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30th January 2009
METAL DISCOVERY: Out of curiosity I’ve written down here, and I’m going to add now, I guess out of complete boredom, I was checking out on the internet other uses of the word Syren with a ‘y’. Are you aware this is also a small town in Luxembourg with a population of about 500 people…?
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(Jo on Syren's extensive touring activities leaving little time for rehearsals)
"...we have to get things right in that moment with the pressure on you as opposed to the comfort of a practice room where you can fuck up loads of times."
Jo performing with Syren in the Tap & Spile, Lincoln, UK, 30th January 2009
Photograph copyright © 2009 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
Official Syren Website:
Official Syren MySpace:
Dehumanized (2008)
Gearslutz Website:
Samson/Hartke Website:
Amanda's MySpace:
Thanks to Hannah Sylvester for recording the interview.
Cheers to Amanda, Erin and Jo for their time.
Massive thanks to Terry and Pete at the Tap & Spile for the use of the pub's scrumpy-tainted kitchen!
Erin's MySpace:
Jo's MySpace:
AMANDA SMITH-SKINNER: Oooo, you’ve done your research…[laughs]
JO HEELEY: I don’t know who’s got the Wikipedia entry.
MD: A Filipino porn star…?
MD: A Brazilian metal band…?
MD: The title of a forthcoming children’s novel by best-selling author Angie Sage…?
ERIN BENNETT: Ooo no, we didn’t know that.
MD: …and the name of a regenerative motor suitable for medium powered robots?!
EB: I didn’t know that one, no! [laughs]
MD: Wikipedia had the Filipino porn star; Luxembourg town; and your band.
JH: I know it’s also a latex company in California.
MD: Oh yeah, they’ve got the dot com - I was gonna put that in there, but thought you probably would’ve heard of that, hence your website is syrenband.com.
EB: Maybe we should get sponsorship from them, you know, Syren wears Syren!
JH: I feel sorry for the metal band guys because you’ve got Syren which is the band and then this latex company, and they’re Brazilian metallers! [laughs]
AS: We should get all the different Syrens in one room! [laughs]
MD: I was reading your musical influences on your website and you quote a lot of prog like Floyd, Rush, King Crimson - would you describe Syren’s music as progressive?
AS: Yes, a little bit maybe.
JH: Not as progressive as it could be.
MD: What does the term progressive mean to you in terms of music? Personally, I think progressive has become a style of music, like a band who sounds like Pink Floyd and calls themselves progressive, but they’re not.
AS: Yeah, it’s got to be original.
MD: Exactly.
AS: Original, and open to concept, idea…
EB: If you think of the word progress - progress means to move forward. If I’m going to be progressive, if my music is gonna be progressive, then that means that my music is going to be able to inspire people to move forward in their lives, and to progress themselves. I guess that’s why bands maybe like Pink Floyd and King Crimson, to their fans, were progressive in those days because it changed music. Pink Floyd on ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ changed music; changed rock.
JH: It’s gotta make sense. There’s one particular band that drives me crazy - they claim to be progressive, but it’s all about technical…
MD: Dream Theater?
JH: Yes! How did you get that?!
MD: Rip-offs of Rush.
JH: Yes, exactly, and it doesn’t make sense; the music’s got to make sense.
EB: Who’s that?
JH: Dream Theater.
EB: Ohhh!
MD: I love Dream Theater to bits, I have to say, but I find them technical for technical’s sake sometimes.
JH: They’re very good; they’re technically brilliant, but it’s gotta make sense - it’s got to touch people.
MD: So do you see Syren as progressive?
EB: Maybe progressing!
AS: Yeah! [laughs]
MD: A quick question for you actually…[to Amanda]…I regard your bass playing as having virtuoso qualities - as I’m sure most people do who hear your bass playing - do you consider your skill level as having peaked as a virtuoso, or do you regard there to be more scope for improvement?
AS: Oh, absolutely more scope for improvement. Absolutely. This is why it’s great to work in this new three-piece with just these…
JH: …lesser mortals!
AS: [laughs] No, just this three-unit sort of thing…okay, what can we come up with; what can we do; where can we go…it isn’t there at the moment, but it’s gonna be…all that kind of head-shit like that really.
EB: She gets lucky because, intrinsically, she’s lead guitarist and the bassist, so…
MD: Yeah, and you’re just strumming away!
EB: [laughs]…yeah, and I’ll do a bit of singing and I’ll do this, hey!
JH: And she’s got a new toy now!
AS: Yeah, very recently, as in a couple of weeks ago, I incorporated the electric upright. It’s a brand new thing and it’s at the forefront of the electric upright. It’s a different theme on the fretless…it’s officially a fretless, but…
MD: Have you ever played a Chapman Stick?
AS: I did have one, but I never had the time to play it, so…
JH: We were on tour at the time, weren’t we.
AS: I’ll probably get one again at some point.
MD: For people who will be reading this interview and haven’t heard of Syren before, can you summarise your band in five words as to why you think people should go and check you out?…or more words, I don’t care!
EB: Passionate; female…
AS: Always good to check out females! Probably at a local pub, er…local! [laughs]
EB: All female, alternative rock trio.
AS: Okay, we’ve got passionate; we’ve got female…
EB: Original.
AS: Original, yeah.
EB: Original, original, original…
MD: That’s five!
AS: Progressing! That’s a really good question actually. So we’ve got passionate; female; original…
MD: Fucking great! Oh, that’s two isn’t it.
AS: Fucking great, yeah!
EB: What you see is what you get, but that’s not five words.
MD: WYSIWYG is a word - an acronym albeit, but what the hell! Finally, what are your future aims and aspirations for Syren?
AS: I think gig the hell out of everywhere. Just to keep doing exactly what we’re doing - keep gigging, keep playing, and keep coming up with original stuff.
EB: Touch people.
JH: We gig so much that we never have time to rehearse anyway. We’ve gigged so much in the last eighteen months that we just play pub after pub after pub, and big gigs thrown in.
MD: So are your gigs almost like rehearsals - you’re learning through sort of playing gigs?
JH: Yeah, we have to get things right in that moment with the pressure on you as opposed to the comfort of a practice room where you can fuck up loads of times.
AS: If I can say a couple of things before we finish - if you come and see us tomorrow night, my sound…I’ve got a really great sound, but I’ve got an even better sound with this beast…[Amanda removes some bubble wrap from what transpires to be a new speaker simulator she has yet to use live]…it’s not available in the shops. I don’t know if you’ve heard of the Motherload…it came out about ten years ago made by Sequis…this is called the Sequis Elemental, the Richter. If you go onto a website called Gearslutz, it’s got information about it. It’s basically a speaker simulator like you wouldn’t believe. It’s great for every aspect of a musician for recording, or front of house, or…every level, it’s just awesome, and…
MD: Is that just a bass unit?
AS: No, it’s for bass and guitar. Erin will be using one soon as well. And what else did I want to say…oh yeah, we’re endorsed by Hartke, aren’t we.
EB: Just say hello to the sponsors!
AS: [laughs] Just thought I’d squeeze that in there!
EB: The strange contraption if you notice on my guitar is an experiment.
MD: Oh, the Dean Markley thing?
EB: Yeah, just trying different stuff, you know. We’d better get going and play again…are you sticking around?
MD: Yeah, we’ll be here for the whole night.
AS: Okay, we’ll see you in a bit. Thank you.
MD: Thank you.