With the launch of their self-titled sophomore album and a brand new lineup to take on the road, ‘Queens of Rock’ HRH favourites JOANovARC are all set to reign supreme and show the masses who really runs the world! HRH Mag’s Anne Estella got the lowdown…
How do you feel about being dubbed ‘The new Queens of Rock’?
[Laura] This statement is pretty humbling and a massive compliment, especially as it came from Grammy award-winning producer Gil Norton (Foo Fighters, Pixies, Feeder) who produced our first album ‘Ride of Your Life’.
[Ellie] I think it’s pretty badass that our reputation has given us a title of that stature! We’re always trying to raise the bar in the music that we create, constantly bettering our musicianship and song writing. I believe that we bring something new to the table with the new album, with something for everyone on it.
[Keira] Feel honoured! Now, where are our iron thrones?! (Laughs)
Who are your greatest influences, who inspires you and who do you get compared to the most?
[Laura] Musically I’d have to say a very wide range of artists and musical genres! I’ve grown up listening to all sorts from Blues and Rock to Metal, Pop and even R’n’B. AC/DC and Queen are probably two big bands whose stage presence, song writing, and performance continue to inspire me. My vocal has been likened to Dolores (The Cranberries), Sharleen (Texas) and Alanis Morissette – all of which I am massively flattered by!
[Shelley] As a child my first guitar book was ‘The Beatles Complete’ which was my guitar chord bible. I grew up listening to guitarists such as Jimmy Page, Brian May and Jimi Hendrix, who inspired me to pick up the lead guitar. Bands such as The Beatles, ELO, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Queen and the Foo Fighters are some of my musical inspirations. I don’t think I’ve ever been compared to someone else!
[Ellie] Personally I’ve been heavily influenced by bands like The Who especially Keith Moon, who is my biggest inspiration and is the main reason why I started playing. Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham and Deep Purple’s Ian Paice are outstanding players who I was forced to listen to as a child! Dave Grohl in general is someone that I highly respect and look up to – he is so talented and gives me the drive to constantly improve myself.
[Keira] Andy Fraser, Alan Woody and James Jamerson are some of the bass players I admire with their groove-oriented playing. Oh and Nik West!! That girl’s got the funk and the whole package. She has the groove and an out of this world look, which I love because aside from playing, I love to look the part. I don’t think I’ve been compared to a certain bass player but people have certainly said there’s definitely a ‘70s Blues Rock/Funk and Soul influence to my playing.
JOANovARC was originally formed back in 2004 by sisters Sam and Shelley Walker, and then Deborah Wildish joined later the same year – how has the lineup evolved since then?
[Laura] I joined back in 2009 – the girls had had a previous rhythm guitarist but had been gigging for a while as a trio. We pretty much kept this lineup, barring a few odd gigs where we may have had to get in a dep, until about 2017/2018 where slowly we needed to get in a dep drummer for more longer-term tours and contracts. Cue the fantastic Ellie Daymond, who has become our permanent replacement for Debs, who sadly decided she was unable to continue to commit to the band towards the end of 2018. There are no hard feelings whatsoever, the four of us (Sam, Shelley, me and Debs) have shared so many amazing memories and recorded two albums we are all so proud of and we wish Debs the absolute best in her change in life direction.
As for our Sam… well she is very soon to (or has already, depending on when this is published!) become a mum! Sam is having a little girl, baby Isla. Sam has taken a step back from touring and gigging throughout her pregnancy and will continue to do so whilst she becomes a busy Mum! Considering this, we have continued to gig since the end of 2018 with Ellie on drums and various bass players who have filled in for different shows. Instead of finding another vocalist/bassist, which would have been difficult considering Sam is such a fantastic bassist AND lead singer (which is very difficult to find!), we decided it would be better for the band to continue with as few changes to the lineup as possible. Hence why I am now taking on lead vocals fully (previously this was shared between Sam and myself) which is a challenge due to Sam’s incredible vocal range… but I’m enjoying the challenge! It was known amongst other bands that we had been performing with different female bass players who were either depping or helping us out last minute on certain gigs.
One of the bassists who particularly stood out was Keira Kenworthy, the phenomenal bassist in Syteria (featuring Jax Chambers of Girl School). Keira had depped for us a few times since last year (including the Ace Café in London, ‘One Night of Rock’ theatre show at Millfield Art Centre and Ireland Bike Festival) and recently helped us out last minute on a couple of shows which we were really impressed by. After Keira had performed with JOANovARC a few times, we all felt an exciting new energy with both Ellie and Keira locking in tight as a rhythm section. We were absolutely over the moon when she formally approached the band with an interest in becoming a more permanent fixture. After making sure with all parties that Keira could still fulfil her commitments with both bands, it was a no brainer!
What changes have you witnessed over the years in terms of female equality and opportunity within the Rock music industry?
[Ellie] Personally I’ve been involved with other female musicians from the very beginning as the first band I started was Flowerpot. I have seen an increased support network for female musicians as well as more opportunities for women within the music industry. It’s slowly becoming less unusual to see women in rock bands getting their hands dirty. Within the last few years, I have noticed that more bands are supporting each other, it’s so important to look out for one another as it’s such a cutthroat industry and getting a helping hand is so invaluable.
[Keira] There seems to be a lot of change happening with a full network of female bands out there supporting one another. But there is still so much to do. There are loads of women out there that can play, but we need the people to get more acts that involve women onto radio, magazines etc. It’s still a right sausage fest! [lLaughs]
If you were to headline a female-only Rock festival, which five other bands would you like to share the stage with?
L7, Halestorm, Girlschool, The Runaways and Crucified Barbara.
Where would you say you have the biggest fanbases and why do you think that is?
[Laura] We have a great fanbase in the UK as well as in the USA, Japan and Germany! We’ve spent a lot of time touring all over the world but got an amazing response in the USA and Germany I think because Rock is still so highly appreciated there, and in Japan probably because we were something a little different to the norm.
Your original lineup toured Europe in 2015 with the concept of it being 1986 (unable to use mobile phones, WiFi, laptops or personal electronics, etc) as a social experiment for a TV documentary to show how dependent people now are on technology. How did you all cope and what was the toughest aspect of the experience?
[Laura] I must say it was an ‘experience’. It was really good fun and really refreshing to turn off the mobile phones and learn to communicate with people around you again instead of sitting on your phones and wondering when the next WiFi point will appear. Myself, Shelley, Sam and Debs brought all sorts of things from the ‘80’s to keep us entertained and would have done without the luxuries of satnavs… and my worst nightmare… without hair straighteners!
[Shelley] The toughest and most challenging part was not being able to keep in contact with family members at home the way we are used too. We have become too dependent on mobile phones – writing postcards and using a phone box was completely alien to us, but the weeks touring without the modern technology we’re so used to were really refreshing and cleansing! I also felt we bonded more as a band having to talk to each other more!
Your new eponymous album was released on 31st May – in what way do you feel it’s a progression from your debut LP, ‘Ride of Your Life’?
[Shelley] There is a thread of Classic Rock with a modern 21st century twist on this album compared to ‘RoYL’. It has some new samples and effects we didn’t have on the first album, which was a more straightforward Rock LP. This album is more about the song writing then it is the band.
You’ve just had your album launch show in Harlow with local band JOB supporting – what are your plans for the rest of the year?
[Keira] We have a couple more dates in June. We will be performing on 21st at The Anvil in Bournemouth and 22nd June at the Iron Road in Pershore.
[Ellie] JOANovARC have some pretty amazing shows lined up [for Autumn/Winter] and we’ll be at this year’s Cornwall Rocks alongside Quireboys and Massive Wagons. We’re also playing at Winterstorm Festival in Troon, which is super exciting for us. And last but not least we’re opening the Main Stage at Planet Rockstock, which we are so delighted about! We can’t wait to get on those stages and do our thing!
[Keira] We can’t wait to put this new line up on road. Brace Yourselves!!
Shelley Walker- Lead Guitar / Vocals
Laura Ozholl – Lead vocals / Rhythm Guitar
Keira Kenworthy – Bass / Vocals
Ellie Daymond – Drums
WORDS : ANNE ESTELLA
PHOTOGRAPHY : ADAM KENNEDY