“The Animal Inside” is the groove-driven, debut song from We Start Wars, a new, all-female band led by Alice Cooper guitarist Nita Strauss.
The band—which also features Nicole Papastavrou (eight-string guitar), Alicia Vigil (bass), Seana—a.k.a. Shauna Lisse (vocals), Katt Scarlett (keyboards) and Lindsay Martin (drums)—prides itself on being a “chick band” that breaks down stereotypes while combining virtuoso playing with multi-layered songwriting and high-energy performance.
Strauss has always been fascinated by the idea of the female warrior, and admits We Start Wars is the band she’s been wanting to build ever since she first picked up the guitar.
We Start Wars will make their live debut May 25 at the Whisky A Go Go in Hollywood.
I recently spoke with Strauss and Papastavrou about We Start Wars, their debut single, gear and more.
How did We Start Wars come together?
STRAUSS: I’ve been trying to put this band together since I started playing guitar. I’ve always felt that female musicians were under-represented in the music scene. It’s not that they weren’t out there, it’s just that there wasn’t a lot of all-female bands getting notoriety, especially ones with good technique and musicianship. I started out looking for great musicians and great performers that cold elevate the status of the female musician. I met Nicole at a NAMM show a few years ago and after we started talking we realized we had very similar views. It was an instant connection and it’s cool that we’ve finally gotten a chance to work together.
How would you describe the band’s sound?
PAPASTAVROU: I’d say it’s super melodic metal but also has a little bit of something for everyone. We wanted to broaden our audience not do anything too aggressive, but there’s still a little bit of heaviness in there.
STRAUSS: There’s a lot of crossover appeal. Nicole and I probably have the heaviest influences in the band, but when it comes down to it we make music a lot of people can enjoy.
Why the name, We Start Wars?
STRAUSS: I’ve had that phrase stuck in my head for at least 10 years. I remember being in school when one of the teachers said to us, “The greatest wars in history were fought over a beautiful woman.” I just remember thinking how badass that was. The concept of how the love and honor of a woman was worth putting everything on the line for. I also love the aesthetic and idea of the female warrior and someone who can fight her own battles and not have to depend on anyone for anything. That’s a lot of what this band is all about.
What can you tell me about band’s debut single, “The Animal Inside”?
STRAUSS: We all have a lot of influences and really wanted to come out of the gate with something that would show all aspects of the band: something that was fast, something technical, something heavy. Something that covered all the bases. That’s how we ended up with that song and I think we pretty much hit the mark.
PAPASTAVROU: It was one of the first songs where we all got to contribute our style as individual musicians and is a good representation of what’s to come.
STRAUSS: Everyone in the band contributes so much in their own way to create this melting pot of styles. When Nicole and I started writing together, it really started getting much more of a groove. She’s a genius, with an amazing right hand and is great with all of the breakdowns.
Is the new single part of a larger project?
PAPASTAVROU: We’re still hitting it hard with the writing process. Even while Nita’s on tour with Alice Cooper, we’ll be in the studio working toward an album.
Let’s talk about We Start Wars’ upcoming debut at The Whisky A Go Go. What can fans expect from your performance?
STRAUSS: I’m excited to go out and showcase what this band can do. Not only is this a band of great, technical musicians but also sound performers. Everyone is a showman and brings a super high-level of performance. We’re not going to be one of those bands that just stands there and looks at their shoes, let’s put it that way [laughs].
Was a career in entertainment something you both aspired to do?
PAPASTAVROU: I knew when I first started playing guitar that I was going to be hooked on it. I’ve tried other outlets and school and college and then realized my destiny was to die on stage playing guitar [laughs]. Eventually, you seek out what you’re meant to do.
STRAUSS: I’ve never had a backup plan and was lucky enough that my parents were very engaged: my mom being a professional dancer and my dad being a professional musician. They were both in the entertainment industry and said if that’s what you’re going to do then go do it!
What’s your setup going to be like for We Start Wars?
PAPASTAVROU: The guitars I’m playing right now are eight-strings made by a small company in Italy called Liuteria Rox. As far as amps, I’ll probably be playing through an Axe-FX and run it through a power amp.
STRAUSS: I’ll be using my Ibanez Custom Shop guitar and my Marshall JVM 410’s. One of the interesting things about this band sonically is definitely the combination of the eight-string and the six-string.
What are you most looking forward to about We Start Wars?
PAPASTAVROU: I’m excited to get out there and play live and deliver something different that hasn’t been done before, because that’s where the whole concept of women that can play technical music really comes in. We have a lot to show the crowd.
STRAUSS: For me, it will also be exciting to finally get to play my own music on stage. And I try not to harp on the “chick” thing too much, but I think it’s important to note that the walls are coming down for all of these traditionally male-dominated fields: race car drivers, female boxers, MMA fighters and now musicians. It’s cool to be on the forefront and to show people that this stereotype is long dead and gone.
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.