Living Dead Girl – Dark yet FeminineTuesday, 8th June 2021
Headed up by Molly Rennick, Living Dead Girl is a new band that attempts to bridge two very different worlds. That of heavy metal and pop music. Their debut album, Exorcism, goes from heavy, driving rhythms and screams to a sugar-coated pop bounce at the drop of a hat, and captures the genuine essence of both sides without compromise. An impressive feat for a relatively new act, we spoke with Rennick herself to get a better picture of her start in music, being creative in both the music and design aspects, the influence of fellow Canadian Avril Lavigne, as well as some recent charity work she has done.
Dead Rhetoric: What got you into music and singing?
Molly Rennick: I cannot remember a part of my life when I wasn’t obsessed with music. I grew up with the mindset that this was what I was going to be doing with my life. I was going to be a musician, I was going to be a performer. As young as five years old, I was just set on it. My parents are both really into music. My dad plays and builds guitars, so I have grown up with listening to bands like Van Halen and Pink Floyd. I have always loved rock music and I’ve always loved concerts. I have always loved being the center of attention and performing. It’s been my entire life; I can’t think of a time in my life when I wasn’t a musician [laughs].
Dead Rhetoric: You have cited Avril Lavigne as an influence, what can you say about her influence on your music?
Rennick: Avril Lavigne was my big first love. She has been my idol since I was like very young. She was my first introduction to a female pop star that was not like the others – she was a bit more on the rock side. For her time, the more popular acts were Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Destiny’s Child…that kind of pop music, which never really did anything for me. I always liked that she played her own guitar, she writes her own music, she dresses who she wants to. Her music is really raw and emotional. She has always been a huge influence, because I love how she never sold out. She always stayed herself and true to her roots. She was the rocker chick of all female pop stars.
My entire life, as young as like 5 years old, I was obsessed with Avril Lavigne. I thought she was so cool and so awesome. That still translates now. I’m 22 and I still love her as much as when I was really young. She’s still rocking out and killing it. Her music got more popular as she got older, but she has always had her own attitude and her own style. That’s what I have always wanted to do with music. I never wanted to compromise my own sound, I wanted to do what I wanted to do. So I really admire her attitude and outlook on things.
Dead Rhetoric: There’s a couple of moments on the album where you can really hear that influence directly. I thought that was cool, because a lot of times in heavier music you get people that shy away from that aspect. They are afraid to say, “Oh, I like this too” kind of a thing.
Rennick: Yeah [laughs], I’ve had some people kind of criticize us as a band saying that we are too poppy or we aren’t that heavy or metal. They tell me to pick one or the other. But I’m not that close-minded. I love heavy screaming and that kind of metal, but I also love pop and pop-punk music. If it’s good, it’s good and I’ll listen to it.
Dead Rhetoric: Maybe it’s been more of a personal shift in what I am listening to, but I feel like in the past few years there have been more bands that breaching that divide and graying the white and black. Not being intimidated a mixture of things that are both heavy and catchy at the same time.
Rennick: For sure, everything has been done before. If you want to make something new, you need to take influences from two very different things and make a new version of it. That has always been my thing. I want to be goth and heavy and dark, but I also want some feminine energy in it. I like my clean vocals to be really girly so that they contrast my screams even better. I love having a lot of contrast and making it my own. I need to take influences from the most extremely different things [laughs].
Dead Rhetoric: You spent four years on the album. What can you say of the evolution of the sound of Living Dead Girl?
Rennick: Our sound changed so much over the years. We worked with three different producers and the problem was that I didn’t know what I wanted yet. I started this album when I was 18 years old, it was my first time in a recording studio, working and writing with a producer, and I didn’t know what my sound was as an artist. I didn’t know what I was going for, I just knew that I wanted to make music. All of that experience now is so valuable. To have that experience under my belt, because learning how to write music with a producer and how to write music in a studio is the best experience you can have. It was really great that I had a lot of practice before I went to go work with Mitchell Marlow in Los Angeles.
I had basically got myself ready for it over the years. There was a lot of evolution, because really at the end of the day, I knew I wanted to make some heavy, awesome music. Metal is a big blanket term and there are so many different categories and subgenres. I was just winging it [laughs]. I didn’t know what I wanted it to sound like until I really discovered what my sound was as an artist. I needed to experiment and cross things off the list to narrow it down for what I wanted Living Dead Girl to sound like.
Dead Rhetoric: So did you have that ‘ah-ha’ moment where it all clicked and you knew what your sound would be?
Rennick: Yeah, that finally happened when I worked with Mitch. By then I had worked with two other producers and I knew. We were making music that was a lot heavier originally. There was a lot more screaming than clean vocals. The problem was that I do love listening to that music and have it on my Spotify and iTunes and I love it, but I personally didn’t want to create that kind of music.
I found that when we were performing it live, it wasn’t fun for me. Every single song is screaming and every song is angry. That’s fun for me when I’m in the audience – I’m headbanging to it. But as a performer on stage, I wanted to be able to dance around more and have the audience sing along. I wanted some catchier melodies, I wanted a bit more of a pop hook in my songs. Just being up there screaming, after 5 minutes I started getting bored [laughs].
Dead Rhetoric: It’s a nice acknowledgement to be able to see what works best for someone else, but this is what works for me. I think that takes a lot of self-reflection.
Rennick: At the end of the day, all I want with music is for it to be fun. I want it to be upbeat and fun. I want our shows to be high energy. When I am onstage, I want to be able to dance around to our music. I don’t want to just be up there angry and screaming for the whole set [laughs].
Dead Rhetoric: All that said, what are you proud of with the final result of Exorcism?
Rennick: The thing I am most proud of with our sound is that I took a risk. I know it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. I know it’s very experimental, some songs more than others. Some songs are more ‘regular’ but a few are a more safe bet that someone will like it. But with a few songs, like “Exorcism,” “Villain,” and “Beautiful,” in particular – I know that doing it is a risk. A lot of people aren’t going to like this. It’s very different and very new. A lot of people will say that it’s out there, or sometimes people tell us online that they don’t know what we are going for. It’s too all over the place. I’m really proud of it, because what we did was create something new. Even the producer, Mitchell Marlow, kept telling me. He said, “What we have done here is made a new genre, essentially. It doesn’t sound like anything else. It sounds new and fresh. It’s exciting.”
He was saying that it was so cool that he got to work with me on this, because when I was proposing ideas to him in the studio, he kept looking at me like, “What?” So I said, just hear me out – it’s going to be heavy, but then there’s going to be cheerleader chanting. He said, “Cheerleader chanting in a metal song?” I’m really proud knowing that I didn’t just think about what would be good for the mainstream or radio, I stuck with what I wanted to do. That’s my favorite thing about the entire album.
Dead Rhetoric: That’s really great. As your first album, it would have been easy to go in with a producer with your initial sound with more screaming and just put it out there. But it has a more interesting sound and more unique feel this way.
Rennick: There aren’t really that many female-fronted metal bands out there. There are some that stick out, but women are like the big fish in a small pond in metal. There’s a lot less female vocalists in metal than there are male ones. I didn’t want to sound like any of them. There’s In This Moment, New Years Day, Halestorm, The Pretty Reckless, and I wanted to be completely different. I didn’t want to come out and copy any of those bands, I wanted to do my own thing.
Dead Rhetoric: You mentioned “Beautiful” before, which stood out to me, lyrically. Where do you get your inspirations from?
Rennick: I don’t like to sing about hypothetical situations. I also couldn’t let someone else write lyrics for me. I need all of my lyrics to be a form of self-expression or you will definitely see it in my performance, or hear it in the vocals. I am much more into it when it’s self-expression and something that hits close to home. For “Beautiful” specifically, it felt kind of risky – I hope people understand what I mean by this song, as it could be a slightly controversial subject. But I’m speaking personally, and it relates to me. With every song, it’s like my own personal view or experience on it.
Dead Rhetoric: How important is it to maintain creative control over other aspects of the band, such as merch, especially with a newer band?
Rennick: To just be blunt, I’m kind of a control freak and I love to do everything myself. I don’t like to hire someone to do something for me. I like to be very involved and hands-on. I love being creative. I do all of our lyric videos, I built the website, I fulfill the merch orders myself, I design the merch. I like to do everything that I am capable of – I want to do it myself. I don’t like handing things over unless its something obvious. I can’t produce the album. I can’t do the guitar and drums – I can’t do everything. So you need people for some things. But when it comes down to our social media, merch designs, and things like that, I love drawing, graphic design, video editing. If I can do something myself, I prefer it that way. I love being hands on and in charge.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel it lets you show a different angle of your creativity as well?
Rennick: I have always loved things like fashion design and drawing pictures and using photoshop. Being able to design our actual merch and then get to wear things that I designed is so cool to me! It’s not like just printing my band name on a shirt. It’s like here’s a picture or graphic I designed, and now I get to wear it.
Dead Rhetoric: You mentioned that some people say that they don’t get the sound. Do you find that there’s been two sides – some closemindedness as well as people that really seem to get it?
Rennick: I know so many people – the Warped tour crowd. People who love pop/punk but also love really heavy, screaming stuff. I’m one of those people. I love everything from Avril Lavigne and Pink, but I also love Motionless in White, Avatar, and other bands like that. I didn’t want to have to choose between one or the other. I didn’t want to condense my influences or abilities. I can sing poppy and really belting and have a big range, and I also can scream. I didn’t want to have to eliminate one or the other. I didn’t want to make pop music where I can’t scream and headbang, but I don’t want to make super heavy music either where I am always screaming and angry.
I know there are a lot of other people like me who like the same kind of stuff that I do. There are so many people who have reached out and said that it’s so cool that I do both. That I showcase versatility. I lot of people have said the same thing – I love Avril Lavigne but I also love heavy metal. That it’s really cool to see someone combining the two worlds. People with really diverse interests – it’s really cool when you can see two worlds collide.
Dead Rhetoric: There seems to be a lot of purple and black in the designs. Was this a deliberate choice?
Rennick: It’s kind of an aesthetic thing. It’s the way I dress. My entire room is black, purple, and pink. Those are just my favorite colors. I also thought it was cool for the single covers because it mixes gothic and feminine together. It’s really cool when you see the single covers – it alludes to it being dark with poppy elements, it suited our music really well.
Dead Rhetoric: So is the band name a nod to Rob Zombie?
Rennick: It actually isn’t. You would assume that it is, everyone does think so. When I was 15 and came up with the band name, the only Rob Zombie song I had heard was “Dragula,” I will admit that [laughs]. So it’s actually not taken from the song name, but long story short – my parents told me that when I was born, they thought I was stillborn. The doctor thought I was dead. I was purple-ish, gray-ish blue, and I wasn’t breathing, screaming, or crying. I was just completely still and cold. They were freaking out for the first few minutes, assuming I was dead. My parents told me that when I was like 10 or 11 and I kind of just started thinking about it. I had started dressing more gothic when I was like 9 years old. I started wearing black lipstick and stuff. I was always very theatrical, and experimental with make-up and clothes. I always joking that it was funny that I was born dead, that it was my life started out with me being dead and now I’m like dead inside being gothic. I would make jokes about myself like that.
I thought of it as a band name when I was 15 – it was like I’m alive, but I’m dead. I’m a zombie or something. It was actually a personal name. Then people started telling me about the song after I had picked the name and printed merch and stuff. I wasn’t going to change it at that point. So we had to do a bit of research on the legality of it. We found it was totally fine to use because song titles and band names are different legal categories. It’s not a copyright infringement or anything. Some people have commented on our videos before and ask if we are stealing Rob Zombie’s copyright, and I’m like, “No, that’s not how copyright works.”
Dead Rhetoric: I saw that you had been involved in some charity work, I believe it was late last year. Was that something that you would like to continue doing as you move forward?
Rennick: Absolutely, and I hope that as Living Dead Girl expands and our platform gets bigger I can just do more and more of it. That it becomes easier for us to do it. We played a show last March right before the lockdowns started – we played a show for my 21st birthday. We had three opening bands, exclusive merch, and we donated every single penny that show raised to our local animal shelter. I’m just hoping that as we reach more people that we can continue to do stuff like that, because it’s honestly the most fulfilling thing to me. I love animals so much and helping my local shelter is something I always want to do.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you have any other passions outside of music?
Rennick: I have too many [laughs]! I am too interested in too many things, and I don’t have time for all of them. But I’m obsessed with animals. My family and I have rescued 5 cats and one dog. I love rescuing animals and since they are all rescues, they are all like special needs animals. They aren’t normal animals. One has really bad anxiety and panic attacks. One of my cats was obviously abused before I had her, so she needs a lot of special care and attention. I love being able to help, it makes me feel so fulfilled. It’s really rewarding. I also love make-up, fashion, graphic design, modeling, photography, video editing. Literally, anything I can be creative or hands on – self-expression or anything up that alley, I’m in love with.
Dead Rhetoric: So how much involvement do you have with the videos you do then?
Rennick: I like to be as in control of everything myself. I make all of our lyric videos, and our video for “Alive,” we did have a director. The lighting setup and everything was his idea, but the general idea, of it being a performance and things like that, I like to have as much input as possible. I was really involved in making that video come to life.
Dead Rhetoric: As you have mentioned, the sound is unique and brings together two different worlds. What do you feel would be a good fit for you in going out on as a tour support act?
Rennick: I would love to tour with Halestorm. They are one of my favorite bands in the world, and they seem to tour with a lot of other female-fronted bands. They have toured with Evanescence, In This Moment, New Year’s Day, Stitched Up Heart – it would be really cool to be a part of that because I know Lzzy advocates for female-fronted bands and artists. Stylistically, I think it would be really cool to tour with Motionless in White, because I noticed that a lot of people who like Living Dead Girl’s music also love Motionless in White. They are also one of my favorite bands as well, and I think we would have a lot of similar people, audience-wise.
Dead Rhetoric: What plans do you have coming up outside of the album release?
Rennick: I am currently figuring out the process of moving from Canada to the US. Its going to be a huge change for us, but a much need for one. Behind the scenes, I am sitting here looking at houses right now [laughs]. We want to start planning for tours next year too. We haven’t actually done a tour since we had planned to do it last year but COVID ruined that. We are working with a booking agent and trying to get something going for 2022. That’ really it now, but my life pretty much revolves around Living Dead Girl at this point.