Lady Beast – Vicious Sincerity

Tuesday, 16th January 2018

The best heavy metal to these ears has that essence of purity and sincerity. For many discovering the style, the roots of the movement with the New Wave of British Heavy Metal from the late 70’s through the mid 80’s embodies that blue collar, steel mill attitude channeled into stellar anthems for that generation. We all know the success stories out of that incredible scene (Iron Maiden, Saxon, Def Leppard) as well as many who’ve still made their presence felt long-term with the underground (Diamond Head, Angel Witch, Satan to name a few).

What does this have to do with Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s Lady Beast? Well, their sound encompasses those golden years – melodic with twin guitar harmonies, bursting with that youthful energy and angst into catchy metal anthems that make you want to bang your head, raise your fists to the sky and don your favored denim and leather. A decade into their career, they’ve signed with Cruz Del Sur Music and released their strongest full-length to date with Vicious Breed – chock full of material ready to crank up every late-night party or launch onto audiences as they take the stage live.

Feeling the need to learn more about the group, we reached out to vocalist Deborah Levine who was multi-tasking between her day job duties as owner of a house cleaning business and talking shop with yours truly. Prepare to learn more about Lady Beast from a growth perspective, honest views on local pay to play/promoter scheme and how the band’s DIY philosophy navigates around this, plus plenty of metal talk as well as their recent thoughts on appearing on an Anthony Bourdain television show.

Dead Rhetoric: Tell us about your personal journey when it comes to music – how did you discover heavy metal, and at what point in your life did you know you wanted to front a band as a singer?

Deborah Levine: I would say my love for singing started very young. I used to go to special theater schools, I was always into acting and very drawn into musical theater because of the stories, the songs, the emotion, the team work- people all working together to create this one amazing song, or amazing message. I knew I was born to perform. I grew up on classic rock, so it was only a matter of time in my teenage years before I would put on Judas Priest, Iron Maiden- and collected their CD’s at the time, because now I only listen to records.

I always wanted to be in a band, and that’s one of the cool things about appreciating totally where you are in your journey. Obviously, I would love to be opening for Iron Maiden, but just the fact that I’m fronting a band that I’ve always wanted to be in, is the biggest success. Anything from here on out is just icing on the cake.

Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the growth of the band from the early days of Lady Beast to today?

Levine: Oh my god- it’s almost a completely different band. When we were recorded the third record, our new guitarist Andy Ramage came in for that and helped write that album. Ever since Andy joined the band, I felt like we were on the path to maturity. You have to start somewhere- and honestly listening to the first album, it makes me cringe a little bit, just because it seems so amateur to where we are today. But I understand you have to start somewhere, so I think it’s awesome with each album you can literally and physically hear the growth of the band. Which is what we embrace today with our latest release.

Dead Rhetoric: Vicious Breed is the latest record – how did Cruz Del Sur Music come to sign the band, and where do you see the major differences in this effort compared to your previous discography?

Levine: I contacted Cruz- I like a lot of bands on their label. It was time for us to graduate from Infernö- but they helped us when no one else did, and helped us on the first three albums, and we will never forget them and be eternally grateful. We needed something that had a bit more PR and a further reach- offered us deals on the vinyl, because up until this album, we’ve put out vinyl on our own dime on our own label. It was cool to go into the studio, have the artwork ready, and have it out of our hands. Already from Cruz I’ve seen so many reviews, so many interviews, positive responses from all over the world. I can already see how things are different with this album, at least in the promotion area.

Dead Rhetoric: What key factors make a Lady Beast song? Do you believe it’s a combination of the right riffs and building up the proper hooks/harmonies on both the vocal and musical fronts?

Levine: For sure. I think that something about us is that we really stick to one genre of metal, and that’s the traditional, New Wave of British Heavy Metal. With that being said, we are really not trying to invent anything. We are trying to pay homage to a style of music that is our favorite. We always have that in mind when we start writing a song. From what I’ve heard from the guitar players, they do generally like to build around a riff or idea around the vocals- even though the vocals will not tend to be written until after the song has come to fruition. They like to leave me creative license and the open space to do what I do best- which is just write melodies for the amazing song that they write.

Dead Rhetoric: When it comes to the lyrics, are ideas always flowing in the back of your head for topics that you want to cover, because you seem to be diverse in terms of content for each record?

Levine: To be honest, not at all. I don’t consider myself a writer- it’s actually the hardest part of being in a band for me. Just because I was never good at it in school- I would much rather perform. I feel very lucky that somehow when I am presented with the music, I’m able to go to this place in my mind and make it happen. I am really happy with every song I’ve written so far- there’s not one I’m embarrassed to play out, or forget that it ever happened (laughs).

I have a structure- and I didn’t notice it at first, but my bass player pointed it out. I have the classic song about heavy metal on each album- I always have at least a story or two. And I have a song promoting dreaming, promoting being an individual- because that’s very important for me, having this pedestal to be able to speak and possibly make an impact on thousands of people’s lives, I want it to be a positive act and leave them with a message of hope, that anything is possible with themselves.

Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel about your recent appearance at the Cleveland Metal Holiday Food Drive? What makes those shows stand out to you and make you feel about the metal community and their giving nature?

Levine: Holy crap, dude! It was honestly one of the coolest shows we’ve ever played. The room was packed, it was a sold-out show- and it was a benefit, which in my mind I wish we could play benefits all the time. In reality, the money that we make at shows just goes back into the band to put us on tour, make albums, and make merchandise. I wish we could play benefits all the time, because so many people need the money. The bands were all great, the promoter and the organizer Bill Peters is such a giving, kind, thoughtful metalhead. There was not one jerk in the crowd, the sound was amazing, the lights were awesome. It was a really professional production- Night Demon was amazing, they recorded a live album that night. It was our first time getting to meet them in person, even though I was corresponding with them for a couple of years now, through music and maintaining contacts. I think we made a really good impact on people that had not seen us before.

Dead Rhetoric: You recently had a post on your personal Facebook page regarding the Pittsburgh scene and specific promoters that engage in pay to play schemes for locals to gain access on certain national shows. How does Lady Beast circumvent that scenario, and does it hurt the overall health and well being for the marketplace in your opinion?

Levine: It’s really hard. When you first start in a band, the furthest you are able to go is how far you are going to take yourself. We’ve always been a DIY band- we don’t rely on other people to pay for us to do things, we don’t rely on people to book tours for us, this is all stuff that we do on our own. It doesn’t come naturally for everyone- it’s a learning experience and people just need to get out there and ask questions. Opening for national acts was a great thing to do in the beginning because it allowed us to play in front of our favorite bands, and gave us the opportunities to play on bigger stages – to have that more professional performance, banter with the crowd, interaction in terms of a performance. It’s really important to get this under your belt before you do start being a headliner or second on a bill on a bigger stage.

For the point that we are at now, it’s much more important to now play out of town, because we have been in this band for ten years. We’ve done Pittsburgh, we still set up shows there a couple of times a year there- but we are a big fish in a smaller pond there. For newer bands that are starting out, they need these national act openings to create a fan base, create buzz, and have that practice. It’s unfortunate when promoters do things in shady ways- like I said for that Primal Fear show that we actually got kicked off of in Pittsburgh. They had three locals all trying to sell tickets in the same city – whoever sold the least amount of tickets was kicked off the bill that day. If it would have been explained to me that way at the beginning, I never would have accepted the invitation to play.

Music like any other business is a very shady business. So that’s why we’ve always tried to do more things on our own and rely very little on others. I do think though that the promoter plays a very important part in everyone’s life- but at a certain point, you are able to just go away from that and not have it be like a crappy thing. I never see promoters at shows- the DIY promoters that bring mid-level bands to shows, they are at shows passing out flyers a month before. I’ve never seen the bigger promoters at a show, that they aren’t doing. I feel like some promoters have never been in bands, so they just don’t understand the struggle- collecting all of your gear, bringing it to the show, buying all the gear, writing all the songs, building the fanbase that you are bringing to their show. They want you to pass out flyers and get people to buy tickets, only to give you $2 a ticket. It’s just not right. When you have had people treat you with respect, and pay you or not pay you but say they are very sorry that they can’t pay you- it goes a long way.

Up until this past year I never would expect money, because that’s how things go- it was always a bonus when we would get it. Now things are different- I just realized that unless it’s a benefit, nothing is free. You have to make things worth your while, and show your worth. It can’t be a cheap ride that everyone thinks they can get on.

Dead Rhetoric: How do you view the sibling/musical connection that Andy and Adam Ramage have within Lady Beast? And are you privy to their early Metallica discography discussions they have on the road – if so, what are their conclusions?

Levine: Oh yes, yes, yes. It’s very interesting- they are two very interesting individuals. They share similarities, but they are like night and day. It’s nice having them both in the band- I wish that Andy lived in Pittsburgh, selfishly. Just so we could practice more- he lives in Rochester, New York. We only get to see him once or twice a month – but they have an unspoken musical connection, having played together for over twenty years together. He was a really great fit for the band- he’s a great guitar player, super chill and quiet- it couldn’t have worked out better.

I don’t even know (regarding the Metallica talk) – half the time the voices are raising and I quit listening because it gives me anxiety. I’m normally the one driving when we are on tour, so I keep my eyes on the road and not get involved, really (laughs).

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