If you haven't heard of the all-female rock band Antigone Rising you are certainly missing out. With their combined talent and ability to write catchy emotionally charged tunes you'll be hooked once you take your first listen.
Antigone Rising, an all female rock band known for grass roots touring has been on the music scene since 1993. While the players have changed over the years their focus hasn't. They are still centered on making quality rock music with a soul for the masses. AR, as they are known to fans, has a loyal following made up mostly of women but they've also managed to appeal to a broad spectrum of music lovers.
The band was an acoustic quartet established by sisters Kristen and Cathy Henderson that began playing in small coffee houses in the West Village, NYC. Right out of college Kristen knew that she wanted to play music for the rest of her life, and that set her and Cathy on the path to underground fame. As the years of playing went by, the band evolved and Kristen became the original drummer for the group, a position that is currently held by Dena Tauriello.
Kristen, the heart and soul of Antigone, is just as passionate today about what she does as the day she decided to start AR. What's changed since then is that she has a partner and two babies, and she co-authored the book Times Two with her partner. She's a Jane of all trades. Kristen holds down the rhythm in AR as the bass player, but she is also the band's primary songwriter.
Dena is a New Jersey native who began her love of the drums at a very early age. Inspired by musicians like Karen Carpenter, Dena's clean and crisp drumming essential to the group.
Nini Camps, one of the newest members who has brought new life to the group, is the leader singer, guitarist, and co-writer with Kristen on many of AR's songs. One of the most noticeable differences in AR over the years can be found in Nini's voice. Her vocals ride a fine line between country twang on songs like "One Foot In" and rock and roll sheik on a song like "Something to Say," and then she can exude innocence on songs like "Borrowed Time."
Nini supplies flawless vocals for this group, controlling the crowd like a hypnotist. But her talents span beyond vocals to her writing ability, penning songs with relatability reflect everyday situations. Living in New York and hailing from Miami, Nini offers a mix of Latin spice and a bit of folk/country. She's shared the stage with the likes of Joan Osborne and Ari Hest, and she won Billboard's Songwriter Award and was Spin's Top 5 Singer/Songwriter for her self-released album "So Long." Recently, one of her songs was featured on No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain.
Cathy Henderson, the lead guitarist, is the ostensible Alpha Female of the group due to her commanding presence that's palpable when she's performing. But she's not only terrific at delivering a killer guitar lick, she's also the band's co-founder, band leader and vocal arranger, and while she wears many different hats, her greatest role for fans is as the band's joker. Cathy gets the crowd going with her vibrant personality.
When the band was recently asked to describe their sound they said, "Our sound has always been old-school 70s rock n' roll. But I'd say in the past few years we've added a tablespoon of Nashville to the mix…The fact that we're all female unfortunately and shockingly makes us stand out because there are still so few all female bands out there. But sonically, we work hard to incorporate strong three part harmonies, and I think the harmonies have always helped to make us a little more identifiable," AR told PensEyeView.
I caught up with Antigone Rising to chat about the group's longevity, the challenges of being an indie band and the new album 23 Red , which was funded with the help of fans via a robust Kickstarter campaign.
Erin: First, I want to ask to the entire band, how does it feel to be back out there with a full-length album? Is there a sense of relief, excitement, fear, all of the above?
Nini: Everything but fear. I know we've made a great record and I can't wait for people to hear it. It's a slippery slope when you try to judge what people will like, so we just went in and made choices based on what WE like. I love this record. I'm proud of it and what we accomplished.
Kristen: I feel extremely excited and proud of the new CD.
Dena: I am very excited about this record and really proud of the songs, performances and production -- thanks to Gary Philips! It was a lot of fun putting it together from the amazing Kickstarter campaign and support from all our fans, and the studio process.
Cathy : Pure excitement with a strong sense of accomplishment. It has been a very long time since AR has released a full-length studio CD (for a variety of reasons), and I am just thrilled that it all worked out so well. The original intention was to make a 3-4 song EP, which, thanks to the extreme generosity of fans and friends fundraising through Kickstarter, ended up becoming a full length CD.
Nini, were you at all intimidated coming into a band that was already established and had a loyal following? Did you feel you were going to have to prove yourself or win over the fans in any way?
Nini: Not at all. I'd been a touring singer/songwriter for years and knew that my fans and their fans would get along really well at the company BBQ.
Also, I didn't even know I was joining the band! I had already spent some time writing with Kristen when they got a call to play some shows with Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and The Bangles. Kristen asked if I wanted to sit in and sing -- since I'd already co-written some new songs -- and I said "hell yes" - I mean, Joan Jett?! The Bangles?! It just sounded like so much fun. So, we did the shows and it was really pretty obvious that we had just stumbled on something that was really right for all of us.
Kristen, how did you begin the writing process for 23 Red and did you and Nini click right away as co-writers? When you are both writing together do you find you are pulling from personal experiences or outside influences or a fine mix of both?
Kristen : Nini and I started writing together a few years prior to her joining Antigone Rising. So we already knew we had chemistry in that way. In fact, one of the primary reasons she joined the band was because she knew our new songs better than anyone else. Nini and I are very close friends outside the band, so often times we do pull from personal experiences and we're usually up to speed on whatever each others personal experiences might be at the time! So it works out nicely. We don't have to waste too much time at the top of a session.
Kristen, Nini and Cathy -- You have some guest writers on this album like Garrison Starr on "Pink Sunglasses," how did you get them on board? Do you usually just pick up the phone and ask some friends to come in and write with you?
Nini: Exactly, great friends and amazing songwriters… It was easy. I've known and written with them all for years and we were writing just to write. There wasn't really a specific agenda other than trying to write the best songs possible.
Kristen: We actually played Lilith Fair with Garrison Starr, so Cathy and I knew her from a few years back, but she and Nini are very good friends. They write together quite a bit. So it was just a very natural thing for her to come into the room and write with us.
Cathy: Yeah. For me, you make a date to write and you get together and do it! Nini can probably speak to the Garrison Starr question since it was her phone that called Garrison!
Cathy, as the Alpha female of the group and the band leader, what was your major role in the production of the album and what if anything was the message you wanted to get out to the fans with this release?
Cathy: I really enjoy the "Alpha female" reference, I must say! To be honest, much of the material had been worked out on our end before the actual recording of it. "Gracefully" and this version of "Breaking Me" were, more or less, created in the studio with the help of Gary (who produced). It was a very collaborative effort. And I must say, that Gary really played the major role in bringing all of these songs to life, and creating a very synergistic AR sound between all the tracks. My message? That AR is still here and will continue to tour and release new music for a long time!
Dena, do you have a favorite song on this album that you just either love or love playing?
Dena: I had a great time tracking "Gracefully." It was written on the tail end of the recording process and we decided to add it to the record. I had only heard a demo of it, and then went in to track it. We had never played it together and were sort of figuring it out as we went along. That allowed me maybe a little more freedom in creating parts, only because none of us were married to anything specific at that point. I'm pleased with my drum track, and especially pleased with how well we captured the essence of that song.
Erin: For the band, how has starting families and having children changed your music. "Borrowed Time," was that written for your children?
Nini :" Borrowed Time" was certainly influenced by the children. Becoming a parent really changes your perspective on everything. Without getting too introspective, the song touches on the idea of legacy. What we take, what we leave behind.
Also for the band, what are your feelings about social media and its affect on indie musicians? Do you think it has helped AR in terms of PR and what are your thoughts on downloading and file sharing?
Kristen: This band wouldn't exist without the internet and social media. As far as downloading and file sharing goes, it's a very mixed bag. I hope when people do it, they like it enough to spend money on a ticket to a live show. Or they like it enough to want to buy the whole CD. At the end of the day, we're a brand with a product. And the most important thing we can do is be heard. If you like us enough, you'll spend money at some point to see us, or hear us, or wear our t-shirt. The same internet that allows people to file share is the one that allowed us to raise $40K to make our new CD. There really is no turning back technology now. So find the silver lining and whistle about it
Dena: Without the benefit of big finances, indie bands have to be resourceful in how to allocate money, so oftentimes a PR firm isn't an option. Social media is essential in that it's the most efficient way to reach the masses and spread the word. The debate on downloading and file sharing is a tough one for indie artists - again, not having the benefit of corporate financing; we rely on merchandise to fund touring and pay expenses. Having fans file share takes money out of our pockets, but it's another form of promotion. Our hope is that these new fans come out to shows and support us in other ways, so it's ultimately a win for us.
Cathy: I personally feel that the more people who can listen to AR, the better. With the explosive growth of social media and file sharing the actual recorded music itself may become more of a promotional piece rather than a product for sale.
As an indie band do you feel the need to go back to being signed under a major label or are you happy working in the indie music industry. What do you think the pros and cons are to being signed to a major label as opposed to indie.
Dena : I wouldn't say it's a "need", but it's an option. The majors have the potential to do things for you that you can't do as an indie artist. Notice the key word here is potential - it's not to say that being signed to a major solves all your problems and guarantees you financial success. But, they do have the juice to do things in radio and TV and with opening touring slots that are tougher to crack on your own, and they have the money to offer tour support. But you also run the risk of being lost and forgotten about and not taken care of, and then you get none of those perks....with someone controlling what you do every step of the way. It is hard to give over all the control and be at the mercy of someone else's decisions.
Cathy : There are pros and cons to both. A major label affords you "the machine," both distribution and marketing, if you are lucky enough to be one of hundreds of artists that they want to pay attention to. I do feel that major labels did not shift quickly enough with the music consumer landscape over the past few years, losing revenue and resulting in these 360 deals that take even more of the artist's income. With indies, there's more room to be creative and voice opinions, but the money is not there for major marketing. Which is why you've got to think "out of the box" and just get out there and play and network!
Currently, I am very happy with our status as indie artist with "bells," the bells being Blackheart Records' distribution arm (Meryl Distribution), who will help distribute the CD nationwide, and then internationally.
And last but certainly not least; what is in the future for Antigone Rising and is there anything you'd like to tell your fans?
Nini: The future is filled with promise. More music, more shows, more adventure.
Kristen: Touring 23 Red. And then onto the next album......
Dena: To the fans: thank you all so much for years of support - from road tripping, to buying merchandise, to donating to the making of our CDs. We couldn't do this without you. The future holds more of the same - more touring and more music!
Cathy: The future is more music and more shows, so make sure you check the website to see when we'll be near you... and come on out to see us!
In February 2012 the band traveled to Israel and the West Bank as Art Envoys, a cultural initiative sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. During that monumental trip the band performed in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ramallah and other regional cities. They led community outreach workshops and shared music with Israeli and Palestinian musicians. The band says, "We are promoting peace and understanding through good (we like to think) rockin' American music. a common global language." During the trip they Tweeted and posted on Facebook about their adventures. You can visit their site to view short video footage that documented their trip.
Facebook: Antigone Rising