By John Parks
Stolen Babies have been making noise on the underground experimental rock scene for a while now, releasing great albums and playing some of the most talked-about live shows on the touring circuit.
Consisting of vocalist/accordionist Dominique Lenore Persi, bassist/guitarist Rani Sharone and drummer Gil Sharone, the band definitely does not sound derivative of any other band that springs to mind.
In a world of cookie-cutter, sound-alike bands all chasing the same “active rock radio” ring, Stolen Babies have wisely chosen to follow a path entirely their own. I recently had the pleasure of asking Rani some questions while the band was getting ready for their latest tour with OTEP, including a show at downtown Rockford’s The District, 205 W. State St., Oct. 3.
Q. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us. I am new to the band, but really am liking everything I hear from you. For others who are similarly new to Stolen Babies, how has the band’s vision or performance changed, if at all, since you first issued your debut EP/demo?
A: Well, in the beginning, we were just coming out of a band that was totally different, so we wanted to entertain the idea of just being a rock band with rock songs instead of a cartoony theatrical band, as the previous band was. We found that some things worked and some didn’t, and that some things just come more naturally to us than others. So things have pretty much been refined over the years. There’s no shortcuts finding your voice as a band, at least for us. It takes time and practice, just like anything else. With that said, I don’t look back and cringe at what our EP is. I think there’s some good stuff there, and still hear it as us, but it’s nothing like what we do now.
Q. You guys might not be considered a huge headlining band, but your debut full-length made a massive splash, especially among critics and fans of avant garde rock. Having had other experiences in the industry, how unexpected was that embrace for you, and how did it affect the band in the short term?
A: It was a nice surprise, for sure. I think I was more surprised by the fact people knew who we were and were writing about us, more than by what they were saying! I remember reading some reviews that really praised the album, and it seemed like those writers really got us and knew where we were coming from, which is a rare thing and way more pleasant than coming across a review where the writer, if you want to call them that, has their head so far up their a– they can wear their intestines as a scarf. So, we try not to pay too much attention to reviews.
Q. The individual members of Stolen Babies are well known among songwriter circles, for score writing and also, of course, for performance. Were any of those other passions distractions in terms of capitalizing on the growing fan base for the band and releasing a follow-up, or did your hiatus all go according to plan?
A: Not really. We never like to exploit what we do outside of the band. It’s just not how we like to represent ourselves. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to get our name out and have new people find out about us through certain affiliations or projects, but generally we like to keep those things separate, unless an outside project happens to involve the band. The hiatus wasn’t a result of other opportunities, it was a result of us just needing some time away and personal growth outside of a band environment, which led to all of us getting back into it when we were ready to. Very happy with how it all worked out.
Q. Your albums feature tracks as ultra hooky as “Splatter” or “Push Button,” among some more aggressive or abrasive material, that might be more what people would expect from a left-of-center band. Does the very nature of your multifaceted style present any difficulties or challenges when dealing with normal band issues of record labels, booking packages or finding a leg up on radio programmers?
A: Sure it does. There have been tours we’ve been submitted for where we’d baffle the s— out of who we were being submitted to. At the end of the day, we laugh at that kind of reaction, but at the same time, we know that we are different, which can be an uphill battle sometimes. Mainstream radio, and even satellite radio, doesn’t seem to get us, so we have to tour to get out there and build it all grassroots style, which we’re totally OK with. It’s hard and work, but once the word of mouth and demand for us starts to grow, I believe all that will turn around, and the bigger radio stations will start playing us. After all, that’s how we landed our booking agent, Tim, who’s pretty awesome. He took notice of us, respected us, and liked how we ran things, which was a huge validation for us. So, we teamed up with him, and since then, things have been really moving forward.
Q. As a self-financed indie band, you are in a position to really learn a lot day-to-day from your band’s supporters, especially when you are out on tour meeting and performing for people face to face. What is the most uplifting part of that, and what is the most challenging aspect of interacting with the people who come out to see you live?
A: It’s pretty interesting and sometimes scary being a band that’s totally independent. It really can be a struggle going out for weeks at a time with no financial safety net, so having a dedicated fan base that supports what we do is really awesome. In a handful of cities, we’ve had people who started out as strangers asking for autographs who are now friends that we look forward to seeing whenever we play their town. Must have something to do with the fact that they bring us things! No real challenges there.
Q. Last question … Stolen Babies has performed with some very big-name artists as direct support, and despite having a few years’ break, maintained a reputation as one of the best live acts out there. What do you attribute to your ability to keep focus and keep people’s opinions of your live show so positive? Is it a matter of passion, taking rehearsal and performance super seriously, or is it something altogether unknown that makes a Stolen Babies show a special event?
A: I don’t know … I just work here. We just do what we do, and we’re glad it engages people and makes them want to see us again. That’s a good thing, right?
From the Oct. 2-8, 2013, issue