Last summer, the Los Angeles-based hard-rock outfit Dead Sara got a big break: the band landed a slot on the Warped Tour. The tour was going well; Dead Sara singer Emily Armstrong had even struck up a friendship with the guys in The Offspring and would regularly join the band to sing the power ballad "Gone Away" during their set. But shortly before the tour was over, Dead Sara had to head home early because guitarist Siouxsie Medley fractured a rib. "It was pretty gnarly," she says of the accident. "Basically, I play a Les Paul and they're extremely heavy. It was just from years of playing Les Paul and thrashing my body around and slamming and knocking the guitar into my ribs. I didn't know what was wrong. I just played in a lot of pain. I was trying to tough it out. The doctors recommended I go home."
The fractured rib symbolizes the intensity with which the band performs. That intensity comes across clearly on "The Weatherman," the hard-driving single from the band's new self-titled album. The song attracted the guys in the British rock act Muse, who have been vocal about how much they like the band. When Medley and Armstrong heard Muse drummer Dominic Howard raving about their single "The Weatherman" during an interview on a L.A. radio station, they immediately put a call into management. They knew the British rock act was about to go on tour and would need an opening band.
"Dominic said he liked that ['The Weatherman'] had a huge powerful riff and this girl was screaming her head off," says Medley. "We heard the interview and went, 'Holy shit!' Our management got in contact with them and we were on the shortlist of bands they wanted to take out, and it worked out. They picked us."
Muse will have Dead Sara in tow when it plays Quicken Loans Arena this week, one of the first dates on a month-long swing through the States that's hitting arenas. Medley admitted she was nervous about performing in front of such large crowds. That's understandable considering that, with the exception of the Warped Tour, the group has played small clubs and concert halls up to this point in its career.
The band's roots go back to the early 2000s. Medley, who changed her first name to Siouxsie to honor her Native American heritage, first met Armstrong when they were both still teenagers.
"She was writing songs before I knew her," she says. "She started writing songs when she was like 12. I met her when I was 15 and we instantly started writing together. She's self-taught. She taught herself how to sing. She's had lessons since but her range is incredible. She takes care of her voice and goes on vocal rest when she needs to. She's never been unable to sing. I don't know understand how that's possible. She's an alien. She's incredible."
Initially, the band adopted a folk-pop sound for its first release, 2008's Stevie Nicks-inspired The Airport Sessions, an album that Medley describes as a set of a "professional demos.
"We weren't even a whole band," she says. "It was just Emily and I and we had hired some drummers and bassiststo record for us. Those were just the songs we had. We were still discovering our sound and just writing a lot and got thrown into this crazy industry world. They wanted us to do demos and all this stuff. We recorded them and were trying to find out what we wanted. That was it. We figured we'd put 'em up on iTunes so we did that. It was just whatever. It wasn't anything we were too solid about. Every once in a while, we'll break out one of them for those fans who have been around sine that time. 'Sorry For It All' was on that record and made it to the album.
Behind Armstrong's powerful voice (think Janis Joplin on steroids), the band went in a hard rock direction for last year's self-titled debut. While "The Weatherman," a song that Medley says is about "predicting your future," and the new single, "Lemon Scent" feature sneering vocals reminiscent of early Hole albums, there's plenty of diversity on the album as well. "We Are What You Say," a song that was initially supposed to be the follow-up single to "The Weatherman," features pop harmonies and the same goes for the anthemic "Dear Love."
"We have so many different influences, from Refused to Fleetwood Mac," says Medley. "We just write whatever moves us at the moment. I love different styles. I love guitarists like Tom Morello and Lindsey Buckingham and Prince. I love blues guys like Bukka White and Robert Johnson and Charley Patton. I'm all over the place and draw inspiration from many different guitar players."
So what would Stevie Nicks say about the band's new hard rock approach?
"I think she could appreciate it," Medley says. "She did that whole Sound City project with Dave Grohl. I think she has some heaviness in her soul."