“SHOOT TO THRILL: ALL-FEMALE TRIBUTE TO AC/DC”
WHAT: All-woman band pays tribute to the legendary hard-rock band
WHEN: Sat. (March 10), 8 p.m.
WHERE: House of Blues, 225 Decatur St.
MORE INFO: Visit the House of Blues ticket event page
“She was a fast machine, she kept her motor clean. / She was the best damn woman I had ever seen. / She had the sightless eyes, telling me no lies. / Knockin’ me out with those American thighs. / Taking more than her share, had me fighting for air. / She told me to come but I was already there.”
Don’t forget the guitars.
As lead singer Kara explains it, her bandmates in the all-woman AC/DC tribute band Shoot to Thrill can do everything the menfolk can do when it comes to capturing the spirit one of the most celebrated hard-rock bands ever. And this is a band so popular to emulate, there’s not just one, but at least three other AC/DC tribute bands named Shoot to Thrill, though more in keeping with the original gender portfolio.
“It’s all love,” she responded in a follow-up question after our earlier phone interview. “There’s plenty to go around. We’re cool with everyone.
Including their fans and those of AC/DC, as they pull into New Orleans on Saturday for a gig at the House of Blues — which, along with Southport Hall, have become favored stops for tribute bands.
Kara is a newcomer to this Raleigh, N.C.-based band that formed seven years ago. More familiar the blues music and having previously worked with cover bands, she joined Shoot to Thrill last fall after they caught her singing back-up at a gig. Now she’s all about to rock, and we salute her with this edited Q&A pulled from our phone conversation hours before he band was to load up heir gear and head to New Orleans.
When did you form the band? How long have you been performing?
I’ve been performing since I was a child. The band itself has been together for seven years, with a few rotating members. I myself have been with them since September. I was in another original band out of Raleigh (as) a back-up singer. As a lead singer, up in New Hampshire, I was part of a cover band called Close Range.
What intrigued you to get involved in an all-woman, tribute band for AC/DC?
Well, actually I kind of stumbled across it. It wasn’t something that I had originally in my plan, as I’m kind of more of a blues singer. But the girls took an interest in me at a venue that I was opening for them at and they asked me to come try out, and it clicked and I’ve been in love with it ever since.
Were you an AC/DC fan growing up? What did you like most about them?
[My family] spent a lot of time out on Lake Winnipesaukee, in one of my uncle’s speedboats as a kid, and we used to go out to the sandbar and listen to all kinds of different classic rock, and AC/DC was one of his favorites. And it just is part of my childhood and hearing that type of music.
They’re just absolutely timeless. It’s nice to be playing at these venues and see three generations worth of families out there, and they’re all enjoying it. Musically, there’s a lot of different changes. It’s actually very intricate and very hard. I would think more so for the people that are playing the instruments themselves, but for me it just it keeps it very interesting.
There’s a lot of power in both of the vocalists Bon Scott and Brian Johnson, and there aren’t that many rock and roll bands where they gained probably as much success commercially for the second lead singer as they did the first lead singer. I mean this isn’t something where the band had maybe peaked a little commercially and might have changed singers, but here’s a band with Bon Scott and Brian Johnson. As somebody who’s sort of assuming that role a little bit, for one, which lead singer do you prefer, if at all?
We don’t typically like to answer that question, just because we do have a lot of hardcore fans that lean either way or the other. But I would have to say for myself, anyways, because of that bluesy note, I do tend to lean a little bit more toward the Bon Scott type of feel. But I do like the hard-hitting, more powerful rock that comes from Brian Johnson.
What is the most fun song for you to sing and what’s the most difficult song for you to sing? And are they the same song?
The most fun song for me is “Jailbreak.” That is one of my favorites. It’s definitely more on the bluesy note, but it’s just very theatrical at the same time. I like to play that part and get kind of silly with it. I would have to say most of Brian Johnson’s songs are a little bit harder for me, just because they are in that higher range. But if I can go ahead and take that down a notch into a zone where it’s more comfortable for me, as a woman that’s an alto (singer), I can hit those high notes, but it’s tough for me to stay there for extended amounts of time.
What song presents the greatest challenge within that framework?
I would have to say at this moment, “For Those About to Rock.”
So how do you pull it off? What’s the key to making it work for you? You said bring it down a little bit helps. What else?
Right. Hitting those power notes and then just getting off of it. As soon as you hit that note, shut it down and keep the crowd entertained and engaged with you as more of the show. Rather than, “Oh, she didn’t quite hit that note.” It’s that interaction and that fun that we all have each other, that keeps everybody engaged.
How do you play off of someone doing as distinctive a guitar style as Angus Young’s? What’s the key to making that dynamic work for you onstage?
We’ve obviously sat and watched all the live videos, and done all the research that we possibly could do about how AC/DC is live and onstage together, and we try to emulate that in our shows as well. So what we’ll do is our bass player, Malcolm Young, will kind of step back and allow Susan, who is our Angus, and I to come to the forefront, and we both just go back and forth off of each other.
There are bands now that people are doing these tribute performances to, and we keep noting that rock and roll is aging now. When a band member passes away, or when a band even as a legacy act starts to show age and its mortality, does that bring renewed interest to your performances?
It does put a little bit more of a push to it, I think. A couple months back when we lost Malcolm, I think that that did get a lot of people’s attention, and people are realizing that they’re not going to get that chance now to see the real, live AC/DC in concert ever again. He was a big part of that band. So now the fact that we’re doing this tribute and we’re trying to emulate them as much as we can, to the best of our ability, we’re trying to carry on that spirit for them.
Obviously there’s a potential novelty there of all women playing this very masculine, muscly rock and roll. What do you get from your audiences — in the moment, but also afterwards, or just in the everyday life? What’s the reaction from them?
I would have to say shock and amazement. Because yes, you do have that novelty where we’re all female and that helps to kind of attract a certain crowd, but then when we come out and, musically, and as part of the show, we knock it out of the park every time. It really solidifies the fact that this is what we should be doing.
I think that a lot of people, especially hardcore AC/DC fans, are not expecting that type of musicianship to come from women.
Do you sense that there’s kind of an implied sense that you’ve got to win them over?
And it sounds like you do?
Mmm-hmm. And it feels great.
How do you express yourself artistically while knowing that you’re also giving so much respect and tribute to another artist’s work?
So you try to carry on the same values. You might dress a certain way. You might have a few core moves that you might do. You want to try to keep the melody as close to what the original project was. But you might add in a few little intricacies of your own. When I’m singing I might sing the basic melody of it, but I might add in a little bluesy trill at the end. That’s something that shows that this is my sound.
We’re having so many powerful movements culturally right now, and even kind of socio-politically if you will, where people are to give voice to others who have been disenfranchised, or disempowered. I’m thinking of Black Lives Matter. I’m thinking of the #MeToo movement. So as this band kind of moves forward in this brave new world, and you look at an all-woman tribute (band) like this, how do notions of feminism inform your work, but also some people kind of are a little uneasy about the misogyny in rock and roll in general, or even in heavy metal in particular. Where do you see the band fitting into that and kind of navigating that as women, but also just as artists, as musicians?
So I think that we all pretty much try to emulate the fact that we’re all strong women. We don’t need anybody to solidify the fact that this is a good thing that we’re doing. We try to keep everything very generic. We try to not … We’re very politically correct. We never make any comments about, like you said like the Black Lives Matter, or even any of the #MeToo stuff. We would never make any types of comments like that. You don’t know where you’re going to be playing in the country. What area might have been affected by what thing. We just keep it as straightforward as possible. It’s about going out there and having fun and making people laugh, and making them smile and enjoy the music.
We’re five completely different women who just have a love for music and we come together. We might have different views, but we don’t ever talk about them, really. We just let it be.
Does performing in a tribute to a male rock and roll band empower you as a woman any more or less or any differently than it would be when you’re performing in a band where your gender isn’t necessarily a novelty, or a factor?
I think it does a little bit. I think that it’s not expected, so that is … Yeah. It kind of is. Because I’m used to doing more of the bluesy thing, more of the Etta James types of things where you would expect a woman to do that. But you don’t expect a woman to come out and belt out some Brian Johnson.
What is your favorite either all-women, or predominately women, rock and roll band that is not a tribute band to another person, or a group that does all-original work?
Evanescence, or Paramore, Dorothy, Gin Wigmore — any woman that just has something to say, really.
What’s the one thing you hope your fans take out of performances like the one you’re going to be doing at the House of Blues Saturday?
That they can just put away their cares from the week and just come out and have a good time with us.
And bang your head.
Exactly. Put away the work week!