Kristen May | The Revolver Tour

“I always try and stay as open and vulnerable as I can when I’m writing.”

 

 

 

Come Wednesday, April 8, 2015, it will be seven years, almost to the very day, since I attended a concert at Pop’s in Sauget that inspired my first concert review for PlaybackSTL (http://www.playbackstl.com/concert-reviews/7523-eisley–040808). At that time I was discovering a wave of bands that harkened back to the heyday of early 90s alternative rock, when gender was less likely to relegate an artist or band to a genre. The conditioning of the music industry marketing machinery re-segregation had yet to kick in.

It seemed as if it took nearly a decade to escape that machinery and see a crop of bands and performers embrace the freedom of doing whatever kind of music they felt compelled to. This resurgence, that in the eyes of some peaked 10-12 years ago, was in my eyes, the tip of the iceberg. Thanks to the ability to record on the cheap, and promote and distribute music online, the frequency of musicians choosing to deviate from the established norms grows. Bands from the aforementioned alternative heyday are reuniting and touring, and bands that formed since then are going strong. All this is evidence that if there’s one thing the Internet is good at, it’s sustaining subcultures and fringe movements, giving them time to grow and expand, sometimes to the point of ubiquity.

What does this have to do with my first concert review for PlaybackSTL 7 years ago? Well, I went to that concert because it was a chance to see two bands I liked at that time, which happened to have prominent female members, touring together. The bands were Eisley and Vedera. At that time I would have slotted Vedera in on the harder side of Indie Rock. I’d stumbled across their profile on Purevolume.com by browsing for bands from Missouri, and their sound was like a lot of bands I really enjoyed at that time. Another band I remember digging on Purevolume.com was Flyleaf, who were in comparison, more aggressive, and dipped into modern or “New” rock, which was something I only listened to sparingly, but Flyleaf’s approach kept me interested and made me a fan. 

It just so happens that the strange twists and turns of life have made it such that Flyleaf would be headlining the Revolver Tour: Featuring the Hardest Chicks of Pop Rock at Pop’s on April 8th, 2015 (and also doing in in-store at Vintage Vinyl that afternoon). Kristen May, previously a member of Vedera, is now a member of Flyleaf. It was my pleasure to ask her a few questions in anticipation of their show.

 

How does it feel to be headlining a tour that’s promoting female musicians in hard rock music, and touring with a line-up that has women in every band, rather than possibly being the only band, and sometimes only female musician on a tour? 

I think it’s great. Women have come very far in music, thanks to awesome role models like Stevie Nicks, Joni Mitchell, the Heart sisters and the like. There are so many women I celebrate and enjoy. Can’t wait to meet some new friends on this tour. 

Do you all feel you will be taking a leadership role on this tour, being such a well-established band?

We are headlining, so I suppose that puts us in a bit of a leadership role. I like to stay open to us all being leaders though. I think we can all learn from each other and grow together.  

 You all have been very generous to your fans, and intentional or not, positive role-models with your attitudes, for fans and fellow musicians. Is that hard to maintain when some fans of harder music are known for harsh opinions about anything straying from what they’re used to?

I don’t pay attention to the negative aspect of my job. There will be haters, no matter what. I like to focus on the people who cherish the music and who look to encourage and inspire one another. Anything less is a waste of time.  

 Flyleaf also connects to their fans because their performances as musicians were compliments to the lyrics. Did that make it easier to connect to those songs and move forward when you all wrote Between the Stars?

I always try and stay as open and vulnerable as I can when I’m writing. It’s important to bare your soul and be as honest as you can, or people most likely won’t relate to the song. My goal is to speak the words others may be afraid to and hopefully the music will be a form of therapy, for the fans and me as well.  

Like Flyleaf’s previous albums, Vedera’s The Weight of An Empty Room (Kristen’s previous band) feels very much born of that approach to writing and even the greater idea of leading via inspiring the listener. How’d you arrive at that point as a songwriter?

It goes back to the fact that music, to me is where I go everyday to express myself. To deal with life’s troubles, heartaches, to bask in the joy of it all, the glorious roller coaster called life. That will never change. 

Have you or the band ever felt pressure to move away from that type of writing, be it due to the burden it creates, or pressures from the commercial side of being a professional musician? 

 I did feel a little pressure to go more mainstream, more “vanilla” when it comes to emotion, when my band Vedera broke up and I was spending some time co-writing some pop stuff before I joined Flyleaf. But I only put out three songs between Vedera and Flyleaf because the other ten songs I wrote were crap.  

Touring and recording have taken their toll on a lot of artists over the years. Just staying healthy is a struggle for many, let alone maintaining any sort of stability. Flyleaf has done a good job doing it successfully.  What’s been the key to that?  

I think it’s very important to have a strong support system. People who know where you’ve come from, can share the ups and downs. People who can keep you grounded and humble. My husband is an amazing supporter and friend to me. We’ve been in the music industry together for 7 years so when I joined Flyleaf, he understood how it goes. It sucks traveling and being away from each other. Being on the other side of the world, it’s hard. Long distance can be challenging, but true love carries you through the struggles and you fight to make it work. 

Speaking of where you come from, being a fellow Midwesterner from Kansas City if we’re going to be particular, do you feel any certain way about the tendency for this region missing out on certain artists or tours because we don’t have venues or large enough audiences?  

Yeah, I think Kansas City could use a couple more all ages venues to cater to musicians who maybe need a bigger room than a 300 person capacity bar but aren’t going to fill a 3,000 person capacity theater. We have always been lacking in that area. Some venue will pop up for a couple years and then go away I guess because booking agents don’t know about it or funding isn’t there, etc. I definitely know LA and New York get a ton of great shows all the time, but Kansas City does too. Just fewer and far between. We have a good alternative station that puts together some awesome festivals. 96.5 The Buzz—they’re great and bring a lot of new music to KC.  

Though it’s an honor to be featured in a major publication like Revolver Magazine, what was your thought process, and that of the band, when they contacted you to let you know you were a “Hot Chick of Hard Rock”?  Has that feeling evolved over time? What are the chances of the Bands of this tour taking it upon themselves to rebrand it the “Revolver’s Phenomenal Women of Hard Rock Tour” or “Revolver’s Stunning Women of Hard Rock Tour” maybe with less syllables? 

I heard a rumor that they were re-branding the tour to just be called the Revolver Tour, actually. Not sure if that’s true, though. I have mixed feelings about it all because the “hot chick” thing does seem to highlight our looks instead of our talent but I know our band can transcend that and hopefully the fans will know they are coming out to a great night of music, not a beauty pageant.  

What can we look forward to from this tour, and what can we expect from yourself and Flyleaf in the year to come?

The tour is going to be awesome! We are playing a set of music from every album Flyleaf has released along with some covers. We will keep touring more throughout the rest of the year supporting our album and keep writing. I’m writing all the time, it’s what I love. It will be exciting to collaborate with the guys again in the studio. | Willie Edward Smith

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