'I would hate to be one of those bands that people say "They sound just like ________ " about.' So says Pam Nichols, drummer with Shiva Speedway. They're a 4-piece from Mass, who have produced a mighty impressive debut single on Harriet Records, A-Train.
You have a split single with Quivvver - are they mates of yours or what?
Harriet isn't really one big happy family like Teenbeat or Simple Machines where everyone plays on each others releases, although Tim did put out a single by the band that Dez (Shiva's singer/guitarist) and I used to be in - Pop Smear. Tim likes a variety of things from around the globe which makes for a kinda diverse label But I think his heart really lies with pop/punk stuff and I think that some of our stuff is too heavy for his taste. He's put out Mecca Normal, Magnetic Fields, Crayon, Wimp Factor 14, and about 25 other things that I'm forgetting.
So, Pop Smear...
Shiva Speedway started with me and Dezaray- the singer/ guitar player. We were in a band called Pop Smear, an all female 6 piece, that released one single on Harriet records. Pop Smear was the first band I was ever in, although Dez has been in bands since she was old enough to walk or something like that. A couple of her bands - Radio Novena and Alphabettys - released some vinyl. I guess as a mere tyke in upstate New York she would sneak out to the local clubs and play blues harmonica solos on stage with bands that were coming through town. She also got to interview Patti Smith which I'm jealous about!
So what happened after them?
I had only been playing drums for a short time when I started jamming with Pop Smear and wound up in the band. Pop Smear was together for a little over a year then we all decided to call it quits. Dez and I started playing together immediately and soon after hooked up with Todd, the bass player. He's played in several bands in NYC and western Mass. We played with quite a few guitar players who all moved away and had another guy in the band who played a few shows with us before leaving. We weren't looking to form a predominately female band. We were looking for people we could get along with easily, who had good ideas to contribute and liked similar music. Heidi responded to a flyer we had up and turned out to be a friend of one of those guitar players that had moved away. She's played with other bands around Boston in the past. So, with Heidi in the band we've been together a little over a year.
Do you ever get lumped in with the Riot grrl lot since you just happen to be an all-female band, and are you getting pissed off with this?
For me RAS was a way to get involved with music and for younger women the Riot Grrl thing has provided that gateway. It's really important that girls know they can rock too. Maybe some of them will stick with it and continue to do some really interesting stuff. I'm psyched that I'm a woman playing in an agressive band but I don't want to be marginalized because of it. Shiva Speedway likes to play bills with bands that we go with musically not just because of their gender. One thing I have noticed is that it seems easier for people to accept women either doing the Riot Grrl thing or playing pretty pop. If you're doing something different than that they're not sure how to take you. I'm really glad that so many women are making music now. It _is_ different than it was before. Actually, we have a male bass player. We haven't gotten the Riot grrl comparison although people do tend to compare to other bands with women in them. We played with quite a few guitar players who all moved away and had another guy in the band who played a few shows with us before leaving. We weren't looking to form a predominately female band. We were looking for people we could get along with easily, who had good ideas to contribute and liked similar music. Heidi responded to a flyer we had up and turned out to be a friend of one of those guitar players that had moved away. She's played with other bands around Boston in the past. So, with Heidi in the band we've been together a little over a year.
So do people say 'sounds like PJ Harvey/Huggy Bear/Siouxsie' when they should be saying 'Wire/Sonic Youth/whatever' when reviewing the record just because there's a female singer?
This does seem to be true. In thinking off the top of my head I guess reviewers do tend to compare bands fronted by the same sex to each other. One thing that's interesting to me is all the different bands that have been mentioned in the reviews we've gotten: Sonic Youth, Hole, Huggy Bear, Wedding Present, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, Throwing Muses(?), Black Sabbath (??!!), Adickdid, Iggy Pop, MC5 (?)... Which makes me feel that maybe we do have a bit of our own sound. I would hate to be one of those bands that people say "They sound just like ________ " about. Better to evoke a different response from different people. And actually, in looking over the above list, we have been compared to male bands as well. We played with quite a few guitar players who all moved away and had another guy in the band who played a few shows with us before leaving.
Just coincidence, then, that there are 3 girls and one guy?
We weren't looking to form a predominately female band. We were looking for people we could get along with easily, who had good ideas to contribute and liked similar music. Heidi responded to a flyer we had up and turned out to be a friend of one of those guitar players that had moved away. She's played with other bands around Boston in the past. So, with Heidi in the band we've been together a little over a year.
So, the big question, what ARE your influences?
I really can't say what the influences on Shiva Speedway are as a band. We all like/listen to different things. I think we're interested in being powerful, in having some sort of groove, in the guitars intertwining and doing interesting things. I like music that takes a while to sink in. We're working on a new set and all our stuff comes out of jamming together. At times it's a very frustrating process but the rewards are great. I feel like we're coming into our sound and I'm pleased with the way we're going. The problem with recording is that by the time something comes out it's already old, you've already moved on to something else. I hope we're fortunate enough to put something else out in the coming months. For me personally, I'm still amazed that I'm actually playing in a band! I just fell into playing the drums, I always wanted to play guitar!
How did you end up as a drummer then?
I was part of an organization called Rock Against Sexism (RAS) here in Boston. RAS, which grew out of the whole DIY aesthetic of punk, held a jam for women to sort of demystify the whole rock thing and I wound up sitting behind the drum kit and banging out a consistent beat. I started jamming once a week with a couple of women who had been in a local band called Feminine Protection and started taking lessons and then wound up in Pop Smear and now play in Shiva Speedway.
It's really important to me to be in a band that's evolving and for me to feel that I'm getting better at playing. I do feel like the more I learn about the drums the more I realize how much more there is to learn and the more I enjoy the whole thing.
Would you rather play drums, guitar, or just anything?
Well, actually, I'd like to play both. Dezaray plays a little drums so we talk of doing the instrument switch thing at some point but that has become almost a cliche in the indie rock scene and sometimes it can break the flow of a gig. So for now I'll concentrate on improving on the drums and continue to plink away at my Mustang in the privacy of my apartment.
I always loved rock music from the first lp I bought--Desolation Blvd. by Sweet, still have it--but I never felt I could be part of things. I remember Patti Smith was a revelation. I'd sit on the floor with the headphones on listening to her lps and fantasize about playing rock. I was about 11 then but it wasn't until about 12 years later that I actually made noise.
My own taste leans more to the noisier side of things. Lately I've been enjoying Rodan, Come, Shellac, Unwound, lync, etc. I like a wide variety of music and I hope I always get that rush that comes from discovering something new. That's one of the things that's so exciting about music. You start to follow this path-- the liner notes on one record leads you to something else you never would have noticed or an interview with so and so leads you to a jazz recording you never heard of. It's like this never ending treasure hunt!
A brief word about Quivvver - are they mates of yours or did Tim lump you together (I'll maybe ask him the rationale behind split singles) or was it just a convenient way of sharing costs?
Tim saw us and Quivvver perform on the same bill (actually Rock Against Sexism's final gig) and got the brainstorm to put out a split single. He saw it as a way to help two bands with one stone so to speak. Quivvver are fine ladies but musically we don't go with each other at all so I don't see any shared gigs or singles in the future.
Finally, any records on the horizon?
We're going to be on a Chunk records compilation CD that's set to come out in February. A couple of indie labels have expressed some interest in doing something but nothings definate. I think that if no one offers by the Spring we may put something out ourselves (ah, just think of all those records cluttering up my closet for the next ten years.)