Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images Nine days after the deadly tornado that touched…
- Posted on Apr 25th 2012 11:00AM by Marsha Casselman
But Lioness have been on the drama-dance kick since releasing their debut EP in 2008, springing out of the same mid-2000s rush of dance punk from the likes of Death from Above 1979, Crystal Castles and You Say Party. Started by bassist Ronnie Morris and drummer Jeff Scheven of controller.controller, Lioness separated from the pack easily with their grimy-rock riffs and soulful, power-house vocals courtesy of Vanessa Fischer -- the woman behind the band's unique aesthetic.
"We've always liked darkness... And I like very strange things," admits Fischer, a freelance costume designer for a local dance company by day. She painstakingly constructed the album cover for the Golden Killer.
"It's a taxidermy form of a lion I assembled," she says. "There's a lot of leather places here in Toronto, so I bought a box of like 5,000 studs -- I pushed every single one of those in. It took forever!"
In videos like the Ghost Rider-goes-voodoo "What You Do (Will Come Back to You)," the former drama school student displays her love of performance art.
"I like watching film where people spent 18 hours doing someone's face (makeup), as opposed to some computer imaging stuff. Have you seen Where the Wild Things Are?"
It helps that in addition to being the drummer, Scheven is a video director with visions of his own, having done work for Diamond Rings and Death from Above 1979 among others. Lioness is expected to start work shortly on a video for new single "The Night," likely to have an Italo-horror trailer theme, Fischer says, influenced by the likes of Mario Bava and Dario Argento.
Aside from videos, playing dress-up during their live show is also important to Fischer, who suffers from stage fright.
"I need to disassociate from who I actually am in order to perform," she says. "For this record my look is pretty dark and crazy with body suits, skeletal necklaces and chains. I like dressing up, and sometimes I feel our city is kind of conservative, so if I choose to wear something different someone might shout at me. I go to a lot of drag parties, and it's amazing what clothes can do to you. Having the stage as an outlet is such a cathartic thing for me."
Cathartic release is heard throughout the Golden Killer, which is a testament to rough time the band has had over the last four years.
Lioness went on hiatus after Scheven and Fischer broke up, and the band was struggling financially until FACTOR allotted them a recording grant. While writing new tracks in 2010 they lost two friends within one year -- Toronto artist Will Munro, who supported Fischer's former soul-punk band No Dynamics via his famous queer club night, Vazaleen; and then there was the sudden death of You Say Party drummer Devon Clifford.
"We booked a flight to go out (to Vancouver) as soon as we could and be with them," Fischer says. "It's so tragic, when that's your whole life being in the band and then that happens -- you could never prepare for something like that. Life is precious."
Out of this came "Stay Awhile," a cleansing slow-burner featuring Fischer's mournful yet hopeful wail.
"It's my way of saying life is kind of short. The people you want to stay almost never do," Fischer insists. "You need to move on from them in a very special way -- take what they've given you and push forward. And know that they wouldn't want you to be sad. People like Devon lived every day like it's their last day on earth, never complained about anything and just did the work. Very inspirational."