Monday, June 22, 2009

Scarlet Sins Show The Big Boys How To Rock

Scarlet Sins burst onto the metal scene with a vengeance with the release of their self-titled debut CD in September of 2007. The band, consisting of lead vocalist Sylvya NuVynska, guitarist Cristina Bishop, bassist Tanya Nicklaus and drummer Elie Bertrand, made the industry stand up and take notice. These ladies rock just as hard, if not harder, than most of the male dominated industry with Sylvya having a vocal style that in hands down one of the most amazing ever heard. I recently spoke with the ladies about their assault on the music industry.

JP: "I'm curious, you ladies definitely have a very seasoned sound, how long have you been playing?"

Sylvya: "Well, I have been singing since I was a little kid. I started taking vocal lessons at 13 it's something that I have done ever since."

Cris: "I started playing keys when I was 5 and have pretty much played any instrument I could get my hands on since then, but I fell in love with playing guitar in my early teens and haven't looked back."

Elie: "I've been playing drums for 14 years."

Tanya: "I've been playing an instrument for almost 10 years. I started off with guitar and switched over to bass about 3 years ago. As for singing, I've been doing that since I was a little kid."

JP: "Do you know the moment that you decided you wanted to pursue music?

Sylvya: "Music has always been in me. I knew it was something that I've always wanted to do from a really young age. Going to concerts with my older sister solidified it even more. I never had that specific moment; it was just always there.

Cris: "I can't remember. Music has been there my whole life, like eating and sleeping, so I am not sure."

Tanya: "I remember being cast as the main character in a school play when I was about 10 years old. I was dressed up in this little peasant dress and was sweeping the floor as I was belting out this song...I felt like I was on top of the world!"

Elie: "For me, there really wasn't a moment, it was always what I wanted to do. As far as I can remember, I never wanted to do anything else than rock the world."

JP: "Who are your musical influences?"

Cris: "Mozart, Metallica, A Perfect Circle, Alice In Chains and more recently Killswitch Engage and Lamb Of God."

Tanya: "I have so many influences but mostly all within the hard rock and metal genres. Some of my favorites include Tool, Deftones, Alice In Chains, Marilyn Manson, Lamb Of God, Korn, Black Sabbath and Arch Enemy."

Sylvya: "I grew up listening to hard rock and metal. Bands like Guns n' Roses, Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, Metallica, Aerosmith, Van Halen, Skid Row, AC/DC, Alice In Chains...the list goes on."

Elie: "I listen to alot of different styles of music from funk to metal to pop to house and I'm inspired by alot of drummers. Definitely Daniel Adair, Tomas Haake, Denis Chambers and John Bonham are direct influences to my style."

JP: "Do you think there is a double standard for women in the industry?"

Tanya: "I wouldn't say it's a double standard but it's definitely harder to be taken seriously as a woman in the hard rock/metal genre. People often assume that you suck before they even have given you a chance or even listen to your music, but I think we're slowly changing peoples perceptions, one person at a time!"

Elie: "It's part of the game. We deal with it and we have fun doing what we do."

JP: A very interesting choice to cover Depeche Mode's 'Strangelove', what made you do it?"

Tanya: "Cris and i were driving one day and we heard Depeche Mode's version the car. As soon as the lyrics 'I give in to sin' came up, we looked at each other and knew we had to do a remake of this song."

Cris: "At the time. we were toying around with the idea of throwing a remake on the album, but we didn't want to do a rock song. 'Strangelove' was perfect because we had so much room to play with it and it came together really fast."

JP: "Can you tell me a little bit about the following songs?"

"Drown" - Sylvya: "It's about someone that is falling apart and doesn't realize it, but the chorus is positive. I wrote it for a friend and just wanted that person to know that no one is ever alone in their problems and that i would never let them down."

"Reborn" - Sylvya: "This song was written by Cris and myself. To me, this song is about losing someone very close to you and they're not coming back to take you with them." Cris- "The lyrics I originally wrote for this song were about meeting your dream person while being stuck in a bad relationship and hoping for strength to make the right choice."

"With You" - Sylvya: "When I first heard Cris' guitar parts, I fell in love with them right away. As she played the riff, the words just poured right out of me. I wrote all the melodies and words in less than half an hour. It's a love song and when you're in love, it's o easy to write about it. At the time, that's how I felt.

JP: "What inspires you to write? Is it impulsive? Do you purposely sit down and try to write?"

Sylvya: "For me, I write best on impulse. If I have to sit there and think about it, I'm never really happy. My best writing just comes out of nowhere."

Cris: "Same goes for me. I get ideas at the oddest times or in the oddest places, like right when I'm waking up or when I'm on the subway."

JP: "What would you be doing if you were not playing music?"

Sylvya: "I'd be a drummer..LOL! I would love to design a rock and roll clothing line for tall people. I hate shopping because nothing ever fits me."

Cris: "Writing music instead?"

Tanya: "HA ha, I think Would be working at a boring office job for the rest of my life!"

Elie: "I would be miserable!"

JP: "Any chance of touring the US this year?"

Sylvya: "We would love to! Do you know any great booking agents that want to set up a tour for us?"

JP: "What animal best describes your personality? I know, it's a strange question!"

Sylvya: "I'd say an eagle. They are strong and independent and free. How amazing it would be to always see the world from above."

Elie: "A goldfish because I forget alot and I live in small places, i.e. my place, teh rehearsal hall, the van..ha ha!"

Tanya: "I have no idea what to reply to this! I've never compared myself to an animal. I've compared other people to animals though mind you."

Cris: "Hmmm, maybe a tiger?"

JP: "Is there someone that you would die to play live with?"

Sylvya: "There are so many bands that I would love to play live with. If I could only pick one, it would have to be Metallica."

Cris: "Metallica all the way!"

Elie: "Lamd Of God, Meshuggah and Guns -n Roses."

Tanya: "Probably Tool, I love their sound and they're amazing live. Just their lights and laser show alone is worth seeing them live."

JP: "Last question ladies: If you were stranded on a desert island with only one storebought CD, can't be downloaded or a mix CD, what would you want with you?"

Sylvya: "Scarlet Sins of course!"

Cris: "Metallica- 'Master Of Puppets.'

Elie: "'Nothing' by Meshuggah

Tanya: "Hmm, tough question, but I would probably choose Alice In Chains 'Dirt' because it's a phenomenal album from beginning to end."

The girls have had quite a run so far in their early careers. They have supported such acts as Buckcherry, Cyprus Hill and April Wine. They were also chosen from 600 Sonicbids to open for Motley Crue. They are currently in the studios writing material for their followup CD. These girls prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that the metal genre is not just for the boys. Their sound is tight and very mature to be such a young band. Cristina definitely can lay down some heavy riffs on guitar while Tanya provides a driving bass line throughout their songs. Elie is just a beast when it comes to pounding the skins. Then, there is Sylvya on lead vocals. Her voice contains so much raw power and emotion that she grabs you and demands your attention. Check them out for yourselves at or at their official web page,

Monday, June 8, 2009


Tiffany Shea probably wrote her first song inside her mother’s womb. It seems as if just seconds after birth she had booked her first show. I’m pretty sure that she got her first standing ovation from the visitors looking at her in the hospital. You see, Tiffany is more than your flavor of the week artist. In an industry of manufactured artists, she is definitely a breath of fresh air. She has the personality to win over the most unruly crowd and the spunk and determination to make her dreams come true.

Tiffany last stormed through Greensboro in 2004 when she played the SWET. "You know, I think that it was one of the coolest club shows that I have ever done. All of the kids were really close to the stage and they were really listening intently to what I was expressing. It was kind of like pouring a glass of water. As opposed to pouring it out all over the floor, each kid there was a glass and they were full of the water that I poured out by the end of my set. They really absorbed it and took it all in. It was really cool," said Tiffany in a phone interview we recently conducted.

Tiffany is not a stranger to the music scene as I soon learned. She has been performing since 1997, first solo and then with her band in November of that same year. She has released an amazing 13, yes 13, CDs in that amount of time. I think the only artist to put out more CDs on that time frame would be Tupac, but he doesn’t count since he’s not touring anymore.

She was born into a musical family with her dad being a drummer and her mom was a piano teacher. She then moved to singing in church and later community theater. Her love for the arts also extends to art and her love of painting. "When I was 19 years old, I went to see Sister 7 who were out of Austin, Texas. They were a power, passion funk/rock band. I knew the minute that I saw them perform that was what I wanted to do with my life. It’s kind of funny, Patrice Pike was in that band at the time and she and I will be touring together later this summer."

Tiffany’s sound, both vocally and musically is very unique. Imagine taking the over the top personality of Cyndi Lauper, add a little Pat Benatar, a touch of Tori Amos and sprinkle in some Ani DiFranco and put them all in a blender and process them and you get a touch of what this women is capable of. If someone were deaf and she had to paint a canvas to describe her sound to them, how would she do it? "Wow, that’s an amazing question. Well, you know I love to paint. I think all of my art is an extension of who I am. I think the canvas would have lots of bold colors and it would be multimedia with tons of textures so that they could touch it and feel all the differences. It would be abstract yet evoking a feeling that’s universal at the same time. My music is raw, human emotion. I think I capture that where it’s not cryptic or so black and white that it’s boring." I can say for certain, that boring is one word that has never been used to describe this young lady.

The music industry has been in such turmoil the last few years and yet Tiffany is determined to keep marching on just as she has done for over ten years now. I was curious as to what keeps her going? " I have been doing this since 1997. I have funded all but two of my CD releases, they were on independent labels. In the summer of 2005, I had a major career letdown and I crashed and burned. I was burnt out! I mean, I had been doing all of this by myself: I booked my own shows, I was my own graphic designer, I was funding my CDs, it just got to be too much on me. I just walked away from it and tried to figure out what it was that I wanted to do. I tried working in a office and quickly found out that wasn’t what I wanted to do. I went to audio engineer school and I constantly found myself wanting to be on the other side of the glass. I went to art school and I was constantly drawing about music. The songs just kept coming into my head and I had to get them out. It’s then that I figured out that, music, it’s not what I do, it’s who I am. It’s my gift and I have to be diligent with it."

Her 2003 release "Phoenix" garnered her praise from all over and numerous awards. What was it about that CD that registered with people? "I think it was the first album that really captured the sound and the feeling of me. It was also super high quality. We really took out time and we wanted it to be right and not just do it to do it, you know what I mean? The power of the music on that CD really did shine. Actually we just re-released a new version called ‘Phoenix II’ this year. It’s been re mixed and edited. There are a few songs that were left off from the original release and some stuff added to it. It’s like ‘Phoenix’ on steroids!"

On a personal note, do you have any guilty pleasures that you can share with your fans. Well, as long as they are printable? "Ha ha! If they’re not printable, I think I will keep those to myself. I guess my one big one right now would be chocolate chip ice cream....I sure am glad you didn’t ask me that question ten years ago!"
One more question as a more fun one for your fans. I always ask everyone that I interview this one. If you were trapped on a desert island and could only have one CD, it has to be a store bought CD, what would you want to have with you? "Oh that’s easy, it would have to be U2 ‘The Joshua Tree’, without a doubt. There are other favorites that I would also love to take such as Tori Amos ‘From the Choirgirl Hotel’ or Heart’s ‘Greatest Hits’ with their eighties stuff on it or Sting ‘Ten Summoner’s Tales’."

Again, Tiffany’s performance at the Somewhere Else Tavern is on Saturday, June 6 at 8:00 PM. If you have never seen her perform live, this will be a treat for all. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take us five more years to get her to come back and visit.

Indiegrrl Festival Rocks Spencer,VA

I believe there is nothing like a true appreciation for the arts, whether it’s painting, theater, music, poetry or what ever format that it can take the shape of. Well, just recently in our back yard of Spencer, VA this took place. On Saturday, May 30th locals and a few out of towners were treated to our first Indiegrrl Festival. The festival was part of the new library dedication at the Spencer Penn School.

Now, I know some of you may be scratching your heads wondering "What the heck is Indiegrrl?" Well, it’s an organization that was created back in 1998 by songwriter Holly "Figueroa" O’Reilly. In October of 2005, the wheel was turned over to Martinsville’s own Vicki Blankenship and she began her drive. Now, for the what is it part. It’s a non-profit organization that creates an opportunity for women in the arts, whether spoken, music, painting, comedy, authors, etc., to showcase their talents. It also creates a type of social network for them and creates an opportunity to educate their own communities. They have festivals all across the country to help share their gifts with others.

The festival in Spencer was the first for our area and was scheduled from 10:00am until 6:00pm. There were over 25 vendors selling their arts and crafts and some delicious food also. Vicki had lined up some great talent for the show, which offered a wide variety from blues to newgrass to acoustic americana. Each artist was given one hour to entertain the crowd. The day kicked off with Broda, from Farmville,VA, who performed songs from her "Spiral Staircase" CD. She included such favorites as "Rosemary’s Picnic" and "Mulligan Game". She also played "Don’t Sell Yourself Short" which was submitted and included on a sampler by OG Magazine to be given out on the West coast at different events. Now that’s some major exposure right there! "This is actually my second event that I have been a part of and I am just as honored to do this show as I was the first one. I couldn’t be more excited," said Broda after her performance.

Next up was Spartanburg, South Carolina’s Leslie Berry who performed songs from all of her three CDs. She offered songs with very powerful lyrics including "Story of You" from her latest CD "Was It Blue" which was dedicated to all the grandmothers in the crowd. Leslie has such a gentle, yet powerful voice that really takes you by surprise. "I think shows like this one are a great networking opportunity and helps the musicians out by helping us get signed or helping us make our CD. It’s the spirit of Indiegrrl, that’s what it’s all about," responded Leslie.

The Near Misses from Charlotte,NC were next. They are 3 very talented women who have the most amazing harmonies that I think I have ever heard live. Their sound is somewhat country/newgrass. They played a set consisting of songs from their two CDs including "Pretty Enough" from their newest CD "Marigold". They were in great spirits joking around during their entire set. "Everyone here has been really sweet to us and this is such a good cause. We think it’s a very cool event and the vendor support is awesome. We just wish that the community would have come out a little stronger to support it," said the ladies as they packed up to head back to another show that night in Charlotte.

Melissa Reaves from Boone,NC was up next and performed a set that included some amazing effects using a seven second delay foot pedal. Her set was a mix of blues and rock and included a slowed down version of AC-DC’s "You Shook Me All Night Long’ which was amazing. She closed her set with a touching acoustic version of John Lennon’s "Imagine". "I’m excited to be a part of this event. We need all the help and support we can get from the community. It’s not uncommon for the first event like this to have a small turnout, but hopefully we can build on it. It’s a tough time right now, but something like this can only enrich your community," said Melissa.

Next up was the show’s organizer Vicki Blankenship who performed a short set of very emotional and heart felt songs. There’s nothing like watching a performer who genuinely gets into their music like Vicki does. Her set did include a couple of tracks from her upcoming third CD "Elements" which is due out in August. "Blue Flame Trance" was an incredible song done by Vicki solo but will include a full band on the CD.

We were treated to Norfolk, VA’s award winning musician Julie Clark as the show’s closer. She has won the Virginia Music Award for Folk/Acoustic Artist of the Year. She was armed with her acoustic guitar and sung us songs from her two CDs. She, like all of the artists that appeared, have an uncanny knack for telling great stories. They don’t sing just to sing, they invite you in and have you sit down and they tell you a story with each and every song that they sing. "Feel Free" is a perfect example of Julie sharing with us problems she had with her mom as she was growing up. She closed with an unbelievable cover of "People Get Ready". "I just love the small town aspect of this plus the library dedication was very nice too. I’m a big library girl and that part was extra special to me. I just love it here, the scenery is just so beautiful," said Julie.

I spoke to Vicki afterwards about the day’s event. "The vendor turnout that we had was amazing, I just wish we would have had the community come out in stronger numbers. It’s hard to pull off an event like this without their support. The people who did come out really loved it and they did support the vendors. The artists that were here did a great job too. We tried to include different types of music to entertain the people. We had alot of talent here and award winning talent too. Broda and Leslie are actually board members of Indiegrrl. It is hard to pull these off and not go in the hole because we still have to pay the artists. I am excited to have Binding Time Cafe behind us and supporting us."

For those who did attend, you know what you were treated to. For those who didn’t, it was a day full of amazingly talented women who performed their hearts out. It was close to 90 degrees and these women were pouring their souls out under the beating sun. The turnout was low and that was a disappointment for many. It was such a positive event and a missed educational opportunity for many to show the young girls in our community the power that the female body and mind is capable of. Hopefully, there will be a second festival next year and we as a community can turn out and support a little stronger.