to the words is painting a picture at the same exact time, and you create your own feel. When you listen to this, I want you to basically play a movie in your head—just like when you read a book. With the line "There's a vulture on my shoulder," how do you not picture a big scary ass vulture perched up on your shoulder? It's this evil creature telling you to give in. It's very negative. At the same time, the rest of the record is super hopeful. Everybody thought it was a really strong line and we should go off of that. We decided to make "Fixed at Zero" the title track and use the vulture on the cover because it's such a strong and symbolic animal. It's nothing that can get lost. People Twitter me all the time and say, "I saw a vulture, and I immediately thought of VersaEmerge!" That's awesome! There's something in the world to remind you of our band because we grabbed on to that symbol.
Those vultures in Splash Mountain reminded me of the album cover.
See! [Laughs] How cool is that?
The image gives listeners a degree of mythos to ponder.
Yes! I think it does. That's what I wanted it to do. Blake and I both think in terms of the big picture. I think kids are sick of a lot of the subject matter they're getting nowadays in music. Of course, they're still going to love it, but I want to give people something to think about it. You can listen to the same love song or break-up song over and over again. I personally don't want to give that to them anymore. I want to give them something else to think about. Maybe we can have the same subject matter as other bands, but we'll say it in a different way or from a new point of view.
Listeners will delve into deeper albums if they're given the chance.
I feel like the only way to get a super deep album nowadays is if it's either extremely political or it's too hard to understand and relate to. The initial goal was to write something that myself, Blake and Devin truly care about, but people can still relate to it. It's not so out of the box that nobody gets it.
You guys can still have some fun with the cover of Drake's "Find Your Love" too [Watch it here].
Oh yeah! When we came out with the Britney Spears cover of "Toxic," nobody really expected it. The truth is, Britney is a huge influence to us. We were on Warped Tour. I love Drake's album. I think it's awesome, and I'd been listening to it a lot. I played it for Blake and told him I thought we should cover it. Months later, he came back to me and wanted to [Laughs]. I'm glad we got to. Britney saw our cover pretty recently. She actually tweeted about it! We were practically dying [Laughs].
What are some of your favorite movies?
Domino is one of my favorite movies ever. I absolutely love that character. I pretty much want to be her [Laughs]. Also, I come back to Kill Bill and Resident Evil. I love action movies, and I love it when girls are kicking ass—unrealistically and realistically. I watch them and I get so inspired. I have all these weapons, and I think I can jump off buildings and stuff; I can't [Laughs].
What kind of weapons do you have?
I recently just got into knives. My dad gave me a really cool one. Every time we're at a truck stop, they have cheap knives that like awesome. I keep getting more. My stepdad actually used to be a cop, and he's very well-trained with firearms. He took me to the shooting range recently and taught me all about guns. He educated me on everything, and I'm hoping to get a gun soon. For now, I have an Airsoft gun. I scare the boys with it a lot [Laughs].
What are you listening to right now?
I'm a little late but I just got the new Deftones record. I'm pretty obsessed with it. It's so perfect for what I wanted. I was looking for something. I've been listening to the same stuff pretty much nonstop, and I heard that and I was like, "Why didn't I get these earlier?" It's amazing. I've been listening to Die Antwoord which is probably the oddest thing I've been listening to. They're this South African rap group, and it's very interesting. Then there's this Kid Cudi mixtape called How to Make it in America. It's pretty good. I'm always listening to Mutemath and Metric. I get stuck in the same phases for a like a year at a time.
Watch VersaEmerge cover Drake's "Find Your Love" acoustically here!
Watch our exclusive video interview with the band here!
Have you heard VersaEmerge yet?