[Interview] Catching Up With Dead Sara’s Emily Armstrong

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About two weeks ago, I went with some friends to see Muse perform at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, MI. While they put on a pretty entertaining performance, the show was, in my opinion, stolen by the opening act, Los Angeles rockers Dead Sara. With fierce, driving riffs from guitarist Siouxsie Medley, thumping bass lines courtesy of Chris Null, Sean Friday’s thunderous drums, the band had the audience throwing their hands in the air and cheering wildly. Singer Emily Armstrong’s voice blasted the crowd, soaring high at points while other times taking on a raspy, ferocious, vicious snarl, ultimately ending up as a highlight to the performance.

Tonight is the band’s last show with Muse at Las Vegas’s Mandalay Bay Resort.

Below you can find our exclusive one-on-one interview with Emily where we talk the tour with Muse, life on the road, and the future plans of the band.

Bloody-Disgusting: How are you doing?
Emily Armstrong: Good. How are you?

BD: Not too bad. Just dealing with some Michigan snow. I saw the picture of you online in the Ohio snowstorm and you looked quite thrilled to be in it.
EA: Yeah, we were. Only a couple of people from California would look like that, right? [laughs]

BD: [laughs] Definitely! I saw you perform with Muse this past Saturday in Detroit and, I’ll be honest, you blew me away. It’s very rare that I see such energy and controlled chaos in a performance, especially during a full tour. At what point do you get exhausted and need a break?
EA: You know, you can just keep going so long as you take it one day at a time really. The only way I can stay focused is by taking it day by day. You know, going on vocal rests when your voice is good instead of getting it to a point where you have to do vocal rests. Things like that. You have to keep maintaining yourself. I also think that sleep is the most important thing you can do and have to get. Sometimes it’s the hardest thing to be done on tour.

BD: Is that because of the travels of the road or the energy of performing?
EA: It’s both, actually.

BD: Since I’m a Michigan boy, I have to ask if the term “Detroit Rock City” is accurate.
EA: Absolutely. Every time. It has really good energy for rock n’ roll and I didn’t know that. All I knew was the movie before I came out there and being told from friends who had played there who said, “No, they really do love rock n’ roll!” and I’d be like, “Okay!” You hear that about certain places but after playing the US…this is like our fifth time playing the US within a year. So it’s very interested to see certain markets and Detroit is one of those ones that just has this static energy. It’s always a good time when we come through and play. Well, we’ve only played twice but they’ve literally been just amazing.

BD: Glad to hear! So, touring with Muse is obviously exposing you to tens of thousands of new listeners. What other impacts do you think it is having on the band?
EA: Hmm… I mean, just the look. The fact that we’re on tour with them, you know what I mean? It puts us on a whole different level, not even just playing to these people. It’s kinda like, wow, my mom would say, “You’ve made it!” [laughs] It’s this kind of prestige thing. Friends of mine that ask me this, and they’re in their own bands, “How the fuck did it come to this? They’re one of the biggest bands in the world and you’re opening up for them.”

BD: It’s like how some people put a special skill on their resume as something to stand out
EA: Totally! Exactly! It’s something that we’re obviously very proud of for our first record to have escalated to this point. From the first tours that we did when the album first came out it literally just got better and better and better and better. You know, bigger and bigger and bigger. And we had no idea that it would come to this with out first record. I think it’s the right timing of everything. It’s just perfect. It’s a great tour ending for this record in the US.
We’ve been in talks about doing our own headlining tour but it’s obviously not as big as Muse. However, we’ll be able to do longer than 30 to 40 minutes then [laughs].

BD: Is there any crazy story that has happened during this tour?
EA: Well, we had a couple of fans propose backstage in our dressing room. I think that’s about it [laughs].
And then bowling with Muse. That’s something that you do when you’re 17 and say, “I wish we were on tour,” except here it’s true. It’s funny how the world works. I’m baffled by it every now and again. Just moments like that.

BD: You’ve toured with Offspring and now Muse, who are pretty different sounding bands, to put it mildly. What do you think it is about the Dead Sara sound that enables you to fit in with both of those sounds and appeal to their crowds?
EA: I think the energy of both of those bands, really. It’s a rock n’ roll type of vibe and we fit into that very well. We could be a chameleon in certain ways with rock bands. We could tour with pretty much any rock band. If you listen to the record, we’ve got ballads, we’ve got “Weatherman”, you know what I mean? Depending on the band, we could form a setlist that makes sense or just say fuck it and do whatever we want to do.

BD: You’re signed with Epic Records. In today’s day and age, there is a lot of talk on the pros and cons of signing with a label. What drew you to Epic and how do you feel they are helping you?
EA: Well, when we started out, we were approached by record labels. A lot of them. But we weren’t necessarily the band that we are now, so it didn’t make sense. As much pressure as it was on us to think that this was our only chance to have it we passed. A year later, we’ve got the guys you see now, Sean and Chris, and we just said, “Okay, we’re a real band now, so we’re gonna do this on our own. We’re gonna actually work to get to a place that we want with our creativity and our own work.” So, we formed our own record label, Pocket Kid Records, and that’s what we’ve been doing for the past three years. We put a record out on our own label, et cetera, et cetera. We’ve hired out people to help us out. Then the demand got so high at this point where we knew that needed that bigger label to come in and help us with their machine.
So we still have our label but it’s connected to Epic. So it’s kind of a subsidiary. They just kind of say, “You guys are doing great and we just want to help. That’s it. We love what you guys are doing and we don’t want to get in the way.” That’s their vibe and that’s exactly what they have been doing. They’ve been helping with tour support on this Muse tour. And we can’t wait to see the second record and how far it can go with the bigger machine.

BD: How involved are you in the social media aspect of the band, such as the Dead Sara Twitter or Facebook? What do you think of the impact of social media on band’s and vice versa, what does the band’s social media offer to your audience?
EA: Well, it’s just more personal. I’m on that every day. I’m writing people back all the time. I want it to feel genuine rather than have a company reply for me or not replying at all. It’s obviously going to get to a point where it’ll be really tough to do that and there will only be a certain amount of people you can reply to but, at this point, it’s just “reply as you go”. It’s a way to keep fans involved and reaching out to other possible fans. It’s the growth of it, it helps. Aside from playing live, this is a whole other world of getting new fans and getting the word out there and getting the music out there.

BD: Do you find it fun or trying?
EA: It’s both, especially when you don’t feel like replying but you kinda have to. [laughs] We all have our many moods but we still keep doing it.

BD: I read in a previous interview that you are a fan of photography. How’s that going and are there any plans on doing anything with your photos?
EA: At this point, I’d have to capture something good and then we’ll go from there. [laughs]

BD: Since I write for a horror website, I have to ask are you into horror at all?
EA: You know what? If I watched a horror movie, I’d have nightmares for a week. I’m that person, I’m that one. I love romantic comedies! [laughs]

BD: What’s next for Dead Sara?
EA: We’re just going to go in and write a whole bunch after this tour. We’ll see what happens. We’re going to meet up with some producers and basically get the ball rolling on the next record.

BD: Is there any producer that you’d love to work with?
EA: There’s obviously people like Butch Vig, Rich Costey, and this guy Flood. There’s a bunch of them. We’ve got to get it down to a small list.

BD: Thank you so much Emily. Enjoy the rest of the tour and all the best for the rest of 2013!
EA: Thank you so much Jonathan! Bye!

Got any thoughts/questions/concerns for Jonathan Barkan? Shoot him a message on Twitter or on Bloody-Disgusting!