iNTERViEWS SCARLET SiNS
SYLVYA NUVYNSKA AND CRiSTiNA BiSHOP
OF SCARLET SiNS TALK TO ROCKWiRED
ABOUT THEiR SELF-TiTLED DEBUT CD
NOT PLAYiNG THE SEX CARD
AND WORKiNG WiTH RiCHARD CHYCKi
iNTERViEWED BY BRiAN LUSH
No one bats an eye these days when you put ‘women’ and ‘rock n roll’ in the same sentence. It doesn’t take an encyclopedic knowledge of music to list off just as many girl’s names as boy’s names in terms of influential rock artists but a band like SCARLET SINS will have folks wondering ‘How much do women rock?’ Traditionally, women who rock find themselves treading the golden path of disco (we don’t need to drop names). After listening to the self-titled debut CD of the Toronto-based SCARLET SINS, even I can’t imagine these dolls hitting the dance floor anytime soon.
Lead vocalist SYLVYA NUVYNSKA’s sultry growl can only be compared to that of JAMES HETFIELD and lead guitarist CRISTINA BISHOP is certainly no wispy, strum-a-long type (she fucking shreds like MICK MARS). Rounding out the band’s sound is the thunderous rhythm section provided by bassist TANYA NICKLAUS and drummer ELIE BERTRAND. Produced by RICHARD CHYCKI (RUSH, AEROSMITH and A SIMPLE PLAN), the band’s debut is a swift kick in the ass for a music industry in which women who rock are the exception and not the rule.
ROCKWIRED spoke with vocalist SYLVYA NUVYNSKA and guitarist CRISTINA BISHOP over the phone. Here is how it went.
With all of the work that has gone into the CD and getting it out there for people to listen to you, how do you feel about the completed work?
CRISTINA BISHOP: We’re very proud of it. Every song on the album means something to me and to SYLV too I’m sure.
SYLVYA NUVYNSKA: It means something to all of us. And we’re proud of all of the hard work we put into it with the help of RICHARD CHYCKI. He brought out the best in all of us.
Talk about the initial meeting between the two of you that led to the formation of this band.
SYLVYA NUVYNSKA: It was all thanks to the web believe it or not. I was posting an ad in search of a band and CRIS was doing the same thing at the same time. Actually you should tell this one CRIS because you were the one that ‘refreshed’ and contacted me.
CRISTINA BISHOP: I was on a musician’s classified website and I refreshed the page so I could see my ad pop up and her ad popped up as well. Her ad was right after mine so I e-mailed her right away of course.
And in starting this band was it your intention to make it an all-girl band or was that just coincidence?
CRISTINA BISHOP: I never really paid to much attention to that. I just really liked her voice and was drawn in by that. To me, her voice was very unique and that’s what I like about bands. Do guys think about forming all-guy bands? I don’t know.
SYLVYA NUVYNSKA: We just wanted members regardless of sex. We wanted people that had the same goals and were on same page that could get along. That was what happened with the four of us. It just turned out that they were females and it kind of clicked.
Not a lot of women, especially now, do this kind of hard rock music that you are doing. How does it feel being out in the hard rock trenches and being girls.
SYLVYA NUYVYNSKA: Speaking for myself and CRIS, both of us grew up being tomboys. I grew up with sisters but my father always wanted sons so he treated us like boys.
CRISTINA BISHOP: I grew up with boys too and I was never really influenced by female bands. Not that there were many to choose from to be influenced by. Me personally, I was more interested in the things that guys did like play sports and play guitar.
I grew up the only guy in the house so they dressed me up which was horrible!
CRISTINA BISHOP: Really?
CRISTINA BISHOP: I did that to a boy once when he was sleeping. I painted his face with makeup. It was so much fun.
Once the two of you got together and found that you had this musical connection, how long did it take to find the other members of the band?
SYLVYA NUVYNSKA: Well, we started writing at first and a year later we found TANYA NICKLAUS who was an old friend who decided to switch to bass after playing guitar for many years. A few months after that, we decided to head into the studio. After we had our recording, we started looking for a drummer. We figure that having the CD done very well it would be easier to find a female drummer who could play but we couldn’t find one. Trust us. We contacted many people. It was really hard. It was TANYA that actually found ELIE BERTRAND. Her dad found her MYSPACE page and TANYA contacted her. Before you knew it, we were waiting for her to finish high school so she could move to Toronto and join the band.
What drew you to music individually?
CRISTINA BISHOP: music happened for me at a very early age and I always used it to cope. I found a lot of solace and comfort in music. That was what I did as a kid. I would pick up instruments and play with them for six hours at a time. That’s how I play. Is that weird or sad? I thought it was a lot of fun while I was doing it.
SYLVYA NUVYNSKA: Personally, I always found music to be comforting. I always loved to sing. I used to spend hours in my room singing different songs and trying to copy different singers. When I thirteen years old my sister had suggested that I take some singing lessons. She helped pay for the lessons and then I got a job and I started paying for them myself. It was something that I really loved and found that I was good at something that was actually fun. As a kid, my mind was always very active and music was that thing that I attached myself to and I just stuck to it. The older I got, the more passionate I got about pursuing it.
What kind of artists inspired you guys?
SYLVYA NUYVINSKA: For me, I’d have to thank my older sister and her boyfriend who is now her husband. Because of them, I was exposed to bands like SCORPIONS , BLACK SABBATH, MOTLEY CRUE and AEROSMITH. From a really young age I was exposed to hard rock and metal and I’ve always loved that music. It’s always given me a rush of adrenaline. It makes me feel empowered – like I can do anything. I’ve always been a rock chick.
CRISTINA BISHOP: I was told that when I was babysat by my older cousin that all he listened to was LED ZEPPELIN and BLACK SABBATH. That might explain something. I didn’t get into listening to a lot of rock music until I shoplifted a METALLICA tape. I didn’t even know who METALLICA was. I just wanted to steal something like stupid little kids do. I stole the METALLICA album and I fell in love but I fell in love with the guitar even more.
How does songwriting happen within this band?
CRISTINA BISHOP: They begin with intimate moments and intimate feelings for all of us. A song is inspired by a riff from someone sitting alone and jamming and bringing it the band is how it is usually done. We all contribute to the song and put it together that way.
Talk about the other two band members and what it is that you think both of them bring to the table musically and personality-wise.
CRISTINA BISHOP: My comment is short so I’ll go first. ELIE and TANYA are crazy French fries.
SYLVYA NUVYNSKA: Because they are both French. They both have French backgrounds. ELIE moved down from Montreal and TANYA was actually born in QUEBEC. They are very entertaining in very different ways. TANYA is the one that we always get to laugh with. She is just the kind of person that keeps us entertained and ELIE is just this hyperactive drummer.
CRISTINA BISHOP: She’s witty!
SYLVYA NUVYNSKA: She’s just full of energy and very entertaining. It’s a great combination of people in this band. It really works for us.
When this band first started playing live, what was the initial reaction?
CRISTINA BISHOP: Shock.
SYLVYA NUVYNSKA: Yeah, shock. In the beginning, people were like “Oh God! It’s a girl band! Here we go again!’ Whenever we would load up gear people would be like, ‘Oh is your boyfriend playing tonight? Do you need help with that?’ and then we’d be like ‘No man! We’re playing tonight! Move over asshole!’ Once people stood back and let us do what we do people would be like ‘Wow! I didn’t expect that from an all-girl band!’ I think regardless of race, sex or religion – at the end of the day it’ about the songs and if you can play them and write them then it shouldn’t matter who you are. We’re trying to break that stereotype.
What songs off of the CD stand out for each of you and why?
SYLVYA NUVYNSKA: For me there are so many. The album is so personal to me. I was going through some many different things at the time that I was writing the lyrics and the melodies. There were friends go through a lot of hardships. Personal experiences always come through in my lyrics especially things like falling in love and getting your heart broken. One of my favorites is DROWN and also BACKSTABBER just because I think it’s a fun song.
CRISTINA BISHOP: It’s a toss up between ARE YOU WORTH IT and REBORN. They are my favorite songs to play live.
You guys have toured with some big names. What act stands out in a good way?
SYLVYA NUVYNSKA: Definitely MOTLEY CRUE.
SYLVYA NUVYNSKA: Personally speaking, growing up listening to them and seeing them live numerous times was great but being able to share the stage with them and playing in front of sixty-thousand people was really a dream come true. I’m looking forward to playing more gigs like that. It was just an amazing experience and the energy form the audience was incredible.
Have you guys toured the U.S. at all or just Canada?
CRISTINA BISHOP: We did do the POWERBOX FESTIVAL in WHITE FOREST AMPITHEATER just outside of Seattle. That was in 2007 but we’re definitely going to be down there to promote our second album. Actually, we are in the studio writing the new album at the moment. When that gets done, we are definitely coming to the States.
Any hints about it? What will be different form this first CD?
SYLVYA NUVYNSKA: It all depends on the magic of RICHARD CHYCKI. It’s just writing for ourselves and trying to be the best musicians that we can be. We write songs that mean something to us and we express ourselves through our music. At the end of the day, the album is just going to be kick ass SCARLET SINS.
Describe working with RICHARD CHYCKI.
SYLVYA NUVYNSKA: It’s amazing. He’s like a great friend. He’s a great listener and he gives us advice. He’s our mentor. We’ve learned so much form him. He started out being a musician himself so he can relate to hard working musicians and he gives people a chance. It seems like everyone else seems to slam the door whereas he will take the time to listen to something and say that it’s worth doing.
What would you like someone to come away with after they’ve heard this CD?
CRISTINA BISHOP: I want them to feel what we felt when we wrote those songs. If they can feel it then there is magic there and that’s awesome.
SYLVYA NUVYNSKA: If they can relate to anything in the music that makes then feel a certain way then we’ve one our job.