Antigone Rising (Kristen Henderson)
Musical Discoveries: How are the ladies of Antigone Rising these days?
Kristen Henderson: We are great. We were up early this morning because we had to do a morning news program Getting up early for things like that is the one trying part of all this! (laughs)
You guys have been signed to Lava Records for awhile now. What made them the right place for you?
Yes, we've been signed to them since 2003. We were touring full time for a long time, that's how we were making our living. In 2003 we cut a demo with a guy name Mike Barbiero for an album we were making on our own. We weren't even really looking to sign with anyone or get a deal but Mike had played a few of the songs off the album to an A&R guy at Lava unbeknownst to us. He flew out to a show, again unbeknownst to us, and afterwards offered us a deal on the spot. He really caught us off guard and when had to really talk about to make the decision. Like I said, we weren't really looking for a deal. We finally decided we'd give it a shot. After all, what's the worst that could happen? (laughs) We knew that we could only grow from it because they'd put money into us. That's really how we decided; it was largely Jason's enthusiasm.
As one of independent music's success stories, we were surprised you signed with a major label. What took so long to get this record out?
Right! (laughs) I'm not exactly sure how it all works but we started a record in late 2003. That went into 2004 but the band as a whole wasn't really happy with what we got back. We were more of a live touring band so there's an art to going into the studio and finding the right producer and the right chemistry, you know?
We felt like we had gotten some of it right but not all of it. Because of that we were hesitant to hand the album in as a final album. So, it was our initial hesitation that made the label say, "Well, if you want to put it off and work some more then why don't you write some more songs." We started doing some co-writing with Rob Thomas (Matchbox 20) and that sort of took a little bit of time and then we went in and re-recorded some things and so on. We just wanted it to be perfect, you know?
We had just finished the studio album and right on its heels was this deal with Starbucks. We went in and met with the Starbucks people and they wanted to release a live album. We sort of looked at each other and thought that it was a really good idea. We also thought it may help us to avoid some of the confusion as to where we belong. Being front and center like that in Starbucks for everybody to see. There's a bit of a puzzle with Antigone Rising, are we country? Are we rock? Are we pop? We are none of those things but we are all of those things, so I think it's a bit confusing for the record people as far as what to do with us.
For us it's simple, we get in our van and we tour! (laughs) That's what we do, we fit in our van and we drive around the country! (laughs) The label people though the Starbucks thing would be really cool and we all really liked what they were doing, so we went with it. Which put the studio album off yet again. It's all a pretty funny thing!
What surprised us the most about From the Ground Up was that it was acoustic. We know you guys as a rock band. So we kept waiting for you to really let loose, but it never happens.
It was a really funny thing when we went in to make the record. Our label was concerned that Starbucks would feel that we were rocking too hard, so we were towing a fine line, and in some cases we crossed it. In those cases we actually cut songs off the album, mainly because they didn't sound as good on the recording once it came time to mix and pick the songs for the record. Hindsight's always 20/20 though and we probably should have left a couple of those songs on the record.
It's hard though because you kind of get into a bubble when you are making a record and you loose sight a bit of what really sounds the best. Personally, I think the record gets a little too mellow in the middle. There are a couple rockin' moments though like "Rosita" and "She Lived Here." I can see how people would stop when they hear this and go, "I thought they were a rock band?" Well we are, but we write nice songs too! (laughs).
Deep down, were there any reservations about this album being your introduction to the world?
Well, being in a band full of women, there are always strong opinions and those opinions are almost always different from each other. That said, you're speaking with the wrong band member for that question. (laughs) Where I come from, I think it's great. I write my songs on the acoustic guitar and I am really into coffeehouse and singer/songwriter type music.
If I'm gonna listen to music I'll generally listen to like Shawn Colvin or the Allman Brothers, but before I'd pop in an actual Allman Brothers CD I'd throw in Warren Haynes unplugged. I'm into that sort of stuff. I love to hear the song as it was written, as stripped down as possible. Not that I don't love to play my tele or trade off guitar solos with my sister because I'm all about that too. Primarily what I love about our band though is when you can hear the lyrics and the melody because it's such an important part of what we do, or what any band does for that matter. It's the core essence that I love. I kinda like the idea that we got to put out this record without too much decoration, it's just like here are the songs, here's what we do.
That's a pretty impressive part of this CD that, quite honestly, surprised us. We knew you ladies could rock but just because you can rock doesn't mean you can write a great song. You write great songs.
Thank you. I totally know what you mean. The key to being a great band, whether you can rock hard or not, is to write great songs. You can decorate and produce and create a song in the studio but, at their core, all great songs are about the lyrics and the melody. I love hearing great songs. I don't know if we write them or not but it is something that we put a lot of thought into and work hard at. When you hear a great song you know you've heard a great song.
You mentioned before how you just get in the van and go tour no matter where or with who. The last time we saw you play actually was with Living Colour, which is pretty different from what you do. Have you given any thought to where Antigone Rising fits in the world of modern music?
Isn't it funny? Not really, no. (laughs) So many people put so much time and effort into trying to figure those things out. We're just a rock band. Some people may call it pop rock and say we're not rock but really the term rock covers so many things.
We are a band that would be just as at home on a bill with the Dixie Chicks as we would be with Aerosmith, but would the Dixie Chicks and Aerosmith do a show together? Probably not. We could play with Matchbox 20 or with Led Zeppelin--hypothetically of course. (laughs) Okay, let's say the Rolling Stones instead. We can do that. I think that it's just one of those intangible things that can be put anywhere and because of that the music industry doesn't know where to put it.
For us, as artists, we try not to think about it because it can be really dangerous for an artist to start dissecting that kind of a thing. The only thing we can do is do exactly what we do to the best of our abilities. We have already proven that we can get in our van and drive around the country and make a living doing it so we have that part figured out.
When you hear your songs it's not like it's earth shaking or like it sounds new or unique, but at the same time I can't name any other band that sounds like you.
I think that's a good thing. I do have anxiety dreams though that I walk into a bar and some band is playing a song I wrote. It's kind of like that dream you have about tests- where you don't do anything all semester and then all of a sudden it's the final.
Speaking of playing other people's songs, you did a Push Stars song on the album. Why did you decide to do that song in particular?
Well, we've been good friends with those guys for awhile and have toured with them a lot. It's just kind of one of those things you do when you play in clubs every night together. We just started playing the song on tour because we loved it. We started doing it in our set and then they would do it in their set. They would laugh and say, "You do it better than we do it!" and we were like "You're right! We're taking it." And we just started going with it as part of our set. (laughs)It's a funny thing because it doesn't feel like a cover song to us, it is one but it just feels like it's our song. Plus we think Chris Trapper is a great guy so why the heck not.
This album has been getting a phenomenal response from major media, such as VH1. What has been the most unbelievable part for you?
Seriously? All of it. I mean, we were an indie band that toured from town to town in our van selling records out of the back of it. That's literally what we did. We sold 20,000 records over the course of our time touring, which is about five years. We had four CD titles as well, it's not like it was 20,000 of just one CD. With the Starbuck's CD it sold over 10,000 copies its first week out. If you could have seen our faces when they came in with those numbers! (laughs) We were like "What?!" I still can't get my head around it.
Any tour plans for summer and fall?
We will be doing our own shows throughout the summer as well as some festivals and Starbuck's-oriented dates. Then in the fall we will be going out with Rob Thomas.
Do you have any parting thoughts for our readers?
You know, I think we're good. I appreciate you talking with me.