Photo: Samantha La Porte of Style Union @style.union
Jenni James is well known for her powerful-as-fuck vocals in Melbourne rock outfit Riff Raiders. We had a chat with Jenni about what it’s like to front a band as a female, how the music scene has changed and their brand spanking new album from Riff Raiders.
To get us started Jenni can you tell us a brief backstory of your band Riff Raiders?
“My partner Marty and I met a couple of lifetimes ago, when I answered an ad in a magazine for a singer. We played in original bands (Glasshouse, The Elements) for years before giving up the game for around a decade.”
“A drummer we played with, the inimitable George Kristy, sadly took his own life in December 2013. Marty and I were asked to play a tribute show of GK’s favourite tracks – he had cracking taste – at the Epsy in March 2014. From that we got back the taste to rock. We put together a band to play b-sides and obscure tracks from hard rock acts like Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, Zeppelin, Cheap Trick etc and became one of the few cover acts to play within the original scene from late 2015. Covers were never our long-term ambition and in January 2017 we recorded our debut album that’s about to drop.”
You’ve been involved in the music scene for some time. How did you first get started?
“Mirror. Hairbrush. Ever since I can remember I was fronting a band, imagined or real. I organised shows for my first band with high school mates at venues that didn’t have PAs, in cool venues, on trains, anywhere we could let rip. We ended with two couples combusting but made some cool connections and it started the thirst.”
Has it been tough as a female fronting a rock band, and what adversities have you faced, if any?
“You know, I reckon the hugest adversity frontwomen face are themselves. Up front or not we all judge and hold ourselves up against other women, and men, and I really had to teach (and keep reminding) myself to block out the negative self-talk.”
“Especially in hard rock, there are douchebags that create cock-forest festivals and discount women as beneath the hairier sex, but chicks like Chrissy Amphlett, Joan Jett, Adalita, Deborah Harry and the Wilson sisters have all proved that we women hold our own.”
On a positive note, what have been some absolute highlights of being a woman in music?
“I love being different to the standard issue four-blokes-in-leather that the hard rock scene spews forth in the thousands. Chicks can scream heaps better than blokes and I think we attract a better kind of rock fan.”
“My absolute favourite thing though, is making men just a little bit uncomfortable with a confident in-your-face performance.”
“When I’m in front of the powerhouse that is Riff Raiders, I have the power. it’s like some kind of super crack – you can’t fuck with me, I’m gonna fuck with YOU.”
Do you think the scene has changed over the years, in particular, the visibility of women?
“In some ways, I reckon the old school blokes club that used to rule rock kind of faded to reveal more of the awesome women that have always been there. Especially behind the scenes. Women bookers, managers and soundies are heaps more prevalent these days than say, 15-20 years ago.”
“Just look at Sharon Osbourne – she’s always been there propping up Ozzy, creating Ozzfest, as well as managing amazing artists like Motorhead, Gary Moore and Smashing Pumpkins. Thanks to reality TV she’s now getting more recognition, but I think this helps women in all aspects of rock be more visible.”
Finally Jenni can you tell us about this ripper new album you released this year and how we can get our paws it?
“It’s called ‘Live Like You Mean It’ and is an 11-track, in-your-face rockfest that comes in under 40 minutes, to be played at maximum volume.”
The album drops November 9th on CD, digital to buy or stream and some KILLER VINYL!! Get hooked up via their interwebs www.riffraiders.com
The single of the same name (featuring aforementioned screams) is out now, get it on your fave digital platform here: http://www.smarturl.it/tmh9wc
Chuck this track on your CRAMP MUSIC playlist: 'LIVE LIKE YOU MEAN IT'