It’s a Monday night at L.A,’s Viper Room, but people are packed into the club tighter than fat Elvis in leather pants. There is barely room to sweat, thanks to the draw of Dead Sara, an L.A. quartet poised to breakout nationally.
The band, fronted by Emily Armstrong with Siouxsie Medley on guitar, Chris Null on bass and Sean Friday on drums, is riding high on the hit single “Weatherman.” They’re about to go on tour supporting Chevelle, and they’ve been named as one of the featured acts on this summer’s Warped tour.
This kind of frenzied show is a great warmup for Armstrong, who has never done a national tour and asked her management to find her a trek, hence the Chevelle package, to prepare for Warped. But if this show is any indication, Dead Sara will be fine with the bigger audiences.
The more packed it gets in the club, the more insane Armstrong, who wails onstage like the love child of Patti Smith and Layne Stayley, becomes. “It was all hot, I fucking love that,” Armstrong tells Rolling Stone a few days later in the backyard of her San Fernando Valley home. “I love it, the small, intimate, fucking packed, I love that, I just fucking feed off it. I wanted to jump in it.”
She’s going to fit in fine on Warped. This is a graduate of the Warped audience, one who recalls stage diving as a member of the crowd years ago. “When I was 15 at Warped tour, seeing Andrew W.K. or the Used or whatever I was listening to at the time, I would jump all the time,” she says. “I would get thrown in the crowd and that was the funnest thing, the funnest thing.”
Now Armstrong can’t wait to bring that passion to the stage as a performer. “It’s like the power of rock and roll, it just frees me,” she says. “It’s this release, it’s unexplainable, when you’re up there it’s like you’re in a different world and that’s when I feel most like myself. It’s so fucking free and it’s amazing.”
Her rock and roll abandon has already earned her the approval of both Grace Slick, who name-checked Armstrong in the Wall Street Journal, and Courtney Love, who invited Armstrong to sing backup on Nobody‘s Daughter. Armstrong has had the chance to hang with both. “Grace Slick had a few pointers, met her and then she came out to a show, it was really cool. It made me have to be better cause she was there,” Armstrong says. And what did she get from her time with Love? “She brought me out to New York, where she was recording , I screamed and stuff on her record. It was insane cause this is somebody I’ve listened to, like Celebrity Skin and one of my favorites, Pretty On The Inside. I couldn’t sleep for like a week before and then I got out there and she’s an interesting fucking lady. She was so entertaining and I had a fucking blast.”
Now Armstrong gets to put the lessons she’s learned from others to practice on the band’s debut album Dead Sara, produced by Noah Shain (Atreyu, Skrillex). Blending blues, hard rock and punk into a whirling energy, the album is a vehicle for both the band and Armstrong’s diverse tastes, which range from Refused to Fleetwood Mac. And in Medley, Null and Friday she found the right musicians to help her deliver her sound after years of searching.
“It was this sound I kept hearing and I couldn’t get anybody else to hear it so I had to be a singer,” she says. And what made the current lineup of Dead Sara the right band for what she was searching for? “We wrote ‘Weatherman’ in the first jam. Siouxsie had the riff, we just went there and it worked,” she recalls. “It hit them too and hit us, we were like, ‘Let’s do a record.’ That’s exactly the way we wanted it, more real. We wanted our friends, and they’re married into this now. I want more of the raw rock and roll, its fucking feeling. That’s what I strive for.”