LAURA GIERL - METAL TAUGHT ME THAT I CAN BE MYSELF
This week, we got the chance to talk equality in heavy metal with Laura Gierl, singer and power-front of the Frankfurt-based progressive metal band The Tex Avery Syndrome. The band's name was inspired by the works of American cartoonist Tex Avery, who once shaped world-famous characters like Bugs Bunny, Duffy Duck or Porky Pig. The name fits like a glove, for this band is just as dashing as his cartoons, leaving audiences with a rush of excitement and adrenaline.
Together with bandmates Nico Meister (guitar & backing vocals), Christoph Kipper (guitar), Thomas Mück (bass), and Alex Stehle (drums), Laura Gierl creates a blazing inferno of raging vocals, electrifying guitar riffs, punchy baselines, and raving beats. But beyond her captivating artistic performances, Laura Gierl is also an equality ambassador at heart, leading the way for inclusiveness and equality in the heavy metal scene. Find Laura's thoughts on good music, her artistic influences, and sexism in the metal industry below in her in-depth interview!
How do you define good music? What does metal mean to you?
Good music touches me emotionally. It does not necessarily need to be super complex. It's more a feeling I vibe with. Good music has no genre for me. After my teenage years, I became open-minded toward other genres besides Metal an Rock. Speaking of metal in particular, I always have an eye (ear) on the lyrics. I do not need crazy songwriting structures, but I acknowledge bands, who think outside the box. I grew up with Grunge and Metal Music. Having endured a lot as a child and teenager, it was a chance to let off steam, a place I felt understood and home among other misfits. I found friends, who felt and lived like me, some of them are my band now.
"Metal is a beautiful way of turning something hurtful into something beautiful and strong."
When did you realize that you wanted to dedicate your life to music?
I unconsciously dedicated my life to music since I can think. As a little child, I sang instead of talking, I loved dancing. I could sing every song in every movie I loved. I sang in a choir for years, learned several instruments, had dance classes, but at some point, I knew I wanted more. When I was 19, I auditioned for a metal band as a lead singer, 2 of these guys are part of The Tex Avery Syndrome now. I study audio engineering, did live sound for bands. I don't know any other life than music.
Was there ever a plan B for you?
I don't really have a plan b. I learned to trust life and my gut feeling and that life has many more doors to step through than just one. And they can all lead you where you need to be. I love challenges and I can find interest in a lot of things. But I would always circle back to anything artsy or music-based.
What inspires you?
I always had huge respect for Randy Blythe's (Lamb Of God) vocals and Brock Lindow's (36 Crazyfists) talent in writing lyrics. Lamb of God is a band my band loves a lot. So I guess I can definitely say that they have inspired as in the beginning.
Which musicians have inspired and influenced you the most?
I don't really have a role model, but Eddie Vedder's (Pearl Jam) spirit hasn't stopped inspiring me since I found „Ten“ on my cousin's bedroom floor when I was very young. I love an artist called „Banks“, she is awesome! So beautiful, talented, smart, sensitive, and strong. I wouldn't know how to categorize her music... maybe experimental Electro-R&B? Every time I look at her or listen to her music I am like „wow“! She is so herself, very unique. Weirdly most musicians I adore a lot are not even part of the metal scene, like Ben Howard or Hozier. When we are start writing new songs, I don't really listen to much metal to really put all of ME into it, so there is a lot of room for other genres.
How did you come up with your band name?
We have borrowed our band name from the legendary American cartoonist Tex Avery, who once shaped world-famous characters like Bugs Bunny, Duffy Duck or Porky Pig. We found it quite fitting since we are fun and straight forward people and love to go wild on stage. Maybe some you remember a red hot riding hood with the wolf and his crazy eyes.
Within the metal genre, how has your experience been as a female artist?
I didn't plan to be in a band with 4 guys, but that works very well. Most of us have known each other for over 15 years. They are my best friends. We have been friends before being a band. I have never seen myself different from anyone else until suddenly almost anyone I met working in the music industry knew what's best for me and what I should do, wear, act for more success. You can get lost there as a woman, start questioning yourself. I want to be myself. That's what metal has taught me: that I can be myself. I'd betray my younger self if I started changing for fame or money. I am very careful with whom I work with and I want to be able to make mistakes and to grow into who I really am with people who believe in me and my potential. I also think that men can afford to make more mistakes or be sloppy in their performance. As a woman, you always have all eyes on you and everything „has“ to be on point, people criticize more. Sexism is everywhere, but I think in metal people are more likely to be respectful. I don't see any big gender difference in the audience whatsoever. It's very mixed and that's great! I love talking to anyone after shows. So if you see me come up to me, let's talk.
"That's what metal has taught me: that I can be myself."
Do you have a favorite among your own songs?
Honestly, that changes over time and depends on my mood. From „Origin“ I always loved „all is not lost“ and „pulling teeth“. A live banger is „old enough“. We have a new unreleased song called „howl“. I can't wait for it to see the light of day. Favorite lyrics are too many to pick, just one maybe I go with one that matches the topic of the interview „my mother said that my bones were made by fire and steel, that even if the world came crashing down, you'll never see me kneeling, that my voice will fill the void, that my will won't break, that even if the sun went dark my shine will never fade“ - all is not lost
Do you put references to your real-life into your work often?
Mostly, yes. But they are often figurative, so you wouldn't be able to pin it on a special person or happening.
How do you start working on a new song?
In the beginning, the band sent me the finished songs and we barely changed anything about the structure. Nowadays I am part of the whole instrumental process as well. We have never been a band of only one or two songwriters. Even my bass player brings in guitar riffs. I guess that's what makes The Tex Avery Syndrome interesting.
What kind of vision do you have for your work?
I started writing music for myself, it was my rock, my therapy. I could never do anything, which I do not feel. I want it to be pure and true and honest. I want people to feel understood, to feel part of the whole music and performance, I want them to have fun.
What does equality mean to you? Does equality - or a lack thereof - influence your daily experience as a female metal artist?
I do not only experience it as a female artist, but I do also see it every day at my other work. With an amazing team, we combine art and music with pedagogical education and work with kids and young adults with (social) disadvantages to empower them, to reduce inequality, to support kids' and women's rights. People are now becoming more aware, but it's a slow process. It's 2020, but the majority is still behind times. Equality means same salary, same chances, the same respect, being able to wear whatever the fuck I want without being catcalled, body-shamed, or talked shit about, equality means the inclusion of any kind and integration.
"I want women to know that they can be themselves on stage if they want to be an artist. If you want to be badass and strong, be badass and strong, if you want to be delicate, be delicate. You have all rights to be who you are and to listen to heavy music."
In your opinion, do artists have a special responsibility to fight for equality and fairness in the industry and beyond?
Everybody should until there is no inequality anymore. And we should not judge what we can see or hear. Some do not post on social media but demonstrate, some can't donate money, but confront others or volunteer and so on. I think it's great when Bands/Artists use their platform, but I also understand when Bands/Artists want their music to be a place where people do not have to think about the bad things going on for just once. We as a band do a lot in private but don't spread it on social media all the time. We need more diversity and I am tired of the system being run by old, white privileged men. It's everyone's responsibility to do something.
Why is female representation relevant in the metal industry?
Heavy music has nothing to do with appearance and physiques, vocals have nothing to do with physiques. Small, slim women can have badass vocal techniques. Heavy music is and needs to be represented by all types of people and all types of women. I want women to know that they can be themselves on stage if they want to be an artist. That they do not have to worry about their appearance. To me, it's an act of freedom to sweat, dance, and scream. If you want to be badass and strong, be badass and strong, if you want to be delicate, be delicate. You have all the right to be who you are and to listen to heavy music.
Have you always been treated equally within the scene?
Mostly yes. I believe the metal scene is often a scene of respect. Yet, sexism is everywhere. But I think other genres have more issues. When I grew into metal I felt accepted and I want this scene to stay tolerant and to be willing to learn and to grow and to be a representation for acceptance.
"When I was working on tour for other bands, I crossed paths with some men who wanted to tell me how to do my job or called me „cute names“ instead of my real name. I always call them out on their behavior."
How do you feel about gender relations in your working environment?
I always address issues if there are any. As said above, I believe the metal scene is quite progressive, thinking of straight edge and hardcore genre, which are reflective of social circumstances, however, there are always black sheep.
What is it like for you to work with women?
I always say „your vibe attracts your tribe“ I have worked with great women, music-wise, in my job and in private. Strong (however you want to define it), inspiring women can move mountains. Gossiping and destroying each other will not lead to a positive outcome, so I don't waste my time on that.
Do you think that we will see a time where there is cultural and gender equality, especially in the metal music scene?
That's a philosophical question. I hope, I want to believe it. If everyone is participating in the movement, willing to learn and grow, maybe we can raise our grandchildren in a new, tolerant world where the word inequality is no more.
What advice would you give to aspiring metal singers?
Most importantly be yourself. You own your voice, nobody else does. It's your Instrument, you gotta care for it as if it were a guitar or violin.