SCARLET SINS - No Commandments
October 2, 2007, 10 years ago
Canada has a rich metal scene, and the latest gem on its way up through the dirt is Toronto’s all-female act Scarlet Sins. Falling somewhere between Alice In Chains and Black Sabbath, they’ve scored a major victory with the release of their self-titled album – independently released through CDBaby.com at the moment – elevating them from mere bar band status to an act with a serious shot at a career on the world stage. Adding to their chances is the notoriety and talent brought on board by producer Rich Chycki – known for his work with Rush and Aerosmith to name only two high profile acts – who took the crushing Scarlet Sins tribal groove out of the bar and put it on CD, intact and intense.“We owe it all to (former manager) Ray Wallace,” vocalist Sylvya NuVynska says of Chycki’s involvement. “He’s the one that introduced us to Rich, and Rich, to be honest, didn’t dig our music at all. When he got our five song demo EP he hated it. He basically told us to get rid of it because it would do more damage than good to our career. Ray stayed on him, though, and Rich kept saying no, but I guess he had a break in doing the Rush album (Snakes And Arrows) so he came to our rehearsal space to check us out. We were so nervous when we played for him that none of us could look at him (laughs). He liked a couple of the songs and I guess he heard the potential.”
“I think Rich wanted the challenge of capturing the Scarlet Sins live sound on CD because that’s what he said was missing on the EP,” adds guitarist Cris Bishop. “‘Backstabber’ was one of his favourites.”
Scarlet Sins’ sound is unexpected in that it’s modern yet metal without going the screamo route. The melodies are infectious, the groove is neck-wreckingly heavy at times, and they’re always good for a surprise or two. Take, for instance, their cover of Depeche Mode’s ‘Strangelove’…“I love Depeche Mode,” says Bishop. “My mom used to listen to them all the time; them and ABBA. Tanya (Nicklaus/bass) and I were driving to Ottawa one day to visit her family and we heard the song, and there was a lyric in it, ‘I give in to sin.’ I said we should cover it and it just built from there.”
Nicklaus: “It was also the fact that we wanted to take a song that we could modify completely. If we had started off with a hard rock song it would have been harder to make the contrast, but the original ‘Strangelove’ is a synth-pop song from the ‘80s. There was a lot of room to change it completely and that’s what we accomplished.”
Bishop: “I was really inspired by A Perfect Circle and the way they covered ‘Imagine’. To me that’s art. It proved that you could take something that’s already there and make it your own.”
As for the Scarlet Sins sound as a whole, it’s the result of diverse musical tastes within the band. It’s also quite dark, a direct contrast to the quartet’s vibrant individual personalities.“We have everything in there,” says NuVynska. “I grew up on all the metal bands of the ‘80s and ‘90s, so I’ll always be a metalhead. Aerosmith, Skid Row, Van Halen, all that stuff. Cris is more the Nine Inch Nails type…”
“I grew up on classical music,” Bishop counters. “I have Mozart on my mp3 player. I got into rock through Steve Vai’s ‘The Audience Is Listening’. I heard that for the first time when I was in elementary school and that’s where it started. Shortly after that I shoplifted my first Metallica tape (laughs).”
“The dark aspect of our music, I guess that comes from us putting all our anger, our angst and sadness into the songs,” NuVynska explains. “We put all our energy into that so it’s almost like therapy. We’re generally really happy people outside of those songs.”
A major stepping stone for Scarlet Sins’ career was their performance at the Powerbox Festival in Darrington, WA at the beginning of September. The bill included noteworthies such as Doro, Girlschool and Kittie, but even as a relatively unknown entity Scarlet Sins had the opportunity to perform twice.
Bishop: “I mailed the promoter and told him it sounded like it would be an awesome show, and then I told him how he could make it better (laughs). I guess he believed me because he had us on for both nights right before Girlschool.”
The Powerbox Festival was new drummer Elie Bertrand’s biggest trial by fire to date, having joined Scarlet Sins after the debut was recorded. Drums on the album were played by John Pacheco.“We knew on the spot that Elie was our drummer because we’d auditioned a few girls before her and they all sucked balls,” offers Nicklaus. “We were getting really discouraged. Finding good female players, especially drummers, is really hard in this type of music. We needed somebody that hits hard and plays double kick; that was a major requirement and Elie does both.”
Perhaps the most refreshing aspect of Scarlet Sins is that they don’t fall into the box labelled Female Symphonic Metal, nor are they part of the Vixen-styled chick rock flock, where T&A; overshadows talent and balls.“A lot of people must have a stereotype in their heads, otherwise they wouldn’t come up to us all surprised and shocked after we play,” says Bishop. “We did a show with Betrayer and Helix, and Sylvya was talking with the guys from Betrayer after the gig. At one point the guitarist hit the singer and said ‘You should sing more like her!’ (laughs).”
“One of the biggest compliments we’ve gotten was from the president of a small label in the States,” NuVynska reveals. “We were talking to him on the phone and he told us that if he didn’t know better he never would have guessed Scarlet Sins was four girls. The fact we’re women gets people’s attention, sure, but we’re musicians first.”
For more information on Scarlet Sins, including audio samples, go to www.myspace.com/scarletsins.