KEEP IT ON THE BROWNLOWE: Sick Sick Sister…Tragically UnHeard Of


Tragically UnHeard Of
Band O’ The Week


Listen: “OCTOBER” [Sick Sick Sister: My Friend My Enemy :: BUY]

Back in the early 90’s, the Northwest region of the States was booming with music that defied the mainstream. Perhaps you have heard of a teeny band who spawned out of Seattle creating revolution on the radio, rebelling against hair metal glamour and soft rock ballads with a fierce sound later deemed grunge. Nearby in Olympia, women and queers were developing their own scene with the Riot Grrrl Movement. This sound had forward thinking punk rock influence and challenged racism, homophobia and sexism while empowering themselves through community and radical politics.

Now, one decade later mainstream music has reverted back into oppressive, image based sonic mediocrity. In spite of being “Tragically UnHeard Of”, the Northwest underground music scene continues to harbor some of the best music in the country.

One of these bands include Sick Sick Sister, a three piece “menace to society”, hailing from the City Of Roses (Portland, OR). The trio is fronted by Ruth Yoder who has performed under the name, Sick Sick Sister, for years with various lineups. Their fierce sound is fuzz soaked with angst that has been tainted with an intuitive pop structure. They just released a new record, My Friend My Enemy, and you should BUY IT. The initial tracks burn through a catalog of music Ruth Yoder has carried with her throughout the years. Diving right into a heavy crashing fury, “The Deader The Better”, recounting past friends turning sour, following up with a grunge-pop tantrum, “I Hate It”. As the album develops it is clear her collaboration with current members, Melissa and Adrianne, has developed her songwriting and matured her temper. “Devilfruit” features some incomprehensible vocal chantings reminding me of a more accessible Scout Niblett followed by emotional yelps in “October” which are chilling with a profound sincerity.

My Friend My Enemy is a strong first release and I am excited to have them untampered with by the Hot Topic generation so I could interview them for Tragically UnHeard Of.

Sick Sick Sister has undergone several lineup changes the past couple of years. This new one seems to click pretty well and has good chemistry together. From the band’s perspective, what makes this lineup so awesome? How did y’all hook up?

Ruthie: I met Melissa at a show. It was mutual admiration of each other’s Hello Kitty accessories. When we exchanged email addresses, hers was a Babes in Toyland song. So basically, love at first sight. After we’d jammed a few times Melissa said she knew the perfect drummer for us. Then the stork brought Adrianne.

Melissa: It was definitely mutual admiration of each other’s hello kitty accessories…I mean Ruthie had a HELLO KITTY GUITAR GIGBAG!!! It was just great to meet another person who likes playing heavy, angry music and also happens to like great toys from the 80s. Fate, a.k.a. craigslist’s musician listings brought Adrianne and I together ^_^

Adrianne: I had just moved to Portland that summer and was finding life without a band to be pretty bleak. I put a pretty specific ad on craig’s list and got the phone call from heaven…we were instant friends. That night I passed out on their couch.

How does the writing process work with the new lineup?

Melissa: The old songs were already written by Ruthie but I added my own bass lines to them…and now that we’re working on a new set we just jam at practice and make stuff up on the spot.

Adrianne: We trust each other to come up with a creative sound, so we all write our own parts. Ruthie will show us something she’s been fiddling with and then we just jam. The new stuff we’re working on sounds much more musically creative I think. We’ve really become comfortable with how the rest play.

What were some of your favorite bands growing up?

Melissa: Bikini Kill, Babes in Toyland, Hole, L7, Nirvana, Mudhoney…

Adrianne: The Smashing Pumpkins. Seriously, I wanted to be Jimmy Chamberlin, but my muscles weren’t big enough. Nirvana, Soundgarden, Rob Zombie, No Doubt, Bush…and Sheryl Crow.

Back in the day, did women in rock or the riot grrrl movement affect you?

Melissa: I found out about riot grrrl a little late in the game…my senior year in highschool. I finally felt I had found something I could truly be a part of. It was sad tho, cos I went around all of my friends and asked if they would want to start a riot grrrl chapter with me (in Beaverton, Oregon) and only one girl thought it was an awesome idea…a lot of other girls said it sounded scary and just didn’t get it. But it was still nice to know I wasn’t alone in my beliefs…i just had to get out of the burbs!

Ruthie: Growing up in the Christian-American Midwest, I was never going to be affected by the riot grrrl movement. Luckily, in eighth grade we got a top of the line, 14.4 kbps dial-up modem and the accompanying 15 free hours of America Online. Through looking up my favorite bands, R.E.M., The Doors, The Chili Peppers, and especially Hole, I found this guy Dangerous Dan’s 7 Year Bitch page. That’s when I discovered that there were rad women out there making technically proficient rock music that was better, or at least meant more to me, than what was made by all-man groups. I didn’t read about the riot grrrl movement itself until I was a senior in high school. I blame slow data transfer.

Adrianne: **see Ruthie’s response** We both grew up in cornfields.

Do you think underground music has changed for women? For yourselves?

Ruthie: It seems more gender-integrated than it did to me when I first started going to shows. There’s less and less bands that are female-fronted for image reasons. I don’t see as many bands where it’s a boyfriend-girlfriend duo. I hope that is because things are getting more gay.

Tell us about this EP, where and how was it recorded? How is it released? Do you choose to be a DIY band or do you seek outside assistance from a label? Why or why not?

Ruthie: Our album was recorded by *winner* of Pom Pom Meltdown at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls’ space. We put it out in a limited run ourselves so we can keep all the money for now. Maybe a label will be interested in it and pick it up.

Melissa: Finding a label that had cool ideals would be nice. I think finding good distribution is more important though.

Adrianne: Having a label would be neat, however, it’s important that they do have good ideas for us.

What is the most important thing you hope Sick Sick Sister will accomplish?

Adrianne: World domination. Seriously, can you imagine it? Only bikes on the streets, plush green forests all over the world, a never ending source of women musicians, and kittens…lots of kittens.

What are some of your accomplishments you’ve already made?.

Melissa: We recorded an album that I’m proud of…We’ve played a lot of great shows with bands that I respect and that totally rock! We’ve helped out friends and parts of our community that I want to support by playing benefit shows.

Adrianne: We’re involved in such an amazing and supportive music scene. We love being a part of that. I think playing the benefit shows are a really important part of being in this community as well. It’s awesome to have so many musicians come together for a cause. We’ve played with musicians who I am constantly inspired by, and we’re recorded an album that I’m still not tired of.

Assuming you have a magic crystal ball, what does the next year hold for the band?.

Adrianne: We’ve got several songs in the works for the next album. Plenty more shows in PDX and hopefully some in the neighboring states.

Melissa: I’d like to also play out of state shows. Hello Washington and California!


1 Response to “KEEP IT ON THE BROWNLOWE: Sick Sick Sister…Tragically UnHeard Of”

  1. 1 The Bearded Traveler
    April 10, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    I kinda like My Melody more than Hello Kitty…

    I’m betting money Melissa had a Sub Pop 7″ singles subscription, seeing as it was like ALL the bands she listed.

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