Rocket Queen: Heady Metal

Female drummers factor heavily in a genre’s Seattle resurgence.

I never would have suspected that a cello was going to create one of the more metal moments of my week, but I was completely transfixed watching Grayceon's Jackie Perez Gratz pull her bow across the bridge of her electrified instrument at the Funhouse last Thursday. The Bay Area trio shared a bill with up-and-coming thrash outfit Dog Shredder, the new project from former members of the much-beloved Cicadas, and Heiress, the post-Himsa hardcore project helmed by John Pettibone.Judging by the crowd's size and enthusiasm, Seattle's metal renaissance is well underway. Heiress is wasting no time catering to that burgeoning audience; they recently hit Red Room Studios with producer Chris Common, and will soon release a new split 7-inch with former Botch leader Dave Verellen's band, Narrows.Don't Stop Believin' Records owner Megan Birdsall announced this week that See Me River drummer Kellie Payne has enlisted in the Telepathic Liberation Army, Lisa Orth's newish dub-punk project. (Birdsall is putting out TLA's Erik Blood–produced debut sometime in early 2010.) Payne, who has also drummed with Charming Snakes and Weirdlords, is one of Seattle's most fascinating and powerful percussionists, and I can't wait to see what she adds to their sound.Payne is just one of a rising tribe of preternaturally talented female drummers who are starting to make a splash on the local scene. As anyone who's seen Hozi Matheson-Margullis careen beautifully through a crushing Helms Alee set will attest, there's a growing place for women who hit hard and heavy. Keep it up, ladies—I'm digging this evolution.Speaking of ladies of the evolution, fans of envelope-pushing artists like Diamanda Galas or PJ Harvey would be wise to take note of Megan Tweed and her wildly experimental, industrial-tinged trio, The Family Curse, which plays the Comet this Saturday. Originating in San Francisco, The Family Curse cook from a heady recipe that mixes arty punk, jagged metal, and the unearthly vocal and physical presence of Tweed, a performer who clearly prefers jumping out of her skin onstage."It's partly acting ridiculous—because you can when you're playing live. And it's fun. But mostly it's involuntary contorting that seems to help me get things out," says Tweed of her stage presence. "It's easier to scream to high heaven and growl like I'm in the bowels of hell when I'm on all fours. When I'm recording, it's a real task to keep a pair of headphones on."The band, also driven by the percussion-heavy samples and guitar work of Marc Tweed (Megan's ex-husband and enduring collaborator), put out its sophomore release, White Medicine, this fall on the band's own label, Fainting Room Collective. They've managed to squeeze in a fair number of West Coast tour dates, though they occasionally lose their talented members to other touring gigs, such as guitarist Jeff Doom's recent road stint with High on Fire.Doom actually lives in San Diego full-time at the moment, but The Family Curse is so fiercely committed to his contributions that they fly him to Seattle for every local show. "Initially, when Marc and I started writing together as The Family Curse, we took the project live in 2004 with other San Francisco folks," explains Megan. "That wasn't working out, though, so we asked Jeff to play a couple shows with us that we had booked. It quickly turned into something permanent, and now, as then, we have Doom flying in for every show. It's worth it to play with him and share this with him."However difficult the geographic obstacles, they feel it's worth the extra effort to execute work they can be proud of, while having a beer-spewing, ear-splitting good time that would make Yeah Yeah Yeahs' notoriously animated antagonizer Karen O cower in admiration."We're really just in it to make some art and play some good shows," continues Tweed. "We'll do another video or two for songs off of White Medicine, and play some Pacific Northwest and festival shows. We'd love to hit the East Coast, Europe, or Japan, but we need to find someone to help us out with that. We'll see what the year brings."rocketqueen@seattleweekly.com

 
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