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Emily Armstrong (vocals, guitar) / Siouxsie Medley (guitar, vocals) / Chris Null (bass) / Sean Friday (drums)
Music history is rich with rock bands fronted by dynamic duos. Looking to carry on this vital yin and yang tradition (minus the drama such chemistry often fuels) are singer Emily Armstrong and guitarist Siouxsie Medley, who front Los Angeles’ Dead Sara — an electrifying rock outfit whose supercharged music is propelled by Medley’s monster riffs and Armstrong’s wailing, passionate vocals.
The two musicians are a study in contrast onstage: Medley remains rooted in place — a solid, steady anchor for Armstrong’s almost unhinged performances. A skilled vocal stylist who can handle blues, soul, and folk-rock with equal aplomb, Armstrong will unleash a guttural howl one minute and trill as pretty as a songbird the next. Dead Sara is exactly what you want from a young, hungry rock band: unpredictable and enigmatic, and looking to make an explosive sonic and emotional impact.
Dead Sara, which also includes bassist Chris Null and drummer Sean Friday, funnel the ferocious spectacle of their live show into their self-titled debut album, which they are releasing this spring. Produced by Noah Shain, the album is a versatile showcase for the band’s talent, veering effortlessly from melodic, soaring tunes (“We Are What You Say,” “Whispers & Ashes”) to bruised power ballads (“Dear Love,” “Face to Face”) to fierce, heavy stompers (“Timed Blues,” “Test My Patience,” “Weatherman”).
“That diversity is what’s honest and real to us,” Medley says. “We love classic rock, blues, folk, metal, punk, gospel, all of it, so we didn’t want to put restrictions on ourselves genre-wise. We just knew we wanted the music to sound really raw and primal, even a bit unsettling.”
Lyrically, many of Dead Sara’s songs are survival anthems informed by their struggle to stay true to their vision of being a powerful, uncompromising female-fronted rock band. Armstrong and Medley met as music-obsessed teenagers growing up in Los Angeles and have been playing together in one capacity or another ever since. Along the way, they encountered various industry people, including interested major-label executives, who suggested they develop a more pop-friendly sound.
“It was difficult to deal with people’s ideas about what we should be doing,” Armstrong says. “I ended up shutting myself off from everyone and feeling really crushed. I didn’t really come out of it until some of my close friends and fans of the band expressed concern, saying ‘What the hell are you doing? You can’t give up.’” That emotional experience fuels Dead Sara’s first single, “We Are What You Say,” in which Armstrong (who writes the band’s lyrics) sings: “I lost myself somewhere I never wanted to be. Now it’s time to start all over. We were held to the light but we never went blind. You can’t back down, kid. We are what you say. We are not what you think.”
Ironically, “We Are What You Say” is Dead Sara’s poppiest song, “though it’s still kind of gnarly and sleazy,” Medley notes. “It’s like, ‘Hey, you want pop? This is our pop, so fuck off.’” Adds Armstrong: “That song distills a lot of what we’re about. It’s melodic and accessible, but still intense and unruly. We’ve put up quite a fight to be who we are, and I think you can hear it in the music.”