By Vee Manzerolle
Rose Cora Perry may not be a household name to those who mingle on the mainstream side of Canadian music but for the fortunate souls who have chosen to explore the underside world of great Canadian music it’s hard not to know of her.
Some may know her as only a member of Anti-Hero but her list of accomplishments doesn’t stop there. Her artistic resume ranges from musician, songstress, to model. She applies herself to realms that are often thought of as solo projects. Academia for one is rarely achieved with such grace and precision when intertwined with the world of arts, both on a full-time status. Rose Cora Perry manages her multiple lifestyles gracefully while reaching substantial mastery in all realms.
SoulMatters: I first want to thank you for making the time to answer some of my questions. I can only imagine how busy your day-to-day schedule is like.
Rose Cora Perry: Let me first say thanks for that wonderful and very complimentary introduction! I always appreciate it when journalists do background digging on their subjects, as it makes for more interesting interviews, in general, for both the artists to answer, and the readers to enjoy.
SMM: According to your biography, you've been a performer since age four, a songstress and model at age seven. Now being so young was it your own decision to become a performer, songstress, and model? Or did perhaps a family member or an outside source influence you?
RCP: If you asked my folks, they’d convince you that I was singing from the moment that I exited the womb! While this is clearly an exaggeration, my interest in the arts (well being in the spotlight, in general) was apparent from a very early age. I was fortunate enough to have parents who wholeheartedly believed in raising well-rounded children, and so, as a consequence, along with enrolling me in several sports and camps, my parents got me involved in vocal lessons, theory, as well as fashion when I was just a toddler. Although, I continued to pursue and excel at a variety of activities throughout my childhood, and adolescence (believe it or not, at one point, my dad thought I’d turn out to be an Olympian sprinter), music is what clearly stuck the most.
SMM: At age 15 you also created your own record label, 'HER Records', what was your motivation to acquire your own record label? What's the significance of the labels name?
RCP: Initially, I created HER Records because I wanted to be able to release my then band’s album in a professional manner. I felt that releasing on an indie label, for our debut, would give us an edge over other comparable acts in terms of both marketing, and grabbing the attention of the majors. As it turned out, I was right in this assumption, as our release generated some label interest. Unfortunately, the band broke up, before any of these potential opportunities came into fruition.
Additionally, as I was raised by two entrepreneurs myself, I guess you could say that I was “groomed”, to an extent, to follow in a similar direction. I undoubtedly inherited my leadership qualities (including my independence, and perseverance) from both of my parents, and as a kid, I made a habit of challenging authority. To put it blatantly, I like being in charge.
In terms of my label’s name, it was derived from the name of my first professional rock band, HER. Because I’ve always been a supporter of DIY-ers, particularly women in rock, I wanted to designate a name for my label that would evoke this ethos. When I conceived of the name, I was very much thinking towards the future -- in the event that I ended up soliciting other artists for management/distribution, I wanted it to be clear, by my label’s name alone, what it was that my company represented and supported. I still hope to, at some point, be able to develop an artist family of my own.
SMM: Stereotypically, rock musicians are often attached with the stigma of being drug/alcohol abusers or at least perceived as users. You, however, make a point of letting your fans know that you live a “substance-free healthy lifestyle”. How has this lifestyle made a difference in your work? Is there a particular reason why you chose such a lifestyle?
RCP: Yes, even I, an outspoken straight-edger, have encountered several individuals who automatically assume that just because I’m a rocker, I’m also an abuser which clearly reaffirms just what a minority I am in the music industry. I’ve even had shows at which I’ve had other musicians ask me, “what’s wrong with you?” because I do not partake in the typical partying protocol.
In terms of my artistic endeavours, I’ve always tried to promote what I feel are important messages and/or mantras through my work, but at the same time, I can’t be responsible for how people ultimately decide to live their lives. Experimentation, in regards to substances, is pretty typical among teenagers, and I do appreciate the fact that many people need to undergo experiences themselves, in order to make their minds up about whether such things are for them or not. With that said, I do not feel that it is necessarily the experimentation that steers people wrong – rather, it’s when it becomes excessive (ie: addictive).
My lifestyle, quite simply, is a personal choice. Suffice it to say that I’ve seen far too many people (both friends, and industry acquaintances alike) screw up their lives by dabbling on “the dark side”. Personally, I really have just never understood why people need to rely on substances in order to have fun or feel fulfilled. Being on stage, doing what I love, and having people really connect with what I do, is MORE than enough for me. I am so grateful for the opportunities that I’ve had – why would I want to distort my memories of them by doing drugs? It doesn’t make a lot of sense.
In saying all of that though, I will admit that the industry, if you’re trying to maintain a straight-edge lifestyle, is set up for you to fail. Drugs, alcohol, and every other excess you can think of are everywhere, and this is the kind of behaviour in which you are expected to partake. In fact, I actually wonder sometimes if labels purposefully seek out these bands, who clearly have drug problems, just so that they can take advantage of them business wise. You know, I really wouldn’t be surprised.
SMM: In your blog, “So You Wanna Be A Rock Star”, you described originally being convinced that being in a band devised of strictly women was ideal, but you follow that statement with a comment that you've since learned from then. In the hard rock band “Anti-Hero” you play with two male musicians. How were these two experiences different for you?
RCP: Well, as much as I’m all for sisterhood, unfortunately, my experiences in my all girl band constantly revolved around drama, and pettiness. However, I am willing to admit that we were all young hormonal insecure girls, at the time, so I’m sure that contributed to the conflicts that arose. But, this does not seem to be an isolated case.
I’ve known tons of female rockers, in the indie scene, who literally recite the same tale word-for-word. I’m not sure why women can’t seem to work together effectively (perhaps they are too competitive, by nature?), but if you look at the female bands who’ve been popular throughout history, very rarely does their existence exceed four years before everything blows up into an ultimate bitch fest. It’s sad really, and in fact, I wish it weren’t so, as the feeling of empowerment I get from seeing four feisty females rocking out on stage in-sync is untouchable.
My experiences in ANTI-HERO are quite different – definitely for the better. I love having a female sidekick, but am happy to have the guys around too. We balance each other out and complement each other’s abilities (and I’m not just talking music here). I think it’s important for a band to have a family mentality, and finding members that you can really work with is a feat, in itself.
SMM: You make mention of being a strong supporter of independent music. In your own opinion what separates independent music from mainstream music? Do you believe it's possible for independent music to become popular and still maintain it's independent label?
RCP: Although the term, “indie”, these days, has become rather bastardized, musical purists, like myself, believe that a true indie act is one that is self-sufficient, and plays by their own rules. They do not have a label dictating to them exactly where the catches and hooks have to appear in their songs, nor is their artistic expression (ie: image and music), in any way, contrived or manufactured.
Now, many industry professionals will tell you that true artists don’t care about making any money, and that they are simply motivated by a love for what they do. While I do believe that our main motivation is our passion, I hardly think that being successful, as an indie, is an indication that you’ve sold out. I think quite the opposite in fact – if you can get paid for what you love doing, there is nothing more fulfilling. You should be proud, and others should be happy for you, not trying to tear you apart.
There’s a long standing belief that indie musicians cannot be successful on either a reputation or economic basis unless they get signed, and give up on their real dreams. To me, that kind of thinking is utter b.s. If you work hard in this industry, sincerely demonstrate to your fans the kind of artist you are, and are willing to take risks and fight against the grain, you absolutely can achieve a great deal of acclaim. The problem is however, that because of how the industry is set up, there is really only so far you can go without a label, realistically speaking. Once you get to a certain point, everything becomes red-tape. But, this is widely changing, and I believe, in the next few years, we will see increasing power back in the hands of the artists – the place where it belongs.
SMM: Your band “Anti-Hero” has been described as the “21st century answer to Nirvana”. What are your reactions towards such a comparison?
RCP: Considering that for my generation, Nirvana was the definitive band, being labeled their predecessor is probably one of the most flattering titles a critic could ever bestow upon us. However, I should clarify that this comparison was not made solely on the basis of our music, but rather was meant to embody our attitude, and approach to rock’n’roll.
We, in no way, believe we sound like Nirvana, nor have we ever intended to – we simply write what comes out naturally, and if someone sees Nirvana in that, well that’s amazing, but if someone sees something entirely different, that’s totally cool, as well.
When people listen to new bands, they try to find elements of the familiar in them, in order to draw comparisons and decide whether or not the new act strikes their fancy. Over the years we’ve been together, we gotten such divergent reviews that it’s difficult to really characterize what people think of us musically, but, that to us, is a good thing, and is reflective of our diverse influences. We’d rather appeal to as many people as possible, than be stuck in a singular genre.
SMM: It's refreshing to hear such a raw powerful sound coming from a band with a strong female lead. With songs entitled “Unpretty” and “Better Than U” the listener can be left feeling empowered. Both carry strong lyrics suggesting never conforming or allowing anyone to hold you back by striking blows to your self-esteem. The song entitled “Lullaby” brings forth a haunting and soothing voice that potentially immerses the listener into the moment. What inspires such powerful lyrics? As a songstress do you make a point of sitting down and writing or do you write whenever an idea or thought comes to mind?
RCP: Thank you again for your kind words. My lyrics are all based on my own personal experiences and of course, my emotional reactions to such events. Any artist will tell you that we are a bit extreme when it comes to how we express ourselves. What I mean by that is that most songwriters are either on the verge of insanity, suicide, or euphoria when they write – there is rarely any middle ground.
I personally find that I’m most inspired by my anger. Rather than allowing such emotions to debilitate me, I try to use them as a source of strength to inspire others with my writing. Although I may not be saying the most profound of things ever written, I’m writing what I know – what is real to me, and what I feel that others will be able to relate to.
When it comes to actually putting pen to paper, it is entirely unpredictable, and frankly, quite often, inconvenient. I’m the kind of person, who will wake up at 3 am when inspiration hits, and I have to write it down at that exact moment or it’ll be lost forever.
SMM: You've participated in several music festivals and have been the touring support for bands like “Priestess”, “Hunter Valentine”, and “Jakalope”. Would you mind sharing any memorable experiences while you were in the hands of such company? As a musician/artist did you learn a lot about the music world from such previous exposure?
RCP: Well, all of those shows were, in a word, wicked. We rocked to sold-out crowds, and all of the band members, in said bands, treated us with respect and professionalism.
However, opening for Priestess was probably the most memorable of the aforementioned gigs simply because, genre-wise, their music is the most complementary to ours. Although we appreciated getting the opening slots for both Hunter Valentine and Jakalope, we know the primary reason as to why we were booked is because we are also female-fronted.
In my opinion, putting together a concert shouldn’t be about the sex of the band members, but rather about putting together strong acts whose music melds well, and will go over well with the crowd. Frankly, when we opened for Hunter Valentine, I think we may have scared some of their fans because we are, to put it lightly, a tad bit more heavy.
Playing festivals and music conferences, for any band, is an invaluable experience, and the exposure alone, can assist you in taking your act to the next level (ie: it looks great on the old resume). You never know who’s watching you at said events or what opportunities may come to you as a result. In addition, because the competition is so steep, to be selected to perform at any industry shin-dig is an honour, in itself, and shouldn’t be treated lightly.
SMM: I know this question may seem cliché for an interview and I'm not one to allow my curiosity to consume me but I must ask. What can your fans expect next from you? Any upcoming tours or new projects in the works?
RCP: I will not say much, simply because I do not want to ruin the surprise…but, I assure you that you have not seen the end of ANTI-HERO, and as for me, not only have I got some exciting new artistry of my own in the works, but as well I will be taking my music journalism to a new medium in the coming months.